Today is a three-for, so it's going to be a long one. As such, I am putting less bonus material -- I don't want to overload you -- but what I am putting is for the most part spoilery, so if you don't want spoilers, skip the bonus material. Here is what I thought of the first 3 books of Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson series. Enjoy.
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Moon Called, Mercedes Thompson, the VW mechanic, Mercy for short, has always strived to lead a normal life. Well, as normal a life as a walker (one who can shape-shift into a coyote) can expect. A walker who was raised by werewolves, whose neighbor is Alpha of the local werewolf pack, whose former boss is a powerful member of the fae community, and whose friend is a vampire with a Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. That kind of normal. When a newly turned teenage werewolf shows up at her garage looking for work, Mercy finds herself crossing the boundary from her version of normal into much more dangerous territory, where she finds herself at the center of a storm of feuding werewolves, vampire favors and angry witches…
I was basically instantly sucked into Mercy’s world. She is an engaging heroine, spunky but not cheesy; she feels real. The powerful paranormal characters in her life are realistic even in their otherworldliness, which is impressive. Briggs worked in a good base of folklore and real world nature to make even the unbelievable believable. I never really felt myself rolling my eyes or thinking, god this is cheesy. It wasn’t. I thought the first book showed great world-building potential.
The one area where I became a little leery and thought my worries were going to be justified was the end. I hate Scooby Doo-ism, where an author wraps everything up too easily into a neat little package rather than crafting the ending with as much care as the rest of the book. Beginnings and endings, I believe, are the hardest to right and have the most potential for let down, and I was worried I was going to be let down. There was one section where it felt a little too ‘let’s wrap this up,’ but Briggs managed to get away from it and back into a real flow, balancing it out into Mercy’s engaging narration. It was a little blip on my uh-oh radar, but she saved it (though it was a big factor in knocking the book from a 5 to a 4): but she ended with a great closer. Certainly looking forward to the rest of the series, and anything else Briggs writes
Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the second of the Mercedes Thompson books. In Moon Called, Mercy recruited the help of her vampire friend, Stefan, to help out with some werewolf trouble that descended on the Tri-Cities. Now, the favor has come due, and it is Mercy's turn to help Stefan and the vampires -- a dangerous position to be in. Her partial immunity to vampire magic (a result of her walker heritage) may not be enough to help her when the vampire trouble turns into sorcerer trouble, which turns into demon trouble.
Though I rated Moon Called a 4 (nearly a 5), Blood Bound was an easy 5 for me. It is good at being exactly what it's supposed to be. The tension is taut throughout, even when the story splits off and goes in a direction I wasn't expecting. The action and the danger were intense enough to lend a sense of urgency to the book, while never making it seem too extreme (leaving nowhere to go in the rest of the series). Briggs' characters are full and dynamic, even many of the minor characters; they're layered and interesting, but not distracting. There aren't tangential paragraphs describing rippling abs and long waving hair; what description there is, is to the point and effective.
I continue to be surprised by Briggs. She makes choices that initial make me leery, and then she makes them work. I'm not used to that. Normally, if I stumble on something that I think is going to make me groan, it eventually does. In Blood Bound, the potentially groan-worthy thing was a split focus at the end. When the main trouble is over and the foe vanquished (is that spoilery? We all know how these things work out, don't we?), Mercy still has a bone to pick, a score to settle. It didn't really fall into the category of tying up loose ends because it was a bit too big for that. I expected it to be dealt with in the next book, and instead, a little mini-plot developed while Mercy pursued this new Big Bad. I really thought it was going to feel disconnected and tacked on, and instead it worked out perfectly. It fit the story rather than being wedged in to it, and it was just as engaging and proportionately dangerous and tension-worthy as it should have been. Briggs handles things well and either has a damn good content editor or a keen sense for it herself. Well worth the read.
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In Iron Kissed, Mercy is recruited by her fae friends to help sniff out (literally) a killer on the fae reservation. When friend and former boss, self-proclaimed gremlin, Zee, is later arrested, Mercy’s search for the killer becomes more frantic -- and dangerous. In other (werewolf) news, Mercy comes to a resolution about Samuel and Adam, but will she live to see it through?
This book crystallized in my mind for me some of the reasons that I love this series so much. Briggs seems to intuitively understand restraint. She doesn’t pad her books and draw every scene out, milking ever last drop. As a writer, it’s tempting to make the reader see exactly what you want them to by writing every little detail. Briggs understands that sometimes, things are better left to each individual’s imagination, and so she uses a light hand during crucial situations. This doesn’t mean the books are bland and description less; rather, there is a base to work off of in the readers’ mind so that they can supply all of the extraneous details. This is effective for two reasons: 1), the reader inherently makes the story better for his/herself when applying imagination and preference -- this is why the book is always better than the movie. 2) all of the excess scenework that you have to wade through as a reader isn’t there. I know that scenework can be pretty, and you may love how someone describes something in such detail, but when they constantly do that, it gets old. I can tell you how many times I’ve read Anne Rice or Laurell K. Hamilton and rolled my eyes or said “get to the point already!” A 300-400 page book is often padded our to 600-700 pages. Briggs doesn’t do this. The result is that the books fly by and leave you engaged the whole time, and leave you hungry for the next. Everything seems so brilliantly paced, and everything is necessary.
