River Marked by Patricia Briggs

River Marked
Patricia Briggs

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 Goodreads
Book 2: Blood Bound Goodreads
Book 3: Iron Kissed https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 4: Bone Crossed https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 5: Silver Borne  https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg

**** 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.)

Other Reviews:
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

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Wolfsbane by Patricia Briggs

Wolfsbane
Patricia Briggs

I read and reviewed the first part of this duology by Patricia Briggs here:

https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg.

The Premise:  Aralorn has been called home after ten years away as a spy for the mercenary city-state of Sianim – her father, the Lion of Lambshold has died. Aralorn returns to the family she left behind and to the reasons why she left. She also discovers that her father is actually alive but kept in a death-like state through some malicious black magic spell which neither she nor Wolf can easily break. The question becomes – how can they free Aralorn’s father before his life leaves him for real, and who is responsible for his “death”, and why?

My Thoughts: This book starts off not too long after the events of the last book – just enough time for people to settle down again after what happened at the ae’Magi’s castle. The principle characters of the first book have gone back to their regular roles, and Aralorn and Wolf have gone back to the spying game. Apparently the world has accepted happened at the ae’Magi’s castle with minimal repercussions, and if there are to be significant world changing events because of it, they aren’t happening right away.

Almost no one knows or suspects that Aralorn and Wolf were ever involved with what happened, but when Aralorn’s father is targeted, the first thought to come to mind is that their fight is not over.  It’s natural to wonder if such a evil villain, whose body is never found, is really still alive. When people begin to have strange dreams that feel like they are memories rather than dreams, it suggests a perpetrator with magical power, again pointing at the ae’Magi, but there are a few magic users in the vicinity of Lambshold, including Aralorn’s brother-in-law as well as her shapeshifter relatives. And then, there’s the new ae’Magi. Thus, Wolfsbane is a sort of a magical whodunit to find out who is behind the Lion of Lambshold’s “death”,with the side effect that we get to delve into Aralorn’s beginnings and explore her relationship with Wolf.

I love Patricia Briggs’ current urban fantasy series, but when I read Wolfsbane and compare it to her newer work, it lacks finesse. I can see the foundation in Wolfsbane for the writer Briggs is now. It has the ideas and a relationship between two unique characters which I love in Briggs’ recent work, but the execution here is a little clunky. Aralorn and Wolf have only two weeks to lift the spell on her father but there’s little sense of urgency or pressure from Aralorn’s family about how little time they have and how little they know. Compared with Masques, which had quite a bit of action, Wolfsbane less physical, more verbal. It mostly deals with Aralorn and Wolf asking the opinions of the nearby experts, deciding what to do next, and contemplating their relationship with each other.

In both the mystery and the relationship I found things a little too scripted. Aralorn would tell stories or make decisions that seem out of the blue, but they had a direct bearing on the story later on. Similarly she knows Wolf’s state of mind before he does, and while he’s being the self-hating hero, she’s cheerfully understanding. I enjoyed Aralorn and Wolf’s relationship in Masques, because I felt that Wolf’s prickliness was well balanced with Aralorn’s ability to see what he was really feeling. Unfortunately, in Wolfsbane, this same relationship didn’t work for me, probably because Wolf’s role as a tortured hero was revisited constantly. After a while I began to find his angst and Aralorn’s response tedious. That’s not to say that there were not one or two sweet moments between Aralorn and Wolf that I liked reading, but I felt that some of the space used to repeat what we know about their relationship could have been used to deepen the plot and flesh out the secondary characters. Instead, the relationship took precedence over the plot, and the cheerful demeanor Aralorn uses with Wolf jarred in the face of her father’s near-death state.

