Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Called, Bound, Kissed & Crossed

No, I know what you're thinking, and it's not about that. It is, in fact, a review of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series (books 1-4). I've just finished a stunning re-read, prepping for the latest installment, and am ready to give my reviews.

I will do my best to keep spoilers out. Other than giving away the main character doesn't die, I will be discreet.

~Moon Called~
Mercy Thompson
Book 1
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

This is the introduction to Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson the VW mechanic and her supernatural world of the Tri-Cities, Washington teeming with werewolves, vampires, and fae. But Mercy isn't just any mechanic. Raised by werewolves, employed by a gremlin, and working on a vampire's car, she's definitely something special.

Mercy is a walker: a Native American/Indian shapeshifter. She isn't "Moon Called", like the werewolves are, but can shift painlessly into a coyote whenever she feels like it.

But being special isn't always safe. When Mercy finds herself in the middle of a strange plot involving the werewolves, she has to employ her wits and abilities to save her friends.

Reading like a paranormal mystery, the book is enticing and addictive. This supernatural world has rules, and Mercy guides you through them with the right amount of sass and humor so that it's never preachy. And Mercy's not the only star in this book (though she is the only narrator). Be it Zee, her former boss and all-time grump of a gremlin, Stefan, the charming vampire with a soft spot for Scooby Doo, or Jessie, the 15-year-old with ever-changing hair colors, you're sure to find somebody to cheer for.

Though the overarching story is definitely a mystery, you might find yourself edging toward romance with co-stars like heartthrob Alpha-wolf, Adam Hauptman and equally appealing Lone-Wolf, Samuel Cornick vying for her affection. But Mercy's headstrong enough to keep them both guessing. And besides, they're in the middle of a crisis!

If I had one gripe about the book, it was the amount of exposition heaped upon us. Yes, there is some hard-thinking and detectiving done, but about the time they hit a dead end, in rush some supporting characters to reveal the next step! Then there's a whole scene of expositional dialog at the end of the book, telling you all the whys and wherefores, rather than Mercy or the other main characters figuring it out. However, the characters, setting, and overall style of the novel help one to overlook that defect, and I assure you that the problem is quickly resolved in the following novels.

Approximate Reading Time: 6 hours

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
~Blood Bound~
Mercy Thompson
Book 2
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

The gang's all back for another adventure in the Tri-Cities. And this time, it looks like there's blood in the forecast. That's right, I hope you enjoyed your taste of vampires, because they're back with a vengeance. Okay, not vengeance really. Just calling for repayment.

It's been a few months since the events in Moon Called, and Mercy's managed to find herself in the middle of another race's troubles. It seems there's a demon-possessed vampire running amok, threatening not only innocent people's lives, but the vampires' secrecy. What starts out as a simple repayment of a favor, turns into a fight for survival, both for Mercy and her friends.

This time the mystery is more of a man-hunt; not so much the who and why, but the where'd-he-go? With help being a bit less trustworthy, and friends getting harder to come by, there's a lot more sleuthing on Mercy's part. And she's all the stronger for it.

My main complaint lies, again, with the ending. There seems to be a solid stopping point 25 pages before the end of the book, yet the story kept going. Much like Lord of the Rings, you started waiting for it to end. The main threat had been neutralized, and now there was a new man-hunt. Knowing what to expect on the re-read, it wasn't as bad making it through. But I can still remember the first time having it send me to sleep. It's almost as if...it was tacked on in order to set up problems in the following book(s)... I mean, it still works, it still follows the same story, but the pacing doesn't quite flow through the final section.

Also, I believe there were 3 or 4 typos. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

BUT, on the whole, it is a worth-while read.

Approximate Reading Time: 7 hours

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
~Iron Kissed~
Mercy Thompson
Book 3
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Now Mercy's paying off another debt, this time to the fae, when things (of course) take a turn for the worse. There have been some murders inside the fae reservation, and Mercy's called in to help identify the killer. Her keen nose can come in handy sometimes.

But after she identifies the killer, what seems like an open and shut case turns into a murder charge against her good friend, and former employer, Zee. It's now a race to clear his name before someone decides this is a case best resolved before trial. And they're supposedly the good guys!

Quite possibly my favorite of the series (so far), this time the mystery is a regular whodunnit. Though perhaps not as heart-pumping as the previous stories, there are still unexpected twists and turns and a climactic ending that will have your hands suffering from friction burns as you rush to turn the page.

As the tension rises, the characters soar. One of my favorites (though I won't say who) finally gets his moment to shine at the end, proving once and for all that he's really not as bad as he makes himself out to be. In fact, he even gets to work with Mercy on a side project. Actually, the scene and his revelations were enough to bring me to tears, and I don't cry easily. ...Well, not with fiction. His part is the main reason this book is my favorite (again, so far).

Nothing I hated about this one, though I do have a warning: the romance gets turned up a notch, and there's some 'adult action' taken (though not graphically described). I'll not impose age restrictions or recommendations, but you have been warned...

Approximate Reading Time: 7 hours

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
~Bone Crossed~
Mercy Thompson
Book 4
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Okay, now the vampires are out for vengeance. It seems Mercy hasn't been following all the rules, and the vampires are a little miffed. Miffed enough to starve and mutilate Stefan before plopping him in her living room. And a starved vampire is probably the last thing one would want in their home.

The crossed bones on her garage don't make matters any better. They're a symbol that she's fair game to any and all magical trouble, and she's not the only target. It's a matter of staying alive when everything (vampires, ghosts, elves...) seems to be out to kill her.

And did I mention that her love troubles aren't near being over?

Not so much a mystery this time as much as a paranormal thriller/romance. It's a case of the hunter becoming the hunted, and we're on the run. The feel of a haunted house (not knowing what'll jump out around the next corner) is accentuated by the fact that we actually deal with ghosts haunting a house. And no worries, the romance is by no means overpowering, but it's definitely a lot more intimate in this book. Some of the side-characters we've come to enjoy are noticeably scarce. I think (based on a mental head-count) everyone's accounted for, but some are confined to only one scene/mentioning. Still, if you've been reading this far, you won't be disappointed with the intimacy.

If I have one thing to gripe about, it's the sudden change in formatting. The cover art may be the same, but you can tell from the front cover that something's different. The font-style has lost its buzz. And the spine is even more of a giveaway.

Now, this might not be a huge deal for some, but I'm a bit anal when it comes to my bookshelves. I prefer my books (when possible) to be the same style (same edition, same height, same artwork), unless financial limitations dictate otherwise (my Hitchhiker's series, for example). When a publishing company decides to change printing styles mid-series, it throws things completely out of whack, ascetically speaking.

The inside of the book is also different. The first lines of chapters are in a different font (Verdana, I think) and chapters were now required to start on the right page, instead of the left. Spacers are different as well. It's nothing drastic enough to make me throw it away in disgust, but it does make me a bit miffed, myself.

Though I don't know what caused them to change the format like they did, I think I can offer a guess. This was the first book that was published in hardcover first (which made me wait a year before purchasing in paperback), so there's the possibility that they decided to go with a cheaper printing style. Now, I don't know anything about publishing costs and if one font costs more to print than another, or if law dictates that leaving pages blank in order to start chapters on the right is mandatory in hardbacks, so that gets applied to the paperback as well. All I know is, I wish they'd stuck with how things were.

Story-wise, I have no complaints.

Approximate Reading Time: 7 hours