Fiction, Read My Own Damn Books, Urban Fantasy

Silence Fallen (Mercedes Thompson #10)

Cover image for Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs by Patricia Briggs

ISBN 9780425281277

“I’m a mechanic; I fix things that are broken. I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote. I have powerful friends. But when it comes right down to it, my real superpower is chaos.”

In Night Broken, Adam and Mercy declared the Tri-Cities pack territory, and a neutral zone under their protection. Since then, they have successfully defended that claim against the Fae in Fire Touched, proving that they can keep their word. But it seems the challenges are not over, because Mercy is kidnapped not far from home, and the purpose of taking her seems to be to prove the weakness of the Tri-Cities alliance. In coyote form, Mercy manages to escape her attackers, ending up alone and on the run in Europe. With their mating bond silenced by the great distance between them, Adam gathers a group of their allies, and heads to Europe in pursuit of Mercy.

For the first time, Patricia Briggs takes her characters far afield from their Tri-Cities home, with Mercy eventually finding herself in Prague, the territory of an old wolf who has a long-standing feud with the Marrok. Mercy also discovers that the Old Country is rife with ghosts, clamouring for the attention of a walker.  Briggs employs dual timelines, switching perspectives between Mercy and Adam. Briggs also used this device briefly in Frost Burned, the seventh book in the series, in which Adam and the pack disappeared, and Mercy was hunting for them. Here, however, the technique is used throughout the book, and the two timelines are not synchronized. As a result, Briggs introduces each chapter with a blurb in Mercy’s voice that clarifies when events are taking place, and how they relate to the other chapters. It is somewhat awkward, but serves well enough to keep the reader oriented, especially as Adam and Mercy converge later in the book.

Ten books into her series, Briggs has built up a large cast of secondary characters, to the point where many favourites might only be mentioned in passing in any particular volume. In this case, most of the pack and Mercy’s other friends are left behind in Washington. While Mercy is on her own in Prague meeting even more new characters, Adam must choose who to take with him to Milan to confront Mercy’s kidnapper. With the Tri-Cities now declared to be the independent territory of the Columbia Basin Pack, Adam must make his selections carefully in order to represent the new supernatural alliance to the European powers that have decided to challenge the declaration.

One of Adam’s companions for the trip is Honey, a werewolf who has been rising through the ranks since the death of her mate, and since Mercy’s arrival shook up the pack’s traditional gender dynamics, which placed female wolves at the bottom of the ladder. Marsilia, mistress of the vampire seethe, and Elizaveta, the pack’s witch on retainer, also join the delegation. Marsilia is a surprisingly gentle presence this time around, though the book deals heavily with her backstory. However, Briggs seems to be hinting at interesting developments in store for Elizaveta. Stefan, who has been largely absent for quite some time, also joins the group, which is rounded out by a goblin representative for the Fae. The private plane they charter is piloted by another goblin, with a submissive werewolf called Matt Smith as co-pilot. Briggs fits in a running joke about Smith’s name, which he shares with the actor who played the eleventh doctor on Doctor Who. This seems to be a sly nod to the title of the book, since “Silence Will Fall” was the prophecy that anchored much of Smith’s run on the show.

Silence Fallen does not move the overarching story forward so much as it explores reinforces the changes that have taken place in the last couple volumes. Sometimes the next step in a series is fairly obvious, but in this case the way forward is not clear. However, Briggs has promised both the next Alpha and Omega book—Burn Bright, 2018—and the long-awaited Moira and Tom novel before the next installment of Mercy’s saga is due out.


You might also like Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Fire Touched (Mercedes Thompson #9)

Cover image for Fire Touched by Patricia Briggsby Patricia Briggs

ISBN 9780425256763

“When it had followed me home like a stray puppy the first time, it had seemed harmless. But fae things are rarely what they seem. And even very minor artifacts, given enough time, can gain in power.”

When the Grey Lords send a troll to terrorize the Tri-Cities, Mercy and Adam lay down the law, declaring the region pack territory without considering the potential ramifications. Then a once-human child who has escaped from Underhill after hundreds of years knocks on their door, seeking to claim sanctuary from the fae in their newly declared territory. The boy has superhuman powers, and yet is powerfully afraid of being sent back to the reservation. Taking him in would prove to all comers that the Columbia Basin Pack is serious about protecting their territory, but it may also provoke the all-out war between the fae and the werewolves that the Marrok has been trying to avoid.

