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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Patricia Briggs: "Shifting Shadows" Anthology

Author:  Patricia Briggs
Title:  Shifting Shadows
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group: Penguin (9/2014)    
     Briggs introduces this anthology with these words: "Dear Reader, you hold in your hand…the entirety of every short story ever published (plus four) that I have written in the world of Mercy Thompson." The book includes some stories starring Mercy, and others featuring Mercy's friends. The novella, "Alpha and Omega," is the prequel for the ALPHA AND OMEGA SERIES, a series featuring the Montana werewolves.  

     The stories are ordered chronologically within the time line of the MERCY THOMPSON and ALPHA AND OMEGA series. Click on either of the pink-link series names in the previous sentence to go to my reviews on this blog. I have also included links below to the anthologies that I have reviewed.

     Briggs includes a brief introduction to each story, explaining how she came to write it, who the characters are, and where it fits chronologically into the "Mercy-verse."

            THE STORIES            
"Silver"  (70 pages) (new story) 
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor—0 
How Bran and Samuel became werewolves: "[Bran's mother] turned us into monsterswerewolvesthough I didn't hear that term for many years. She bound us to her service with witchcraft and more cruelly through her ability to break into our minds. Though she looked like a young woman to all of my senses, I think she was centuries old when she came knocking on my door."

This story takes place eons ago when Bran and and his son, Samuel, are magically enthralled by Bran's mother, a devious and evil witch who turns them into werewolves and uses them as her personal weapons. A second story line follows the beginning of the ill-fated love affair between Samuel and Ariana that continues in Silver Borne. On her web site, Briggs calls this "the most depressing story I've ever written." True, it is a dark and desolate tale, but it definitely fills in some important origin information for serious series readers. The story takes place long, long before Moon Called.

"Fairy Gifts"  (29 pages)

Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality0; Humor—0 
Thomas Hao returns to Butte on a wintry day: "Cold didn't bother him anymore, but he remembered how it felt: the sharp bite of winter on toes fingers, nose, and ears."

A vampire returns to his hometown of Butte, Montana, to rescue Margaret Flanagan, a beautiful fae women. Long ago, Margaret granted him a wish when he saved her life—a wish that completely changed his existence. The story takes place deep underground in Butte's mining tunnels.

These events take place before Moon Called. The story was first published in 2011 in the anthology, Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy. Click HERE to read my review of that anthology. 

"Gray"  (32 pages)

Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality2; Humor—2 
A bit of  ghostly foreshadowing: "Next to the door, blown into the corner of the building, lay a little Valentine's Day card with a heart on it. The ink had run, fading out the BE MINE to a grayish semi-decipherable mush. Only the name Jack scribed in black crayon was still clear. It was both irony and a sign, she thought…"

Elyna, a female vampire, returns to the Chicago apartment where she and her husband livedand where she killled himduring the 1920s. After purchasing the apartment—now a condominium—she hires a contractor and begins the remodeling process, all the while trying to keep out of sight of the leader of the Chicago vamps. When things begin to go wrong, she finds help from an unexpected spiritual source. 

The story takes place before Moon CalledIt was first published in 2011 in the anthology, Home Improvement: Undead Edition. Click HERE to read my review of that anthology. 

"Seeing Eye"  (34 pages)

Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality2; Humor—1 
The reason why Moira wears dark glasses: "Her left eye was Swamp Thing—green without pupil or white. Her right eye was gone, and it looked as though it had been removed by someone who wasn't too good with a knife."

When Tom's undercover-cop brother is kidnapped by a coven of dark witches, he enlists the aid of Moira, a blind white witch, to find him. The story has several twists and turns involving the horrific cause of Moira's blindness and the unexpected effect of the couple's mutual attraction on their powers. Did I mention that Tom is a Seattle werewolf? 

The story takes place about a year before the events in Moon Called. It was first published in 2009 in the anthology, Strange Brew. 

"Alpha and Omega"  (67 pages)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality2; Humor—2 
Anna calls the Marrok for help: " 'My name is Anna,' she said, wishing her voice wouldn't quiver. There was a time, she thought a little bitterly, when she hadn't been afraid of her own shadow. Who'd have thought that turning into a werewolf would turn her into a coward? But now she know the monsters were real."

This is the prequel to the ALPHA AND OMEGA series—the first meeting of Charles and Anna—and it has always been one of my favorites. Anna is an abused member of a Chicago pack when she calls the Marrok for help. Bran sends Charles, his enforcer/assassin to find out what's going on. After they clean up the dirty pack business, Anna finds security, freedom, and romance, and Charles learns—to his great surprise—that he has the capacity to love and be loved in return.

The events of this story take place during the events in Moon Called. This story was first published in 2011 in the anthology, On the Prowl. Click HERE to read my review of that anthology. 

"The Star of David"  (32 pages)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality0; Humor—1 
David sees his estranged daughter for the first time in forty years: "It had been a long time, but he'd never have mistaken her for anyone else: she had his eyes and her mother's face. He'd thought you had to be bleeding someplace to hurt this badly."

In her introduction to this story, Briggs states that "Christmas is about grace and forgiveness and family," but during the early part of the story, it's hard to envision how she is going to move the story line toward that theme. Years ago, David Christiansen killed his wife while in the throes of his first change, having been bitten by a werewolf while fighting in the Vietnamese War. His children witnessed the death, and while his sons have forgiven him, his daughter, Stella, has not. When one of Stella's foster-child placements goes horribly wrong, she suspects supernatural activity and reaches out to her father for help.

The story takes place the Christmas after most of the events in Moon Called. It was first published in 2010 in the anthology, Wolfsbane and Mistletoe.

