Monday, November 23, 2009

Bone Crossed (book) by Patricia Briggs

This is not the best of the Mercedes Thompson books, but it's still a good series. Currently, Patricia Briggs in one of the few authors whose books I still buy - everyone else's books I get via ILL, thereby allowing me to spend my money on anime and the occasional few volumes of manga. If I read a book good enough that I find myself wanting to request it again, I put it on my "to buy" list. Even Briggs's "worst" books have been good enough that I just buy them as they come out.

As usual, my synopsis is long and probably gives more detail than those who haven't read the book would want to know. Even so, it still doesn't include everything. If you'd like, you can just skip it and go to the commentary or read-alikes.


In the previous book, Mercy was raped at the end. She's still trying to overcome the trauma of that in this one - she has agreed to be Adam's mate, but she's still too emotionally damaged for sex. Adam is patient, however - he's just happy that she's agreed to be his mate, he can wait for the rest later. Mercy isn't entirely sure of the effect this will have on her life (will she live with Adam or not?) or on Samuel (if she moves out, who will keep Samuel's fragile emotional state intact?).

Unfortunately, Mercy doesn't have the luxury of just focusing on healing. Marsilia, the head of the local vampires, has found out that she and Stefan killed one of her people (in Blood Bound, I believe) - she's tortured Stefan, killed his people (his food), and sent him to Mercy's house to kill her (he's so thirsty for blood that he'd risk draining anyone dry he drank from). Luckily, Mercy has a few werewolves with her. Instead of killing Mercy, as Marsilia likely intended, Stefan drinks from a few werewolves.

Aside from just being plain terrible, one awful aspect of the rape is that everyone in the nation has seen the tape of her being raped (side note: wouldn't that cause all kinds of ethical and legal problems for the stations that aired it?). Amber, an old acquaintance of Mercy's from her college days, comes knocking at her door, saying, "sorry you were raped" and asking for help with a ghost. When things start to get uncomfortably dangerous in her own area because of the vampires (they put a warning on the door of her garage and almost get one of Adam's werewolves killed), Mercy decides to leave town for a bit with Stefan and investigate Amber's ghost. She's not able to do much - all she manages to do is convince Amber's husband that their deaf son isn't just acting up and that there really is a ghost. Mercy's presence seems to make the ghost worse (it tries to hurt Chad, the son), so she and Stefan leave again. She's still worried, however, because Amber has worse problems than a ghost, problems Mercy can't tell her about. Amber has been food for a vampire named Blackwood for a long time, and that vampire had been snacking on Mercy as well while she stayed at Amber's house. In order to break Blackwood's hold on her, Mercy exchanges blood with Stefan.

Adam is relieved she's tied to Stefan and not Blackwood, but Samuel doesn't think either option was a good one - he thinks (and so does Stefan, actually) that Mercy trusts Stefan more than she should, considering that he's a vampire. Anyway, while Mercy was gone, the werewolves tried to negotiate with Marsilia. With the help of the horrible "truth chair," Marsilia finds out which of her vampires were the least loyal towards her - it is discovered that Stefan, despite his part in killing that one vampire, is loyal to Marsilia to a fault. He will not betray her, even though she has killed his people. It is painful to him, however, that he was tortured and his people killed just so that Marsilia could discover who among her people meant her harm.

Mercy ends up getting kidnapped by Chad's dad - it turns out Blackwood is holding Chad hostage. Unfortunately, Amber is dead, sort of - her body is dead and rotting, but it's still moving around. The remnants of her soul are sticking around in an attempt to keep Chad safe, even though she can't do anything contrary to Blackwood's wishes. Blackwood, it seems, has the ability to take on the power of whoever/whatever he drinks, and he wants Mercy's abilities. With the help of an oakman, who's been held captive by Blackwood for ages, and Stefan, who manages to find her, Mercy gets Chad to safety and kills Blackwood and, possibly, one of the dangerous ghosts who stays near him.


I think I'll start this off by writing about Mercy. I was wondering how Briggs would deal with the events that ended the previous book. Mercy came off as more than a bit fragile, which makes sense but was a little hard for me to read. I hate it when characters I like have something really bad happen to them - I'm too emotionally attached, I guess. On the plus side, although Mercy wasn't completely better by the end of the book, she's wasn't hopelessly damaged and showed signs of healing. She slept with Adam, for one thing, so the rape didn't completely screw things up between the two of them. On the minus side, Mercy kept doing stupid things, and her situation kept getting worse. I'm not sure what she could have done instead at certain points, but there are things (like tying herself to Stefan) that I don't think she thought out well enough. I don't know if her fragility made stupid decisions (or maybe it would be better to say "badly thought out decisions"?) more likely, but it seems possible.

Since I just mentioned the whole "tying herself to Stefan" thing, I'll say this, too: I totally didn't expect Adam to react as well to that as he did. I mean, Mercy only recently agreed to be his mate, so their relationship was still on shaky ground - by tying herself to Stefan, it seemed to me that she just put their relationship on even shakier ground. Mercy and Adam should have been aware of this, since they both also knew that Stefan had the hots for Mercy, and yet the only one who thought the whole thing was a mistake is Samuel.

