Book Review: Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson, #12) by Patricia Briggs

Title: Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson, #12)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mercy Thompson, car mechanic and shapeshifter, faces a threat unlike any other in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

I am Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman.

My only “superpowers” are that I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote and fix Volkswagens. But I have friends in odd places and a pack of werewolves at my back. It looks like I’m going to need them.

Centuries ago, the fae dwelt in Underhill–until she locked her doors against them. They left behind their great castles and troves of magical artifacts. They abandoned their prisoners and their pets. Without the fae to mind them, those creatures who remained behind roamed freely through Underhill wreaking havoc. Only the deadliest survived.

Now one of those prisoners has escaped. It can look like anyone, any creature it chooses. But if it bites you, it controls you. It lives for chaos and destruction. It can make you do anything–even kill the person you love the most. Now it is here, in the Tri-Cities. In my territory.

It won’t, can’t, remain.

Not if I have anything to say about it.

A new Mercy book is always cause for celebration! Twelve books in, the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series is still going strong. Long may Mercy reign!

Mercy, our favorite VW mechanic and mate of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack Alpha, is tough, strong, determined, loyal… and also easily hurt by anything that damages the bond between her and Adam.

And, in a move that absolutely broke my heart, author Patricia Briggs kicks off this newest adventure in the series by letting us know that something is very, very wrong with Mercy and Adam’s mate bond. He’s holding himself apart from Mercy, and it’s tearing her heart to pieces.

But there’s other trouble as well. A dangerous new enemy is taking over people’s minds and making them do terrible things. A group of outsider wolves are trying to invade Adam’s territory. And the scary vampire Wulfe seems to be newly obsessed with Mercy.

In typical Mercy fashion, she never backs down when her loved ones are in danger, and she throws herself into the fight against everything threatening her marriage, her friends, and her pack.

I won’t say too much about the plot, but I loved the answer to the riddles about the bad guy’s identity, and I was thrilled when a certain magical artifact makes an appearance after being gone for a while.

I tend to give all Mercy books 5 stars because I just love this series so much! But, relative to some of the other books in the series, I’d put Smoke Bitten as maybe a smidge less earth-shaking, so I’m being a little stingy here and only going with 4.5! Still a great book, but not quite the best of the best!

As I said, a new Mercy book is always cause for celebration… but also sadness, because now that I’ve read the newest, it’ll be another year of waiting for the next installment.

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading this series yet, jump in! I love the characters, the world-building, the relationships… just really everything. Mercy is an amazing lead character — you’ll love her too!

Book Review: The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air, #1) by Holly Black

Title: The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air, #1)
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: January 2, 2018
Length: 370 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. 

The Cruel Prince is a book that practically everyone but me had already read. But now…

I’m in! I finally read The Cruel Prince, and I can see what all the fuss is about. Call me late to the party, but guys! This book is good!

The book starts off with a horrifying, sad scene: In a normal suburban home, 7-year-old twin sisters Taryn and Jude and their older sister Vivi are lounging about watching TV, when a strange man enters, murders their parents, and steals them away. The man is Madoc, and he is Vivi’s biological father. The mother of the three girls used to dwell in Faerie with him, but she ran off years earlier with the mortal man who became the twins’ father. Now, years later, Madoc has taken what he considers his.

The girls are brought to Faerie and raised among the fae gentry. Vivi, half-fae herself, fits in pretty well, but the twins are always aware of how other they are. They’re mortal, and have no powers. Even worse, they have no innate ability to fight off the magical compulsions and other torments directed at them by their fae classmates.

As the story kicks in, Jude and Taryn are seventeen, still trying to find a way to belong. Madoc has raised them with riches and privilege, but they can never forget that he murdered their parents. Jude wants strength — she wants to prove she belongs in the fae court by becoming a knight. Taryn, on the other hand, wants to secure her place through marriage. And Vivi? She, the one who should belong, wants no part of it at all, instead preferring to sneak back to the human world whenever she can to see her mortal girlfriend and plan a future with her.

