This is one of the few urban fantasy series that I make sure I stay on top of (and with the number of series I’m in the middle of, this is no mean feat). With the change to hardcover and my all-my-books-in this-series-are-paperback-dammit stance, I bought the UK copy, only to find that the paperback in the UK is oddly bigger than usual and messes up the conformity of my bookshelves anyway. Why do you do this, publishers? Why? My book-buying OCD dislikes you.
River Marked is the 6th book of this series, which you should really read in order. If you haven’t read the last book, I urge you to skip this review and go to an earlier one, since the premise itself has a spoiler for earlier books.
Book 1: Moon Called
Book 2: Blood Bound
Book 3: Iron Kissed
Book 4: Bone Crossed
Book 5: Silver Borne
**** This review contains spoilers for earlier books ***
The Premise: Mercy Thompson is a magnet for trouble, and has no reason to believe that a romantic getaway with her significant other will be any different. A relaxing trip for two at a private campsite begins idyllically, until Mercy and Adam rescue a terrified Native American man floating alone on his boat. This encounter brings Mercy and Adam face to face with an evil in the Columbia River, but it also gives Mercy a chance to meet her father’s people and to learn some surprising things about her heritage.
My Thoughts: Compared to the other books in this series, River Marked is a bit toned down. After a shindig where Mercy sees the people she loves, she finally gets a bit of relaxation and alone time with Adam. The Pack and Mercy’s responsibilities, including worrying about vampire Stephan are touched upon, particularly at the beginning of the story, but the focus quickly shifts to couple-time. I don’t think there’s been much space devoted to just Mercy and her romantic relationship in previous books, so this trip alone as a couple comes at what feels like the right time. I liked seeing Mercy actually having time for herself and not necessarily being Everyone’s Keeper. Yes, there are problems looming in the horizon, but for now things in the Tri-Cities can take care of themselves and Mercy takes a break.
That said, Adam shows his brains and his familiarity with his mate when things begin to happen and not being too surprised: things just happen around Mercy. His expectation of disaster, but also his respect of Mercy’s ability to deal with it highlighted why he’s the right guy for Mercy. That said, he isn’t thrilled at the danger to his wife, and there are moments where his protective instincts override all else, but he doesn’t call in the cavalry, nor does he expect Mercy to walk away. He assesses the problem, takes into account his wife’s ability, and decides he, Mercy, and a handful of Native American allies can handle it. This is a book that focuses more on Mercy’s romance than previous books. This is good in some ways – I liked seeing Mercy in a happy, established relationship (and there were some real misty-eyed bits), but it danced a little on the over-emphasizing line for me with the constant references to Mercy and Adam’s healthy sex life. Even though it was mostly alluded to and not gone into detail, it wore thin for my tastes, but this is a relatively minor complaint, because it was balanced with what I DO like to see; the quiet, realistic moments as a couple in a healthy relationship.
But my favorite part of River Marked was the new and surprising discovers that Mercy makes during the story about her heritage as a half-Native American. Mercy and Adam are close to tribal territory and their rescue of one of their own kicks off a series of visits from men who recognize Mercy as a skinwalker (although they call it something else) and who knew her father, Joe Old Coyote. I always like seeing some interesting new world building, so I was fascinated by the new information that gets dropped (like a bomb) in River Marked. There have been installments in this series where the concentration has been on the Fae, or on vampires, or on werewolves, but never really on Mercy and her own history and her own magical abilities like this before. It was a pleasant surprise and I’m hoping we get some reappearances by one of the characters she meets in River Marked in further installments so we can find out more.
In contrast to Mercy’s usual adventures, this one is almost quiet, despite it coming with the usual dangers of death and dismemberment. It doesn’t take long for everyone to figure out that the danger is some sort of evil lurking in the water, and the problem is just how to stop it. This is a relatively straightforward problem in comparison to some of Mercy’s other adventures, although I found the river creature as creepy to read about as it is to watch Jaws. Blergh, not wading into any rivers for a while.
Overall: I’d call this a solid, maybe a bit muted installment of the Mercy Thompson series. With 5 books of non-stop action, there had to be a bit of a breather where Mercy could pull back a little and have the focus on herself and this was it. That’s not to say that there was no action – there was, but in my mind this is more of a character growth rather than action driven installment in comparison with the rest of the series. I also found this review a bit hard to write because it’s difficult to qualify how I felt reading this book, which was: it basically delivered what I expected. I liked it, but it also didn’t blow me away, but on the other hand, “solid” and “as expected” from Briggs feels like a high bar.
