The Mercedes Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs
I had to stop and think (a process that ended up stretching into weeks of procrastination) about how I was going to summarize this series. On the one hand, there are six Mercy Thompson books out there, each building on the other, and I want to talk about my impressions, dammit. On the other, canaries like spoiler-free overviews. So here goes nothing.
The premise: For her day job, Mercedes Thompson is the local Volkswagen mechanic in the contemporary Tri-Cities area of Washington, working in a garage she bought from a gremlin. After work, she spends her free time running around her backwoods as a coyote and avoiding her neighborhood werewolves.
Moon Called: The series opens with a great premise, a strong lead character, and a slightly shaky plot. Mercedes Thompson is a shape-shifter mechanic who’s doing very well on her own, thank-you-very-much, when a homeless, starving werewolf stops by and asks her for a job.
The story hooked from the beginning, as did Briggs easy approach world-building. It fits well into the urban fantasy tradition of supernatural heroines–ostracized for their gift, troubled by their upbringing, pursued by handsome men (and not-men), caught up by conspiracies… What can I say, I eat it up.
Blood Bound: Though Mercedes has been fixing cars for her vampire customers on the side for a while now, she doesn’t expect one to come knocking. But Stephan, an okay guy as far as the dead go and Mercy’s friend, needs her help and her unique coyote-walker nose to investigate something that has come to town. Turns out, it’s big, scary, and spells trouble in large, bloody letters.
We learn more about the secretive (and cut-throat) world of vampire politics and about Mercy’s heritage as a coyote walker. Hint: Leaving a walker alive is a no-no for vampires. (Whoops, Stephan.)
Whereas the first book, Moon Called, threw me when its convoluted plot unraveled, the story in this installment is solid. Instead, I had some trouble on the interpersonal front.
Oh dear. At this rate, we’re gonna be in a lot of trouble by book seven. Sure, I have a weakness for light, fluffy romance in my urban fantasy. But it reaches a critical point (and implodes my suspension of disbelief) when the number of men in love with the main character exceeds the author’s ability to explain what’s so special about our tom-boyish, scrappy heroine. Some authors (I’m looking at you, Laurel K. Hamilton) go for a mystical explanation. Maybe the main character is an incubus, or smells really, really good to magical creatures. Most of the time, though, the immortal, ancient, all-powerful men fight over her because she’s brave, cute, and keeps telling them to get lost.
So you can see why I became mildly concerned (read: annoyed) when a third powerful manly-man professed his undying devotion to our Mercy. I say. Hands off, vampire!
But! By the third and fourth book, the romantic subplot that was Mercy Thompson’s life settled out; Briggs even offered a couple explanations for the Why-Of-The-Attraction (WOTA). I am glad to say that my cynicism was unwarranted and the love triangle did not, in fact, resolve itself into a love septagon.
Iron Kissed: This is the book where the series really hits its stride. When a series of murders happen on the fey reservation, Mercy’s friend and mentor is the primary suspect. She knows Zee didn’t do it, but the Gray Lords would rather he take the fall–as quietly and as quickly as possible. It’s up to Mercy to figure out who’s behind the deaths and get Zee’s name cleared. This book ups the intensity once again, and the costs of being involved are a whole lot higher in this book.
This is also the first book of the series in which Briggs uses an event to sketch out an explicit message to the audience–one about survival and the lasting effects of emotional scars.
Bone Crossed: Mercy is still trying to heal from the fallout in Iron Kissed when Stephan materializes in her living room, starved and tortured–and really, really hungry for blood.
Turns out, the vampires found out what Mercy did in Blood Bound, and Stephan is merely the beginning. They’re coming after her, and not even her ties to the local wolves may be enough to stop them.
Silver Borne: This book is the high point of the series story arc, pulling together the loose ends from all the other books in the most delightful way. The fey want the Silver Borne, and they have reason to suspect that Mercy has it. Mercy herself has no idea what a Silver Borne is. But when her home is burned down and Sam, her roommate, begins to lose his hold on reality, she knows she’s running out of time. This books marks the conclusion of several plot arcs: who does Mercy end up with, her relationship with the pack, and her position in the supernatural world.
River Marked: Because of how conclusive Silver Borne was in closing up the major story arcs from previous books, River Marked reads like a lighter addition, geared almost exclusively towards the fans: there is an indulgent wedding scene, light banter between characters, and token appearance of old favorite characters.
This novel also diverges from the others in its introduction of a completely new type of supernatural. Mercedes’ native american heritage, something only lightly touched on in the other books, rears its head with a vengeance (and tries to eat Mercy). Despite (or perhaps because) there is no clear continuity between the other books and this latest installment, the books sometimes slips into podium mode, with characters making Message lectures about change, humanity, and Doing the Right Thing. With this book, mileage may vary wildly.
However, I am keeping my fingers crossed that instead of being a shaky downhill roll, River Marked is setting up a new, long-term plot arc. I’m looking at you, upcoming Thompson novel…
Upcoming: Mercy Thompson #7 (Spring 2013)
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