Saturday, September 6, 2008

Iron Kissed (book) by Patricia Briggs

Mercedes Thompson, mechanic and walker (someone who can see ghosts and change into a coyote at will, but who is otherwise human), became indebted to one of the fae in a previous book, and that debt gets called in now. Someone has killed several members of the fae inside one of their own reservations. They're having trouble figuring out who the killer is, but they don't want to alert the human authorities - things are tense enough between humans and the fae. They're hopeful that Mercy's sensitive nose can identify the killer, preferably without her finding out more about the fae and their secrets than is good for her.

Before Mercy can confirm the identity of the killer, Zee, her boss and a rare iron kissed fae (he can touch iron without pain), is taken in by the police and accused of killing the most likely suspect in the murders. Against Zee's wishes, Mercy continues to investigate the fae killings, tries to clear Zee, and risks angering the Gray Lords (the very powerful and dangerous leaders of the fae). While all of this is going on, Mercy is also dealing with serious relationship issues. She is finally forced to choose between the two main men in her life, Samuel and Adam (both of whom are werewolves).

I'll start this off by talking about the relationships aspect of this book. Patricia Briggs is one of many current authors writing a vampire/werewolf series starring a female character with several men in her life, and I'm thrilled that Briggs actually had Mercy make a choice. Although I knew it was going to be a difficult decision for Mercy, I already had a good idea of who she might choose. Even though one of the men made it easier on her by admitting that he already considered himself out of the running, Mercy didn't find that out until after she'd done some soul-searching and settled upon a decision. Some might think that Briggs kind of took the easy way out by having one of the men back out, but, just as I'm glad that she made Mercy choose, I'm also glad that Mercy's choice didn't tear apart any friendships - I can't help it, I like both the men, even though they both have their aggravating moments. It's a nicely done "have your cake and eat it, too" situation.

As far as the "who's killing the fae and who really murdered the suspect?" part of the book goes, I'll admit that I occasionally lost track of what was going on. Mercy didn't exactly have a lot of information to go on, and whenever she tried to do some serious investigating other things would get in the way, someone would tell her to drop the whole thing, or someone would try to kill her. When the killer was finally revealed, it was a big surprise to me (but that's not saying much, because I'm often unable to correctly guess who the killers are in books).

I might've considered this something of a ho-hum book if it hadn't been for Mercy finally deciding between Adam and Samuel and the book's ending. I'll say right now that, in order to talk about the ending, I've necessarily got to give some things away, but I'll try not to give it all away (I don't know why I'm being so careful about spoilers when I've got posts that spoil everything about some of the books I've read, but there you are). Basically, near the end of the book Mercy gets raped in such a way that both her body and mind respond willingly (magic is involved, because there's no way she would have been willing otherwise). The rape isn't described in much detail - for me, it's the stuff before and after the rape that's the most horrific and heart-breaking. Mercy is such a strong-willed character that it was painful to read about her will and her choices being taken away. After the rape, Mercy's spirit is crushed so badly that she's sure she'll never be loved. However, rather than ending in a completely depressing way, Mercy gradually begins to heal emotionally and I think the process helps her and the werewolf she's chosen for herself grow closer.

It may be that my feelings about the book's ending are coloring my feelings about the entire book, but I really enjoyed this book, the third in Briggs' Mercedes Thompson series. I can't wait to read more. Before I list read-alikes, however, I'd just like to mention one nit-picky little thing that kind of bothered me: I'd have to look this up to be sure, but I could've sworn that Mercy called herself a skinwalker in the previous books. In this book, however, she makes it clear that she's a walker, not a skinwalker, and lists the reasons why this is so. Maybe I'm wrong, and she's always called herself a walker, but that bit still stuck in my brain as something that felt a little off.

  • Urban Shaman (book) by C. E. Murphy - This is the first book in the Walker Papers series. This book features another strong, somewhat supernatural main female character who also happens to be a mechanic. In a jarringly short amount of time, Joanne Walker makes a new friend, discovers she has shamanic powers (including the ability to heal herself by imagining she's fixing herself in the same way she might a car), and finds out she has to use those new shamanic powers to save the world from the Wild Hunt. The only help she's got in trying to figure things out is a cryptic coyote who shows up in her dreams. Like Mercy, Joanne is a competent woman who's in over her head a lot of times. There's a little less in the way of romantic subplots in this book and in the series in general than there is in the Mercedes Thompson books, although there are indications of a potential romance between Joanne and her boss (I can't remember how strongly it comes through in this book, but I do know it shows up in later books).
  • Tempting Danger (book) by Eileen Wilks - This is also the first book in a series. Lily Yu is a cop who's trying to figure out who's going around killing people in gruesome ways. It looks like werewolves might be involved, and maybe even the prince of the Nokolai clan, Rule Turner. This is especially unfortunate, because Lily and Rule have suddenly discovered that they are mates - the result is a compulsion to be near each other, and it'll look really bad if someone finds out Lily's having sex with the prime suspect. As in the Mercedes Thompson series, werewolves have only recently revealed their existence to humankind, and things are still a little tense. Lily, like Mercy, is a strong, competent female character who manages to use her own skills to accomplish things, despite being physically outclassed by supernatural beings like Rule. If you're not up to trying an entire novel by a new author, this series actually grew out of a short story featured in the anthology Lover Beware. Consider the story a different version of how Lily and Rule met and came to terms with each other - Lily is still the same basic character in the story and the novel (a strong, competent woman whose family is important to her), but Rule in the story is a somewhat different man from Rule in the book.
  • Dead Until Dark (book) by Charlaine Harris - This is the first book in Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie is a telepathic barmaid. Most of the people in her small Southern town know about her special abilities, but most people can also forget about it a bit because Sookie makes an effort to either not read people or not show that she's read someone. It's an exhausting life, however. Before the beginning of this book, vampires revealed their existence to the world, and in this book Sookie discovers something she thinks is wonderful - it's very hard, if not impossible, for her to read the thoughts of most vampires. Soon, Sookie is dating a vampire, but, unfortunately, being around him gets her involved in more danger than she's ever experienced before. Those who'd like another story featuring supernatural beings (shapeshifters, various were-animals, vampires, fairies, etc.), the occasional murder, and a main female character with supernatural powers who's in a little over her head might like this book and series. As an added bonus, several male characters are interested in Sookie.
  • Touch the Dark (book) by Karen Chance - This is the first book in Chance's Cassandra Palmer series. Cassie is a gifted clairvoyant whose entire life since she was a little girl has been controlled by vampires. Three years ago, she managed to run away from the vampires who both raised her and had a part in her parents' deaths, and she's been in hiding ever since. Now the vampires are closing in, and Cassie learns that the mages are after her as well. Cassie has to figure out who she can trust, stay alive, and figure out why so many people want to kill her. Those who'd like something else with supernatural beings (vampires, mages, etc.), magic, and a main female character with supernatural abilities who's in a over her head might like this book and series. As an added bonus, several gorgeous guys are interested in Cassie - unfortunately, none of them have proven themselves very trustworthy yet.

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