Patricia Briggs continues to impress me with her oh-so expressive writing that conveys so much, so economically. I am truly in awe of her talent. Clearly I am very behind on this series. It's not due to a lack of appeal, but due to my reading style and my review reading taking up a lot of my reading time. But I do love knowing that I have a guaranteed read when I reach for one of her books.
Mercy is definitely near the top of my list of fictional characters I think I would love to have as a friend in real life. Probably number one, if I'm honest. And not just because she's an excellent and trustworthy mechanic (and I need one of those big time). Mercy is a mix of real-life traits: humble, down-to-earth, courageous (even in the face of fear, which is the true definition of courage), snarky, empathetic, observant, and very self-deprecating. While some readers don't like abuse storylines in their books, I don't mind them when they are done well. Mercy shows so much strength and fortitude of character. Her journey to recovery after her attack in Iron Kissed is realistic and inspiring. I truly love this woman.
Briggs writes the kind of fantasy that grabs hold of me and doesn't let go. She plants a garden of what seems like ordinary wildflowers, but exotic blooms that are far from ordinary grow in that garden, waiting to be plucked by a reader. Briggs mixes shapeshifters, werewolves, fae, and vampires in an appealing way that doesn't leave out the inherent menace of all the various supernatural creatures. With a coyote shifter narrator, the reader is fully along for the ride, as Mercy is the first to admit that being a coyote shifter doesn't always give her the advantage, but often puts her in a dangerous situation (while she is more immune to magic than most, she's not impervious.) Oh, and Briggs also throws in ghosts. I must say that I was happy as a clam, since I love fantasy like a house on fire, but I also have an appreciation for old school/classic horror and an old-fashioned ghost story.
Can I take the time to gush over the men in Mercy's life?
Adam, Adam, Adam! How I love you. He is perfect for Mercy. And I like that Mercy is starting to see past her emotional wounds and barriers to see him for who he is, her Mate. Also, I love that Adam is so patient and loving about it, even though that is an act of hard-won discipline. He's very possessive, but not in a controlling, irritating way. I love a possessive hero like a house on fire, but I find controlling, dominating men a turnoff. Adam is just right for me. I wish I had an Adam in real life! He's very demonstrative that Mercy is his, but he's not trying to dictate to her every step she takes. He's a true life partner.
If there was no Adam in the Mercy Thompson world, then I would definitely be all over Samuel. I still love Samuel, very much. I just don't love him for Mercy's mate. I love him all on his own, and I hope he gets the Mate he needs one day. He's a really cool character. Sweet as pie, but also full of danger that makes the hair stand up on one's neck. He seems serious, but has this mischievous sense of humor. His calm facade hides a wild wolf that might never be tamed.
Bran is the Man, or rather, the Alpha of the Alphas (Marrok). He steals a scene, no matter who else is in it. And that's saying something in this series! I know Briggs has said she probably won't write a book with Bran as a main character. I'm sad and understanding of that. He's such a mysterious and compelling figure, when he shows up, it's so satisfying but also tantalizing. I can't love him more. I'm always hungry for more of him.
Stefan has actually grown on me quite a bit. While I have become quite a vampire romance fan, I still prefer shifters/weres to vampires, and I like that they take center place in this series. But Stefan adds such a nice touch to this series. While he insists on telling Mercy that he is a 'very bad man', his actions say otherwise. I haven't decided who would play my Stefan, but it would have to be an actor with lots of presence. I liked how Briggs develops Mercy's friendship with Stefan much more in this book (it was more assumed at the beginning). I have to say the vampire storyline makes my heart beat fast and gives me shivers. They are truly menacing creatures.
The thing with Briggs is that no character is a throwaway. Each one is carefully developed, even for their short presence in this book. You feel everything even in a short scene that you should feel. And while the characters might throw you for a loop at first, their motivations are apparent as the layers peel away.
I think that for the short length of this book, it's really a full meal. Urban fantasy for the true lover of the genre. Also, I think a good gateway to those who are investigating this genre for the first time. Mercy by herself is enough to keep a reader hooked. But the secondary characters, the plotting and storyline will have the reader staying for seconds and dessert.