Mercy and Adam’s declaration forces the pack to draw together, preparing for the rest of the Tri-Cities’ supernatural residents to test their resolve and their ability to defend their territory. The fae begin targeting their friends and family outside the pack, including Adam’s ex-wife, Christy. Christy sheltered with the pack in the last installment, Night Broken, and caused no end of trouble, so this time Adam chooses to dispense her to a tropical locale, getting her out of harm’s way. As well as Patricia Briggs handled that drama in the last installment, I was glad not to revisit it in Fire Touched. There are some significant—and long overdue—developments for the pack dynamics in this installment, but this progress, which comes early in the book, allows the focus to turn to the increasing tensions with the fae.

From the vast legion of secondary characters spawned by this series, for Fire Touched Briggs brings in Thomas Hao, master vampire of San Francisco, and his fae companion Margaret Flanagan. The two were featured in the short story collection Shifting Shadows, where the tale “Fairy Gifts” recounts their meeting. Margaret has come to the Tri-Cities to give her final refusal to submit to the Grey Lords’ order that all fae retreat to the reservations, and prove that she has the power to enforce that refusal. Other significant players in this volume are Zee and his son, Tad, who are long-standing characters, as well as newer additions like Joel, the tibicena Mercy brought into the pack in Night Broken. Certain fae also play a significant part, as it becomes evident there are rival factions even among the Grey Lords.

Fire Touched mixes action sequences with more emotional interpersonal moments. Mercy and Adam have a long overdue conversation about the way some members of the pack treat her. While Adam is busy dealing with the fall out of their new situation, Mercy realizes that a new member of the pack who has been sent to them from the Marrok’s pack of troubled and damaged wolves is still suicidal, and only asked to come to the Columbia Basin Pack so he could find an opportunity to act on that impulse. And when Mercy and Margaret meet, Margaret uses the opportunity to pick Mercy’s brain about how to get Thomas to stop treating her like an invalid. Perhaps working on the common criticism that Mercy does not have many relationships with other women, Briggs seems to be kindling a friendship between the two, but their conversation doesn’t exactly pass the Bechdel-Wallace test. Mercy also briefly reflects that she should make more of an effort to stay in touch with her college roommate, Char.

Though there are a lot of emotional moments, the pack also battles a troll and responds to surprise attacks around the Tri-Cities, keeping the action rolling. After being in a holding pattern for several books, development may finally be underway for human-fae relations. The Columbia Basin Pack also seems set to take on even greater significance in the werewolf world, and it will be interesting to see how that shakes out. There is no plot information available yet for the next installment, but if I had to put my prediction hat on, I would guess that Adam may be challenged for leadership of the pack by an outside contender. As always, Briggs leaves me antsy for the next volume.


Cover image for The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black You might also like The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)

Cover image for Dead Heat by Patricia Briggsby Patricia Briggs

eISBN 978-0-698-18463-3

“But that is the dual gift of love, isn’t it? The joy of greeting and the sorrow of good-bye.” 

Charles and Anna travel to an Arizona ranch to visit Joseph Sani, an old friend from Charles’ past, and buy Anna a horse for her birthday. However, the leisure trip turns into work when a Fae targets the Sani family, and begins replacing local children with simulacra to hide their kidnappings. The journey also proves to be an emotional one for Charles, who must face the fact that his old friend has become an old man, but is still steadfastly refusing the Change.

I got off on the wrong foot with this book, because it opens with Charles and Anna having a disagreement about possible ways to work around the fact that werewolves can’t have children. Reproductive angst doesn’t generally work for me as a plot device, but Patricia Briggs manages to bring it off fairly well by tying it into the larger themes of the book, including family, life, and death. The fact that the Fae they are tracking is targeting children ties their disagreement into the mystery, and Anna’s desire for a child is book-ended by Charles struggling to come to terms with Joseph’s mortality. Overall, it has a nice symmetry, even though it isn’t my favourite plot point.

