books

Patricia Briggs

Books

Masques (1993/2010), Wolfsbane (2010)

Dragon Bones (2002), Dragon Blood (2002)

Raven's Shadow (2004), Raven's Strike (2005)

Mercy Thompson: Moon Called (2006), Blood Bound (2007), Iron Kissed (2008), Bone Crossed (2009), Silver Bourne (2010), River Marked (2011), Frost Burned (2013), Night Broken (2014), Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson (2014), Fire Touched (2016), Silence Fallen (2017)

Alpha and Omega: On the Prowl (2007), Cry Wolf (2008), Hunting Ground (2009), Fair Game (2012), Dead Heat (2015), Burn Bright (2018)

Anthologies: Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (2008), Strange Brew (2009), The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told (2010), Naked City (2011), Down These Strange Streets (2011), Home Improvement: Undead Edition (2011), Happily Ever After (2011), Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations (2013), Magic City: Recent Spells (2014), A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories (2014)

All my Patricia Briggs reviews.

 

Mercy Thompson

The Mercy Thompson Timeline (from Patricia Briggs website)

Long Ago
Silver (Samuel novella)
-10 Years
HomeComing (Mercy Thompson graphic novel)
Any Time
Gray (short story)
-1 Year
Seeing Eye (short story)
Year 1
Moon Called (Mercy Thompson book)
Alpha and Omega (Alpha & Omega novella)
Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega book)
Hunting Ground (Alpha & Omega book)
Star of David (David Christiansen short story)
Year 2
Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson book)
Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson book)
Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson book)
Roses in Winter (Asil short story)
Silver Bourne (Mercy Thompson book)
Year 3
In Red with Pearls (Warren & Kyle short story)
River Marked (Mercy Thompson book)
Fair Game (Alpha & Omega book)
Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson book)
Unappreciated Gifts (Asil short story)
Year 4
Redemption (Ben short story)
Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega book)
Hopcross Jilly (Mercy Thompson graphic novel)
Night Broken (Mercy Thompson book)
Hollow (Mercy Thompson short story)
Fairy Gifts (Thomas Hao short story)
Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson book)
Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson book)
Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega book)

Moon Called (2006)

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Mercy Thompson’s life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn’t exactly normal herself.

I have to say, Moon Called was a lot of fun to read. I had no expectations of the book at all (I bought it because I liked other books by Patricia Briggs), so everywhere the story went was a surprise. And a pleasant surprise at that. Also, this book was as much a mystery as it was a fantasy, and a pretty well-done mystery at that.

Mercy Thompson is a mechanic and a shifter. Being a shifter is similar to being a werewolf, in that she can change into an animal form--her other form is a coyote--but in other ways it's completely different. Her changes are not affected or regulated by the moon, and her shifting is easy and painless. Mercy also lives next door to the alpha werewolf for her area, so she is surprised when a young werewolf shows up at her garage looking for work, because as far as she knows, he's not part of the local pack.

The writing was very good: the pacing was excellent (this was another couldn't- put- it- down- to- go- to- sleep book), the dialog was sharp and amusing, and I really liked the story. Several times it went places I hadn't expected, which I especially liked. Plus, actions taken earlier in the book left me wondering whether any character was safe from being killed off. Which I also really like, because as much as I hate having characters I like killed off, I also find it ridiculous when everyone comes through a horribly dangerous situation completely unscathed. (Though I have to admit this is far more noticeable in movies than in books.)

I could have done without the cover though--at least the half-shirt / perfect breasts portion of the cover. I mean come ON. The woman is a mechanic. She doesn't need grease embedded in her entire torso, including her ridiculous breasts and I'm pretty sure any woman smart enough to be a mechanic would also be smart enough to wear a bra to work. Not to mention the fact that wearing your hair loose combined with moving engine parts just can NOT be a good idea. So boo-hiss for the cover.

Luckily, the book more than overcame the foolish cover.

Mercy Thompson is a walker–her father was a Blackfeet Indian, so she assumes she inherited it from him. But he died before she was born, so her mother sent her to Bran Cornick, the Marrock, to be fostered among the werewolves.

I have a degree in history, which is one of the reasons I’m an auto mechanic.

She bought her VW shop from Zee, a fae metalsmith, and lives next door to Adam, the Alpha of the local werewolf clan. So her life is a little more complicated than most.

She’s level-headed and sure of herself while remaining aware of her limitations.

I’m in good shape, and I have a purple belt from the dojo just over the railroad track from my garage, but I’m no match for a werewolf.

This book also had my all-time favorite characteristics--the story arc was completed within the book. Although there are plenty of openings for another book in this series, my hope is that when(!) Patricia Briggs writes more books with Mercy Thompson, she'll continue to write in this vein: completing the story arc in a single book, and no cliffhanger endings. Plus, as an added bonus, very strong female lead character.

She is surprised when a young werewolf–obviously homeless–shows up at her shop asking for a job. He doesn’t seem to be part of the local pack, which is even more unusual. So being who she is, she does what she can for him.

One of the things I love best about Mercy is that aside from her shifting (and a few other, smaller, things that are discovered over the course of the series) she doesn’t have many powers. She doesn’t have magical strength, beyond what she developed herself. She doesn’t have magical healing, so if she gets hurt, she is truly hurt, and recovers no faster than another human (albeit one in very good shape).

Despite all that, she will not bow to anyone, and refuses to allow Adam (or any of the wolves) to dominate her. And she is very protective of the vulnerable and those she loves, often to the point of getting herself into deep trouble.

The veil of civilization fell away from me rather easily, I thought, taking the empty cup and twisting it back on the thermos. All it had taken was the sight of that bruise, and I was ready to do murder.

Be aware, bad things happen in these books. People are hurt, and people die. Which is, perversely, another reason why I like this series. Because life is like that.

If you're looking for a fun book to read, I highly recommend Moon Called.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: September 2014
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: May 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: December 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

Audible Version (2006/2009) read by Lorelei King

The first time I tried to listen to this was immediately after finishing a Rivers of London audio book.

There was just no way anyone can compare to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, so I just couldn’t get into it.

So, I started it again after when Mercy Blade kept crashing the audible app on my phone (I never discovered what happened, but I had to finish listening at home–and not from my phone) and found that I enjoyed it when I wasn’t comparing it to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

This is the first book in the Mercy Thompson series, which is a favorite of mine. I adore Mercy Thompson, and love that she isn’t strong the way most supernatural creatures are, but has worked and trained to take advantage of the strengths she has.

I won’t say she is my favorite narrator, but I won’t mind listening if she narrates other books in the series.

Published by Penguin Audio
Rating: 7/10

Re-Listen: May 2018
Rating: 7.5/10

Blood Bound (2007)

Blood Bound is the sequel to Moon Called, and continues the story of Mercy Thompson, a mechanic and a walker. A walker is similar to--but not the same as--a werewolf. What she has is an inborn power to change form at will, and that shifting isn't tied to the moon. She also owes a favor to one of the local vampires--a favor he has come to collect.

There are several things about this book that I particularly like. I like the hierarchy of both the local werewolf pack and the vampire seethe, and they way they react to Mercy and each other. It makes sense that for the vampires to have survived for as long as they have, they would need to have some sort of hierarchy of control.

I'm also fascinated by how Patricia Briggs (and several other authors who write supernatural fantasy) have chosen to have at least some of their supernatural creatures come out of the closet (so to speak) to the general public about their very exisence

Another thing I particularly like is how Mercy works to make ends meet. Yes, her money problems do get solved, but that's part of the fantasy, isn't it?

However, I was a little bothered by the start of an "everyone wants Mercy" thing that was going on underneath the story. It looks like this was for the most part headed off at the pass, with Mercy needing to make a decision between just two guys, which I can accept. But I really don't care much for it when all the males find the heroine irresistible. Yes, that too is a fantasy. It's just not my favorite brand of fantasy is all. But as I said, Mercy seems to have limited her number of eligible suitors, which good.

Additionally, she had to make hard choices--and she got hurt making the choices she made (got hurt, and stayed injured for an appropriate amount of time even). I prefer it when the characters have to make hard choices, and when there are consequences for those choices.

There are so many little tidbits that I enjoy, dropped randomly throughout the books.

The Marrok, the leader of the North American werewolves, insists that all of the wolves wear a collar when they run in the cities, with tags that identify them as someone’s pet. He also insists the names on the tags be something innocuous like Fred or Spot, no Killers or Fangs.

I watch TV . I’ve seen the way the police track serial killers— at least in detective shows. … If I ever become a serial murderer, I’ll be very careful to kill people in a pattern that centers around a police station— and not my home or work.

There is a good deal of good versus evil in this story, since there is a demon at the heart of the problems.

Science doesn’t allow for magic any more than it allows for evil.

“I haven’t seen a sorcerer for centuries. Most people today don’t have the belief in evil and the knowledge necessary to make a pact with a demon.”

I do like how Mercy (much like Jane Yellowrock) has a strong faith that is integrated into the core of her being.

I also appreciate (even if I don’t like it per se) that there are fae hate groups, and that the preternatural communities recognize that they have to spin their existence to save themselves from genocide.

I like the amount of thought that went into the reactions of the world to the supernatural.

And how the supernatural would survive in a human world.

Werewolves aren’t immortal, just immune to age. But time is their enemy anyway. After just so long, one wolf told me, nothing matters anymore and death looks better than living another day.

And I also like the amount of thought that went into the supernatural communities themselves, and how they would work–and how individuals would react within those communities.

But Warren, hurt and confused, his human half submerged under the wolf, had forgotten that he was supposed to submit to Darryl’s authority. It should have been an instinctive thing. That Warren wasn’t listening to Darryl meant one thing— Darryl wasn’t really more dominant, Warren had been faking it all along.

One of the fascinating things that comes of rereading this series is seeing the set-up for things that happen in later books (or in the companion books and stories).

I still dislike the cover though. Not the tatoos and the grease--that's good. I just hate the fact she has to have her coveralls undone to her belt. Why? Why would she do that? There is no good reason for her--or anyone--to dress like that. And I really don't think that she'd be wearing a frilly bra on the off chance she was foolish enough to undo her coveralls like that. I mean really--she's an otherwise sensible woman, so it just seems out of place. And I realize that the author has no control over the covers, but it really bugs me. I mean, when the book came, my grandmother asked what book I'd gotten (on the off chance it was a mystery). I held up the book, and said, "It's a fantasy book, I don't think you'll want to read it." She looked at the cover and said, "You're right."

If you read Moon Called, then you will want to pick up Blood Bound. If you haven't read Moon Called, you should be able to pick up Blood Bound without any difficulty, but you'll probably enjoy it more if you read the books in order. Otherwise, it was a strong, fast-paced story that I had trouble putting down last night so I could go to bed.

Published by Ace
Rating: 7/10

Re-Read: September 2014
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: May 2016
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: December 2016
Rating: 8/10

Audio Edition (2007/2009) narrated by Lorelei King

I don’t dislike Lorelei King as a narrator, she’s just not as good as other narrators.

That’s not stopping me from wanting to work my way through this series however.

The Marrok, the leader of the North American werewolves, insists that all of the wolves wear a collar when they run in the cities, with tags that identify them as someone’s pet. He also insists the names on the tags be something innocuous like Fred or Spot, no Killers or Fangs.