"Roses in Winter"  (42 pages) (new story)

Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality0; Humor—2 
Kara hides out in Asil's greenhouse: "Asil smelled the intruder as soon as he opened the door of his greenhouse, but he made no sign of it. Kara Beckworth was the Marrok's current puzzle. She'd been attacked when she was only ten and was the youngest survivor either Asil or Bran had ever heard ofand between them they covered a lot of years…."I know you know I'm here,' Kara said defensively.' 'Good,' he said without looking up from what he was doing. 'I would hate to think you were stupid.' "

The featured characters in this story are Asil, one of Bran's elders, and Kara, Bran's youngest werewolf, who was attacked and changed when she was just a child. It has been three years since Kara became a werewolf, and she has not yet been able to change from her wolf form to her human form without assistance. According to the law, if a werewolf cannot go from animal to human  form on its own within a year of being changed, he or she must be killed, but Bran has allowed Kara some leeway because of her young age. The situation comes to a head when Kara continues to fail, and a pack alpha tries to force Bran to put her to death. The scenes between Asil and Kara are poignant and tender, two words one would never expect to use in describing Asil. This is my favorite of the new stories in this anthology.

Although Kara never appeared in any of the MERCY books, she was mentioned in Blood Bound when her father appealed to Mercy for help. The events in the story take place between Bone Crossed and Silver Borne.

"In Red, with Pearls"   (42 pages)
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality0; Humor—2 
Opening linesWarren's thoughts: "I'm real good at waiting. I reckon it's all the time I spent herding cows when I was a boy. Kyle says it's the werewolf in me, that predators have to be patient. But Kyle knows squat about herding cows. I'd say he knows squat about predators, too, but he's a lawyer."

This story stars Mercy's friend, the werewolf Warren Smith, who is a private investigator for the law office of his life partner, Kyle Brooks. One evening, a zombie (dressed as the title indicates) arrives at the office and tries to kill Kyle. The plot follows Warren as he saves Kyle's life and then tracks down the true perpetrators of the crimethe creator of the zombie and the person who hired him or her. It's a fast-moving, suspense-filled story that plays out something like a police procedural (i.e., gathering clues, interviewing suspects). Although Warren is the first-person narrator, he gets a bit unreliable towards the end when he figures things out but fails to clue in the reader until after several violent scenes of resolution.   

The events in the story take place between Silver Borne and River MarkedThis story was first published in 2011 in the anthology, Down These Strange Streets. Click HERE to read my review of that anthology.

"Redemption"  (33 pages) (new story)
Ratings:  Violence2; Sensuality1; Humor—2-3 
Ben finds it difficult not to curse: "This program is a piece of…of junk. My boss says his boss thought it would be a s…spiffy idea to replace my program that does a…perfectly adequate job already with this…program. I expect the…nice gentleman in question is getting a f..fiddling kickback."

Ben, a member of Adam's pack, is a computer geek: the database administrator for a large company. The running gag throughout the story is that Adam has bet Ben a bottle of eighteen-year-old scotch that Ben can't go a week without swearing. The main story line involves the sexual harassment of Mel, Ben's secretary, by Mark Duffy, Junior Vice Director of IT Services. Duffy is a sleaze-ball, notorious for forcing his attentions on subordinate female staff members. As Ben finds himself helping Mel fend off Duffy's advances, he comes to terms with the fact that his protective feelings toward Mel and his aggressive behavior against Duffy are an indication that he is much more dominant than he ever imagined, a realization with which Adam whole-heartedlyand with great reliefagrees.

Ben first appeared in the MERCY THOMPSON series in Moon Called. The events in this story take place between Frost Burned and Night Broken.

"Hollow"  (41 pages) (new story)
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality1; Humor—1 
ForeshadowingWeird jewelry should always be viewed with suspicion: "There was something more in the bag..: a thick silver chain with a blocky, carved-jade pendant that looked both arty and masculine. It was a nice piece, but he didn't wear jewelry...He liked the way it felt in his hand, liked the contrast between cold chain and warm pendant…For the first time since he'd begun cleaning out the room this morning, Rick felt something."

This is the only story that features Mercy as a main character, and it has spoilers for Night Broken. As Mercy is lamenting the destruction of her garage, a woman approaches her for help in getting rid of the ghost that is haunting the man she secretly lovesthe ghost of the man's murdered wife. Mercy is reluctant to take on a case involving ghosts, mostly because "the only time I'd tried had ended up with bodies." Eventually, though, soft-hearted Mercy agrees to help, only to discover that the case is much more complex than she thought (isn't that always the case?). The events in this story take place after Night Broken.

Outtake from Silver Borne  (8 pages) (unpublished scene)

Ratings:  Violence0; Sensuality2; Humor—1 
Ariana and Samuel's relationship is finally getting closer to HEA: "' are brave and stalwart,' he said….'For you still care, still love...You bring hope into my life when I thought there was none to find.' She reached out her hand and he took it. 'So"she cleared her throat'that's a yes to dinner, then?'"

This scene connects back to the first story in this anthology because it deals with the long-overdue smoothing out of the rocky relationship between Ariana and Samuel. They discuss past events in their lives and come to a romantic understanding. The events in this scene take place between the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of Silver Borne.

Outtake from Night Broken  (6 pages) (unpublished scene)
Ratings:  Violence0; Sensuality0; Humor—0 
Adam's guilty thoughts: "She had been dying. It was supposed to have been him."

The scene takes place in a hospital, where Mercy is recovering from injuries that should have been fatal. As Adam heads for the cafeteria, he runs into Coyote, who played a major role in Mercy's healing. The scene is primarily a conversation between the two of them from Adam's first-person point of view.  

The events in this scene take place at the very end of Night Broken so it has some spoilers for that book.

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