first of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. It is interesting how certain people view themselves as particular readers. For example, if someone were to ask, “Are you into fantasy at all?” I’d say no. But…I LOVED the Lord of the Rings series and The Hobbit. Okay…so I can’t think of any others right off the top of my head, but this series by P. Briggs came in handy. After a semester teaching African American Literature which, as one can imagine, can be the heaviest literature of all, I needed something light; something that would totally shift my reading feels. This series was the perfect remedy. The chapters are not super short, but the books are regular sized paperbacks that feel low commitment. Beach reads for the young vampire set. The setting remains the same throughout while also keeping a core group of characters whose relationships grow over time. The romance plot evolves across the series and ends well. The Mercy character is a competent, strong and skilled woman; she makes you want to go out and do stuff. She is not a superhero, so she needs the help of her friends and pack from time to time. I sometimes wished she didn’t need the men in her life as much as she did, but this protagonist is likeable and action-oriented.
We open with werewolves in Washington state. The protagonist, Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson, is a skinwalker who can change into a coyote at will. Tony is an undercover cop. We are in a super natural world where werewolves form gangs and the Grey Lords keep the fae (fairy-like magical beings) in line. Mercy is alone as a skinwalker.
Mac is new to the shape shifter world. He and his girlfriend were turned. He was then captured for experiments and he escaped. They called Adam (the alpha of the local wolf pack) for help but someone else has arrived. People are after Mac. His girlfriend and one werewolf have been killed.
Check out this name: Elizaveta Arkadyevna Vyshnevetskaya. She is a crime scene cleaning witch. Mac (whose real name is Alan) needs to be taught, so he is paired with Adam who will take Mac into his pack. Elizaveta comes to clear the crime scene. Adam takes fingerprints from the unknown werewolf intruder.
There is disruption in the wolf pack. Adam is almost killed and his daughter is missing. They killed Mac and dumped him at Mercy’s door. Mercy takes Mac and Adam out of the situation to out-of-town friends.
We learn about some past relationships. When Mercy’s foster mother, Evelyn, died trying to shape shift, her foster father committed suicide a month later. Samuel, the love of Mercy’s life and a werewolf, never loved her but wanted her for breeding. She was sent away before that happened. Nonetheless, Sam had mourned.
“Livin’s easier than dyin’ most times, Mercy girl,” he said kindly, repeating my foster father’s favorite saying. “Dance when the moon sings, and don’t cry about troubles that haven’t yet come.” Adam, Sam and Mercy are headed back to search for Adam’s daughter, Jesse. They discuss what has been going on.
Warren and Kyle are lovers; one werewolf, one not. Sam, Mercy and Adam are back in town but in hiding. They need a lead on Jesse. [Yea for gay werewolves! I’d like to see this on tv.]
Samuel and Mercy are going with Stephen the vampire to speak with the vampire mistress. Does she know of any stray wolves in the area? Can she lead them to Jesse?
The meeting with the vampires is not going well.
[I am usually not interested in fantasy paperbacks, but this series caught my attention due to the covers which feature a young tattooed woman. I was doing tattoo research at the time, so I bought three of the five books later acquiring the last two. I thought maybe the tattoos gave her power or were magical in some way, but they are not. Nonetheless, here is what might be perhaps the only discussion of tattoos in the series:]
“My tattoo?” I asked, and he yipped–a very bassy yip. Just below my naval I had a pawprint. He must have seen it while I was scrambling into my clothes. I have a couple on my arms, too.
“Karen, my college roommate, was an art major. She earned her spending money giving people tattoos. I helped her pass her chemistry class, and she offered to give me one for free.”
I’d spend the previous two years living with my mother and pretending to be perfect, afraid that if I weren’t, I’d lose my place in my second home as abruptly as I had the first. It would never have occurred to me to do something as outrageous as getting a tattoo.
My mother still blames Karen for my switching my major from engineering to history–which makes her directly responsible for my current occupation, fixing old cars. My mother is probably right, but I am much happier as I am than I would have been as a mechanical engineer.
“She handed me a book of tattoos that she had done and about halfway through was a guy who’d had wolf tracks tattooed across his back from one hip to the opposite shoulder. I wanted something smaller, so we settled on a single pawprint.”
My mother and her family had known what I was, but they’d asked no questions, and I’d hidden my coyote self from them, becoming someone who fit their lives better. It had been my own choice. Coyotes are very adaptable.
I remember staring at the man’s back and understanding that, although I must hide from everyone else, I could not hide from myself anymore. So I had Karen put the tattoo on the center of my body, where I could protect my secret and it could keep me whole. I’d finally started to enjoy being who I was instead of wishing that I were a werewolf or human so I’d fit in better.
“It’s a coyote pawprint,” I said firmly. “Not a wolf’s.” [end]
Sam and Mercy flirt all the way home.
Bran (the werewolf king) and Mercy begin to consider David Christiansen as a suspect.
Bran wants to bring the werewolves public. The witches and Gerry’s lone wolves are against the idea. They’ve got Adam drugged and are holding his daughter.
The team has moved inside to save Adam and Jesse.
Who was behind all this and how were the loose ends tied? Read the last two chapters to find out!