I seem to forget how dark this book is.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Rating: 7/10

Iron Kissed (2008)

I really like Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, so I’ve had Iron Kissed on pre-order since I found out it was available. I had to finish the book I was currently reading before I started this, but yesterday afternoon I picked it up and didn’t want to put it back down. Which is why I didn’t start reading today until I had a chunk of time in which I wouldn’t be interrupted. Because I did not want to put this story down once it got started.

As much as I really like the Mercy Thompson series, this may be my favorite book yet. First off, the last portion of the book had me running to my room to finish reading because it made me all sniffly and teary. So yeah, I’ve got extra hormones in my system right now, but still, the story was so well written, and I’ve come to care about what happens to Mercy so much that I was…concerned.

To clear her debt to Uncle Mike, Zee asks Mercy to come out to the Reservation to use her nose to investigate some crime scenes. As a result, Mercy ends up in terrible trouble trying to get her friends out of trouble–all the while realizing that she has to make a decision between Adam and Samuel, because not making that decision is creating even more trouble not just for herself but for Adam’s pack as well.

First things first, I loved the cover of this book. Despite the excess of skin Mercy is showing, the cover does an excellent job of depicting Mercy as she is described in the book. Her face as drawn matches how she was described in he book, as is her hair, and her attitude. Of course I think it’s a little silly to display that much skin while working on a car, but I suppose they have to do something to make the cover sexy.

Second, the story is very well done. Everything hangs together and makes sense, the pacing is excellent, and I didn’t want to put the book down until everything was concluded. Parts of the story were very hard to read, as some very bad things happen to Mercy, but these things not only help to resolve some of her issues, but they reinforce what Mercy is and how she fits into the local hierarchy. She’s small, weaker than everyone with whom she resorts, and had to resort to wits and cunning over strength–in essence, she is coyote (only without so much of the trickster traits.)

I also liked that although she had to rely upon others when brute strength was necessary, she was able to take care of herself for the most part–yes she gets herself into situations from which she cannot extricate herself, but it is not stupidity (in most cases) that gets her into those situations, and they are not situations from which anyone could survive alone. So it is right for her to lean on others–it doesn’t make her a damsel in distress.

I particularly like how Mercy deals with the trauma in the last several chapters, and I think that Patricia Briggs did a good job dealing with the issue at hand, making the situation and Mercy’s reaction to it quite realistic. Even if it did make me all weepy.

This is probably the hardest Mercy story to read, but I read it, and cried like I always do.

Samuel had learned to write before typewriters and computers rendered penmanship an art practiced by elementary school children. His notes always looked like formal wedding invitations.

“Shoot,” he said, the word obviously not giving him the satisfaction to be gotten out of cruder terms.

“Cheeses crusty, got all musty, got damp on the stone of a peach,” I agreed. He looked blank, so I repeated it with proper emphasis. “ChEEZ-zes crusty. Got Al-musty. Got DAMp on the StoneofapeaCH. My foster father used to say those around me all the time. He was an old-fashioned sort of wolf, too. He especially liked the Stoneofapeach. ‘Stoneofapeach, Mercedes. You don’t have the sense God gave little apples.’”

One of the other things I like about Mercy is that she is, in some ways, similar to me.

I tried to imagine working a job where your convictions were an inconvenience that you learned to ignore— and decided I’d rather turn a wrench no matter how much better her paycheck was than mine.

I would be utterly incapable of working such a job, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in that.

Me, I believe in revenge— but I also believe in redemption.

Redemption is important.

If you have ready any of the previous Mercy Thompson books, the you do not want to miss Iron Kissed. If you have not read a Mercy Thompson book before, and you enjoy supernatural fantasy, then run out and get Moon Called and Blood Bound because reading them first will make Iron Kissed all the better. Yes, you could read this without having read the other two, but you’ll enjoy it more if you know the history.

Published by Ace
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: September 2014

Re-Read: May 2016
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: December 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Version (2008) narrated by Lorelei King

I almost skipped listening to this book, but instead I just skipped through the very distressing parts.

This is a very good story, but a very difficult one.

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Bone Crossed (2009)

Mercy is still struggling after the events of Iron Kissed, the previous book. Excluding the stitches, she is better physically, however, mentally and emotionally, she has a long way to go. Into this whirls a friend from college, Amber, who wants Mercy to come investigate the ghost who is haunting her house. Since the vampire queen, Marsilla, has issued a death threat against Mercy, getting her out of town seems like a good idea to everyone involved, including Stefan, her friend the vampire who is in trouble himself.

First and foremost, much of this book is Mercy’s dealing with the emotional wreckage of the events from the previous book. And that is one of the greatest strengths of the book. There is no magic fix for Mercy; yes, she is now in a relationship with Adam, but that relationship does not solve her emotional crisis–as much as she wants it too. I can’t express how pleased I am to see a character actually dealing with trauma in a realistic way. Yes, it’s hard to see Mercy struggling and in pain. But it is this that makes the story and her character so real.

But never fear–Mercy is still herself, even if she’s a little more fragile right now.

I was upside-down in the driver’s seat, with my head up the Jetta’s dash, when a sudden thought came to me. I rolled over and looked at the shiny new CD player in the ancient car, which had held only a cassette player when it had last visited here.

When Zee came in, I was using Power Words to describe service techs who didn’t know how to tie their own shoes but felt free and easy meddling in one of my cars.

There is also a very nice scene between Bran and Mercy, that has Mercy continuing to reevaluate her past (and current) relationship with Bran.

Samuel laughed out loud. “You still haven’t figured it out, have you, Mercy? He never was mad about the car. He was the first one at the scene of the accident. He thought you’d killed yourself. We all did. That was a pretty spectacular wreck.”

I started to say something and found I couldn’t. The first thing I’d seen after hitting the tree was the Marrok’s snarling face. I’d never seen him that angry— and I’d done a lot, from time to time, to inspire his rage.

Samuel patted me on the back. “It’s not often I see you absolutely speechless.”

“So you had Charles teach me how to fix cars and how to drive them.” Charles was Bran’s youngest son. He hated to drive, and until that summer I’d thought he couldn’t drive. I should have known better— Charles can do anything. And everything he did, he did very well. That’s only one of the reasons that Charles intimidates me and everyone else.

“Kept you busy and out of trouble for a whole summer,” said Bran smugly.

He was teasing … but serious as well. One of the oddest things about being grown-up was looking back at something you thought you knew and finding out the truth of it was completely different from what you had always believed.

The other thing I like is that although Mercy and Adam have troubles, and although Mercy is (especially during her panic attacks) slightly irrational, they deal with their troubles like grown-ups. In other words, their relationship is a strength, not a weakness, and although it is part of the book, it isn’t the heart of the story.

And it’s good that things are okay with Samuel.

(Y)ou can’t marry someone to fix him, even if you love them.

As far as the story goes, it was (as expected from this series) very good. Mercy is continuing to learn to lean on others, and although it’s a slow process, she is getting better at it.

One last thing–I love the covers of these books. Yeah, I think she’s showing a silly amount of flesh for being at work. However, the cover figure is curvaceous and REAL looking–not a ridiculous stick figure. Huzzah to Ace for these covers!

I also do love that Mercy recognizes her frailty and mortality–even if she doesn’t act like it most of the time.

Sensei looked at me and frowned. “You were stupid, Mercy. What is the first rule of combat?”

By this time I could talk. “The best defense is fast tennis shoes,” I said.

He nodded. “Right. When you noticed he was out of control— which I’m sure was about two full minutes at least before I did, because I was helping Gibbs with his axe kick— you should have called for help, then gotten away from him. There was no point in letting this continue until someone got hurt.”

From the sidelines, Gibbs, the other brown belt, said, “She’s sorry, Sensei. She just got her directions confused. She kept running the wrong way.”

Plus: Baba Yaga!

“I did it because of you, coyote. Do you know how much chaos you have caused? The Morrigan says that is your gift. Rash, quick, and lucky, just like Coyote himself. But that old Trickster dies in his adventures— but you won’t be able to put yourself back together with the dawn.”

However, I don’t much like the main Big Bad of the story or that arc of the story, despite many other things there are to like about the characters.

Chad taught me and the oakman how to swear in ASL and worked with us until we were pretty good at finger spelling. It left my hands aching, but kept him occupied.

If you have not read the Mercy Thompson series, I highly recommend you start at the beginning and read your way to here.

One last note–I stayed up until 2AM to finish the book–that’s something I try very hard to avoid, so you know the story had really drawn me in when I lose sleep for it.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: September 2014

Re-Read: May 2016

Re-Read: December 2016
Rating: 8/10

Audio Edition (2009) narrated by Lorelei King

This book still has difficult parts, but not as difficult as the previous book, so I wasn’t skipping this time.

I feel like I’m being overly picky about the narrators, but I think it’s partially due to the fact that these stories have a fair number of European characters (the vampires in this case). That’s an issue because Michael and I have been listening to a series narrated by Brits, and comparing British and European accents between the two is… problematic.

Mind you, the British reader’s *American* accent was odd, but there was only one American character, so it didn’t much matter in keeping people straight.

Yet, I still can’t stop listening to this series.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Rating: 8/10

Silver Bourne (2010)

Every time I get a new Patricia Briggs book, I hesitate before reading it, afraid that this is the time she’ll let me down. That her previous books can’t be nearly as good as I remember them, and maybe this time I’ll be disappointed.

I never am, but that doesn’t stop me from being afraid, probably because so many story lines have disappointed me in the past.

This story has three separate story arcs: Mercy receives a call from Tad, asking her to check on the owner of the book fae book she borrowed, Samuel has started to sink further into his misery, and Mercy begins truly to have problems with the Pack, now that she and Adam are officially mated and she is part of the pack.

I stumbled back away from the truck, shaking and sweating in the night air, the fae stick in one hand like a cudgel or a sword that could protect me from . . . being stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

I especially like Samuel’s story arc, because I like the idea of Samuel’s wolf putting Samuel in his place.

“What have you done with Samuel? Is he all right?”

Pale ice blue eyes examined me thoughtfully.

“Samuel? I’m pretty certain he’d forgotten I could do this: it has been so long since we battled for control. He let me out to play when he chose, and I left it to him.” He was quiet a moment or two, then he said, almost shyly. “You know when I’m here. You call me Sam.”

Mercy is still working things out with Adam and his pack, while they are trying to work out accepting her, a coyote as part of their pack. And if things were not hard enough, Samuel suddenly goes off the deep end (almost literally) and his problems are thrown into Mercy’s problems with Pack politics.

Then to add insult to injury, Tad asks Mercy to check on a friend–a book seller from whom she borrowed a book–and it seems as if Phin is in serious trouble and no one but Mercy seems to know about it.

Have I mentioned before how much I really really like Mercy? Because I do. She’s not all powerful. She recognizes her own limitations. She cares deeply about people and will ignore her own safety to help others. What more could I want in a heroine?

SPOILER (rot13)
Nobhg gur bayl guvax V jnfa’g 100% ba obneq jvgu sbe guvf fgbel jnf gur erfbyhgvba bs Fnzhry’f ceboyrz. Abg gung V gubhtug vg jnf n onq erfbyhgvba, whfg gung V svaq vg… hafrggyvat… gung Oena’f fbaf ner nyy svaqvat gjbb yheir jura gurl’ir orra ybaref sbe fb ybat. Vg whfg srry n yvggyr gbb cng.
END SPOILER

And, in a thread that lasts for several books, Mercy causes Gabriel to have a falling out with his mother.

