I last read (/ listened to) the Mercy Thompson books back in 2016, so I thought it was about time to go through the series (plus the Alpha and Omega books) again. Imagine my delight when I saw both series had a new entry!
“I’m a mechanic; I fix things that are broken. I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote. I have powerful friends. But when it comes right down to it, my real superpower is chaos."
In some ways, Fire Touched manages to back down from the scale of the previous two books. We’re no longer fighting primordial spirits or gods, but rather “just” the Fae. Of course, as we see through the course of the book, there are some Fae who might as well be gods.
On the other hand, this book as many as any that came before will really change the shape of the future of the universe that Briggs is building. In a nutshell, the wolves are going politically toe to toe with the Fae. Anything more than that would be even more a spoiler, but it’s still another interesting bit of worldbuilding.
Interesting thing about tight first person point of view: when the main character feels strongly about another character, it comes through really strongly. Take for example Christy, Adam’s ex-wife. On one hand, I’m sure she’s not quite as bad as she appears, given that all we see is from Mercy’s point of view. On the other hand, she’s really a fairly troubled person.
On the supernatural scale, we actually manage to step up another level from the River Devil and Coyote and friends. This time around we get an ancient big bad from the Canary Islands who’s just as hard to kill as the River Devil but has even more firepower (heh) on their side. It’s a fascinating bit of mythology I’ve never come across anywhere else and manages to fit well enough into the current world.
Frost Burned feels almost like two novels sort of smooshed together. In starts out with something of a bang with the entire pack getting kidnapped by people apparently mad enough to take on an entire pack of werewolves at once. By the second half though, that’s shifted into a little bit of Fae and a lotta bit of vampire trouble which–don’t get me wrong–is related, but feels like a different sort of book.
River Marked takes what we’ve seen in the previous 5 Mercy Thompson books and turns it somewhat on its head. Previously, we’ve had interesting but not entirely unbelievable versions of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and fae–all with a distinctly Old World influence on them. This time around though, we finally dig a bit into Mercy’s father’s family and get a big nasty beastie from the Americas.
On one hand, it’s nice to get a bigger world to interact with. I’ve read fewer books than I’d like dealing with non-European myths and legends, so it’s a good thing to scratch that particular itch. On the other hand, the way it’s introduced in this story makes for a rather abrupt ‘power level’ jump. We’ve already seen centuries (millennia?) old vampires and (possibly) wolves and the Gray Lords are nothing to sneeze at, but this is perhaps the first time that literal gods takes the stage
No more vampires, which is a plus for me at least. Your milage may vary. Instead we get a mix of wolves and Fae, which in my opinion are the best parts of the Mercyverse worldbuilding.
The subplot with Samuel is interesting. One thing that many urban fantasies tend to sweep under the rug is exactly how hard it could be to live for century after century. Many will pay lip service to it, mentioning it from time to time, but the characters often still feel relatively young. Samuel has some of that as well, but there are at least hints of of it here that he is really an old wolf.
Remember back when Mercy pissed off the local vampire leadership? Well now she’s run out of town… and of course bumps into more vampires. One thing leads to another… vampires die… and Mercy saves the day.
Iron Kissed gets into one of the most interesting parts of the Mercy Thompson universe: the Fae. They may have come out to the public a few decades ago, but only the least of the Fae. When a small pile of the greater Fae are brutally murdered, Mercy gets involved.
We get to learn a fair bit more about the Fae in general and Uncle Mike and Zee in particular, which is nice. They’re fascinating and just alien enough to be believable. On top of that, Mercy finally manages to choose between Sam and Adam, although if it will stick, who can say… We start getting into a bit more of the romance aspects that some readers of the series are expecting–and then the final section of the book happens (see spoiler section below).
Blood Bound follows Mercy Thompson as Stefan the vampire calls in a favor owed from the events of the first book. What follows is a violent, blood soaked look into the darker parts of the world Patricia Briggs has built.
While there was a decent amount of violence in Moon Called, Blood Bound out does it easily. Given that the big bad is a demon possessed vampire (as if one or the other wouldn’t be enough), it’s not surprising, but there are a few fairly intense scenes in here.
Take a kitchen sink urban fantasy world (vampires and werewolves and Fae, oh my), toss in a few interesting twists and head it with a woman mechanic protagonist with a flair of Native American magic.
Worldbuilding-wise, there are a lot of urban fantasy tropes in here, but on the other hand tropes are tropes for a reason. The werewolves are extremely hierarchical (despite the fact that real world wolves aren’t actually, but it makes for a more interesting story) and there are some interesting aspects to pack magic that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Vampires are fairly typical thus far, although having one that drives around in a Mystery Machine van is kind of hilarious. (Plus I know we get more of him later). Walkers I’ve seen in other books and we really know little about them thus far (although to be fair, neither does Mercy), but it’s nice to have a bit of non-European flavor.