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Friday, March 18, 2011

Patricia Briggs: MERCY THOMPSON SERIES


Author:  Patricia Briggs
Series:  MERCY THOMPSON
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher:  Ace
Novels:  
        Moon Called (1/2006)
         Blood Bound (1/2007)
         Iron Kissed (11/2008)
         Bone Crossed (6/2009)
         Silver Borne (3/2010)
         River Marked (3/2011)
         Frost Burned (3/2013)
         Night Broken (3/2014)      

Short Fiction set in "Mercyverse":
          Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson (9/2014)
         “The Star of David” in Wolfsbane & Mistletoe  anthology, 2008)
         Red with Pearl in Down These Strange Streets anthology (2011)
          "In Red, with Pearls," in Down These Strange Streets (2011) 

Graphic Novels:
          Mercy Thompson: Homecoming (Del Ray, 8/2009)
          Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, Vol. 1 (3/2011)

     This post was revised and updated on 3/29/14 to include Night Brokenthe eighth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of novels 6 and 7.     

             NOVEL 8:  Night Broken             
     When the phone rings in the Hauptman household and a hysterical woman demands tearfully to speak to Adam, you just know that this story isn't going to go well for Mercy. The phone call is from Christy, Adam's ex-wife, and she's in troublebig trouble. On a gambling trip to Reno, she hooked up with a handsome, rich guy who soon became so possessive and scary that she ran away from him in the middle of the night. The rejected man, who calls himself Juan Flores, has been stalking her ever since, and she believes that he killed one of her other boyfriends. She begs Adam to let her come "home" so that she can feel safe. If you are a series fan, you'll remember Christy as a manipulating, conniving, impulsive, flighty woman who cares only about herself and never accepts responsibility for her actions or blame for her mistakes. She constantly casts herself as the heroine of every situation and relies on her oh-so-sweet appearance to get what she wants. Actually, she kind of reminds me of Meredith, Richard Castle's first wife (on the TV show).  

     At first, Mercy believes that all she has to do is get through a few days with Christy in the house before Adam tracks down and threatens her stalker and  then sends Christy back home to Eugene, Oregon. Unfortunately for everyone, Christy's stalker turns out to be an extremely powerful and dangerous supernatural being who REALLY wants Christy back, no matter how many people he has to kill to get her. Meanwhile, Christy takes over as if she is still the mistress of the house: cooking gourmet meals, insisting on having the bedroom right next to Adam and Mercy's, and even leaving her make-up and shampoo in Mercy's bathroom (although Mercy does get her back for that little trick).

     Could things get worse? Oh yes, they could. On the very night that Christy calls, Mercy is awakened by a fae Gray Lord named Gwyn ap Lugh (aka Alistair Beauclaire). Beauclaire/Lugh is the fae who declared the fae to be independent from the U.S., forcing them to seek safety in Fairyland (aka the Ronald Wilson Reagan Fae Reservation). Lugh's father was the maker of the walking stick that seems to have adopted Mercy in the past few novels until she handed it over to Coyote for safekeeping. Now, Lugh wants the walking stick back, and he gives Mercy only one week to track down Coyote and get the stick. It is a tribute to Briggs' masterful plotting that she creates these two diverse story lines and then skillfully and effortlessly weaves them together into a page-turning, can't-put-it-down supernatural mystery. 

     The situation with Christy's stalker gets worse and worse. He burns down Christy's condo (paid for by Adam) and then heads for Seattle, where he does some serial killing and eventually attacks Mercy in her garage. This brings the nasty, bigoted agents from the Combined Nonhuman and Transhuman Relations Provisors (aka CANTRIP) into the case, always an uncomfortable experience for the supernaturals. In the inevitable showdown scene at the end, Mercy and her allies stand up to the monster, laying their lives on the line to save Seattle (and Christy). The only clue I'll provide about the identity of the stalker is to say that I was amazed to learn that in the early 1700s, Spain sent families of Canary Islanders to settle the area that is now San Antonio, Texas. I'm embarrassed to say that even though I was a history major in college, I never knew that these Canary Islanders were part of the first regular organized civil government in Texas. Click HERE to read more about the connection between San Antonio and the Canary Islands.