“She wasn’t happy about Heart pointing a gun at Maia,” I told him. “But I think she was madder at me than Heart. He didn’t bring in a werewolf for her kids to play with.”

His face went police-officer blank. “What?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t think she’ll be coming here to get her car fixed anymore. Gabriel’s not coming back either.”

“You did what?”

“Cut it out,” growled Adam. He gestured at Sam. “This wolf would never harm a hair on a child’s head, and Mercy knew it.”

And we also see Ben’s continued growth. I really like Ben, and enjoy his (very slow) rehabilitation.

Although it is not horrible, this is not my favorite Mercy cover. I just canNOT see Mercy wearing that outfit. I know they’re not sexy, but can we go back to the coveralls? Please?

But aside from those two quibbles, this was another good Mercy Thompson book, and I wait impatiently for the next to come out in paperback.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: October 2014

Re-Read: May 2016

Re-Read: December 2016
Rating: 9/10

Audio Edition (2010) narrated by Lorelei King

This story has one of my favorite arcs–Samuel’s falling apart and how hard his wolf works to keep him alive.

“What have you done with Samuel? Is he all right?”

Pale ice blue eyes examined me thoughtfully. “Samuel? I’m pretty certain he’d forgotten I could do this: it has been so long since we battled for control. He let me out to play when he chose, and I left it to him.” He was quiet a moment or two, then he said, almost shyly. “You know when I’m here. You call me Sam.”

“I’m not going to roll the window down,” I told him. “This car doesn’t have automatic windows. I’d have to pull over and go around and lower it manually. Besides, it’s cold outside, and unlike you, I don’t have a fur coat.”

He lifted his lip in a mock snarl and put his nose down on the dashboard with a thump.

“You’re smearing the windshield,” I told him.

He looked at me and deliberately ran his nose across his side of the glass.

In addition, Adam’s pack does not want to accept Mercy, and actively works against her. That part is harder, since they are initially able to influence Mercy.

Luckily, there are multiple light bits, to overcome the darkness.

He gave a growl that would have done Sam credit, and pushed himself back under again, muttering, “Deine Mutter war ein Cola-Automat!”

I think I’ve reach the resignation part of listening to this series. I don’t love the narration, but I am enjoying the story.

Publisher: Penguin Audio

River Marked (2011)

rivermarkedThings are going well for Mercy–except for the fact that her mother is driving her absolutely crazy with details for her upcoming wedding, which drives Mercy to beg Adam to elope, before things get even more out of hand. But can the Alpha of the Columbia River basin really get away with eloping?

OK, yeah, so there’s all this wedding/marriage stuff, but what is really fabulous about this book is the finally Mercy gets to learn something about her past. She discovers she isn’t the only walker around (and even that those she meets disdain the term skinwalker, as a different type of creature all together).

I love that we’re finally delving into the Native American mythos, and that (to me at least), it felt like she got it right. I really enjoyed the look at how Mercy became what and who she was.

I also have to admit that I appreciate her complicated relationship with her mother.

Mercy finally meets other walkers, and finally gets to have a long talk with Coyote.

Adam smiled and rocked me a couple of times. “How confusing it must be to have a coyote half, a human half, an Indian half, and a white half.”

This IS Coyote.

He looked down at the water, and said, as if it were a new discovery, “Maybe that’s where you get it. I always assumed it was just too much Star Wars, but maybe it was genetic.” After a moment’s thought, he shook his head. “No. I know where his genes came from. I think it must have been Star Wars.”

“How big is it?” I asked.

He looked at me and poked his tongue into his cheek. “You know? That’s a good question. I think we ought to find out.”

And he knocked me into the river.

If you have not read the Mercy series, you should be able to read this book without much difficulty, but it will be much more rewarding to start at the first book and move your way forward to here.

Regarding the cover: I don’t dislike the covers in this series–in fact, I tend to like that they mostly seem to get Mercy right, unfortunately, I can’t stand the outfit she’s wearing and after the cover of Faith Hunter‘s Raven Cursed, this just falls way short. Mind you, it’s still better than lots of other stuff out there, but this is not portraying Mercy as a strong independent woman. So: please try harder Ace.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: October 2014

Re-Read: May 2016

Audio Edition (2011) narrated by Lorelei King

Mercy and Adam are getting married.

But Mercy’s mother is about to drive her over the edge.

“Butterflies and balloons,” I told Adam. “She wants to release butterflies and balloons. Two hundred balloons. Gold ones.”

“I expect she’s trying to get Monarch butterflies if she wants gold balloons,” Jesse said helpfully.

“Monarch butterflies,” said Adam. “Can you imagine the poor things trying to figure out their migration route from the Tri-Cities?”

“She has to be stopped before she destroys the ecosystem,” I told him, only half-joking.

Then there is the honeymoon, and, of course, Mercy gets into trouble.

“Yo-yo Girl?” I yelped. “Edythe is Yo-yo Girl? Yo-yo Girl sent us here?”

“Thanks for the surgery. That felt like the fastest extraction I’ve had.”

Gordon raised an eyebrow. “Do you find yourself saying that often? If so, I advise a different lifestyle.”

However, she also gets to meet her father (as a ghost) and finally discovers others like her.

Different is not worse. It is just different.”

As much as I don’t love the narration, it still kept me working so I could keep listening (I listen to audio books when I’m exercising or working; I have to keep exercising (or working) to keep listening.

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Frost Burned (2013)

frost_burnedThis series switch to hard back first printings several volumes ago, which I hated, because I hate hard back books. Luckily for me, I have a kindle, so I can buy new releases without having to wait a year (or more!) for the book to come out in paperback. HUZZAH!

Mercy and Jesse, (Adam’s daughter and now Mercy’s step-daughter) are out doing Black Friday shopping because Jesse’s mom broke plans with her.

Which is how neither of them is present when the entire pack is picked up by supposed government agents. The pack is in trouble–Adam is in trouble–and Mercy is on her own, and barely just recovered from the serious injuries she suffered in the last book.

This book switches point-of-view between Mercy and Adam, so we can see what Mercy is doing, while also learning about the men that have kidnapped the pack, which is easier than having him tell all about it once he’s free. ?

First, what I like best about this series is that although Mercy is now married to Adam, she still relies on her wits and her cunning to get out of trouble. And she does what she believes right, even when it pisses Adam (who wants only to protect her and keep her safe) the hell off.

I also appreciate (like isn’t the right term here) that although the weres have miraculous healing, Mercy doesn’t, and she isn’t healed after the commercial break when we wits are unable to keep her from fighting (or from wrecking her car and suffering the after-effects of that.)

We get a lot of Kyle in this book, which makes me happy.

“Did you find out if they found out anything about them?” I asked.

Kyle gave me a look, then busied himself making me a peanut butter and huckleberry jelly sandwich. “What really bothers me is that I understood that question. You will eat this and go to sleep, so your pronouns get their antecedents back.

Bran sends Asil, the Moor, to the Tri-cities to help Mercy. I really like Asil.

There was silence on the stairs behind Ben and me.

“I believe I misheard,” said Asil, who’d stopped on the stairs. “English is not my first, nor even my fifth, language. Did you say ‘a vampire friend’?”

“I did.”

There was another of those speaking silences, then he laughed. “Please tell me I won’t end up with eggs in my pillowcase or peanut butter on my car seat.”

I threw up my hands involuntarily and turned to him to face him again. Walking backward, I said, “I was twelve. Don’t you wolves have anything better to gossip about than things that happened twenty years ago?”

“Mi princesa,” he told me, his voice deep and flirty, “I was in Spain and I heard about the peanut butter. Two decades are nothing, I assure you— we will speak of it a hundred years from now in hushed voices. There are big bad wolves all over the world who tremble at the sound of his name, yet a little puny coyote girl peanut-buttered the seat of Bran Cornick’s car because he told her that she should wear a dress to perform for the pack.”

“No,” I said, getting hot about it again. I turned and stalked down the hall. “He said Evelyn— my foster mother— should know better, that she should have made sure I had a dress to wear. He made her cry.” And that was the last time I consented to play the piano.

I opened the guest room door, and Asil paused until I looked at his face. “Yes,” he said sincerely. “Such a one deserves peanut butter on the seat of his pants.”

Asil smiled; it was a warm and friendly smile. “He told me that gave you sorrow. You would scheme and plan so no one would know—and never realize that he didn’t even have to investigate such an incident. ‘Who else could it be?’ he told me when I called him to … discuss the incident. ‘Can you imagine any of the pack putting peanut butter on the seat of my car to teach me a lesson?’”

“Carefully worded for a fae who doesn’t have to tell the truth,” said Asil.

Tad turned to the old wolf cooly. “I am always careful with the truth. It is a powerful thing and deserves respect.”

“Of course,” anwered Asil. “When you are old, you will find yourself assuming that everyone else is careless with important things, too. My comment was not meant as censure; you merely surprised me.”

I also like that Mercy and I also have a similar outlook on life.

I knew I was going to ave to do something about them later, no matter how angry I was now. It wasn’t a matter of what they deserved–it was a matter of who I was and who I wasn’t. At some point, everyone had to draw a line in the sand over which they would not cross.

It’s sometimes hard to be Kantian in the modern world.

Of course, it’s not all philosophy and Mercy getting beat up. There IS humor, although less of it than previous books I think.

I knew it was swearing because, even if lyrical–if to me mostly unfathomable–Spanish, swearing still sounds like swearing.

I will note, however, that this book alludes not just to events in the previous book, but also in the last Alpha and Omega book. You’ll probably be fine if you haven’t read that book, but events there are having repercussions on the world in which Mercy lives.

All in all, this is another good entry into the series, and I hate that I have to wait a year for the next book.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: October 2014
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: May 2016

Audio Edition (2013) narrated by Lorelei King

This wasn’t one of my favorite Mercy stories, although I still like Ben’s continued climb from being a complete jerk to someone who remains troubled but is trying to become a decent human.

Mostly I think it’s the vampires that are the problem here. I like the end fight, but the whole thing seems to have come out of left field. I don’t really get why families were targeted, except to add to the drama. And I’m not sure about Gabriel’s mother being so accepting of everything that happens–considering that her girls were in far greater danger here than they were from Samuel (which was her main point of contention, although the men with guns didn’t help I’m sure).

So, some weaknesses. But I still am super irritated that they library doesn’t have the next two books as audio, and so I have to read them. (Mostly this is because I’ll have to figure out sooner what I want to listen to next.)

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Night Broken (2014)

Untitled-1This is the latest Mercy Thompson book, which I got as a new release, but was waiting for me to finish Why Kings Confess, which was waiting for me to catch up on the Sebastian St. Cyr series (which I didn’t actually do).

Mercy’s life is about to become miserable.

Book 8 finds Beauclaire wanting his father’s walking stick back from Mercy.

“Beauclaire knew that someone was going to have to take out Lugh. He was, apparently, girding up his loins to do just that when Da took care of it. That didn’t mean he didn’t swear vengeance.”

Adam’s wife is in danger–she has been threatened and then beaten by an ex-fling–and has come crying back to Adam for protection. Not only does Mercy have to live with this master manipulator in her home, but given Mercy’s already precarious position in the pack, Christy’s manipulations serve to undermine her authority with those in the pack who already didn’t like Mercy.

“You should hear what she says about you.”

No. No, I shouldn’t. Neither should Jesse, but there was nothing I could do about that.