Briggs also dedicates a significant amount of time to horses and horsemanship. In addition to Anna’s search for a horse, the Sanis are horse breeders, and are preparing for a big show when Charles and Anna visit. Dead Heat includes lots of details about horses, breeding, and showmanship, much of which does little to drive the story forward, though Brigg’s unbridled passion for her subject is clear. Your mileage this aspect of the book will vary according to your interest in horses.

Though I didn’t particularly enjoy two major aspects of this book, Dead Heat has a solid central mystery and important character development. We get a glimpse into Charles’ past, which he rarely talks about, and this helps Anna understand where his staunch opposition to trying to have children comes from. The Fae situation, which has been a bit of a cold war in Briggs recent books, is also starting to heat up, and looks set to be a significant issue in both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series going forward. The next Mercy Thompson book, Fire Touched, is due out in March 2016.


Cover image for Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs You might also like Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson

Fiction, Short Stories, Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson

Cover image for Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggsby Patricia Briggs

eISBN 978-1-101-60950-7

“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.

Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Night Broken (Mercedes Thompson #8)

Cover image for Night Broken by Patricia Briggsby Patricia Briggs

ISBN 9780425256749

If she tried anything, she would be sorry. Adam was mine. She had thrown him away, thrown Jesse away—and I had snatched them up. Finders keepers.”

Night Broken is the eighth book in Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson series. When we first met Mercy back in Moon Called, Adam was her hot werewolf neighbor, broken up about his recent divorce. Now Adam and Mercy are married, but Adam’s ex-wife, Christy, is back in the picture. When Christy calls in a panic about being stalked by a one-night stand, Adam and Mercy agree to take her into their home and protect her, even knowing the trouble she will bring. Mercy has never been popular with the pack, whereas Christy was beloved, and a skilled emotional manipulator to boot. Meanwhile, the Fae are stilled holed up in their reservations, but some of them are quietly moving about in the human world, and they aren’t above causing Mercy trouble. And there’s nothing Coyote likes more than trouble.

Meeting Patricia Briggs at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, photo taken by her husband, Mike.
Meeting Patricia Briggs at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, photo taken by her husband, Mike.

The plot description for this installment smelled like drama, and I was wary going in, but I really should trust Patricia Briggs by now. She handles interpersonal relationships, even tense ones, extremely well. Christy is more manipulator than seductress, and she seems to want the safe home and happy life she had with Adam back, as much, or more, than she wants Adam himself. Christy’s antics were infuriating, but even when she managed to get to Adam in some way, he and Mercy still kept their heads and didn’t get into any ridiculous fights. It can be hard for a writer to maintain the tension of a romantic relationship after she’s married the characters off, but Christy challenges Adam and Mercy’s relationship not by causing whiney drama between them, but by complicating their relationship with the pack. It’s hard to watch this setback, since Mercy finally seemed to be gaining some ground, but she mostly manages to take the highroad without being unbelievably saint-like.  She has uncharitable thoughts, and insecurities, but she doesn’t dissolve into an angsty pile of slop.

Briggs has created a vast cast of characters over the years, and it takes a lot of skill to stage manage them all. It’s hard, but necessary, to set some characters aside if they don’t have a role to play in this particular story. Some favourites, like Ben and Bran, barely make an appearance, but we get a bit of a glimpse of what is going on with Stefan, plus a telling moment in Warren and Kyle’s relationship. The best character development in this installment comes for Tad, and especially Honey, who is coping with the aftermath of her mate’s death, and what that means for her status in the pack. We’re also introduced to Gary Laughingdog, another walker, and meet Alistair Beauclaire, the Gray Lord who orchestrated the Fae retreat to the reservations. Some old questions are answered, and new dangling threads are exposed, so that, as always, Patricia Briggs leaves me wanting more, and preferably now rather than sometime next year.


Looking for more Urban Fantasy? You might also like The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams, or Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey.

Fiction, Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Vacation Reads

While I was away on holidays, I needed a little bit of light reading to unwind at the end of a hard day’s sightseeing. That being the case, I decided to get caught up on the latest volumes in a few of my favourite urban fantasy series.