Overall: Many aspects of this story were fit together in a way that lacks the polish I expect of Briggs today. It feels like an early work, and one that doesn’t quite have the same charm that I found in Masques. For die-hard fans of Patricia Briggs, this is a must read, but as a fantasy novel, it’s mildly entertaining, but did not stand out. The story may work better for readers who are more interested in the wounded-man-and-his-savior relationship between the two main characters and are not as invested in the fantasy aspects.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
One Good Book Deserves Another – 4/5
Fantasy Literature – 3/5 (“lacks thrills, but romance is sweet”)

Masques by Patricia Briggs

Masques
Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series is one of my favorite urban fantasy series out today. When I started getting into them I naturally looked into her backlist, which is in the fantasy genre. I’ve read both Hob’s Bargain and the Hurog duology, and the Raven duology is in my TBR pile, but the one book I could not get my hands on was Masques, her first book. In a post I wrote in 2007, I noted that I wanted it, but “This book goes for at least $60 on eBay, $120 to over $600 elsewhere. Which I think is CRAZY.” I didn’t think it was worth paying so much for a book which the author herself admitted was her first effort and thus had a lot of weaknesses! Thankfully, Masques was re-released after a rewrite by Briggs. Even better: its sequel, Wolfsbane, is now available.
 
This review is for the rewritten Masques.
 
The Premise: Aralorn is a mercenary who “doesn’t take orders” and “will occasionally listen to suggestions” which makes her ideal as a spy for the city of Sianim. Her latest assignment is to check out rumors of an assassination attempt on the ae’Magi, the much beloved Archmage of the land. It isn’t until she is at his castle does she realize that the ae’Magi is not the good, kind man the world thinks he is. He’s pure evil, but his influence over people’s hearts makes any opposition near impossible. The only people who realize the true nature of the ae’Magi are persecuted by him.  These include Wolf, a grey beast with yellow eyes who can speak, the young King Myr of Reth, and a small but growing group of rebels hiding in the Northern Woods.
 
My Thoughts: This book begins with an introduction by the author which explains that Masques was a book she started in college when she knew nothing about writing. This means that in looking at it again as a more experienced writer, there was a lot of “squirming uncomfortably” and the first attempt at a rewrite was so extensive that it changed the story completely. So this edition of Masques is a compromise: it keeps the original story but makes things fit better, leaving the “cliches and oddities” intact.
 
I kept Briggs’ introduction in the back of my mind while reading the book, and I can see what she alludes to as the “cliches and oddities” in her story. Yes, there are a lot of things in Masques that feel very familiar. Aralorn’s background alone made me wonder if I’d read Masques before: the plain-looking lord’s daughter, more interested in swordplay than etiquette, runs away from home with her warhorse and joins a mercenary guild. Her shapeshifter bloodline and quick wits keep her alive, and along the way she gains a wolf companion.  Add to this the evil sorcerer in his castle, a scarred hero, an army of mindless minions, a spymaster, a dragon, and magic items, and you have a rather common set of tropes. Yet I never felt that these things were trite. Instead I felt like I was reading a story where the plot had a charming enthusiasm, while the writing itself was polished by experience.
 
I didn’t think the polish covered all flaws, but there were qualities in this story that reminded me of what lured me into the fantasy genre during the nineties, and that was worlds I wanted to visit. I really enjoyed the settings, particularly the fantastic rooms described in the story. I loved imagining the secret places these characters went and the grand palace that the ae’Magi lived in. I also liked the idea of the green versus human magics, and how shapeshifters and magical creatures fit into this. The explanation of how the magic works could have been better, but there was still a sense of wonder while reading about magical creatures and old stories that I enjoyed.
 
There’s a lot thrown into the 294 pages that was this book, but story is essentially a good versus evil tale. After Aralorn discovers the true nature of the ae’Magi, King Myr of Reth has to flee his palace, leaving his throne open for the ae’Magi to usurp. Aralorn and Wolf join him in the Northlands. Here, the power of human magics like the ae’Magi’s are not as affective, but green magic, the magic of Aralorn’s shapeshifter people, have no problems. A ragtag band of people impervious to the ae’Magi’s magical influence trickle into the hidden camp, called my some unknown power. Together they begin to work out how to overthrow the ae’Magi.
 