The fact that Jesse struggles with a woman who rarely has time for her and whose concern means Mercy can’t even strike out when Christy deserves it–because Jessee doesn’t.

“She’s a good person, but she is a weak person, too. She can’t take care of anyone else because she’s too busy taking care of herself.”

I think that’s one of the best things about Mercy, that she knows that what she wants isn’t always for the best, and sometimes you have to put aside your wants for the needs of others.

Something Christy doesn’t do.

But, with one sentence, it was made clear that no matter how selfish she is, she isn’t a monster, or even a bad person.

“I think your stalker just burned down your condo, building and all.”

She paled. “Did they get everyone out?”

That her first reaction was concern for her neighbors and not her things, shows that she isn’t completely self-centered.

But some good things happen to Mercy: she finally meets another Coyote shifter, even if she discovers that being the offspring of Coyote more of a curse to him.

“The funny part is that I had not had a drink of alcohol since I went on a five-day bender in 1917 and woke up to find I’d volunteered for the army .” He smiled and moved his arm back over his eyes. “It’s not safe, you see, to get drunk when Coyote might be watching.”

That’s both horrible and hilarious; I really liked Gary Laughingdog plus we get Coyote:

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” Gary chanted as he ran. “Stupid freaking Coyote. Always getting me in trouble.”

I bumped him with my shoulder. “Accept some responsibility for your own life,” I panted, finally. “You could have stayed sitting in the middle of the road. You chose to come with us.”

Gary gave me an irritated look. “Whose side are you on anyway?”

He wasn’t as out of breath as I was. Maybe he had more practice running.

Beauclaire looked at me. “I don’t know Coyote,” he said. “Maybe I will have to remedy that.”

Adam’s lips curled up in satisfaction. “I would pay money,” he said.

However, bad things happen to Mercy. She remains a shifter–fragile and easily broken–in a pack of werewolves with healing ability, and no matter how much she trains, when really bad things happen, she is going to get hurt.

Cover note: although the boobs are just ridiculous and I hate that these cover always dress her in stupid skimpy tops, the rest of the cover is pretty good. I loved that her braids actually look real–not the fake fat braids, but real braids from real hair, and she is in a position of strength.

All-in-all, another enjoyable entry in the Mercy series.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: May 2016

Re-Read: July 2018

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson (2014)

As I’ve mentioned previously (and repeatedly) I love short stories.

They’re a hard thing to love sometimes, because there are so many poorly written ones out there. Luckily for me, Patricia Briggs tends to do them well, so I didn’t hesitate to pick up this collection of stories set in Mercy Thompson’s world.

The stories are:
Silver
Fairy Gifts (previously published in Naked City)
Gray (previously published in Home Improvement: Undead Edition)
Seeing Eye (previously published in Strange Brew)
Alpha and Omega (previously published in On the Prowl)
The Star of David (previously published in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe)
Roses in Winter
In Red, with Pearls (previously published in Down These Strange Streets)
Redemption
Hollow
OUTTAKE FROM Silver Borne
OUTTAKE FROM Night Broken

Yes, I do already own all the anthologies in which several of these had been originally published.

Don’t care.

The stories are in chronological order of the Mercy timeline, not the order in which they were originally published.

Silver tells of Bran and Samuel’s past, from Samuel’s point of view, telling how they were Changed and how Samuel met Ariana.

My father said a name that slid off my ears. He waited a moment, then said, “Samuel?”

I must have looked a little wild-eyed when I turned to him. “She stole my memories. Stole my name.”

He nodded once. “There will be a reckoning.”

“Do you remember them? My wife and children?” I asked. When he nodded again, my panic eased. “As long as someone does, they aren’t lost.”

“They are not lost as long as I live,” my father agreed. “I’ll remember them for you.”

“Fairy Gifts” (previously published in Naked City (2011)) contains none of the characters from the books, but please don’t skip it if you’re only getting this anthology for the Mercy stories (Never mind the fact you’ll be disappointed). It alternates between the past and the present, and is a look at the side of the Wild West few people write about.

Fairy Gifts is a particular favorite, and you don’t have to know anything of Mercy for this story, since it is set in Butte Montana, in the past and the present.

“It probably won’t surprise you to learn that all the fae don’t get along together, will it, Mr. Hao?”

“We vampires are the soul of brotherly love,” Thomas responded dryly. “I assumed that the fae were the same.”

I quite adored this brief passage:

“Tap her light, Tommy,” said one of the men he’d escorted, giving him the traditional farewell wishes of a miner: when forcing a stick of explosive into a drilled hole in the granite, a miner wanted to be very careful tapping it in with his hammer.

It could be taken out, and the story would be fine, but it’s a marvelous piece of ambiance of the time and place which makes it one of my favorite stories.

“Gray” (previously published in Home Improvement: Undead Edition (2011)) is another story that does not have any of the characters in the Mercy and Alpha & Omega stories, but is still one I very much enjoyed. Elyna wants to buy the apartment in which she once lived. As the story unfolds we learn not just about why Elyna no longer lived in that apartment, but a good deal about Elyna herself–and that Elyna is far stronger than she gives herself credit for. This is another very good story.

“You don’t look like a vampire,” he said.

“I know,” she agreed. A stray breeze brushed a strand of hair off her cheek. “We’re like serial killers; we look just like everyone else.”

Gray is completely outside the Mercy timeline.

“Seeing Eye” (previously published in Strange Brew (2009)) I recently re-read in the original anthology. Still really like this story.

“Alpha and Omega” (previously published in On the Prowl (2007)) is start of the Alpha & Omega story. What’s interesting to me is that I had not before realized the overlap between Moon Called and Alpha & Omega. Because I read this when I was well into the Mercy Thompson series, I’d forgotten the details of the events and hadn’t linked them together (or placed them in the same time-line). In many ways this is a difficult story, since the main character, Anna, has suffered a great deal of abuse (physical and sexual) in the past. Yes, those events are in the past, but they have shaped Anna’s life as a werewolf.

But it’s still a good novella.

“The Star of David ” (previously published in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (2008)) is another story that features a character from Moon Called. I must have blasted through it the first time I read it, because I missed a LOT of details–or at least completely and totally forgotten them.

He’d thought you had to be bleeding someplace to hurt this badly.

That is a terribly, painfully true statement.

David Christiansen was Changed at the same time as Adam, however, he wasn’t found by a pack until too late, and so has spent decades separated from his daughter. The story isn’t really about him, however, as much as it is about his daughter Stella, a social worker who works with children. This is another story I really liked.

“Roses in Winter” is a story about both Kara–the young girl who was attacked and survived to be changed, and Asil, one of the oldest wolves in the Marrok’s pack, who is waiting for the final loss of control he believes is imminent. I’ve always liked Asil, but I like him even more after this story.

He crooned a child’s lullaby his father had sung to him. It wasn’t Spanish, but African, a Moorish tune his father had learned from his grandmother . Like Asil, it was old and worn, the words in a language that no one, to his knowledge, had spoken for a thousand years.

Asil is one of my favorite characters, and I am always glad when he makes an appearance.

“In Red, with Pearls” (previously published in Down These Strange Streets (2011)) is a Warren and Kyle story. Warren does a lot silently in the background in the Mercy books, so it was good to see him in the forefront, to see who he really is. (Warren and Kyle were another detail I’d forgotten about from Moon Called.)

“Redemption” is a story about Ben, who is a tremendous asshole at the start of the Mercy series. Ben is in IT, so there are a lot of geek jokes in there, most of which are over-explained for the non-geeks. But they’re still funny.

Redemption is a Ben story, and as much as I like Ben, and I like seeing his changes (which we do here) this isn’t one of my favorite stories.

But I do love various bits of this story.

Ben heard Rajeev’s unspoken dismay. What were they thinking selling this half-written spaghetti code to a customer who has never offended us?

“What I can’t fix is that the program won’t run unless the password is permanently set to PASSWORD and the username is permanently TEST. Since I’m working on databases that hold the US governmental secrets of the last hundred years, you’ll understand that is not acceptable.”

There was a long silence. Then Rajeev said, very carefully “Someone hard-coded the passwords.”

“That’s what I’m seeing,” agreed Ben blandly.

Ben really doesn’t much care for women, so keep that in mind when you read this story.

OK, one last geek bit.

All the main servers had names. Most of them were references to the usual geek favorites : Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Dr. Seuss characters. The only server name that was out of the ordinary was the server someone had named Tree a couple of years ago. Word was that on the eve of transferring to Washington, D.C., a DBA who never read anything but nonfiction had named it in a fit of defiance.

“Hollow” is an actual Mercy story, in which Mercy is requested to investigate a haunting. Mercy isn’t the main character in this story, Rick and Lisa are the story’s center, and that’s perfectly fine.

Hollow is a Mercy story, and strangely, not one of my favorites, despite the bits I did like.

“Holy Roman Empire. What happened to my bedroom?”

Change is neither good nor bad. It’s just change.

This is all me:

“It has always been an ambition of mine to serve as an object lesson for others.”

OUTTAKE FROM Silver Borne wasn’t in the book, but it brings Samuel and Ariana (from the first story) back together.

OUTTAKE FROM Night Broken is just a little but from Adam’s point-of-view, from the end of Night Broken. Like the other outtake, it’s not a true short story, but both are interesting and good.

Aside from the outtakes, you should be able to read these stories without having read any of the novels.

All-in-all, an excellent collection of short stories, and I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed Mercy appeared only rarely. Patricia Briggs is a good short story writer, and it’s lovely to read stories set in Mercy’s world that are peeks into the lives of other characters.

Published by Ace
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: May 2016

Audio Version (2014) narrated by Alexander Cendese and Lorelei King

Flailing around for something to listen to, I decided that I’d listen to the Patricia Briggs short story collection and then go from there.

This collection has very few Mercy stories in, and several stories with male main characters, hence the split narration duties.

I quite liked Alexander Cendese’s narration of the male lead stories. I’m fine with Lorelei King’s narration of the other stories. It’s not that I dislike her, it’s just that she doesn’t have quite the range for male voices that some of my favorite female narrators do, which is problematic in books with a lot of male characters.

But despite that weakness, I’m now listening to the Mercy Thompson novels, so take that for the endorsement it is.

Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Rating: 9/10

Fire Touched (2016)

fire touched_front mech.inddThe 9th Mercy Thompson book finds the problems with the Fey becoming even greater. They Fae are still hiding on their Reservations or Underhill.

(W)e thought for a while that we could stay on our reservations. No humans could get in, not with their fighter jets or tanks. A bard might have managed, but your bards are not given to wandering in the wilderness in this era.

HOwever, internal tensions are leading to trouble for Fey like Zee, Mercy’s former boss and the former owner of Mercy’s former auto-repair shop.

Because the Fae are in hiding, when a giant troll shows up on the Cable Bridge and starts destroying cars (and the bridge), it falls upon Mercy, Adam, and the Pack to fix the situation (ie, kill the giant “car-eating monster”).

Somehow, a troll hadn’t seemed as scary when I was reading about it in Ariana’s book. The drawing had been about four inches high by two inches wide.

(T)he traffic on the highway to town bogged down. A traffic jam on this road was unusual, but then so was a monster that destroyed cars. I suspected there was a connection. Sometimes, I’m observant like that.

I think what I like best about this series is that Mercy’s humanity and fragility.

I was as vulnerable as any human. My superpower consisted of changing into a thirty-five-pound coyote.

