Friday, January 6, 2023

Book Review 2022 #8 - Patricia Briggs's Soul Taken

Soul Taken by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Everyone in the tri-cities is talking about a new movie that's premiering, The Harvester. The screenwriter is a local and the story is supposedly based on an urban legend he heard as a boy. People are dressing up as the villainous Harvester and going to midnight screenings, but one of these people isn't cosplaying. They're there to kill. And Mercy just happens to stumble on the crime scene. Who knew a late night run to the store would result in a murder investigation? Mercy actually should have learned by now. But faced with the ghosts of the dead she must help them as best she can. As it happens the urban legend might just be about a legendary weapon that exists. A sickle that reaps souls, with the "clever" moniker the Soul Taker. A sickle that her mentor Zee might be willing to kill for because the two of them have a complicated history. And while this is all very disturbing, the fact that the vampire Wulfe has disappeared might be even more terrifying. He's unhinged and missing and his current hobby is following Mercy. And she hasn't seen him in awhile. She's occasionally felt him. She thinks. She might be wrong. She hopes she's wrong. But the only person who could help her is Stefan, the vampire she has a blood link to, and now he's missing. His house is in fact completely empty. Well, not completely. There's a nasty surprise waiting to attack Mercy, but isn't there always? But Stefan is gone, even Marsilia and the Seethe are MIA. Where have all the vampires gone? And does this have anything to do with this evil sickle? As Mercy has learned time and time again, bad things that happen simultaneously are often connected. You might think there might be no possible chance of this being true, but it is. And that happens to be the case here, once again. An old enemy has concocted the most elaborate of plans to enact their revenge. A plan that has the most casualties and puts as many innocent lives on the line as possible. The chaos is an added bonus to disguise their intent and to make Mercy suffer. But as Mercy knows, with Adam at her side she can tackle whatever any enemy throws at her. Hopefully.

I genuinely love each and every Mercy Thompson book. But thirteen books in the action from book to book kind of merges into one long adventure. In the beginning it was easier to separate them because you'd have a vampire-centric book, followed by a fae-centric book, followed by a werewolf-centric book. Now it's a free-for-all with vampires and fairies and goblins and werewolves and what have you in each and every story. I count the tibicena as a what have you. Conversely the Alpha and Omega series is easier to distinguish each volume because they don't all take place in the the same location like Mercy with the tri-cities and vary in quality so drastically. All this is basically stated in an effort for me to point out that the way this series is structured it's hard to write a review for an individual book. What can I say that I haven't said before? I love this series. Each and every new volume is a highlight of my calendar year. I literally do not know what I would do without Mercy or Anna and Charles showing up once a year to share their adventures with me. But this adventure, this one is going down as a favorite. Why? The atmosphere! The tension! The artifact! The humor! The stakes! When people think of werewolves and vampires they tend to think of Halloween, but this is the first story that really leans into this. There's a corn maze, there's murders, there's a sentient sickle, there's an urban legend come to life! So much right there just screams Halloween to me. But the way that Patricia Briggs plays with the humor inherent in horror is what made me just so giddy. The wielder of the Soul Taker, the Harvester, has a big showdown with Mercy, as you'd expect. But this showdown has the staging of Wes Craven. There's terror but there's humor. The Harvester comes across like Ghostface in the the Scream movies when they stumble. Their facade of pure unadulterated terror slips for a second and you see them as human. But then Ghostface's superhuman abilities return and the fight continues. The obvious Scream homages are what made this my favorite book in the series in recent years. It just felt so right. And it didn't hurt that I had recently rewatched all the Scream movies. And while those moments might be my favorite in the entire book, the fact that they save the day and still end on an ominous note was a chef's kiss. As I said before, these books merge, one after the other, and what is coming, that will make the Harvester look like a walk in a corn maze.


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