There are a few secondary characters within this rebel camp, but besides King Myr and the ae’Magi (who were very good and very evil respectively), no one really made much of an impact on me. The focus is primarily on the two heroes (Wolf and Aralorn) and they stood out while others faded into the background. I found myself uninterested in the camp’s day-to-day life and more drawn in by Aralorn and her relationship with the the enigmatic Wolf.
 
Although I feel like Aralorn is the main character, Wolf steals the show. Aralorn rescued him from a pit trap, and over the years he’s slowly revealed more about himself, including the fact that he’s not just a wolf. He’s your basic scarred hero, but he and Aralorn have developed a bond which has become something more for them both. I loved reading about his past and their conversations while they researched spells in Wolf’s private library (I wish this library was real). Aralorn is a good match for his prickliness because she can cheerfully ignore it, and she uses her humor to chip away at his shell. As you can imagine, this is the set up for a romance. I was expecting something slow moving from the way the book began, but the complications I thought I’d see were superficial ones. It was sweet but not intense. I am looking forward to reading the second book to see how their romance continues and I hope to see better developed secondary characters that play a larger role in the plot.
 
Overall: Masques is a little bit dated because it’s a book originally written in the nineties, but it has a lot of charm. It reminds me of books about female heroines having adventures written by Robin McKinley and Mercedes Lackey that I read in my teens and still hold a fondness for today. It has its flaws but it also has charisma, and it kept me pleasantly entertained for the few hours it took me to read it. I think would do well with YA readers interested fantasy, particularly girls.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Other reviews:
Dear Author – C
 
(This review was cross-posted to the paperbackswap blog)

Favorite Reads of 2010 and plans for 2011

First, the stats:

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 – 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – 79 books
  • 2010 – 82 books

As you can see, I still haven’t made my yearly goal to read 100 books, but the number is climbing upwards! The problem is that reviewing books (2006 and 2007 I didn’t review as I do now), cuts into reading time. Oh well, I won’t stop reviewing!

Out of those 82 books, these were my favorites (click on the book to see my review):

Blew me out of the water – Two books this year just had the perfect mix that made me feel like I was in utter love from start to finish. Unless I don’t feel consumed to a semi-obsession, a book won’t get on this list.

 

These books I loved and came close perfect (and wow, I had 9 of these this year. Up from 5 last year)

(Note: The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice is the repackaged mass market version of Pemberley by the Sea and Cordelia’s Honor is actually 2-books-in-one – I linked to the first book)

Goals for 2011:

1) Keep working on the TBR but don’t worry so much about how many books I buy. Last year I held back on buying books when I wanted to because I was concerned about the size of my TBR (it was 190, now it’s over 250). I’ve decided not to do that – if the TBR grows, it grows. Instead I think I’ll focus on trying to read more often than I have been (this year I often had rows of days where I read nothing. I’d like to read even a few pages a day as long as I read something)

2) Try to read 100 books – this is a long standing goal, just for a number to aim for. I don’t think it will ever not be a goal!

3) Be better about reading challenges – I sign up for online book clubs and challenges and I pretty much NEVER complete them. I suck at it. I’m going to try to read books for book clubs and challenges early this time. And oh man, I’d love to complete the Everything Austen challenge for once. Both times I joined, I got 4 out of 6 Austen related books/movies read and watched, then ran out of time. In 2011.. oh, I will get 6 out of 6. I WILLLLL!!

4) Stay easy going in this blogging thing. I think that will all the book blogs out there, it’s easy to put pressure on yourself and lose perspective. I want to make sure to remember that I do this because it makes me happy.

A couple of things I’m looking forward to…

Aisha.