     Here's what Briggs says about her villain in Night Broken: "I’ve had a lot of requests for supernatural beings outside of the mythology of Europe and Asia. The one I picked for Night Broken is, at the very least, not one of the more commonly found creatures and I had a lot of fun doing research for himnot something I usually have to do a lot of when dealing with more Celtic/European or Native American supernatural creatures. I also read a lot of history of an area of the world I haven’t explored much. So I was a happy camper when I set out to write thisand the book just got more and more fun as I wrote."

     Once again, Briggs provides us with well-drawn characters, each of whom has an interesting back story that adds depth to the plot. In this book, Mercy meets another Coyote skin walker, Gary Laughing Dog, who helps her contact and deal with Coyote. Coyote himself makes several appearances, sometimes helping and sometimes just interfering. Mercy also gets to know Honey better and is surprised to find that she is an ally. Other characters who play key roles are Tad, Warren, Kyle, Jesse, and the vampire, Stefan, who has been keeping a big secret from Mercy.

     Briggs has a great time with the Christy-Mercy situation. With Christyliving  in the house, Mercy has to walk a fine line. She can either submit to Christy's manipulations and look weak in front of her pack, or she can confront Christy and look like a jealous shrew. Will Mercy be able to outwit and outplay Christy, or will Christy manage to turn the pack against Mercy? 

     This series just keeps getting better and better, so you won't want to miss reading this novel. Towards the end, we get a clue that Mercy may have to intervene in some problems that Tad is having in Fairyland, and there may be some further repercussions involving her situation with Stefan. Not to mention that Christy is thinking of moving back to Seattle. Click HERE to read a lengthy except from the beginning of Night Broken.

             WORLD-BUILDING             
     The all-inclusive series title is WORLD OF THE MARROK (the Marrok being the head of the werewolf clan that is the focus of the series), but there are two subseries, each focusing on one half of the clan: the city werewolves (MERCY THOMPSON) and the country werewolves (ALPHA AND OMEGA). As the series begins, supernaturals are still keeping their existence a secret from the human population, but later in the series, the werewolves and vampires come out of the closet, which sets off all kinds of fireworks among the humans.

     Living in the Pacific Northwest, Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson is a Native American “walker” who can shift at will into coyote form. In a feminist twist, she owns her own garage where she repairs mostly German cars. In this world, paranormal beings are gradually making themselves known to the public, beginning with the lesser creatures (e.g., brownies, gremlins, elves, garden sprites) and gradually moving to the greater beings (e.g., werewolves). Vampires are still hidden from public knowledge. 

     Mercy's father, who died before she was born, was a Native American from whom she received her "walker" talents; her mother is an Anglo who sent her off to foster care (a Montana werewolf pack) when she was a child. Mercy and her mother have since reconciled.  In book 1, Mercy has left the Montana pack and moved to Seattle to be on her own. She is running away from the over-protectiveness of the pack elders as well as a failed romance with her childhood sweetheart.

     Mercy tries to live a peaceful life, but that never works out for an urban fantasy heroine, does it? Her adventures involve her with a variety of supernaturals: vampires, fae, and werewolvesand most of those adventures include violence and multiple injuries for Mercy. Since she lives in a trailer right next door to the local pack headquarters, the werewolves play a big part in Mercy's life. The relationship between Mercy and the pack goes from hate/hate in the early books to to love/love in the later books, with a whole lot of action and emotion in between.

     At the beginning of the series, Mercy’s possible love interests include two alpha werewolves: Samuel, the above-mentioned childhood sweetheart, and Adam, the local pack leader (her neighbor). Early on, she even has a few lusty thoughts about Stefan, a sexy vampire, but that relationship eventually becomes a deep friendship. 