Yet despite that, she continues to do what is right, and she does get hurt (although when she has been hurt seriously, Coyote has stepped in to help out a bit, but she still has a lot of rehab to deal with).

Additionally, although Mercy is a part of the tumultuous events in the world, the is neither the cause of the problems nor the secret savior. She has gifts, but she doesn’t save the world and isn’t built to save the world.

There’s another interesting thing about this series. Although, unlike Jane Yellowrock, Mercy isn’t offended by cursing, she generally doesn’t curse. But other characters do (much like the general population) and so it gives those characters (ie, Ben) additional traits that make them stand out.

“Car?” Ben said, and glanced around. “Fucking troll throwing fucking cars. What’s the world coming to?” He pointed a finger at Scott and Sherwood, who’d followed his sprint. “You and you, come with me. We’re to rescue our Zackie boy, who might have gotten smashed by a fucking car.”

Although Mercy does frequently paraphrase what Ben says, if it’s not a direct quote, which amuses me.

This book introduces Aiden, the Fire Touched of the title.

“You aren’t a werewolf,” he said, but I could tell he wasn’t sure.

“No,” I agreed. “But I am in charge right this minute.”

Aiden made an angry noise.

“If Zee promised to do his best to see that we protected you,” I told him, “he’s fulfilled his word to you.” I smiled grimly. “If he’d come singing your praises, we’d have killed you where you stood.

This bit cracked me up:

“I could smack you,” I said. “Just saying.”

“I’m driving,” he answered meekly.

We have a rule (it actually stems back to my days in college) along those lines, except it is expressed as “Don’t Fuck with the Driver.”

Once the driver is done driving, however, all bets are off.

I quite liked this book, and was glad to spend more time in Mercy’s world and with Mercy. And I’m still pleased with the way this series is going.

However, don’t start here. Just don’t. You possibly could, since it’s been two years since the last book, and I didn’t get lost, but you really need to watch Mercy grow into her relationship with Adam and the changes within the pack (not to mention everything with the Fey).

And that’s one other thing I love about this series. Mercy and Adam are a solid couple (although they had difficulties, mostly stemming from the Pack’s acceptance of her) and that is one of the strengths of the story. It’s a lovely element to the series.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: July 2018
Rating: 8/10

Silence Fallen (2017)

I have no idea how I did it, but I somehow completely missed reading this when it came out last spring.

This story is slightly different in that for most of the book the POV switches between Adam and Mercy. Mercy is first person, Adam is third person.

This would be because Mercy is kidnapped by The Lord of the Night, Marsilla’s former lover, who exiled her to the New World.

The story was good, and I very much appreciated Mercy’s ability to rescue herself.

“If you are taken by your enemies,” he said, “don’t wait to escape. The hour you are taken is when you will be at your strongest. Time gives them the opportunity to starve you, to torture you, to break you and make you weak. You have to escape as soon as you can.”

It is emphasized that Mercy is fragile and easily damaged, yet she does everything she can (including regularly working out) to keep herself in shape and care for herself.

Another thing I appreciated was that despite her recovery, Mercy still falls victim to her past–and that she manages to do so after she is safe.

And just for a moment, I flashed back to the time when I had been rendered helpless by a fae artifact and a creep named Tim . . .

“Mercy?” Jitka asked.

I realized I was sitting on the floor in the corner of her room. Martin was as far from me as he could get, watching me with a concerned look. Jitka was crouching about three feet from me, careful to give me space.

I met her eyes and said, “I hate PTSD, you know?” I remembered I was talking to a werewolf and turned my gaze to the floor. It was less humiliating talking to the floor, anyway. “It’s been years— and I killed that bastard. And it’s not like I was really hurt, right? I’ve been sent to the hospital by a volcano god, and that didn’t do anything but give my husband nightmares.”

Jitka nodded like all this was making sense. “Hurt comes in all forms. I wake up at least once a year to a memory that makes me shake for hours— something that happened 122 years ago. I have seen and done so much worse since that thing, and it wasn’t even something that happened to me. And still.”

I do like that Mercy was given the time to recover, and the recognition that even years later she is affected by her trauma.

I did have a couple of issues with the story, mainly, the co-pilot.

Harris reached out to steady his copilot without looking at him when he wobbled on the ramp, too busy watching the vampire to watch his feet. The copilot was medium height and average-faced, and so intimidated by the vampires that he very nearly clung to the side of Harris. The copilot was a werewolf. The way he sought protection from Harris told Adam— and anyone else who was watching— that he was submissive. It was dangerous to be that submissive when surrounded by vampires.

I can’t say a lot about this without giving things away, but this is our first introduction to Matt Smith, the co-pilot, and, well, it’s complicated and I found it troublesome.

I did very much enjoy Larry the Goblin King. And I liked seeing Elizivita outside of the very brief interactions we’ve seen before.

I liked the plot, which was complicated and did make sense eventually, but I had issues with Matt Smith, and I had issues with a few bits of the story telling–primarily how Mercy’s narrative occasionally jumped back and forth in time. It perhaps made a better story-telling choice, but since we were already breaking with the normal way the stories are told, adding in Adam’s POV, then having Mercy relate her tale not into chronological.

All those complaints aside, I did enjoy the story, and I’m sorry I missed this when it first came out, for whatever reason.

Publisher: Ace
Rating: 7.5/10

Audio Edition (2017) narrated by Lorelei King and George Newbern

As much as I whined about wishing her narrators were just a little better, now I’m annoyed I’m done with the currently published series and am not sure what to listen to next.

This is another book I didn’t feel quite about to rate immediately after finishing it, and I believe I still have the same issue as before: the character of “Matthew Smith” and how he was presented.

Adam obviously knew who Matthew Smith was and obviously was not going to tell–nor would Stefan or Honey, who would have met him at the wedding. The problem was that as much as Adam (or Honey or Stefan) would not have used Matt Smith’s real name or given any outward sign of who he was, we spent a good deal of time in Adam’s HEAD in this story, hearing Adam’s THOUGHTS, including those about Matt Smith. And on my second time through this story, there was too much fudging of thoughts to try and cover who Matt Smith really was. If we’re going to hear Adam’s thoughts, even if he didn’t use Matt’s real name, he was unlike to have thought about the character in the manner he did.

The hiding of that character was heavy-handed and not very well done. Could I have done it better? Of course not. But if you’re going to attempt to pull off that slight-of-hand I am going to need to be able to see if on a second read through, and it simply wasn’t there.

Reagarding an issue from Burn Bright.

You should probably consider how . . . thrilled? Yes, that is the word. How thrilled I am to have the daughter of Bran’s heart here in my territory.

“You,” he said, “are Bran’s little coyote girl who made him sit in peanut butter because he made your mama cry.”

Foster mother, actually, but I wasn’t about to correct him. Not until I knew him better, or it was over something more important.

He gave me a wolfish smile. “You wrapped his new and very expensive car around a tree. People still talk about the chocolate Easter bunny incident with awe. And still Bran did not kill you.

“Bran is very practical,” Adam said. “He is a zealot whose cause is the survival of the werewolves. He will sacrifice almost anything to that cause. He believes that he would sacrifice either or both of his sons— and they believe it, too. But whenever that seems to be a necessity, somehow matters work out differently. And Bran is nowhere near as protective of his sons as he is of Mercy. You need to listen to me as I tell you the absolute truth.” He ate another piece of steak and resisted the need to meet the vampire’s gaze, because Mercy’s magic had rescued him once, and even for Mercy, that only worked some of the time. “If Mercy dies because of you, there is not a hole deep enough for you to hide from him.”

“If Bran behaves aggressively toward me without cause, he will force a war between the vampires and the werewolves,” Bonarata said.

“He won’t care,” Adam said, his voice sure and certain.

“And yet,” Bran said softly, “you were mine from the day I first held you. No matter how hard I fought it. It isn’t safe to be in my family, Mercy. And you were this fragile creature who put herself in the path of destruction on a daily basis.”

I firmly think all this argues against a Certain Theory in Burn Bright that I believe is totally bogus.

What is good about this story? Mercy rescuing herself. Coyote’s involvement in everything. Stefan & Marsillia’s reactions to pretty much everything. It’s just the crappy job of trying to hide who Matt Smith was that irked me so much.

As far as the narrators–they were fine.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Rating: 7/10

 

Alpha and Omega

 

Alpha & Omega (2007) (found in Shifting Shadows)

Alpha-Omega-Cry-WolfThe novella Alpha & Omega first appeared in On the Prowl, which I picked up only for the Patricia Briggs story. I recommend getting Shifting Shadows rather than that.

That is not, by the way, the cover for either Shifting Shadows or Alpha & Omega, but it’s a great scene from the first book, I couldn’t resist using it.

This novella introduces Anna, who is to become mated to Charles, and how they meet: Anna calls Bran because she discovers that her pack has murdered a teen boy.

Please be aware that Anna had been brutalized (to use a phrase from the first book) by her pack, and although we don’t see this, it has shaped Anna and it is mentioned several times. So this story (and series) might be upsetting to some people.

It brings me to tears usually, to be completely honest.

Why did I re-read this? Because after reading the latest Mercy Thompson book, I wanted to read more Patricia Briggs. I thought about re-starting the Mercy series, but decided I wanted to re-read this series instead (but I may go back to some of the Mercy books too), so I started with the novella.

There are some interesting bits in her world building that I quite like. For instance, “There was a madness that came sometimes to those who live too long.”

It’s all good and well to wish we could live forever, but it’s hard to truly contemplate what that would truly be like for some people.

You can start the series without reading this novella, but you probably want to.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8/10

Cry Wolf (2008)

I really like Patricia Briggs writing, so when I saw she had a new book coming, I ordered it without knowing anything about it.

CryWolf is set in the same world as her Mercy series, and many of the characters carry over, although Mercy does not make an appearance. Which is a good thing, since I think the series needed to be able to stand alone. We also learned about the Marrock’s pack from an outsiders point of view, rather than Mercy’s, which made it very different. Samuel made a brief appearance, but not a large appearance, which I liked, because he has been a major character in the Mercy series.

As with the Mercy books, the characters are distinct and well developed, although much of that may come from most of the characters having made an appearance in the Mercy books. One thing I liked was that we learned more about the characters who have made brief appearances in the Mercy series. The Marrock was a major character, and we learned quite a bit about his past, which I found fascinating.

And of course we spend lots of time with Charles and Anna.

However, I had one major problem with the book. I spent the entire book feeling like I had missed the first part of the story. I kept checking to see if there was a book before this. Nope. Was this something that happened in one of the Mercy books? I don’t think so. So why does it feel like I’m missing something?

Because there was a short story that came before this.

That’s not so good. The first book in a series should be able to stand on its own, without making you feel like you’ve missed something. Was it anything glaring? No. Just a general feeling as I read the book that I was completely missing something.

But what was even more annoying is I own the collection the story is in, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet.

(Upon a second reading) First and foremost, I realized this story is as much about Asil and Bran as it is about Anna and Charles.

I’ve grown to like Asil, so I quite enjoyed visiting with his past, and seeing him redeemed.

In his hothouse, Asil trimmed dead blooms from his roses. They weren’t as glorious as the ones he’d had in Spain, but they were a vast improvement over the commercially grown flowers he’d started with. His Spanish roses had been the result of centuries of careful breeding. It hadn’t bothered him to leave them at the time, but now he regretted their loss fiercely.