This is a Bollywood movie which is a modern day remake of Emma by Jane Austen. So it’s like an Indian Clueless (and if you follow this blog, you know that modern-day Jane Austen remakes = my weakness). The part of Emma, now Aisha Kapoor, is played by Sonam Kapoor, and Mr Knightley is now Arjun Barman, played by Abhay Deol. Aisha is an upper class Delhi girl who wears trendy, girly clothes and meddles in other people’s love lives. This is the synopsis from Wikipedia:

“Aisha is a girl with a simple dikat(problem) – everyone’s business is her business. Arjun is a boy with even a simpler set of beliefs – Aisha should mind her own business. Caught in the Delhi upper class world with its own set of social rules, Aisha navigates her world with a great sense of style and even greater optimism. Caught in her web are her best friend Pinky, the small town girl Shefali, the west Delhi boy Randhir and the hunk Dhruv. Aisha will make sure everyone dances to her tune. And all Arjun wants to do is disentangle that web and get Aisha out of an impending sticky mess. Who will succeed and who will succumb? Welcome to Aisha’s fabulous world where playing cupid is as easy as 123…if only that Arjun would stay out of her way!”

This movie comes out August 6th. I NEED to see this! It looks very girly and I’m ok with that. The only problem is that it’s not in English, but I will find a way.

——————————————————————————-

Masques and Wolfsbane.

I’m so happy that Masques is being reissued. I believe it’s Patricia Briggs’ first published novel (originally published in 1993), but it’s out of print and hard to find. People are selling it for over $140! Now, I like Briggs, but I won’t pay $140… Luckily, Briggs has become so popular that it makes sense to republish her backlist – Masques comes out this September 28th:

After an upbringing of proper behavior and oppressive expectations, Aralorn fled her noble birthright for a life of adventure as a mercenary spy. Her latest mission involves spying on the increasingly powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae’Magi. But in a war against an enemy armed with the powers of illusion, how do you know who the true enemy is-or where he will strike next?

What’s even better is that I discovered through the lovely Angieville, that the sequel to Masques, Wolfsbane, is being published this year as well (November 2nd)! YESSS. I’m vibrating with glee right now.

MasquesWolfsbane

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Silver-borne
Patricia Briggs

Alright. I am a picky reader and I must have all my books in paperback if I started buying the series in paperback. So hooray for the book depository and the wonderful Has (from the bookpushers) who informed me that the UK edition of Silver Borne is a paperback. 🙂

The Premise: Silver Borne is the 5th in this series about Mercy Thompson, a coyote shapeshifter and mechanic in the Tri-Cities, Washington area. In this new installment trouble as usual finds Mercy, first in the form of weird occurrences related to a fae book she borrowed. In the meantime her roommate Samuel, already on the edge as a lone, unmated wolf, begins to unravel.

Read an excerpt of Silver Borne here

Here are my reviews of the previous books (these links are all on goodreads,  vox or livejournal):
Book 1: Moon Called Goodreads
Book 2: Blood Bound Goodreads
Book 3: Iron Kissed https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/vox.png
Book 4: Bone Crossed https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/vox.png

**** Be warned: There will be spoilers for the previous books from this point forward! ****

My Thoughts: Whenever I read a new installment of the Mercy Thompson series I feel like I’m reminded all over again why I like the series so much. The writing just seems effortless. I like Briggs’ other work, but there’s something about Mercy’s voice that I love. It just flows. After reading Silver Borne, I had to take a break from reading urban fantasy for a week. I’ve just been spoiled for anything else in this genre for a little while.

When I was reading this one, ocelott from genrereviews commented that Briggs is great about consequences for everything, and particularly in Silver Borne, that is true. Things as innocent as borrowing a book get her into trouble, as well as things as serious as being the mate of the Tri-Cities Alpha.  Mercy is just a magnet for trouble even though she’s a smart heroine and doesn’t go looking for it. In this book it’s a combination of humans, werewolves, and the fae that bring Mercy headaches. It’s not just people who want Mercy gone that are an issue too. It’s people that Mercy loves, like Samuel, who are hurting. Mercy, being who she is, tries to choose what she considers the best path for everyone despite the consequences for herself.  There already are hints of ramifications, both good and bad that will likely carry on to the next books.

