Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Patricia Briggs: Mercy Thompson Series

My reading is all over the place at the moment. Although it has been prolific throughout the month of April and May so far. I've been reading backlist books and found many new favorites among them. The Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series stands out. I read all the books and novellas with the exception of Night Broken, Book #8. At this point, I'm thinking of leaving that book in my TBR until the next installment is ready to be published.

Briggs' world building is the first thing that jumped out at me. Briggs concentrates and places a heavy emphasis on the wolf pack hierarchy, -- from dominant to submissive -- the biological aspects of being a wolf, as well as the strict rules they must follow. In Briggs' world a wolf's life is not pretty for anyone, not even the wolf pack's Alpha. It is not easy to choose this lifestyle. Unfortunately, the females are royally screwed since the rules the wolves follow were established during prior centuries when a female's worth was next to nil. So, even in modern times single females don't rank within a pack, if mated they take their rank from their mates (i.e., even if a female is alpha by nature, if her mate is submissive the female goes to the bottom of the pack with her mate). To top it all off females are not able to bear children. Their main contribution is limited to fighting and mating. Hurrah for them.

So, it is no wonder that when coyote shifter Mercy Thompson, our Protagonist (with a capital P), comes under the local Alpha's protection and into contact with his wolf pack, everyone resents the heck out of her, particularly the females. A few factors must be taken into consideration: coyotes and wolves do not get along and Briggs captures nature's enmity between these two similar but distinctive species in her world-building. Mercy stands apart, or outside the pack because she is a coyote shifter. However, many conflicts arise from the fact that Mercy is also an independent female who later comes to hold a higher rank than even the males in the pack. Another factor in all of this comes from Mercy's ability to bear a wolf's child. This is key in the series, although from a different perspective.

Mercy's character did not blow me away after reading Moon Called, #1. It took me a little while to shift my viewpoint of her, and it wasn't until late in Blood Bound that I began thinking of Mercy as a coyote instead of a female wolf. When I understood her penchant for causing trouble, playing dangerous games, and came to terms with that aspect of her personality, I enjoyed her characterization much more. The thing about Mercy is that even when she is not looking for trouble, trouble finds her. She is independent of mind but knows how to play games with the dominant/submissive wolves. Mercy grew up within a wolf pack so she understands the rules even as she fears getting too caught up in them.

At the beginning of the series, Mercy is portrayed as vulnerable because of her size and limited power. But what I found as I read along is that Mercy is vulnerable because she cares too much for others, and sometimes not enough for herself. She just wants to lead a normal life, be a mechanic, and love her man. Unfortunately, that's not to be as everything goes into high gear within and without the shifters' world. The worlds of humans, fae, vampires, witches, and shifters are colliding and Mercy along with Adam's pack find themselves in danger from all sides. As the series moves along, Mercy gains power as she gains knowledge about herself as a coyote. Her adventures become dangerous and she, her friends, and Adam's pack are all affected by her actions, mistakes, and triumphs.

Of all the books in the series, Blood Bound, #2 and Iron Kissed, #3 have the most complex plotting of the series thus far, highlighting the worlds of fae, vampires, and wolves alike. The focus on Bone Crossed, #4 is more singular in nature. It is also missing contributions by recurring secondary characters and although the story is solid overall, in the end it falls on the anti-climactic side. Silver Borne, #5 is truly exciting and somewhat angsty, but unfortunately Sam's secondary storyarc lacks all the good, emotional bits pertaining to his romance. This became specially frustrating later after reading the origins novella Silver in Briggs' anthology Shifting Shadows. River Marked, #6 became my favorite for its inclusion of Coyote, Mercy's Native American roots, and Native American folklore -- and let's not forget all the romantic shenanigans. And, Frost Burned, #7 is a solid installment with some exciting action and mysteries. It's worth mentioning that in this book Briggs includes Adam's point of view a couple of times, from the third person perspective. I liked that. Kyle, Warren's human mate was fantastic throughout the second section of the book, which brings me to the fact that Frost Burned shifts directions a few times along the way, unexpectedly so at the end.

Personally I find that contributions by the secondary characters in this series, not just Adam and Sam, are stand outs and invaluable to this series. I have a crush on Mercy's bloody vampire friend Stefan. Bran is a character whose background I would love to see explored in depth, and Zee, Warren and Ben are at the top of my love list.

My one frustration throughout the series is the pack's continued mistreatment of Mercy. Even with all the factors that make Mercy an outsider, there is such a thing as bonding while sharing hardship. Mercy has battled enemies with this wolf pack and has saved them collectively, as well as individually more than enough times to be treated with respect. The continued distrust, jealousy, and bitchiness that goes on should have abated by this point. It is my most fervent opinion that they all need to get over it already.

The romance between Mercy and Adam? I love the way it has progressed thus far. Love them together. And PS: The characters, but most importantly the events in this series fit perfectly with the Alpha & Omega series. Up to date (almost) So. . . another UF series bites the TBR dust.

6 comments:

  1. Doesn't it feel good to have a series that, even with a weaker plotted installment, you know you can follow until the end without it painfully dying on you like it has happened with other authors/series?
    Happy reading!

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    1. Absolutely Sonia. This is a solid UF series. Like the Kate Daniels series, even the installments that don't rate high are solid. So glad I finally read it. :)

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  2. I'm so glad you are enjoying this series, Hils! Like you, it took me a while to warm up to Mercy... but in the end, the world building is just too good to pass up. I do believe that Ms Briggs's werewolf world is the best out there.

    I'm glad that the love triangle was resolved quite quickly. and I absolutely adore the secondary characters in this series. I love Kyle and Warren, Ben... and I love Stefan!! I just wished he wasn't in love with Mercy, but oh well.

    Wonder where we're heading next :)

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    1. Nath yes! I loved the Mercy Thompson and the Alpha & Omega series.

      We are 100% in agreement about Briggs' world-building, particularly in how it relates to the wolves and the pack structure. LOL about that triangle that blocked my way to reading this series for so long. In the end, I was mildly ok with it (some reservations), but was glad that Briggs got it out of the way quickly. And yes! I absolutely love the secondary characters.

      Do you really think Stefan is in love with Mercy? I believe he loves Mercy, but that he "in-love" with what's her name, the vampire -- Marsilia.

      I haven't read Night Broken, the last book, because I'm thinking of holding it until the next installment is released so I can have the whole thing fresh on my mind? Not sure if I will wait. LOL! But, I'm not quite sure where this is all going either. . . if the vampires come out in the open, humans are going to freak and it's going to get really ugly. The fae have become dangerous all around and I'm thinking that witches should be making a big splash at some point too. Don't know. But I wish that pack would get its act together. It is time.

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  3. I'm not one for love triangles, but I felt this one wasn't really one, you know. I think Ms Briggs handled it nicely.

    Hmmmm, good question about Stefan's love. It's hard to tell. I agree, perhaps he loves Mercy, but isn't in love with her. But I think his feelings for Marsilia are over.

    LOL, if you can wait, go for it. but I'm pretty sure even if you read it now, you'd still have it fresh. Remember, for us, Night Broken was released last year.

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    1. The triangle wasn't angsty or as annoying as I expected and Briggs didn't drag it out forever. That was good enough for me.

      As far as Night Broken goes, I may read along with Christine who is doing a re-read of the whole Alpha & Omega and Mercy series when she gets to it. I haven't made up my mind yet. :)

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