Sarai had often thumped him soundly on the head for looking at other women, though she’d known he’d never stray. Now that she was gone, he seldom even looked. Flirting didn’t make him feel disloyal to his dead mate, but he’d found he missed that thump too badly.

That final sentence is heartbreaking.

I also really like Bran.

Bran didn’t reply, just spun himself slowly, around and around on the little stool in the corner of the room.

He folded his arms and rocked back on his heels. He must have read the obstinate refusal in Charles’s face because he sighed and switched to Welsh.

That’s a pretty good language to switch to, in the midwest, if you don’t want anyone to understand what you’re saying.

So like her other books, it was a very good story with very good characters, but lost points for the nagging feeling that I was missing something. If you like Patricia Brigg’s Mercy series, then you’ll want to pick up Cry Wolf. Just be aware that if you haven’t read the short story, you may feel like you’re missing something.

Published by Ace
Rating: 7/10

Re-Read: September 2014

Re-Read: April 2016
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: December 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Edition (2008) narrated by Holter Graham

It makes me feel bad to admit it, but I much prefer Holter Graham as a narrator to Lorelei King. She just doesn’t have the range for male voices that other female narrators do, and the Mercy Thompson series has too many male characters for that not to be an issue.

But this was narrated by Holter Graham, and I very much liked his narration of the story. Except for his pronunciation of the Marrock. That bugged me.

I do wonder, however, why Asil has an accent by neither Bran nor Samuel does. I suppose it has to do with them both being singers and musicians. That isn’t something to do with the narration, not really, but with the story itself. Perhaps the Moor feels that having an accent better fits his persona.

Regradless, with the exception of the pronunciation of the Marrock, I did very much like this narration.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Rating: 8/10

Hunting Ground (2009)

Anne was still getting used to the idea of being married to Charles when they go to Seattle his father–the Marrok. The American werewolves are planning on coming out, and the European wolves have been invited to ask questions of the Marrok about how they would be affected by this.

Unfortunately, Anna and an auditorium of alpha males are not a good mix, and Anna’s problems are going to cause problems for Charles before all is said and done.

This is the second Anna and Charles story, and although I admit that I like Mercy Thompson just a little better, I am enjoying where these characters are going. Interestingly enough, I realized after a few chapters that two of the sub characters appeared in a short story Patricia Briggs had written for one of the collections I have. As I liked those characters, this added an extra element to the story.

Anna is still coming to terms with her Omega status, and her marriage to Charles, Bran’s enforcer.

Brother Wolf felt her, too. Mate, he told her, not unkindly. Get out of our head so we can deal with She-Who-Is-Not-Kin.

There is a lovely scene in a restaurant where Anna has to step away from the wolves, and plays the piano to distract herself, and then an elderly man asks her to play a song for him. I love that scene, and Charles’ reaction to it.

So often people got it wrong, treating their elders like children, people to be coddled and ignored. He knew better, and so did the big man. The Elders were closer to the Maker of All Things and should be deferred to whenever they made their will known.

And Anna is growing into herself in a way in which I completely approve.

Power came to her call, and she said, “I will make myself safe.”

She also states my beliefs on reincarnation.

If people remembered once being kitchen maids, or farmers who died of nothing more interesting than old age, I might reconsider my stance on reincarnation.

As far as the story arc, it was interesting, and it followed up on a theme that has been running through the Mercy Thompson books (although you definitely do not need that background for the story.)

If you like supernatural fantasy with werewolves and vampires and fey, then I highly recommend checking out Patricia Briggs writing. Although you could read Hunting Ground without having read the Cry Wolf, doing so you’ll miss out on a great deal of character development and background.

Published by Ace
Rating: 7/10

Re-Read: October 2014

Re-Read: May 2016

Re-Read: December 2016

Audio Edition (2009) narrated by Holter Graham

I feel so picky.

I don’t dislike Holter Graham as a narrator, and I enjoy him slightly more than Loreli King, but 1) he still mispronounces the Marrock and 2) this is the book with the European wolves coming to the US, and I sometimes had difficulty telling the various European wolves apart.

But I still enjoyed listening to it.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Rating: 8/10

Fair Game (2012)

My. I was not expecting where that went.

This is the third Alpha & Omega story, and although it is about Anna and about Charles coming to terms with the changes in his position as the Marrok’s enforcer, but even more important are the changes to the world that Anna & Charles and Mercy Thompson live in.

Now that the werewolves have been outed, the Marrock has been far more strict about enforcing the rules.

Charles’ job became much more difficult, since infractions that were previously allowed to slide, now carry a death sentence–a sentence that in many cases Charles has to carry out, when an Alpha can’t or won’t.

Asil left Bran alone with his thoughts then, because if he stayed, Bran would argue with him. This way, Bran would have no one to argue with but himself. And Asil had always credited Bran with the ability to be persuasive.

He has also become haunted by those he is forced to kill, and those ghosts are cutting him off from his wife, Anna. So when a request from the FBI comes in for a werewolf consultant, Bran (the Marrock, and Charle’s father) sends Anna and Charles, in the hopes a break from enforcement will help Charles.

The FBI is interested in anything we can add to the investigation.”

“You’re sending me?” People instinctively wanted to please Adam. Charles was better at the destroy-and-subdue, not so good at the coax-and-charm.

“No,” said his da. “That would be dumb. I’m sending Anna. You are going as her guard.

In general, I’ve preferred the Mercy Thompson series set in this world to the Alpha & Omega part of the series. Not that I disliked this series, I just really like Mercy and her stories tend to my mysteries while this series is more romance.

So, I was expecting a pleasant read, but not much more, yesterday when I picked up this book.

I ended up away past my bed time, because I couldn’t put it down.

This is, first and foremost, a mystery. Yes, Anna and Charles have problems to resolve, but the main arc of the story was finding and catching the serial killer. The mystery is quite good, and one of the reason I couldn’t put the book down.

The second thing, is that the events in the conclusion of this book are going to have an affect on Mercy Thompson, as she is married to the alpha of the Washington tri-cities.

I was informed by my second that we should be honored that you were visiting our city. We should bring you gifts and see if we can get you to abandon your pack and join ours. When I pointed out that that meant Charles would come, too— and displace me— I was told that the blessing of having an Omega in the pack would outweigh even putting up with Charles.”

Third, I like how far Anna has come. When we first met her, she was abused and cowed and frightened of everything. In this book, when she gets into trouble, she sets out to rescue herself. That’s a huge thing, and it makes me happy to see how she has come into herself and no longer fears everything.

I would NOT recommend this as an entry point to the series–this references events in the last Mercy Thompson book, and, as I noted, Anna’s growth and change over the course of the series are one of the (many) strengths of the story, so if you haven’t been following along, that change might not be as powerful.

It is here that we meet Beauclaire (who makes an appearance in Night Broken).

“It is not wise to give something old and powerful something they care about. And I am very old.” He looked at the FBI agents. “Even, possibly, older than your father."

Although the events surrounding the serial killer are horrific, there is much to lighten the story.

A jogger approached them and stopped, jogging in place. “Your dog should be on a leash,” he said in politely disapproving tones. “It’s the rules. There are lots of kids here and a big dog like that might scare someone.”

“Werewolf,” said Anna blandly, just to see what he would do. He stopped jogging and looked, his jaw dropping.

“Shit,” he said. “You’re kidding me.”

“It’s a werewolf,” said Leslie.

“It’s red. Aren’t werewolves supposed to be black or gray?”

“Werewolves can be whatever color,” Anna told him.

He bent down, stretching his legs and breathing deeply. “It’s beautiful.”

He bowed his head, working his hands; then he turned and started walking backward again, facing her. Anna followed, keeping a sharp eye out for things he might back into or over. She wondered if Isaac did this all the time— and, if so, how he avoided getting photos in the paper with captions like “Local Alpha Trips over Child” or “Wolf Versus Street Sign, Street Sign Wins.”

But aside from that, this is a fabulous story, and I can’t wait to read the next Mercy Thompson book–as this series has switch to an initial hard cover publication, I’m extra glad I have a kindle, and can read it there.

Published by Ace
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: November 2014
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: May 2016

Re-Read: December 2016

Audio Edition (2012) narrated by Holter Graham

I do like this series, and this book, even if this book has a serious lack of Asil.

Asil left Bran alone with his thoughts then, because if he stayed, Bran would argue with him. This way, Bran would have no one to argue with but himself. And Asil had always credited Bran with the ability to be persuasive.

Charles is struggling with the ghosts of the men he has had to kill in order to help the image of the werewolves now they are out of the supernatural closet. Bran doesn’t want to see anything wrong, but eventually sends Charles and Anna to Boston to help the FBI search for a serial killer–one who has been killing fae and werewolves.

What makes this story so strong is how terrifyingly realistic the reaction of people to the supernatural is. Even knowing what is going to happen, the end of the book is still shocking.

I still don’t love the narrator–it doesn’t help that we’ve been listening to The Rook and Stiletto in the car, both of which have amazing narration, but I don’t hate him. He does Charles very well–I just have a difficult time differentiating many of the other voices.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Rating: 8/10

Dead Heat (2015)

This is the fourth Alpha & Omega series, the story of Charles and Anna. Charles is the enforcer for all the werewolves in North America, and Anna is his wife–a werewolf herself who he rescued from a pack gone bad.

If you have not read the previous books in the series, don’t start here. Unless you aren’t planning to go back and read the earlier books, because there are spoilers galore for the previous books–especially the BIG event at the end of book 3.

Charles has few friends. His position as his father’s enforcer makes it hard for him to get close to anyone. But the few friends he does have, he loves deeply, and will do anything to protect.

“Really?” said Joseph tentatively. “You don’t remember?”

“Someone asked me not to,” said Charles. “And I told him I would oblige him. So no. I don’t remember.”

Unfortunately, the one thing he can’t do is stop death and old age–at least not if the person refuses to be turned.

As a warning, this book does contain the kidnapping and murder of small children. It’s all off-screen, but it’s still there, although true to the mythology and folklore.

They almost immediately become entangled with events surrounding a loose Fae who murders children. (Just so you know from the get-go: dead children here.)

There are also live and amusing kids.

“Shut your piehole, punk kid,” Max said, thumping her on the head with the palm of his hand.

“I’m telling Mama you said ‘Shut your piehole,’” Michael said. “‘Shut your piehole’ is a bad word.”

“‘Shut your piehole’ is three words, Michael,” said Mackie.

Undaunted, Michael said, “I’m telling Mama you used three bad words.”

Interestingly, perhaps because Charles is one of the main characters, there are again bits about aging and dying.

“In the old days they’d have kissed my cheek and then left me in the desert to die. Then my family would hire some Hopi or white man too stupid to know the dangers of handling the dead to go deal with the body. Now we’re caught between modern ways and the old. If I die here, only fire will keep my evil ghost from making everyone miserable, and they are too rational to do that.”

And some other bits thrown in.

He was twelve when he told us he liked boys instead of girls. That was right after some friend of his got kicked out of his home for doing the same. Stupid people tossing away the most precious thing God saw fit to give them, I say.”

“Take the question every husband dreads.” Leeds looked at the fae and then back at Leslie. “You know, the one about if pants make you look fat. A fae could say ‘No,’ which you would take to mean that you don’t look fat, when in fact he means ‘The pants don’t make you look fat, your extra weight makes you look fat.’” Leeds cleared his throat and a flush rose up his face. “Not that you do look fat. It was just an example.”