In the meantime, the strength of this book is I think that it focuses much more on the relationships that have built up over the course of the first four books. I think in Silver Borne we see how much Mercy has affected the people around her in her job, her home, and her dealings with the local pack. In  Bone Crossed, the formal courtship with Adam begins, but there is still some lingering uncertainty because of it’s newness. In this book that’s explored further, and I think Mercy’s place in the pack begins to take more solid shape.  I enjoyed the way the romance was brought into this one. It wasn’t center stage yet it had a strong part of the book. The other strong aspect was Mercy’s friendship with Samuel. The trust built on both sides was clear in this book. Despite feeling like the way Samuel’s problem was resolved was a little convenient, I was very pleased with how things turned out so I didn’t mind.

What more can I say? I don’t know if you’d be reading this review if you weren’t already reading this series, so I suspect I don’t have to explain how well done the world building is or why I like Mercy (she’s a smart heroine for starters).

Overall: If you are a fan of Mercy Thompson, I think you’ll like this one. There’s a reason why Briggs is so popular – if I had to recommend a series that is essential urban fantasy reading, this would be it. Silver Borne is my favorite installment so far. Its got plenty of action, but Briggs spends more time on Mercy’s relationship with Adam, and on Mercy’s effect on the people around her than she did in previous books.

Buy: Amazon | Powells | The Book Depository

Other Reviews:
Temping Persephone – positive
Fantasy & Sc-Fi Lovin’ News & Reviews – positive with some quibbles
Avidbookreader – B/B+ read
Angieville – positive
The Book Smugglers – 8 (Excellent)
Smexy Books – 4/5

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

The Premise: This is the second book of Patricia Briggs parallel series to Mercy Thompson, featuring a mated Alpha and Omega werewolf couple, Anna and Charles. Bran, the Alpha of all werewolves in North America is getting ready to out the existence of werewolves for various reasons and wants the European wolves on board or at least willing to stay out of the way during the process. Charles has an inexplicable bad feeling over Bran going to Seattle convinces Bran to send Anna and himself instead.

Excerpt of Hunting Ground

My Thoughts: The conference with the European wolves happens parallel to the Mercy Thompson series (I think between MT books 2 and 3?), but I don’t think you really need to have read Mercy Thompson to enjoy Anna and Charles. I would say that you DO have to read this series in order, probably starting with the short story, Alpha and Omega in the anthology On the Prowl, and then book one, Cry Wolf.

My reviews:
On the Prowl (with Alpha and Omega short story) – livejournal | wordpress
Book 1: Cry Wolflivejournal | wordpress

I think that when I started reading this book I had a couple of expectations. I expected to see some growth in Anna, development in her relationship with Charles, and I was expecting to find out some back story on the exposure of werewolves to the world. Let me try to go over my main points of interest:

  • Anna – Anna’s growth and emergence of a backbone delighted me and was the highlight of the book. When I was first reading this I was struck by the first couple of chapters because Anna seemed very comfortable with Bran and Charles, and in teasing and playing with them. I was a little surprised after her timidness in Cry Wolf. Then when she goes to Seattle, the old, scared Anna seems to come back in the presence of all the alpha wolves. This made sense to me. Anna is getting used to being an Omega wolf and she is still recovering from what happened to her in her old pack. There’s a few things that happen over the course of the story which allow Anna to work through some of her hangups in a satisfying way.
  • Anna and Charles’ relationship – This is still developing and it’s not easy. Charles finds himself very protective of Anna, and it’s hard to reign in his wolf sometimes. Anna on the other hand isn’t past her abuse by her previous pack. The Alpha and Omega series is different from the Mercy Thompson in that it is more of a paranormal romance, with more emphasis on the relationship, than an urban fantasy. There was a scene I liked in particular between Anna and Charles, which is actually illustrated on the cover of the book, but as to the rest of the book, I mostly felt that there was something missing between the two of them. There seemed to be a lack of spark, and it was hard to really buy into their relationship. This is a big problem because the relationship is such a huge part of the series. Everything between Anna and Charles felt a little awkward, which wasn’t a problem I remember having while I was reading the earlier book. Those moments that happen between couples where you can tell there is something deep between them – I just couldn’t see it. I hope that this is a problem only in this book and not in the continuations.
  • And out come the wolves – This is something mentioned in the Mercy Thompson novels – that Bran, the Alpha of the werewolves in North America had planned to have the world know about the existence of werewolves. I was really interested in the specifics of this, which we get and I was mostly happy with it, but once we get the gist it moves behind a closed door, and I wish more focus was put on it’s ramifications and the dealings between werewolf packs. What ended up happening is that the focus went to Anna and the problems surrounding her by virtue of being an Omega and Charles’ mate. She becomes the target of an abduction and the book focuses on that mystery and inserted action is about this. In the end I enjoyed Anna’s part in bringing the bad guys to justice (again – I liked Anna in this book!), but the rest of it had an abrupt feel, so the execution for the most part underwhelmed me.