Now, one thing that almost knocked this particular book back to a 4 for me was a couple of Scooby Doo scenes. It drives me nuts when a villain spills their guts to the good guy, thereby tying up all the loose strings that had you wondering; b) I hate it when one character in conversation to another summarizes the whole book, essentially recapping, and thereby tying up loose strings. These things seem lazy to me, generally. But the reason that this didn’t end up knocking the story back to a 4 was that in both cases where Briggs does this, there was a reason that actually made it work and made sense in the context of the story, as well as expanding the readers‘ understanding of the characters in a way that worked, when anything else would have shown less and seemed clumsy. I ended up being sort of impressed by something that normally drives me insane. (More on this, but it gets spoilery, so it will be on the blog)
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Bonus Material: !!!!!!!!!SPOILERY!!!!!!!
This was what I had to say on the edition I read which contained all three of these books:
I bought this edition -- the first three books in this series -- on a whim, figuring it would be something quick and fun to read between other books. I was a bit worried that it was going to be a Laurel K. Hamilton knock-off, . Though it is certainly in the same vein (ha!) of Hamilton and Kelley Armstrong, et al., I think it's certainly strong enough to stand on its own. Where it diverges from Hamilton the most is that it's not an orgy. I know that's going to disappoint some of you, and I'm not saying it doesn't have its fair share of sexual tension. But it's more realistic with it. Briggs doesn’t go overboard describing the “beefcakes” the way some authors (ahem, Hamilton) do; they are there, but you can flesh them out to your tastes, which is a good choice on Briggs’ part. The Anita Blake books are brief periods of fighting, zombie raising and sleuthing in between bizarre sexual and quasi-sexual encounters, and entertaining as that may be, sometimes it's just too much. With Mercy, you have a strong female lead who is independent almost to a fault. She doesn’t let people push her around, she’s strong and she’s smart, and she doesn’t know when to give up, which is fabulous in a series like this.
The paranormal elements in the books are believable and not over done, and have elements of real world nature in them. Briggs did her homework, thought out the world, and it shows. I think that she was smart, too, in not keeping her paranormal characters too much in their own world. The fae have “come out” to the public a decade before the story begins, the werewolves are on the verge of coming out, and though the vampires have no plans of coming out, that’s not surprising, as they eat people. The struggles of the paranormal community to be accepted rather than feared and attacked by the human world is realistic as it mirrors humans’ own very real civil rights struggles; the addition of werewolf Warren and his lover, Kyle, adds a nice layer, as it links the two struggles and shows tension among the werewolves, too. Like real life, even those who are targets of bigotry themselves can be bigots themselves. Briggs makes great layered choices, adding depth and realism to bolster her stories.
Certainly an author to watch.
Now here come the spoilers:
In Moon Called and Blood Bound, I was getting a little anxious about how the Adam/Samuel situation was going to be resolved, because I liked both and I didn't want either to get hurt (read, I didn't want Sam to get hurt, because I was pretty sure she was going to end up with Adam). At first I was worried that Briggs was going to kill Sam off, because there are moments when that seems inevitable. And maybe she still will; I will probably cry. But in Iron Kissed, she seemed to resolve that triangle (as my friend Jenn hinted would happen) in a way that left me highly satisfied: it made sense, it made me happy and it works. Thank you, Patricia.
BIG SPOILER. LOOK AWAY, LOOK AWAY!
Also, in Iron Kissed -- I did NOT see that coming! I was getting used to a very resilient Mercy who can handle whatever goes down. I certainly didn't think a fairy-cup-wielding human would almost break her, and I certainly didn't see her rape coming. As much as it hurt to read, I think it was a smart move on Brigg's part for a few reasons: 1) she made good choices in writing the scene itself; she hinted at things and implied things, but for the most part she left it to the reader to invest the horror -- or not -- as they chose. 2) it brought things to a crisis and expanded characters. As I mentioned in my review of Iron Kissed, there was a Scooby moment where Ben -- who seems to suddenly have more insight into Mercy than anyone else -- lays everything bare. At first it seemed a little too convenient and unrealistic, and though it still is, a bit, it ended up working because it expanded Ben's character in a way that otherwise probably couldn't have happened without being rather clunky, allowed Ben to grow on me a bit more (slowly but surely I'm loving him), and it laid everything on the line. 3) It showed a new facet of Mercy, dealt with a serious subject in a more unusual and powerful way than I would have expected, and gave her something to overcome, bond with the pack, and build a stronger future. 4) It also laid the groundwork for future tension and conflict, and struggle on Mercy's part. I don't know whether it will be taken advantage of, but it is there...
I couldn't leave you with no links, so here is Patricia Brigg's Official Website, which has a pretty neat page of links to things Briggs uses/likes/wants you to know about.
And here's a (long) video in which Briggs talks about Bone Crossed, the next in the series:
Happy HELLUVA HALLOWEEN, y'all!