And Anna understands how to deal with evil.

(I)t was serious business, but humor in the face of evil robbed evil of some of its power.

This book was far less of a romance than the earlier books, and continues to take Mercy’s world in very interesting directions, after the events in the third book.

Published by Ace
Rating: 7.5/10

Re-Read: May 2016

Re-Read: December 2016

Audio Version (2015) narrated by Holter Graham

I really like this entry into the Alpha & Omega series.

Charles and Anna head out to visit a friend of Charles’ who is dying, and to buy a horse for Anna from the family business.

The family is complicated, with the grandfather a werewolf and a Navajo who disapproves of his granddaughter-in-law because of her witch blood, and who wants Charles to forcibly change his son (Charles’ friend) so he doesn’t die.

There are also kids, but they are an integral part of the story, and, well, they’re kids.

“Shut your piehole, punk kid,” Max said, thumping her on the head with the palm of his hand.

“I’m telling Mama you said ‘Shut your piehole,’” Michael said. “‘Shut your piehole’ is a bad word.”

“‘Shut your piehole’ is three words, Michael,” said Mackie. Undaunted,

Michael said, “I’m telling Mama you used three bad words.”

That cracks me up every time.

And I still love this passage.

He was twelve when he told us he liked boys instead of girls. That was right after some friend of his got kicked out of his home for doing the same. Stupid people tossing away the most precious thing God saw fit to give them, I say.

I had more problems than in previous books with the narration, because I found it difficult to tell Charles, Hosteen, and Kage apart.

Plus he still pronounces “Marrock” wrong.

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Burn Bright (2018)

This is the fifth book in the Alpha & Omega series.

Bran has not yet returned from helping to rescue Mercy from the vampires in Europe–he claimed he wanted to visit Samuel in Africa–leaving Charles in charge on Bran’s pack and the wildlings–the older werewolves and those on the edge of losing control or who don’t fit into the regular pack structure. (Such as Kara, the young girl who was turned after an attack.)

When a wildling is kidnapped, Anna and Charles go to check on the pair, and things quickly spiral out of control.

Interestingly, we get Anna and Charles discussing Bran and his feelings for Mercy.

“Bran’s not funny about her,” he told Anna, feeling uncomfortable. “He thinks of her as his daughter, and he doesn’t have any other daughters still alive. There’s nothing strange about it.”

“Or so everyone is much happier believing,” agreed Anna blandly. “Including Bran. We’ll leave it at that. So the musical evenings were a thing between Bran and Mercy?”

“Not like that,” Charles said, feeling defensive because Anna put her finger right on something that he’d been ignoring for a long time. He took a deep breath. “All right. All right. You might have a point about Da and Mercy.”

I’m not sure if that explains the last Mercy book or not. But it does make their relationship more complicated than it already was.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this whole story right now. I’ll have to think about it–perhaps have a better idea after I re-read it in a year or so.

One of the things that Anna and Charles spend a lot of time doing is driving on rural roads. Most of those descriptions I appreciated.

It took Anna the better part of an hour to drive twenty miles.

Since she had become Charles’s mate, most of the time she felt as though she belonged here, in the wilds of Montana. Then she’d take a drive with Charles in the mountains and be forcibly reminded that she’d been raised in a city.

True, some of Chicago was a wilderness in its own right, but even in the bad areas, roads could be relied upon to be paved, wide enough to get at least one car through, and she’d been able to trust that there wouldn’t be a freaking tree growing up in the middle of the road, hidden by a sharp bend. If she hadn’t been wearing her seat belt for that one, she might have gone through the windshield.

The first part is totally true. I’ve driven many many roads like that.

The last part, however? On roads like that you are almost never going fast enough to go through the windshield.

There are, however, lots of things I quite liked.

“It is all right to mourn Hester. She is worth the weight of your sorrow.”

“The second bunch were damaged a little more severely,” Charles said.

“Double-zap,” said Tag.

“That is not a technical term, I hope,” murmured Asil.

“Only the most technically advanced people can use ‘double-zap’ correctly,” Anna told Asil sotto voce. “You and I shouldn’t try it.”

I forgot to mention that we get to see a lot of Asil in this book, and I adore Asil.

You cannot look at a person, and say, ‘If I could change this or that, if I could pick what I want and discard other things, I could love this one.’ Such a love is pale and weak— and doomed to failure.”

As I said, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. I tore through it, had trouble setting it down, and was happy to spend time with the characters.

There was just something about the story arc that felt odd to me. I’ll think about it.

Publisher: Ace

Audio Version (2018) narrated by Holter Graham

When I read this after it was published in the spring, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

After listening, I think I know what felt off originally–this majority of this book takes place over a very short period of time. Two days if I’m parsing it correctly. That’s not an unreasonable time frame for a supernatural fantasy, but I’m used to the stories in this series taking place over closer to a week or even month, so when the end of the story arc came it felt a little abrupt.

I think also what was a little unusual was that closing fight was seemingly smaller and less important than the one that happened a little earlier. And the death of the other bad guy occurred off-stage and was rather anti-climatic. Not that we should have seen that death, but it almost felt like a bit of a let-down.

None of these things were bad, it’s just that they were unexpected in this series.

And I still have issues with the following bit:

“Bran’s not funny about her,” he told Anna, feeling uncomfortable. “He thinks of her as his daughter, and he doesn’t have any other daughters still alive. There’s nothing strange about it.”

“Or so everyone is much happier believing,” agreed Anna blandly. “Including Bran. We’ll leave it at that.

I just…no. Mercy came to him as an infant. Even if she was raised by foster parents, she was in Bran’s life as a baby, toddler, child, etc. That Bran could see her as something other than a daughter-like figure is just squicky and gross.

Oh, another issue:

It took Anna the better part of an hour to drive twenty miles.

Since she had become Charles’s mate, most of the time she felt as though she belonged here, in the wilds of Montana. Then she’d take a drive with Charles in the mountains and be forcibly reminded that she’d been raised in a city.

True, some of Chicago was a wilderness in its own right, but even in the bad areas, roads could be relied upon to be paved, wide enough to get at least one car through, and she’d been able to trust that there wouldn’t be a freaking tree growing up in the middle of the road, hidden by a sharp bend.

If she hadn’t been wearing her seat belt for that one, she might have gone through the windshield.

No. No she would not have gone through the windshield. I drive roads like that, and 20 MPH will not throw the driver through the windshield on an abrupt, controlled stop. It might toss unbraced passengers about a bit, but not through the windshield.

As for the narration, I’m still frustrated by it. As I said, I don’t hate it, I just wish it was better.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Rating: 7.5/10

 

Other Fantasy

 

Masques (1993/2010)

This is a revised version of Patricia Brigg’s first published book, and unlike some of her more recent works, is not urban/supernatural fantasy but straight up fantasy. Luckily for me, it’s not high fantasy that takes 30k pages to resolve the story, but a fun story told in 300 pages.

Aralorn is a mercenary who is also (secretly) a green mage. Those hidden skills have helped her out of numerous scrapes, and also helps her to rescue a wolf–a strange wolf who eventually speaks to her, and seems to have skills beyond what one would expect from a creature with four paws. Her green magic eventually leads her to becoming a spy, and it is as a spy that she eventually runs into serious problems.

I actually quite enjoyed this story. Much of it isn’t subtle, but it is interesting and it’s quite fun. The nice thing about fantasy is you not just that you can have magic, but that you can swords and women with equal (or mostly equal) rights in the same world. As much as I love historical fiction, it’s hard to have a strong and interesting female lead character who is not also completely out of character for her time. Whereas if you make your own world, you don’t have to worry about such historical accuracies.

Please note that as I said at the start, this is not a new work, but instead a revision of an earlier work, so there are some problems with the writing and the story telling, but despite those issues, it’s still a fun and enjoyable read, and one I recommend.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Ace

          


Raven's Shadow (2004)

Yes, I am gouging myself on new books. I'd been very good, about not bought myself any books for several months, so I figure I'm entitled to a small binge--especially when I can find books on sale.

Seraph, a Traveler, a mage, and the last of her clan, is saved by Tier, a solider heading home for peace and calm, years after he snuck out as a boy to join the army. The first two chapters tell of their meeting and how Tier saved Seraph. The remainder of the book tells of what Seraph does after Tier disappears.

Although Raven's Shadow is book one of a duology, it can be read as a stand alone novel--the author resolves the issues and problems satisfactorily by the end of the book. I have a great deal of admiration for authors who can do that (and also authors who can tell a story in under a thousand pages).

I was very pleased with Raven's Shadow. The story was fun, the characters were interesting, and the writing was good. There were several things that I particularly liked about the story: the Travelers, who were somewhat akin to gypsies, are an oppressed class, yet Patricia Briggs makes sure that they aren't all noble, and that some react to their persecution the way that many people react--with anger and hostility. It makes them far more human than than they would have been otherwise, considering the story.

I also like the fact that for most of the story Seraph and Tier older--middle aged by the standards of the time. Not callow youths learning their skills and powers, nor aged masters with wisdom and skill, but (somewhat) regular people, comfortable with their skills and with themselves.

There were some flaws with the book. I thought that things came together a little too easy in some parts. I wasn't sure what the limitations on a Raven's power were, mostly she seemed to be able to do whatever she needed, but again, as she was older, she should have known the limitations of her powers, and not attempted more than she was capable of doing. The same thing for Tier, although that is also explained to some small degree.

So there was at least some explanation

But all in all, the story was engaging and well-paced, with interesting characters. It was a fun read, and although I was able to put the book down and do other things, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you're looking for a good fantasy, with strong characters, then I definitely recommend Raven's Shadow.
Rating: 8/10

Raven's Strike (2005)

The sequel to Raven's Shadow, Raven's Strike picks up where Raven's Shadow left off. Tier and Seraph, and their children Lier and Jes are headed back from Taela. They are still traveling with the clan of Rongier the Librarian, and Hennea, who was separated from her clan when she was kidnapped by Volis .

Like the first book, Raven's Strike has an interesting story and characters. And my favorite: strong female characters. However, that doesn't mean the men are weak. In fact I again think Tier is the most interesting character in the story, although the focus is less upon him in this book than in the previous book. However, the complexity that Jes develops in this story makes up for it.

There were again a couple things in the story that bothered me--one of which made me look up from the book and say, "That's ridiculous!" I'm sorry, but the Emperor just doesn't show up at a peasant's house and stay for a few days, sleeping in the barn. And my desbelief was exacerbated by the fact that the emperor appeared without any warning, which stressed how unlikely the situation was. Even more frustrating, in the following chapters she did a good job of explaining why the emperor had to leave, and why he wanted to search out Tier. Perhaps if this part of the story had been presented first, I would not have found the Emperor's arrival so jarring, and might have been able to overlook how unrealistic the situation was. But was things were written, I ended up pulled abruptly from the story, which is a bad thing.

Also, towards the end of the story (and I'm going to try to be vague here) I did not understand the resolution of Tier's problem. I kept waiting for an explanation, and none ever came, which was rather frustrating. The way the problem was solved was entirely too much "then a miracle happens" to sit well with me.

However, despite these weaknesses, Raven's Strike was still a good and enjoyable book, and its many strengths were enough to overcome its flaws. I really liked the explanation of the mermori. I found them fascinating. I also liked learning more about Phoran's Memory.