     The books mostly contain no graphic sexual scenes, but there are a number of blood-lust scenes, particularly in the middle books, that contribute to the high sensuality rating.

     You can't go wrong with Patricia Briggs, whose books are frequently found on the New York Times Bestseller List. She's a great story teller and a master plot builder, and she has created a terrific mythology and an unforgettable set of characters in WORLD OF THE MARROK. If you like the MERCY THOMPSON series, be sure to read the ALPHA & OMEGA series as well. Charles Cornick, one of A & O's leading characters is referred to several times in River Marked because of his role as Mercy's childhood mentor in all matters pertaining to their shared Native American roots.

     Briggs' web site has a number of pages devoted to this series. Click HERE to go to "Mercy's World," a source of information for the MERCY THOMPSON and ALPHA & OMEGA series. That page includes a link to a character listClick HERE to go to the “Books” page of Briggs’ web site, where you can click on the cover art of any of her books to link with author’s comments, maps matching each novel’s location, and excerpts.


            NOVEL 6: River Marked             
     This book tells the story of Adam and Mercy's honeymoon. As you would expect, nothing goes as planned. Instead of enjoying a blissful vacation, the couple is confronted by faerie manipulation, ghosts, river monster attacks, bullet wounds, broken bones, and lots of stitchesjust call it business as usual in Mercy's world. 

     Brief scenes at the beginning and the end of the book bring us up to date on Stefan's story as he tries to recover from his vampire queen's treachery in the previous book, but the bulk of the story takes place at an idyllic campground on the scenic Columbia Riverno vampires, no pack members, just Adam and Mercy trying (unsuccessfully) to have some peaceful, romantic moments. 


     Mercy's adventures in River Marked bring her in contact with her Native American heritage as she finds answers to her questions about her mysterious biological father. She also gets to meet some fellow "walkers." Unfortunately, she also sustains some serious battle injuries as well.  


            NOVEL 7: Frost Burned             
     As this book opens, the human world is still coming to grips with the fact that werewolves and the fae actually exist. After the catastrophic events that followed a fae's killing of a U.S. Senator's son (he really deserved it!), most of the fae have gone into hiding in their own realm. That leaves the werewolves to take the brunt of the sometimes violent actions of human bigots, many of whom have found a home in the Combined Nonhuman and Transhuman Relations Provisors (aka CANTRIP), which is a government organization that is supposed to be working towards better relations between supernaturals and humans. Unfortunately, CANTRIP has become a refuge for humans who hate supernaturals with a passion.

     As this story begins, it's the night after Thanksgiving, and Mercy and her step-daughter, Jesse, are out hitting the Black Friday sales when they have a minor traffic accident. When Mercy tries to contact Adam to pick them up, no one answers at the pack's house. In fact, she even gets a mysterious coded message from Bran that she interprets to mean that the wolves' phones are being tapped. Soon it is evident that Adam and the rest of the pack have been silver-drugged and kidnappedtaken down by mercenaries claiming to be government agents. The rest of the plot involves Mercy's attempts to find and rescue her man and her pack while trying to keep the few uncaptured pack members safe, including Jesse.


     This is a terrific story, as usual. Briggs spins out a compelling, action-filled plot with effortless ease. Each time you think that a resolution is near, though, something else comes up to complicate the situation. Most of the story is told from Mercy's point of view, but we do have a few scattered scenes from Adam's viewpoint as he does what he has to do to escape, but worries about his soul as he is forced to take some horrific actions. This series gets better and better as the supernaturals deal with human bigotry while trying to keep peace within their own world. Mercy is a topnotch UF heroine: brave, intelligent, and independent; fully in love with her man and completely devoted to her pack. For me, this book is even stronger than the last one, which concentrated solely on Adam and Mercy and did not include much interaction with the always fascinating pack members. Along for the action-filled ride in this book are Tad, Zee, Kyle, Warren, Ben, Honey, Stefan, and Marsilia—always a treat to have the whole gang involved in the plot. 

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