A review of Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3), by Patricia Briggs

READ NOVEMBER 2013

ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: I could smell her fear, and it satisfied something deep inside me that had been writhing under her cool, superior gaze. I curled my upper lip so she could get a good look at my sharp teeth. I might only weigh thirty or so pounds in my coyote shape, but I was a predator…

Mechanic Mercy Thompson can shift her shape – but not her loyalty. When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it’s up to Mercy to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not.

Mercy’s loyalty is under pressure from other directions, too. Werewolves are not known for their patience, and if Mercy can’t decide between the two she cares for, Sam and Adam may make the choice for her..

MY REVIEW: I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, but book three is by far my favorite, so far. Briggs’ does a fantastic (pun intended) job blending the paranormal plot with more personal, character-driven elements. Sure, I love an exciting, suspenseful story, and you’d better believe, this is one, but, really, I read for character. Not only is the character development awesome but Briggs really helps you identify with her protagonist: when Mercy laughs, you laugh, when she’s pissed, so are you, when she’s in pain, you wonder how you/she will get through it all. I can’t think of the last time I got so wrapped up in a character.

I mean, what’s not to like? Mercy is smart, headstrong, loyal, compassionate, funny (with some serious snark), and fiercely independent. She has a degree in history, but works as a VW mechanic — how cool is that? — and, in an setting where there are some seriously deadly vamps, some grisly fae whom you’d never mistakenly call “fairies” and a good-sized pack of werewolves, our heroine shifts into a freakin’ coyote. Yep, or maybe yip, but she proves that size really doesn’t matter, or maybe the hoary “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight…” Does she sometimes bite off more than she can chew? — sorry ’bout that — Yeah, and she gets her tail pulled out of the fire once by the wolves and once by her fae friend Zee. Does this make her weak? Hell, no! The ancient fae baddie she faces clearly outclasses her in power and the magnitude of his magic — even the wolves can’t vanquish him, just subdue him for a while — but, at the conclusion, Mercy tries to take him on all the same.

Technically, I’ve never had the slightest quibble with Briggs’ prose. I’ve read several books of late where the story-telling is great, but the writing — well, to be honest, it kinda sucks. That’s definitely not the case with Briggs. In addition, the plot here is imaginative, and the pacing just right in its alternation of personal elements with the paranormal plot. There’s plenty of suspense, even an OMFG! moment or two, and genuine pathos which never threatens to descend to the level of mawkishness. The characters are well-drawn: I mentioned Mercy’s character earlier: Not only does the character development make us cheer for her and cry for her, but it also contributes a great deal to the novel’s realism and its complexity.

There are plenty of books where some of the supernatural characters are mostly caricatures, the vamps all fang-y and little else, wolves pretty much just “grrr,” etc. Not only are Brigg’s characters well fleshed-out, but the wolf pack dynamics add an extremely interesting side element, further enriching the story. I also like the way she presents the fae, which, in some novels are a little too goody-goody. Here, they have ethical standards, but very, very much on their own terms.  Iron Kissed is a great mix of plot-driven (or action-driven) and character-driven, and Brigg’s proves she’s skilled at each style.

The final few chapters are, frankly, amazing, a word I seldom use, making you want to kill and weep at the same time. You ache for Mercy when she’s down (and really hate the psycho SOB that put her there), you cheer at her resilience, and you admire her compassion, in view of all she’s gone through.

There’s some romance, an element I can generally take or leave. Here, though, it’s an important part of the story, as, for the good of the pack, Mercy must choose between two potential mates. It’s in no way intrusive, and it helps us learn more about Mercy’s character; it’s not romance for the sake of romance. Hopefully, the series will continue in this vein, where the romance doesn’t grow at the expense of other aspects of the story.

So, terrific, characters, especially the principal, interesting plot, intriguing depictions of the wolves and the fae, crisp suspenseful writing, a soupçon of nicely handled romance. Conclusion: A highly recommended read.

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