“Humans, in her experience, were weak and fragile things prone to dying and breeding with about the same frequency.”
As the subtitle of this short story collection might imply, Patricia Briggs’ popular protagonist, Mercy Thompson, does not feature at all in many of the stories in Shifting Shadows, or appears only in passing, or by mention. Rather, many of the stories feature secondary or other minor characters from the series, allowing them to briefly take centre stage. The collection consists of four new stories, and six previously published works, along with two bonus scenes, outtakes from drafts of Silver Borne and Night Broken. Each work is introduced and contextualized by the author, along with a note about where it fits in the series timeline.
Perhaps the best of these is the previously published “Alpha and Omega” which follows Bran’s son Charles to Chicago during the events of Moon Called, where he meets his new mate, the Omega wolf Anna. Charles and Anna jump to life on the page, with fantastic chemistry, and Briggs’ fans can be forever grateful that her editor took one look at the story, and asked Briggs if she could write Charles and Anna their own series, leading to the publication of Cry Wolf in 2008.
“Seeing Eye”, featuring the white witch Moira and Tom of the Emerald City Pack, has a similar energy, and fans have long been hanging on Briggs’ promise that she will write more about them (perhaps their own series?) in the future. Moira and Tom first appeared together as a couple in Hunting Ground, but “Seeing Eye” goes back before the events of Moon Called, to their first meeting, and the realization that Tom can be Moira’s eyes. This tantalizing story will only makes fans hungrier for their story to get its own book.
Another standout is “Roses in Winter”, which finally follows up with Kara, the youngest known survivor of a werewolf attack, whose father approaches Mercy for help in Blood Bound. In addition to revealing the fate of an off-page character who sparked a great deal of curiosity among fans, “Roses in Winter” also develops another popular character, Asil, who has been living with the Marrok’s pack for fifteen years, expecting a death which is slow to come. While “Alpha and Omega” and “Seeing Eye” were both previously published, “Roses in Winter” is one of the new stories in this collection.
Some of the stories in Shifting Shadows are beginnings and stand alone quite well. Others gain most of their resonance through their connection to Briggs’ larger world, which fans have come to know and love. In general, the stronger stories are those which feature popular series characters who don’t normally star. Warren gets his own detective story in “In Red, With Pearls” and “Silver” delivers Samuel and Ariana’s tragic backstory, only hinted at in the series. The exception to this rule is “Redemption,” a story about how Ben’s protective pack instincts are slowly eroding his misogyny, which should be redemptive as the title suggest, but instead is unfortunately bland. However, the majority of the stories in the collection are interesting either for what they reveal about some of our favourite characters, or the glimpse they offer into a corner of Mercy’s world that we don’t normally get to see.