Patricia Briggs, who has explored werewolf and vampire societies in the first two volumes of her MERCY THOMPSON urban fantasy series, turns her attention to fae society in this third volume. In the second volume, Blood Bound, Mercy had been lent a powerful knife, a fae treasure, by Zee, her former boss and a fae, to kill a demon-ridden vampire. When Mercy used the knife for an additional and very much unauthorized purpose, she knew there would be consequences and that she would need to repay the favor in some way. It turns out that owing a favor to one of the fae is pretty much as dangerous as owing a favor to a vampire.
Like the werewolves, the fae have been gradually disclosing their existence and some of their members to humanity, based on the theory that with the ever-increasing sophistication of technology, humans were going to find out about them anyway and it would be better to control the process. Many of the fae who are publicly known have moved to a reservation outside of the city of Pasco, Washington, in a development that echoes America’s treatment of Native Americans. In this case, however, the fae are using the reservation to hide magic that would alarm humans, including magical links to Underhill, the fae world.
Zee asks Mercy to help investigate the serial murders of seven fae on the reservation, using her sharp coyote sense of smell. When she finds a particular human’s scent at all of the murder scenes, Zee and another fae, known as Uncle Mike, go to this person’s home to confront him ― and find him already dead, attacked by someone or something with superhuman strength. Zee is found there at the murder scene by the police, and the fae rulers abandon him to the human justice system to avoid an unwanted investigation into fae affairs. Mercy stubbornly continues with her independent investigation of the case, determined not to allow Zee to take the blame, but in doing so she’ll expose herself to unimaginable danger.
The climax of the story is extremely traumatic for Mercy, and may be distressing for some readers. This deeply disturbing event and its repercussions were dealt with honestly and realistically, without being too explicit. I could quibble about the very end of the story, but it added a welcome note of hope, even if it didn’t strike me as entirely believable.
Complicating Mercy’s life further are her relationship woes, including the love square/trident that irked me in Blood Bound. Those issues come to a head in this volume and while the final resolution in one sense seems overly facile, as two men drop out of the running with much less fuss than I expected, in another sense Mercy is still struggling tremendously with commitment issues, especially since she fears that she may lose her autonomy and ability to make her own decisions. Her thought processes as she works through her fears and considers the nature and character of the man she is choosing to be her partner are instructive in a larger, real-world sense, despite the urban fantasy setting.
After three books, I’ve been well and truly sucked into this series, and have grown highly attached to many of the characters. Briggs’ MERCY THOMPSON books have improved with each successive entry in the series.
This is the third volume of Mercedes Thompson and to this point Patricia Briggs has done a wonderful job of blending relationship stuff with some interesting, at times tense, urban fantasy. She has a great grip on the world she is writing and her heroine, Mercy Thompson, is very well developed.
Ok, here comes the reason this got 5 stars: Mercedes Thompson gets the crap kicked out of her in a major lasting way and it’s completely her own fault. Talk about a great change from some of the other urban fantasy authors who let their characters get away with being stupid over and over again. The details would spoil the story, but let’s just say that Mercy stays true to who she has been so far and pays for it big time. Warning… what happens to her is really harsh and for some people may be a bit too traumatic for easy reading. This is an adult series, so I don’t have a problem with it, but keep that in mind.
Iron Kissed took a little while to really get going. There was a little more of the relationship/romance stuff than before, but it’s not so cloying that it degrades the story into a romance. If you liked the first two Mercedes Thompson books, then Iron Kissed will be a treat, too.
In Iron Kissed, when Mercy’s former boss is framed for murder, she defies him and the fae by seeking the true killer. (No vampires in this one.)
My quick synopsis fails to do justice to the fast-paced, complex plotting in each book (and thought-out imagining of the structures and tendencies of werewolf, vampire, and fae societies). Each is told from Mercy’s smart, no-nonsense perspective, and it’s to the author’s credit that, even though I usually like first-person narrators with above-average eloquence, I never tired of her voice. True, I have my quibbles (e.g. the first-person viewpoint is limited in its ability to present information, which is tough in novels that rely heavily on mystery; and also, there are a few long passages of deduction or conversation that seemed to go a bit too perfectly to get to the right outcome) — but overall, the writing is solid and keeps things moving. It’s also mostly free of sex and profanity (though with regard to the latter, there are a few too many instances of someone starting to curse and stopping short).
Although these books lack that superior element of style, enlightenment, or brilliant plotting that would warrant a fifth star, they’re solid modern fantasy/action/mystery entertainment.
Recommended as paperback purchases or library loans for fans of this genre who are at least of high school age.