Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book Review - Patricia Briggs's Fire Touched

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs
ARC Provided by the Publisher
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: March 8th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

The Fae have an interesting way of showing their displeasure. They disappeared into their reservations and have slowly been letting their more dangerous monsters into the world just to hint at what they could do, given the motivation. One of those monsters happens to be attacking the Cable Bridge which spans the Columbia River, right smack in the middle of the Colombia River Basin Pack's territory. Mercy and Adam's pack. The pack stops the troll, at the cost of the bridge, but luckily not at the cost of any lives. It is obvious that the Fae need to be brought to heel, and at just the right moment Tad and Zee walk back into Mercy's life perhaps with the answer. They have brought with them a young boy Aiden. Or at least Aiden was young once before the Fae and Underhill took him and played with him for perhaps centuries. He is now Fire Touched, but more importantly a link to Underhill. If there's anything the Fae want above all else it's to reestablish their link to Underhill and it's magics. The Fae want Aiden and Mercy has Aiden. Perhaps an agreement can be reached? But the Fae never play fair and attempt to take the boy by force, but Mercy has pledged the pack's protection, even at the risk to their own lives. Yet Aiden himself is dangerous and therefore negotiations are eventually opened. As Mercy and Adam journey into the realm of the Fae they will be lucky to survive whatever underhanded tricks might be headed their way, but a successful outcome could be a boon to all.

I feel like I've started my reviews for the last few Patricia Briggs books talking about the harsh realities of long running series and how some of the books just won't be as good as others. You're being judged against your best and therefore if you stumble, well, your book might be a higher rating for another author, but not for you. And it's not that I haven't liked continuing on these adventures with characters I view as my friends, I just haven't enjoyed the ride as much with these last few forays. The apex for me in recent years was 2011's River Marked. The reason that this book stands out is because the narrative was streamlined. There are a lot of characters inhabiting Mercy's world, some have even gotten their own stories or series, so it's hard to get them all in on the action. With Frost Burned, Night Broken, and now with Fire Touched, Briggs seems determined to bring everyone by the Hauptmans house just to say hi. This is making the books unwieldy, with these drops ins compromising the time in the book that should be spent on plot development. I would rather the story have a solid groundwork than have Mercy baking brownies for the pack with orange oil. Between the knock down drag out fights and Fae politics, I didn't feel as if there was actually anything to this installment.

In fact, my major grip over the recent books is the increasing time spent on pack politics and Mercy's unsuitability as a mate for Adam. Firstly, I think Mercy has proven time and time again that she is more than capable of being the Alpha's mate of the Colombia River Basin Pack. Isn't that basically what every book is? Showing her suitability? Therefore to have these politics brought up again and again, it is really starting to fray my nerves and try my patience. When it was decreed in this book that there would be no more pack political infighting about Mercy I quite literally shouted for joy. The biggest hurtle in my enjoyment in these recent installment had been removed, and quickly replaced with Fae politics. I mean seriously? I feel like Mercy, can I never catch a break? To finally remove the politics only to have OTHER politics fill the void? Ugh, you have got to be kidding me. I feel that this is some kind of punishment. At the end of Fair Game when the Fae basically declared war on humanity, I was really excited to see how it would all play out. I was hoping for all out war and bloodshed. I should have taken into account that I was thinking from a very human perspective. The Fae don't operate in expected ways; and therefore, the politics have taken over.

Here's the thing about me and politics. I don't like them. I avoid them at all costs. And not just governmental politics, oh no, even petty academic politics drive me round the bend. Some of the worst moments of my life have to do with getting my BA in Theatre and the weekly tech meetings we had that were never about what we needed to do and all about the politics of the department. I was once literally brought to tears. As for governmental politics, well, yes, I am paying attention at the moment because this is an election year, but if this wasn't the case I'd be attempting to bury my head in the sand. Now why would I want to read about politics give how much I hate them? The answer is that I don't. As for otherworldly politics? I want to read about them even less. The politics have taken over this series and if this doesn't change I seriously don't know what I'm going to do. There wasn't really a plot, there was no suspense, and if it wasn't for the last forth of this book nothing would have happened at all. Yes, a book CAN be all about politics. Should it? Not if you want me to read it. And of course, I know this book wasn't written just for me, but I'm sure there are people out there with the same aversion to politics as me who just want a cracking good story.

And yes, that means I want a story. I want a plot. I want some sort of narrative that combines what is bound between the two covers into a whole. I don't want politics, fight scene, politics, fight scene, politics, fight fight fight. I am not a fan of the big budget movies because I do not want to watch a three hour fight. I remember all my friends going on and on about how good the second Captain America movie is. So I watched it; and I hated it. In fact hate might be too weak a word for my feelings. All that movie was was one action scene after another. The first Captain America movie was more my style, a period superhero movie with an actual plot. But the thing is, plot is becoming less and less important in this age of spectacle. This is why I have given up on Marvel movies. In fact almost any "blockbuster" movie in general. Mad Max: Fury Road... Mad Eliza: Where's the Plot. Fire Touched felt like it wanted to be a blockbuster movie opening up on the big fight scene that decimated the Cable Bridge. If you think I tune out watching a fight, I tune out even more reading about a fight, because something in me just doesn't care to visualize it. Something in me just doesn't give a damn. I always think of that Eddie Izzard bit when he's talking about car chases in books... it's not that they don't happen, it's that they rarely work.

The redeeming factor of this book is that more mystical aspect of the Fae: Underhill. Underhill is that most interesting of places. This is the only mystery of the book, and that's because the whole place is a mystery, shifting and reshaping itself like a living breathing entity. The journey Mercy, Adam, and Aiden undertake in this realm focuses what was hundreds of pages of politics and pugilism into a story I was interested in. Fae politics are boring, which almost seems impossible given how fascinating the Fae and their world can be given the right writer. This is what the whole book should have been! A journey taken through fairy to mend the rift between the magical and non-magical worlds so that we can move beyond the politics and onto something new. The whole book could have been this epic quest, heck Tolkien got a whole trilogy and then some out of a similar quest. Save the world by journeying through strange lands! The moment I think that this whole series clicked for me was the first time Zee brought Mercy to the reservation and in her coyote form she accidentally slipped into Underhill and was there in that mystical realm. This was a magical moment for me, realizing a had found a new series I loved. For a few minutes I found that initial love again and most of the flaws of this book were forgiven, if not forgotten. Hopefully.


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