Buy Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository (UK ed.)
See Michelle Read – positive
Un:Bound – positive
Book Binge – 5 out of 5
Persephone Reads – “I enjoyed it, but not wholeheartedly.”
SFF Chat – “while I did enjoy reading River Marked it wasn’t my favorite book of the series”
Books & other thoughts – positive
Tynga’s Reviews – positive
Wicked Lil Pixie – 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell (reviewed with Silver Borne) – “Even if I did not love as much as the previous book I still loved it”
Scooper Speaks – positive
The Book Smugglers – 8 (Excellent)
Smexy Books – B
Other Links: an interesting series on Feminism in the Mercy books @ What If Books
I skimmed this article, then flashed past the spoilers and marked this as a Like for reading later — I’m about to start Moon Called, and I’m looking forward to seeing if the story lives up to the hype I’ve heard. I hope!
🙂 Thanks for “liking” it. I hope you like this series – definitely one of my favorites and auto-buys.
I can’t wait for more books 😀 But yes I hope they get better again
I saw some reviews where this was people’s favorite. I don’t think it blew me away enough to be my fave. I don’t know if expectations played a role in that or not.. like if I was expecting more ACTION and OOMPH like earlier books? I don’t know. I’m having a hard time explaining my reaction.
I’m Mike, the author’s husband, and I think your review was spot on. The Native American elements were surprisingly hard to work with. Patty and I have a pretty good background in Native Peoples, but it’s very hard to capture their culture without making it cartoonish or playing the “Nobel Savage” game. Their legends and stories are also very different than European storytelling traditions, and even after several passes the story elements just didn’t blend as smoothly as we’d hoped for.
Finally, this book would have benefited from another month of editing. The production schedule was too tight, Patty was too far behind, and things got rushed. That’s one of the realities of publishing. Sadly, Patty’s books really come alive in the re-writes. That’s where she adds the “zing” to the conversation, and the little touches that make the text sparkle. River Marked is a solid story competently told. However, it lacks the polish that would really make it stand out. By the way, that’s why Patty is slowing down the next book or two, so she’ll have time to do the little things better.
Thanks for an excellent review!
This is an illuminating window into the making of the story, thank you for commenting. I really liked the history and Native American aspects and looking forward to more of it!
Sorry to hear that things got rushed – that must be frustrating for an author. I did hear that the next Mercy book comes out in 2013, but as a reader, I’m ALWAYS fine with waiting.
Thanks for this awesome review! I’m a bit behind in reading this series, but I’m really excited to catch up soon! I think it’ll be nice to read about Mercy catching a break too! Plus, I love her and Adam’s chemistry! 🙂
They’re good together in this book. Interested to see what you think of it when you do get to this one! 🙂
See, my problem lies in the fact that I loved Silver Borne. It immediately joined Blood Bound on my favorite books in the series list. So perhaps in that way, River Marked was going to fall short of the high expectations that rose in the wake of Silver Borne. Whatever the case may be, I still love the series, and I can’t wait for the next book.
SILVER BORNE was my favorite in the series, too. I’ve been wondering about my expectations with my reaction to this one. I don’t know. I think it just was a different flavor of book really. But I’m with you in still loving the series and looking forward to the next one. I am hoping we get to find out what happens to Stefan.
Nice review. This book had been on my TBR for awhile now. I am curious to read the Native American parts. I also hate it when the two romantic leads have this perfect, awesome sex life that is always alluded to. It just doesn’t ring true besides being annoying. I’m always thinking in these situations “ok, we get it, please move on.”
It’s interesting to see which books in the series are favorites and I absolutely loved that Patricia’s husband came over to comment so frankly. How cool is that? Very interesting indeed.
Yeah, I don’t know if I’m in the minority or not on my reaction to the sex, but it was a minor thing, not a deal breaker.
It was a surprise to get a comment from someone close to the making of this book (oh right, I’m on the internet and People Can Find Me, eep, quick, what did I write?). I think Silver Borne may be my favorite! What’s yours? 🙂
Blood Bound. 😀 I just love Stefan. He’s one of my favorites.
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