Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review - Patricia Briggs' River Marked

River Marked (Mercy Thompson Book 6) by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: March 1st 2011
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Challenge: Shifter Challenge 2011
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
Mercy Thompson has been tricked. She's been fooled into believing that a shot gun wedding to Adam was her own idea. But her mother and Adam's daughter are far more cunning then she gave them credit for. She should have known better. On the bright side, everything turned out better than she could have expected and her and Adam get to sneak away to a campground on the Columbia River in a gorgeous new RV. As soon as she learned that the RV was lent to them by a fairy and that the state of the art campground was owned by a fairy, her and Adam should have turned right around back to the Tri-Cities. Fairies don't just do favors. They always expect something in return. Sure enough, turns out something evil is lurking in the waters. It soon marks Mercy's leg, and the idyllic honeymoon turns into something entirely different. It becomes a struggle to survive and save lives.

Mercy has grown to accept that her life will be full of danger and death, but this outing offers something more. Answers. The local tribe of Native Americans throws in their lot with Mercy to avenge the death of one of their own and to make the river safe once more. Among them, yet apart, Coyote appears. As in THE Coyote. He has answers, if he chooses to share them that is. He sheds light on Mercy's past and the father she never knew. He also provides some help with a certain walking stick that is inordinately fond of showing up in random places, not always trying to trip Mercy, but usually succeeding none the less. For a piece of wood it is very helpful. With Mercy and Adam trying to save the innocent as well as each other, this is going to be Mercy's toughest battle yet. Without a pack, without knowledge of those whom she must trust, with magic she never knew she possessed, a very magical fake Stonehenge and some nasty otters, her goodbye letter to Adam might end up being read this time.

With a long running series you always run the risk of it going stale. Look at Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. The most recent book in her series lacked a plot, I think mainly due to the fact she has reached an unwieldy number of characters that everyone cares about and that must be included. That's a sarcastic must by the way. Catching up with everyone took up all 300 some pages with nary a hint of plot. Charlaine needs to break the mold, do something different and escape all her characters that are controlling her narrative. Charlaine, look to Patricia Briggs. Patricia Briggs did just that in River Marked. Briggs took Mercy and Adam away from the pack and into unfamiliar territory. Not only did this allow us to see how the couple actually function as a couple, but it allowed a breather from pack politics and vampire machinations. Charlaine, take note! That little scene with Stefan, we got caught up with him and then moved on to a story with structure, we didn't spend an entire book dealing with Stefan's depression and worsening state that resulted from his maker's betrayal.

What else made this novel work for me? Well, we finally had some answers! Mercy was able to find out more about her powers and what she is capable of. She's been in desperate need of a "How to be a Shifter" guide for awhile, and Coyote got to be that guide. The evil that was faced, while yes, it did tie into the fae, it wasn't solely fae, it was something else. Her books tend to be vampire/fairy/vampire/fairy, alternating the menace from book to book. It's a little nice to say, evil river demon isn't it? Such a refreshing new evil. I really have fallen for this series, and that walking stick, and I felt that this was an enjoyable quick read, yes, I did ignore homework, which is a rarity for me. River Marked also provided breathing space for character development without a pack breathing down our neck. Briggs has an innate ability to let her characters grow and change naturally. We have seen the bond between Mercy and Adam grow, we have read along with all Mercy's exploits, and I have to say, if Briggs keeps this up and is able to keep these characters real and the stories fresh, I'll be reading it for a long time to come.


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