River Marked, book six in the Mercy Thompson series by the recently-seen Patricia Briggs, arrived a day before the drop date, with the typical garish cover. I did my little happy dance and settled in to read... it all in one sitting.
River Marked started with Mercy confronting the pining and moping vampire Stefan about his neglect of his kept humans. It then zoomed instantly into the chaos and confusion of Mercy's now-inevitable marriage to Adam Hauptman, alpha werewolf of the Columbia Basin pack. With Anna and Charles Cornick's wedding as the only previous example (in the interlaced Alpha and Omega series), I was pleased to read Briggs following that model once again. Despite possible foreshadowing, neither gangsters nor banshee showed up at the wedding. The worst thing was the now-typical Mercy in a huff over other people getting the better of her.
After all the fol-der-ol, Mercy and Adam departed on their honeymoon to a riverside campground, and thus the real plot started. Briggs used the age-old idea (which she has used twice before) that changing the scenery can often spice up both the plot and the people. She hasn't been wrong so far, and she was not wrong this time either. This was a vivid river side location, an incredibly real set of monsters, and a colorful cast. Briggs discarded all of the usual main cast of characters (except for Mercy and Adam) and picked up an entirely new set of locals... and gods.
And there's the rub. While Briggs spent her previous books building fictional worlds around gods and beliefs which are very much at the fringe, this time she set her authorial feet squarely inside of the Native American pantheon. And it went squish. Her gods were neither powerful enough nor... engaged enough?... to stand as gods, but they were too powerful to stand as men. So I ended up teetering on the edge of suspension of disbelief, unwilling to commit my full weight behind the story.
The story itself was a solid, action-packed, twists-and-turns plot that was very much in the Briggs style. She did not waste a paragraph of space. Every sentence was dedicated to building the scene, the mood, or the action. She mixed up the action with dialog, and split introspection with well paced mood changes that allowed Mercy and Adam to enjoy their honeymoon time without this turning into a Hot! Werewolf! Romance! that would have been a real departure from the mood. Briggs's callbacks to previous books were sprinkled throughout the book, and allowed me to nod along without needing to race over to the shelf to check any details about the walking stick, or Yo-Yo girl, for example. There was a moment of action that allowed Darryl to check in, and another one when Jessie's phone call to her father broke the mood, reminding me that there was still the rest of the pack out there without Adam specifically saying anything about them.
I sincerely appreciate that Briggs has never subscribed Mercy to Power of the Month club. Mercy's talents have grown up slowly and naturally over time, and in this book I'm pleased to say that there were no sparkling new magic tricks to be had by her, or by Adam for that matter. The two of them continued to verbally spar over protecting each other, and then to stand together against all outsiders. Unfortunately, the knowledge that they gained from the visiting gods felt a little too contrived for my taste, and I think I would have rather not known.
All in all, it was a strong action book with a soft section where the magic layer was laid down. Depending on how a reader feels about Native American religion may influence where they rank this one on the shelves. If you are a strong follower of the Coyote myths, I would recommend a second look at Urban Shaman, by C.E. Murphy, before a first read of this book. If that doesn't bother you, then dive right in. I enjoyed River Marked, and think that the relationship development between Adam and Mercy was worth the time all by itself. And for those who are fond of Mercy's mother, there is one laugh-out-loud moment when Mercy threatens to call her mom...
-- New-to-me books read in 2011 (as opposed to re-reads) --
Little Dee vol 2
Little Dee vol 3
The Black Stallion (yes, I know, I should have read it with Black Beauty)
Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard's Name, with a pre-finished commentary here
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Fang Bangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love
Must Love Hellhounds
Dark and Stormy Knights
Tortall and Other Lands
River Marked (2/28 - it arrived a day early)
Questionable Content, vol 1
-- Books abandoned rather than completed in 2011 --
Sing the Four Quarters, by Tanya Huff
-- Books Still in Progress --
These are books that I haven't totally given up on, I've just... put them aside... for now. And gee, look at how many of them are non-fiction!
The Brand Within
If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails
Swords and Dark Magic