Cover image for Cold Days by Jim ButcherCold Days (9780451464408)

The last novel in the Dresden Files, Ghost Story, was an interesting lull in Harry’s story line, as he found himself trapped between worlds following his self-planned assassination/suicide at the end of Changes. Harry’s return to life means a follow up on a plot point that has been a long time coming; if he isn’t dead, then he is bound to fulfill his promise to serve Mab as the Winter Knight. Although the ostensible purpose of the Winter Knight is to kill mortals that Mab cannot touch, Mab instead demands that Harry kill an immortal, and provides a powerful incentive to do it. With an impossible task set before him, Harry will need every ally and resource at his disposal, but will his friends be able to trust him now that he is the Winter Knight? And does he really want to involve them in faerie business? This novel gives the strong sense that Jim Butcher is opening a new chapter in the Dresden Files universe. Newly immersed in the politics and intrigues of the faerie courts, Harry finds that there may be more to the balance between Earth and the NeverNever than he ever suspected.

Categories: Urban Fantasy, Mystery


Cover image for Frost Burned by Patricia BriggsFrost Burned (9780441020010)

Out Christmas shopping with her step-daughter, Jesse, Mercy gets into a fender bender, and is alarmed when she finds that she has a mysterious voicemail from Bran, and that she cannot reach any of the pack by phone. All of the Columbia Basin werewolves have simply disappeared, and the pack bonds tell Mercy this isn’t a game. Only Ben has managed to escape the kidnappers, who are still after him, and Mercy and Jesse, to boot. Those who preferred Mercy before she and Adam got together will be happy to see her flying solo once more, though the plot relies heavily on their mating bond. Those who enjoy the Columbia Basin Pack will miss their presence. The trade off for the separation is that Patricia Briggs gives us two chapters from Adam’s point of view in a series that has always been from Mercy’s perspective. However, the absence of the pack did make room for some of the other secondary characters to shine, particularly Kyle. The book gets off to a slow start, but makes up for it with a rapid fire conclusion.

Categories:  Urban Fantasy, Mystery


Cover image for Dead Ever After by Charlaine HarrisDead Ever After (9781937007881)

Things aren’t going well for Sookie with the men in her life. Sam has been cold and distant since she used the cluviel dor to raise him from the dead, and Eric is furious that Sookie used it to save Sam rather than extricate him from his dilemma with Freyda, Queen of Oklahoma. With Sam keeping his distance, Sookie is left to run Merlotte’s alone, so it is she who has the unenviable task of refusing her old friend Arlene a job when she is granted an early release from prison. Then things go pear-shaped, and Sookie is accused of murder in an all-too-neat frame up job.  Although this is the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, much is left open, as if the story will continue on beyond the pages of the books. Charlaine Harris answers a lot of the important questions, but fans who dislike open-ended conclusions will definitely be left wanting. And of course, there have been rage-filled reactions to Harris’ decision about how to conclude the romantic storyline. I assiduously avoided all those spoilers, so imagine my surprise when Sookie ended up with the guy I thought she was going to be with all along.

Categories:  Urban Fantasy, Mystery


Cover image for The Cuckoos Calling by Robert GalbraithThe Cuckoo’s Calling (9781408703991)

News about the true identity of Robert Galbraith broke while I was in England, and when I found out J.K. Rowling had written a detective novel, I knew I was going to have to read it, even as I sympathized with her desire for anonymity. Down-on-his-luck detective Cormoran Strike is living in the office which he is on the verge of losing when a new case and new secretary land in his lap, all on the same day. A barely remembered childhood acquaintance shows up on Strike’s doorstep, asking him to investigate the supposed suicide of his sister, international super model Lula Landry. The new secretary, Robin, has always secretly dreamed of being a PI, and her knowledge of celebrity gossip turns into a surprisingly useful resource as she and Strike delve into the world of fame and fashion that Landry inhabited. In addition to being a bang-up detective novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling is an introspective look at our fascination with celebrities, and the rabid power of the British paparazzi. While the ending will probably not come as a terrible surprise, what Rowling has written here is classic hard-boiled detective fiction, and I will definitely be looking forward to the next Cormoran Strike novel.

Categories: Mystery

Your regularly scheduled, full-length book reviews will resume on Thursday, beginning with If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan. Thanks for sticking around!