I also wasn't really expecting Adam's pack to react so badly to Mercy being declared as Adam's mate. They had a pretty long time to get used to the idea, since Adam had been pursuing her for a while before things became more official, but I guess it was the "more official" part that really stirred things up. Even though her being a coyote (as a skinwalker, Mercy can change into a coyote) gets some pack members' backs up, I think Adam is probably better off with her than a regular human. A regular human would probably be dead by now - although, admittedly, a regular human probably wouldn't attract as much supernatural baddie attention as Mercy does. Oh, by the way, I cheered at the bit where Mercy finally held her own against those who didn't approve of her being Adam's mate. Go, Mercy!

As far as minor characters go, I liked Chad. Some authors write their child characters in ways that make them annoying and/or overly cute, but Briggs thankfully didn't do that with Chad. His being deaf added some interesting complications, since Mercy didn't know sign language and Chad's father didn't quite know how to handle him. I wonder if Chad's father would have been more likely to believe him about the ghosts if Chad hadn't been deaf. Anyway, even though he'll be massively messed up, I kind of hope Chad will show up in a future book. It'd be nice to see how he's doing.

Which leads me to Chad's mother. Ick. The bits with her near the end of the book made me feel a bit queasy - despite all the zombie books I've read recently (and the zombies in my NaNoWriMo novel), I'm really not that good with the idea of walking, talking, rotting corpses. I think what really put me off is that Amber didn't really realize she was dead. She followed Blackwood's orders because she had to, and some leftover part of her tried to protect her son, but everything she said and did was disturbingly "off". Usually, the zombies in books I've read or movies I've seen are more dead than Amber was. They not "off", they're just dead and still moving around, if that distinction makes any sense. It's disgusting, but less disturbing. Laurell K. Hamilton's books occasionally had zombies that were, like Amber, more alive, but that didn't disturb me as much as Amber, either. I think maybe it's because I didn't get to read about the zombies in LKH's books as they were before they became zombies. Or maybe it's because I didn't have to read about them in multiple scenes, as they slowly rotted more and more - LKH's Anita Blake can keep her zombies as "fresh" as she wants, and individual zombies are rarely around for long.

Basically, even though I have a fairly high tolerance for "ick" in books, there are still certain things that have the power to scar my brain. Amber was one of those things. Amber will probably make me shudder for quite some time. Amber, porcelin dolls, and moving spinal cords with heads attached (thank you, Kelley Armstrong, for also adding to my list of "things that have scarred my brain" - eww).

I'll wrap this up with vampires. I can't believe Mercy (even with help) managed to kill off Blackwood. He was wickedly powerful, after all. It kind of surprised me that he hadn't attracted the attention of even more powerful vampires. Briggs's vampires don't want humans finding out they exist, since their very existence would generate bad PR - even vampires like Stefan, who could potentially be painted as "good," keep humans for food. Vampires like Blackwood not only make all chances of future good PR go up in smoke, they increase the likelihood that vampires' existence will be made public. You'd think some other powerful vampire would kill him for the benefit of vampires as a whole.

Finishing up my vampire comments in particular and my commentary as a whole, I must mention Marsilia. I really hope she dies soon, although I'm sure that her death will only lead to an influx of more bad guys - that's just the way these things work. Sure, Marsilia didn't really kill Stefan's people, but she made him think she did, which is nearly as bad. When someone mistreats their own allies, you know that their death can't (and shouldn't) be far 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. 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 is the case with similar books, several gorgeous guys are interested in Cassie. Unfortunately for her, these guys are generally untrustworthy.
  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - Once again, this is the first book in a series set in a world where the things that go bump in the night have recently revealed themselves to the world at large. Before American law gave vampires, werewolves, and other beings the same rights as humans, Anita Blake was a vampire hunter. Now she's a vampire executioner, in addition to her full-time job as an animator (raiser of the dead). Like Bone Crossed, this is a fast-paced book with a strong, competent female lead who's surrounded by dangerous beings. In this first book, we meet Jean-Claude, a vampire who is one of the many people throughout the series who will be competing for Anita's affection. The various supernatural societies in this series all have their own politics and culture, and the cast of characters is usually fun and interesting. The early books feel a lot like paranormal mysteries with a hint of romance. Be warned, though - at around book 10 or so, the tone of the series changes drastically, Anita becomes darker and harder, and the sex scenes become way more graphic and time-consuming, leaving little room for the mysteries that were part of the early appeal of the series. Those who particularly liked Bone Crossed's super-creepy zombie Amber might want to try the second book in the series, The Laughing Corpse, which focuses more on zombies than the first book.
  • Bitten (book) by Kelley Armstrong - Elena became a werewolf after the man she loved betrayed her (that's how she sees it, although it's not what he intended) and bit her while in wolf form - she had no idea what he was and never chose to become a werewolf. She leaves her pack as soon as she is able and begins as normal a life as she can in Toronto. Elena agrees to help her former pack members hunt down mutts (non-pack werewolves) who are leaving a conspicuous trail of carnage - humans don't know about werewolves, and they want to keep it that way. Unfortunately, Elena has to deal with her former lover (the werewolf who bit her) and finds herself drawn to him again. Those who'd like another book with a similar "feel" that features werewolves, a bit of romantic tension, and danger might want to try this. Other books in the series include witches, vampire, half-demons, and more.

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