So I think basically, while I do get some of the things I expected in this book, it feels like the focus is fractured. Something just didn’t flow as well as what I’m used to seeing in a Briggs novel. Things niggled at me, as I described above.  I also noted unnecessary repetition that bothered me, such as almost every female joking with Anna on how to deal with Charles, or where someone calls Anna timid and irritates Anna for doing so. It didn’t feel as tight as past books.

Overall: This is a really hard review to write because although I’m a big fan of Briggs, throughout the book I kept having this feeling that things were off. I put the book down for a few days and picked it up again when I was in a better frame of mind, but I still had this feeling which I’m having a hard time putting my finger on. I would say that it is still a good read, but it fell below my high expectations of Patricia Briggs. The story wasn’t as cohesive and for me, the biggest issue I had was the lack of spark between the hero and heroine. I’m still not sure if I’m just not seeing it while other readers are. I plan to continue reading this series and hope that this is just a one-off.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

Other reviews (mostly good, one not so good):
Angieville (found it stronger than it’s predecessor)
The Book Smugglers – 8 out of 10, excellent
Dear Author – gave it a B+ but noted some things I had problems with
calico reaction rated it “Give it away” – liked it less than I did I think.
Smexy Books – 8 out of 10

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson  Homecoming
Patricia Briggs

This is the graphic novel which collects the first four comics in this series. I pre-ordered this one since I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

Premise: This is a graphic novel prequel to the events in the Mercy Thompson books. It covers Mercy first arriving at the Tri-Cities, getting a job as a mechanic and meeting Zee, Stephan and others. In true Mercy form, she manages to find herself involved with trouble (starting by being attacked by a pack of rogue wolves), but stubbornly works through it in her own way.

My Thoughts: Wow, I’m seeing a lot of negative reviews on Amazon from people who thought this was a novel, not a graphic novel.  Yikes!  Perhaps they pre-ordered *very* early before the cover which says “an original graphic novel set in the best selling Mercy Thompson universe” was put up, and didn’t check Patricia Briggs’ website to see that the next Mercy Thompson novel is Silver Borne and is coming out Spring 2010. :  It’s a bit sad to see it getting a lot of negative reviews because of this.

Anyway, as a graphic novel, I liked that everything is in rich color (not always the case)!  I’ll probably be flipping the book open to stare at the artwork every so often this week. I’m enjoying having images of the characters to look at. It looks like the illustrators were changed halfway from Francis Tsai to Amelia Woo, so there were some subtle differences in how people were drawn, but I wasn’t completely thrown. I did feel that there was an uneven-ness in the way Mercy was drawn. First: she looked asian sometimes, white others, and native american rarely. Then in the first two comics Mercy looks similar to how she looks on the covers by Dan Dos Santos, but in the second two she has lighter hair and skin. I’m not sure why. It’s too bad Mercy looked so different when she’s the main character. Either way, I still liked the artwork, so that’s a minor complaint. I most liked how Adam was drawn by both illustrators. Zee looked the most like I imagined, but maybe more wiry and less stocky than I expected. Stephan looked the *least* like I expected (90’s grunge vamp? didn’t expect that one).

Story-wise, there is a lot of subtle back story hints which fans of the Mercy Thompson novels will like. How Mercy got her lamb necklace and her cat for example, but I do think this graphic novel is better when you have already read the Mercy Thompson books so you can pick up on these things. Bran doesn’t really show up in this book but there is a drawing of him in the extras at the end of the book (the other extra is an interview with Patricia Briggs about working on this GN).

