Book Review: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
Mercy is back! Mercy is back! Mercy is back!
Clearly, my babbling inner fangirl is dominant at the moment, as I get practically giddy over the return of my favorite urban fantasy heroine and her pack of strong, conflicted, devoted werewolves.
Frost Burned is book #7 in the outstanding Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Fingers crossed — here’s hoping there are many more stories set in Mercy’s world yet to come. Brief spoiler alert: While I won’t give away too much from Frost Burned, from this point forward you may encounter spoilers for some of the earlier books. You have been warned!
For the uninitiated, Mercy Thompson is a talented VW mechanic living in the Tri-Cities region of Washington, who also happens to be a shapeshifter. Thanks to her Native American lineage, Mercy can shift at will into coyote form and has certain other magical predispositions as well. At the outset of the series, Mercy lived in a trailer adjacent to the property of werewolf pack Alpha Adam Hauptmann, which gave Mercy all sorts of childish pleasure as she found new and creative ways to annoy the bejeesus out of Adam.
Flash forward to book #7, and Mercy and Adam are happily married, completely in love, and enjoying life surrounded by their pack and their friends. When Adam and the pack are attacked and kidnapped, Mercy has to use all the power at her disposal and call in some significant favors in order to find the wolves and rescue them before disaster strikes.
That’s the two-second version of the plot, and I won’t go further. If you’re a Mercy fan, you’ll want to read this book at the first possible second. And if you’re not already a Mercy fan — what are you waiting for? Go get book #1 (Moon Called) immediately, and don’t stop reading until you get through Frost Burned!
I don’t often gush so enthusiastically, but I have to say that these books are really special. The characters are unique and unforgettable. By this point in the series, I’m in love with at least half of the pack, and would want the rest at my side in any dark alley imaginable.
What I really love about these books is the wonderful world that Patricia Briggs has built, especially when it comes to creating a fully-formed werewolf social structure. The pack dynamics echo those of wolf packs in the wild. Dominance is a key theme, and each werewolf in Adam’s pack knows exactly where he stands in the pack rankings. There’s a magic involved as well — Adam can call on the strength of the pack when he needs an extra boost, or he can send his power to a wolf who’s in trouble. Likewise, the mate bond between Adam and Mercy isn’t just about love. They have a connection that they can use to reach one another, to strengthen one another, and rather surprisingly, to physically save one another when in danger.
The author’s depictions of dominance struggles among the wolves is fascinating. Even in human form, the pack members know better than to look the Alpha in the eye. When in a crowded or unfamiliar location, it’s difficult for the dominant wolves to relax, as their instinctive need to control their surroundings and protect those packmembers who are weaker can push them toward a violence that always lurks below the surface. As we learn in Frost Burned, even a simple card game used to pass the time can end in bloodshed when two dominant wolves are involved, and it’s a bad idea to get too close to a wounded werewolf, when his aversion to showing vulnerability might just trigger an attack.
Mercy herself is a wonderful hero. She’s physically strong and capable, and even stronger willed. She’s driven to protect her loved ones, even when doing so puts her own life on the line. Mercy dives in and takes action. She never waits to be rescued; she’s the rescuer. Of course, she suffers for it, too — over the course of the series, very bad things have happened to Mercy, and they do leave scars, both emotional and physical. Unlike some lead females in ongoing paranormal series, Mercy doesn’t get bogged down in her beauty routines or other silliness. She works hard, she takes care of her family, she pays attention to her pack… and she pretty much never has a dull moment.
I suppose you could complain that the books are so action-packed that the characters never have a quiet moment to breathe. Well, that’s true, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The plots in the Mercy Thompson books are hyper-fueled by danger, threats, conspiracies, and various and sundry super-scary bad guys. While there are tender, domestic moments built in, I suppose we just have to imagine that in the months that go by in Mercy’s life in between the books in the series, she and Adam and their wolfy gang are able to catch up on their sleep, enjoy their families, go out on runs, and play intense rounds of video games.
By now, I’m sure that it’s clear that I adore the Mercy Thompson series, and I’m wild about the spin-off Alpha & Omega series as well. My chief unhappiness at the moment? Having read the book the absolute second I got my hands on it, I have no more Mercy adventures to read! I understand that at least nine Mercy books are planned, and that #8 is due out in 2014. I don’t want to wait!
Seriously, read these books. You can thank me later.