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Monday, March 28, 2011

River Marked + Mercy March

Ugh. I feel like an ass.  I have been meaning to tell you about this, um...all month... Oops.
Anywhoodle, Miss Eliza over @ Strange and Random Happenstance has recently discovered the joys of Mercedes Thompson, and to celebrate the release of River Marked, the 6th book in the series, she's having Mercy March, which is awesome and you should check out.

She reviewed basically everything Mercy related, which pleased me much.  And to help spread the word about Mercy March and the awesomeness that is Mercedes Thompson, I give to you: my review of River Marked.  (Not that I wasn't going to give it to you anyway.  But not in nearly so timely a manner, as I just finished rather recently, and am generally a horrendous procrastinator...)

River Marked
by Patricia Briggs

Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She's never known any others of her kind. Until now.

An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-one that her father's people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help...

This one...started off a little weak to me.  I love these books (it's easily my favorite urban fantasy series), so I was awaiting its release pretty eagerly -- it's not often I pre-order books, afterall.  I was so ready to jump back in, but this one was kind of a slow burner.  I did end up liking it, as always, but there were some things that left me feeling a little let down.

Let's start with the things I really liked:
Stefan is back!  It may be a somewhat minimal role, but I was suffering some serious Stefan withdrawal.  And I actually like the reasons he was gone, because it made it more true.  I was just talking about this the other day (with Miss Eliza, if I'm not mistaken), and Patricia Briggs is really good at making me feel the impact of serious things that happen in the books because she realizes that they are lives that are being messed with.  Yes, I know they are fictional lives, but all the same -- if something traumatic happens in 1 book, it shouldn't be completely forgotten by the next.  There are aftershocks, always.  Things change people.  Mercy went through something completely horrible, and Briggs saw it through in a really authentic way; she didn't brush it under the rug once it had served its literary purpose.  The same is true of Stefan, and I applaud her more for showing the same diligence and veracity with even her minor characters.  It lends everything strength, and makes me feel like she's not going to be the type of author (*cough*Laurell K Hamilton*cough*) who keeps raising the stakes and raising the stakes and raising the stakes -- only to have her characters discover some superpower or some magical something that saves the day, and then move on like it never happened or doesn't matter.  If there's no danger and no real impact, what's the point?  I hate Deus Ex.*

Sorry, didn't mean to go off on a tangent there... Moving on.
Another thing I really liked, and I have to warn you, it's the teensiest bit spoilery, and it's a really cute part of the book that I don't want to spoil for you, so if you haven't read it yet, scroll past this next bit real quick...
Are they gone?  Okay, I loved Mercy's surprise wedding.  That was the cutest effing thing ever, and it so perfectly suited the characters and the story.  Again, it's another of those little touches that makes the book and the world feel real to me, and makes me believe that it really is real to Briggs, and that she knows these characters inside and out.  It made me smile and feel a little squishy, it was so sweet and cute.  And I'm not so prone to squishiness.

Alright, spoilers over.  Now we get into the mixed stuff.  I did like that Mercy's Native American heritage was explored, and that the insertion of this new mythology is going to expand the world and give Mercy something new to work out.  But there was part of me that disliked it a little bit too, or at least, the way it was handled.  I really liked the parts that dealt with Mercy's father -- that was fascinating and funny.  But there's part of me that feels like Briggs started with the bar too high, and it tread a little too close to that Laurell K Deus Ex territory that I asterisked up there ↑↑ (yes.  I did just use "asterisked" as a verb.  My adv. comp. teacher would kill me if he knew.)  I would have liked a little more build up to the craziness, but I did like what happened.  I just wonder where there is to go from here.  I don't doubt that there is somewhere to go, but I just don't want to see this go the way of Anita Blake.  That's all I'm saying.

Along the same lines, Briggs hit one of my major pet peeves (and whaddya know?  It's another one Laurell K is good for...) I absolutely hate when an author feels the need to continually cover ground that's already been covered.  This probably isn't fair, it's probably not solely the fault of the author -- publishers want to sell books, namely the one that just came out -- they don't want people to have to deal with the pesky idea of starting a series from the beginning;  that might discourage sales (thought it might encourage library visits...).  Therefore, there tends to be a lot of redundancy and blahblah to get through in each successive book in a series, mainly to bring new readers up to speed.  I haaaaaaaaate this.  I get the reason for it, but it lessens my hatred not a jot.  If you want to know what's happening in a series, read the goddamn series.  I don't want to be told the same things over and over and over.  It makes me feel like: a) the book's not being written for me or for the characters, but for the next available wallet, and b) the writer either doesn't trust themselves to get the point across and make everything clear, or doesn't trust the reader to get it.  Briggs did a fair bit of this in River Marked (and she writes fairly short books, so there wasn't a lot of room to waste on this kind of nonsense); she also extended it to a continual repetition of the bond between Mercy and Adam. We. Get. It. Show, don't tell, damn it.

Now, I'm probably just being super sensitive because this is such a big pet peeve of mine.  Many people may not be bothered by it, or even notice it for that matter.  But I think it bears warning, in case you're a little angerball like me who will feel the need to compose angry letters in your head that you're never going to send.
I don't think that these negative traits were bad enough in this book to keep me from enjoying or recommending the book, but I am going to be watching you, Ms Briggs, so I'm putting you on notice -- trust your reader, trust your self, and tell your publisher to stuff it.  Readers want a good book, not a good primer for the series.  [Don't let it happen again.  I don't like scolding you like this.]

So there you have it.  It's a mixed-bag review, but I love this series, and this book is no exception, for the most part.  I may be a little, eensy, weensy bit wary for the future of the series, but I recommend it wholeheartedly for now.


  1. Great review! Also thanks for the linkage to the giveaway. Yes, we were talking about the believability of the world Briggs has created. I also agree, she's walking a fine line, so as not to make the stories stale and go the way of several other authors. But I feel with just centering on Mercy and Adam that she at least broke a bit with the series and we didn't end up just dealing with an ever larger, more unwieldly cast.


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