Overall: A nice graphic novel prequel to the books. A must for die-hard Mercy Thompson fans, but if you don’t like graphic novels you may want to skip it. I personally like it a lot and am happy I bought it (*hugs it* but then I’m a big fan of this series). The only minor complaint I have is that the artwork had some inconsistencies and uneven-ness particularly in the way Mercy was drawn.

Links:

The Dabel Brothers are also making the first Alpha and Omega story into comic book form: http://www.dabelbrothers.com/index.php?categoryid=16&p2_articleid=59

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

Thanks to a contest at Avidbookreader's blog, I won a copy of Bone Crossed. This is the fourth book (out of seven?) in the Mercy Thompson series:

      1. Moon Called (my goodreads review)
      2. Blood Bound (my goodreads review)
      3. Iron Kissed (my review)
      4. Bone CrossedExcerpt of Chapter 1

Bone Crossed starts off soon after where Iron Kissed left off – Mercy is still recovering from the events in the last novel when the charred, tortured body of Stefan drops out of thin air into the middle of her trailer. The obvious conclusion is that Marsilia, ruling vampire of the Tri-Cities has found out about their involvement in the death of Andre, one of her own, and now Mercy and all her friends are in danger.

*** Spoilers for previous books will likely follow. *** 

Overall: OK, this is one of my favorite series, and despite my not liking HC, I think even if I didn't win it, I was going to break down and buy the book. I think I'm predesposed to like this book before even reading it, despite my feeling upset over what happened in Iron Kissed. I, like Mercy, have recovered somewhat, and I want to see what happens next. 

I think what draws me to these books are the characters. Mercy of course is a smart, self sufficient character, but she has a lot of support from a very strong supporting cast. I feel happy reading this series because I know I'll get to see the satellite characters again. Briggs' tends to create some very interesting people with mysterious backstories and it's rewarding to catch glimpses of what makes them tick. Mercy is learning about them at the same time, and makes some observations which I don't think I'd have really picked up on myself. Besides some insight into her enemies she also pays attention to Adam, Samuel, and Stefan. Adam seen as her mate is somewhat different from just one of her two suitors. This was great because I think Mercy has to also learn how to trust other people too, so her character is growing because of the relationship. Samuel has a new level of sadness which I think may need to be addressed soon; you worry about him. And Stefan has re-entered her life.  

This is of course combined with whatever trouble Mercy has gotten herself into at the time. In Bone Crossed, Mercy is not only dealing with an angry Marsilia, but another problem – an college acquantance needs help with a nearby haunting in Spokane. Mercy's last real involvement with the vampires occured in Blood Bound, so I'd recommend reacquainting yourself with that book before you read this. I had to remember who certain characters were, but it wasn't very hard to figure things out again. Stefan is a likeable character and I sort of missed him. Mercy wasn't very happy with him because of what he did at the end of Blood Bound, so they had a couple of things to sort through, but I think they came to a better understanding after Bone Crossed.

It's pretty hard for me to come up with anything negative about this book. There are only two really nitty things I can think of. One was feeling somewhat suspicious of how seemingly easy it was to get Mercy to Spokane. The wolves thought it would make her safer to look into the ghost issue while Marsilia was angry, but I thought it somewhat unlike Mercy to leave. In the end the two story arcs worked well together so this was practically a non-issue. The other thing was one minor timeline thing which threw me out of what seemed like a pivotal emotional scene. Mercy went to the bathroom in one sentence and dresses, then the very next one she takes a step towards the bathroom.  Threw me off. Yeah that's all I have (after racking my brain too)!

So in the end a satisfied sigh from me.

 Other reviews:

Avidbookreader – (gave it an A)

Angieville (a glowing review)

The Book Smugglers (gave it an 8 – Excellent)

Dear Author (Jane gave it a B+)

Breezing Through Books (conversation review, gave it two A-, one A)

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