Though, as much as I liked the cover of Raven's Shadow, I hate to cover of Raven's Strike. Seraph no longer looks like a mature woman, but isntead looks like a badly dressed teen. (And the dress she's wearing? Ugh. And it is repeatedly mentioned how Seraph keeps wearing herTraveler's pants, instead of going back to a dress like a proper Rederni woman. And what is the dog like creature supposed to be? Because it certainly isn't Jes. (Nor is it any species of canine known to man.)

I'm glad this was the second book in the series, because covers like this are enough to keep me from purchasing books by new authors. (I don't need look like even more of a geek than I already am, when I pull out books to read while I'm waiting for the PRT.)

If you enjoyed Raven's Shadow, then you'll definitely want to read Raven's Strike. If you have not read Raven's Shadow, the story is written so that you should be able to read the story without missing anything. But to me, Raven's Shadow is the stronger of the two books, so you'll really want to read that first.
Rating: 7/10

 

Anthologies

 

On the Prowl (2007)
Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, Sunny

on_the_prowlWow. Talk about a mixed bag. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two stories. I started the last two and thought, “meh.” But then realized that to review the book I had to finish all four stories.

I should have trusted my first instincts and just reviewed the first two stories leaving the last two unread.

The anthology opens with Patricia Brigg’s story Alpha and Omega. This is the prequel to her book Cry Wolf, which I read earlier (not realizing this story was in fact a prequel to it). If you’ve read her Mercy Thompson series, then you’re already familiar with Charles. But if you haven’t read the Mercy series (which really, you should) it won’t matter, because the main character is Anna, a young werewolf who has been terribly abused by her pack. A call to the Marrok brings Charles to town, to look into the problems with her Chicago area pack.

This story is the reason I picked up the anthology in the first place. I really like Patricia Brigg’s storytelling and characters. Why did it take me so long to read this anthology? Who can understand why my brain works the way it does, but this story was worth the cost of the anthology.

Anna has been physically beaten down, yet despite everything, her spirit has not yet be broken. But not for a lack for trying.

What I found particularly fascinating was what we discovered to be the eventual reason for the situation in Chicago. Some things cannot be forgiven, but sometimes they can be understood. She did a very good job of that with this story.

Although this story is a prequel to Cry Wolf, everything is resolved, and you do not need any prior knowledge of any other characters to enjoy the tale. Very good and very enjoyable.

So I recommend On the Prowl with reservations. The first two stories are very good. The fourth was little else but boinking, and the third story was a simply mess. With magical boinking. I’d say get it for the first two stories, and then pretend that the last two stories are part of some other anthology entirely and completely unrelated to the first two stories.
Rating: 6/10

Strange Brew (2009) edited by P.N. Elrod

Strange-BrewI love short story collections. They’re a way to discover new authors, visit with favorite characters, and to be honest I just enjoy short stories. Now if you like short stories, you eventually learn that a lot of collections are not worth buying, but there are certain authors that will cause me to buy an anthology on sight. This collection has several of those authors: Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Charlaine Harris.

Patricia Brigg’s story “Seeing Eye” was one of my favorites. It’s set in the same world as her Mercy Thompson series, but other than a mention of the Marrock, none of the characters from that series appear. Which is a good thing, since as I noticed with some of the other stories, if you’re not familiar with the characters in the series, short stories can fail miserably at times. This one does not. Moira is a witch–a good witch–who has made sacrifices for her power. She is very unhappy when her doorbell rings in the middle of the night, with a werewolf demanding she help him recover her brother. This story does feel like it may want to be larger, with these characters continuing.

What I thought was interesting was several of the stories reached back into mythology for parts of their stories, which I really enjoyed (although I didn’t need all the explanation that was given). If you think you might be interested in reading supernatural fantasy, this anthology would be a good place to sample some stories.
Rating: 8/10

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin

Re-Read: July 2014
Rating: 7/10

The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told (2010) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & John Helfers

I wouldn’t say the best necessarily, but it’s not a bad selection of stories. And the fact that I got to read it for free probably helped.

Star of David - Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs‘ story, “Star of David” is set in the same world as her Mercy Thompson series, but as with Simon R Green’s story, does not feature the main characters from that series, and again, works as a very good introduction to her world. Stella helps place kids in foster homes, and when it’s reported that one boy she’s placed has attacked his foster parents, she thinks something is wrong, and turns to someone she said she wouldn’t call, to help he resolve the problem.

There were a couple other stories in the collection, but I didn’t love or hate them, so all in all, this was a pretty strong collection.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Skyhorse Publishing

Naked City (2011) edited by Ellen Datlow

This collection of urban fantasy stories has several of my favorite authors, so it was a no-brainer to get. The bad thing is that I’ve been reading this collection for several months, so I now have no idea what the stories at the start of the anthology were about, which is dangerous, because it means I may end up accidentally rereading several of them.

Patricia Briggs story “Fairy Gifts” is a vampire story, but it’s not one of those vampire stories. It’s of a boy who was forced to become a vampire, and more.

Although there were several stories I didn’t care for, I believe that was more a matter of personal taste than quality. And the stories I did like, I liked very much.
Rating: 8/10

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin

Down These Strange Streets (2011) edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin

If you look at the list of authors above, you’ll immediately see why I read this series. There are some of my favorite authors here–many of whom write short stories I tend to love. And surprisingly, I loved most of these stories, especially a few by authors I haven’t particularly read before.

In Red, With Pearls - Patricia Briggs

“In Red, with Pearls” by Patricia Briggs is set in the world of Mercy Thompson and features two characters from that series, Kyle and Warren, that I very much like, so I’m glad to see them get their own story. Kyle is a human lawyer. Warren is his werewolf partner who has just started working as a PI for Kyle’s firm. When a zombie shows up looking for Kyle, they have to call in Elizaveta to both clean up the mess and help them figure out what the hell is happening. Here’s hoping for more stories about Kyle and Warren,

All in all, I found this to be a fabulous anthology, and I highly recommend almost all the stories I read–even the ones I didn’t love were, for the most part, interesting.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Penguin

Happily Ever After (2011) edited by John Klima

Happily Ever AfterNot sure how I missed this when I first came out, but this anthology is full of things I love: authors whose books I love, stories based on folk and fairy tales–lovely!

The only thing I didn’t like, is I wish the anthology hadn’t ended on such a dark and depressing story.

Mind you, the dark and depressing stories were good–very good–but these tales ran very true to the original stories, with a not insignificant amount of rape and incest and general horribleness. Just like the original tales.

But there’s also a good amount of humor as well, and I just wished the collection had ended with one of the funnier stories.

I usually love Patricia Briggs‘ stories, and “The Price” was no exception. It took me a bit to figure out which story it was borrowing from, but once I figured it out, it was quite lovely.

Please note, as previously mentioned, the stories have rape and incest and lots and lots of sex in addition to evil stepmothers and other such killers.

There were also a fair number of very dark and very depressing tales that were very good, but that I didn’t enjoy at all.
Rating:8/10

Published by Night Shade Books

Home Improvement: Undead Edition (2011) edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

As with most anthologies, there are stories here I really liked, and some that I found to be just okay. What was unusual was that there were some stories that I actually strongly disliked.

“Gray” by Patricia Briggs isn’t a Mercy Thompson story, but is set her her world. A vampire returns to Chicago, to the home where she once lived. I quite liked this story. It stands on its own outside of the Mercy books, and is interesting in its own right. Vampires tend to be minor characters in the Mercy series, but I quite like her vampire mythology, and have very much enjoyed the short stories she’s written that have been about vampires. This is one of my favorites.

All in all, an okay collection, but I’m not sure why it’s been so expensive for so long, and if I could have gotten the Patricia Briggs story solo (I really do enjoy her short stories), I’m not sure I’d necessarily haven bothered with it.
Rating: 6/10

Published by Ace

Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations (2013) edited by Paula Guran

weird-detectives-recent-investigationsThis is a collection of short stories previously published elsewhere, so I’d already read several of these stories. But there were several I had not, and several of the ones I’d read before were well worth reading again.

This book has been sitting around for awhile, waiting to be read, primarily because I got it in trade paperback, and it’s huge and heavy–just the kind of book I hate reading. Too heavy and too bulky for comfortable reading. But the stories drew me in and didn’t let me go. (Though the book itself was why I lacked patience for stories I’d recently read or didn’t catch my interest immediately.)

“Star of David” by Patricia Briggs

Initially, I was just going to flip through and read stories by authors I love, but then I ended up just reading straight through. Having no patience, if I story didn’t immediately grab hold, I didn’t finish it, and if I hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed it the first time (or had read the story very recently), I didn’t give it a second read.

“Star of David” by Patricia Briggs was a story that seemed to be set in Mercy Thompsons’ world, but contains none of the characters from that series. This is another story I’d read previously, but one that I very much enjoyed re-reading. The main character is a werewolf who is estranged from his daughter. I really liked this story.

He thought you had to be bleeding someplace to hurt this badly.

Yeah. That’s harsh and true.
Rating: 8/10

Magic City: Recent Spells (2014) edited by Paula Guran

Magic-City-Recent-Spells

“Seeing Eye” by Patricia Briggs

...

“Seeing Eye” by Patricia Briggs is another story I’d read before, and actually recently re-read, because it stuck in my mind.

...

All in all this is a marvelous collection, that I highly recommend.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Prime Books

A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories (2014) edited by Kevin J. Anderson & Kieth J. Olexa

Fantastic Holiday SeasonI picked this collection up solely for the Patricia Briggs story, but once I saw some of the other authors, read through the stories that interested me (but skipped the ones that didn’t grab me after a page or two).

“Unappreciated Gifts” by Patricia Briggs

“Unappreciated Gifts” by Patricia Briggs is the story I bought the anthology for, and I’ve actually read it multiple times. Partially because Asil is one of my favorite characters, and partially because it’s fun.

Someone in the pack has set up Asil on five blind dates, with bets going around that Asil either won't go on the dates, or that the dates will fail miserably.

* A successful date is one in which a) neither party runs screaming into the night b) there are no dead bodies at the end of it and c) lasts longer than two hours— at least an hour and a half of which is spent with your date— which is an hour and fifty minutes longer than we expect any date of yours to last.

But Asil is complicated (and vain) as well the person setting up the dates knows.

He looked in the mirror and regretted that his hair was cut short. Properly he should have a mane of curls to balance the lace, but he looked magnificent, anyway.

The date, however, is completely unexpected.

“Trace and his girlfriend apparently thought it was a good idea one day while they were drunk.”

“They exchanged emails with people pretending to be me for two weeks,” Asil said dryly. “Were they drunk the whole time?”

“Them? Who knows, it’s possible.”

This as a lovely story, and it was nice to take a deeper look at Asil.

When packing, he had briefly considered an outfit he’d saved from the rococo era. The silver-blue looked particularly good on him and the fabric looked as though it had been manufactured yesterday instead of nearly three hundred years ago. But, in keeping with the style of the era, it made him appear a little pot-bellied. It hadn’t bothered him at the time, but his tastes had changed. He also had no inclination to wear a powdered wig.

Who a man’s friends are, says a lot about him. She knew who and what I was— and still tried to save you from me. She is brave and loyal. No one needs to apologize for such a friend.”

I really love appearances by Asil.

This is a decent collection with something for everything, even if all the stories don’t appeal to everyone.
Rating: 8/10

Published by WordFire Press