"Iron Kissed" stepped this series up from good urban fantasy with a likeable, strong heroine and a satisfyingly complex supernatural world, to something that really gets face to face with abusive power and what it does.
In less than three hundred pages, Patricia Briggs managed to move from a fairly conventional (by Urban Fantasy standards) who dunnit, with Mercy trying to prove that her mentor did not murder seven fae on the local reservation, into a book that is really about what men and women do with power.
Mercy is brave and loyal and smart but she's not powerful and she doesn't have any magical healing ability. If Mercy gets hurt, she stays hurt.
Mercy grew up surrounded by male werewolves with an impulse for violence and the physical power to tear her apart. She survived by learning not to draw attention to herself. That's not an option for her any more. The two earlier books gained her the attention of the local werewolf pack and the local nest of vampires. In this book she is dragged into the affairs of the fae.
It is Mercy's vulnerability that makes her courage remarkable. When she stands up to those more powerful than her, with no ability to protect herself from the consequences, it means something.
The first part of the book expands our understanding of the fae, a not at all human set of people who will always put their security above the lives of the humans around them. Mercy negotiates a route through their threats where she can and initially this seems like another urban fantasy book where clever humans can outwit the monsters. Then Mercy is cornered by something powerful that wants to kill her and that she cannot fight or outrun. Her only option is to seek protection. What I liked about this was her reaction: fear, not wise-cracking arrogance; guilt for putting others in danger, not a "hah, trapped you" joy; an understanding that, if things continue as they are, one of the many monsters she is surrounded by WILL kill her.
In the second part of the book, things get darker. Much darker. Mercy comes to understand that not all monsters are supernatural. She falls prey to one of them who hurts her, diminishes her and takes her to the brink of self-abnegation.
This was not easy reading. We'd left fantasy far behind and become entangle in the worst things we do to each other.
Mercy's reaction and the reaction of the people around her, made me cry. I wanted to cheer but crying got the better of me.
The novel avoids a soft, pain free, happy ever after ending. Damage is not so easily undone but, it turns out, hope is not so easily extinguished.
I'm hooked now. If this standard of writing continues, I'll be with this series until the end.
Trigger warning: Rape
This is the Mercy Thompson book that left me feeling raw for hours. I am glad that I got a chance to re-read it for Halloween Bingo 2017 though. I recall this book had me in tears a few times and that I loved how Briggs wrote this story and the continuation of Mercy's fallout from a brutal attack.
In "Iron Kissed" Mercy's boss and friend Zee is arrested for a crime that she knows he could not have committed. Though Mercy is warned off by Zee and a bunch of other people, she keeps investigating. While dealing with that, she finally has to face who she wants to be with in the future, Adam, Alpha of the local Pack or Samuel the son of the leader of the Werewolves in North America.
Mercy is a fighter and when one of her friends or loved ones is in trouble, she goes all in, however, this time there are repercussions to Mercy forging ahead. Mercy is already starting to see that her feelings for Adam are stronger than her feelings for Samuel in this one, but she still feels hesitant to make a choice even though she finds out later that Adam has made a choice that will cause problems with his Pack if it's not resolved soon.
I know others have mentioned that it's a shame that Mercy doesn't have more real life girlfriends in this series, and I have to agree. Especially considering what happens to Mercy in this one, I am surprised that Mercy didn't reach out to her mother and her one time best friend that was mentioned three books ago.
I will say that the series doesn't get better with regards to Mercy having a close female friendship. Considering how close Honey is to Mercy (or at least she is to my mind) I hope that gets resolved in the series. Or heck, have Mercy actually talk to Anna once in a while (Charles wife and mate).
Adam is the best. Seriously you guys. He is the perfect book boyfriend. I loved him from beginning to end in this one. He loves and gets Mercy and nothing is ever going to change things for him at all with regards to who he wants to be with.
We get appearances by many characters we know and that I love (Jessie, Warren, Ben, and Honey) and I loved each and every one of them.
We get some interesting insight into the werewolf Ben in this one. I maybe cried a bit when something in his past is revealed. We get to see that though Mercy doesn't realize it, that Ben really does care about her. I did get annoyed about how Mercy treats Ben in one of the later books (River Marked #6) especially based on this scene, but at least Briggs hasn't done that again since that time.
The first part of the book moves a little slow though. When we have Mercy investigating what Fae could be behind some deaths I was not invested. When all is revealed though it took my breath away. And when Mercy is raped I had to put the book down for a bit. It's a lot. Briggs spares nothing and you are wholly in Mercy's head as she deals with the fallout from being raped. I applaud how thoughtful Briggs was to write this story and how we get to see Mercy dealing with the fallout from the events in this book for the rest of the series.
I have to say that I loved how things ended in this book. We have Mercy choosing to go on from what happens to her and choosing to love the man that she wants to be with in the future.