Jude and Taryn are constantly tormented by their classmates, especially Prince Cardan and his cronies. But when the king decides to step down and pass along the crown, the intrigue and the danger escalates.

I’m not going to go further into the plot, but let me just say… I was hooked! I could not put this book down once I started. I loved the depiction of Faerie, its beauty and wonders, and how utterly alien and hostile this world would feel to children who didn’t belong.

The casual cruelty of the ruling class is scary and heartless, and I felt awful for Taryn and Jude for having no defenses and no way to stand up for themselves in any meaningful way. And even when some of the crowd appear to be more inclined to be friendly, it seems obvious that no one can be trusted.

Jude is our hero, and she’s awesome. She’s smart and brave, and refuses to scrape and bow, even when that’s the most obvious way to get the bullies off her back. She’s devoted to protecting her family, and doesn’t take the easy way out. I like how she goes through the book having to figure who to trust, and even when forced into pretty bad situations, how to turn those situations to her advantage and achieve her goals.

I definitely want more! I’m really looking forward to reading book #2, and feel pretty safe in predicting that I’ll want to read straight through to the end of the trilogy!

**Save

I also really enjoyed The Lost Sisters, a novella that tells about some of the same events from The Cruel Prince, but from Taryn’s perspective.

It’s really interesting to get the other side of parts of the story, and I’m glad I stumbled across it!

And now, on to The Wicked King!Save

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Shelf Control #188: Firebird by Mercedes Lackey

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Firebird
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Published: 1996
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In Mercedes Lackey’s Firebird, Ilya, son of a Russian prince, is largely ignored by his father and tormented by his larger, older brothers. His only friends are three old people: a priest, a magician, and a woman who toils in the palace dairy. From them Ilya learns faith, a smattering of magic, and the power of love–all of which he will need desperately, for his life is about to be turned upside-down.

The prince’s magnificent cherry orchard is visited at midnight by the legendary Firebird, whose wings are made of flame. Ilya’s brothers’ attempts to capture the magical creature fail. When Ilya tries to catch the Firebird, he sees her as a beautiful woman and earns a magical gift: the speech of animals.

Banished, the young man journeys through a fantastical Russia full of magical mazes, enchanted creatures, and untold dangers. As happens in the best fairy tales, Ilya falls in love with an enchanted princess, but to win her freedom will be no easy task.

How and when I got it:

Yet another find at a library book sale! No idea when — but probably in the last two years at some point.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve never read anything by Mercedes Lackey, and I know I should! She’s one of those authors whose books I’ve been wanting to read, yet there are so many that I never know where to start. Any suggestions? I grabbed Firebird when I saw it, and I do think it sounds great — but as someone new to this author, I wonder if this is representative of her works, or if there’s a different book (or set of books) that I should try first. Any recommendations?

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Character obsession: Three cheers for Patreon, Seanan McGuire, and Tybalt, King of Cats

As I’ve probably mentioned once or twice or a thousand times, I’m head over heels in love with the fantasy world of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. And among the rich assortment of amazing characters, one who truly stands out is Tybalt, King of the Cait Sidhe, ruler of the Court of Dreaming Cats (of San Francisco), formerly King of the Court of Fogbound Cats (of London).

This week, I indulged in a glorious Tybalt-fest, and it was SO MUCH FUN. First I re-read two stories about Tybalt’s origins:

In Rat-Catcher, we learn about Tybalt’s youth as a Prince of the Cait Sidhe, when his name was Rand. In order to evade notice by his sadistic adopted father, he hid out in the Elizabethan-era theaters of London and played the foolish fop when forced to be at court. Eventually, Tybalt is forced to challenge his father and assume the throne, but it’s never an easy fit for him. We see his early days as king in Forbid the Sea, when a brief break from London enmeshes him in a romantic affair with someone in hiding from a very different fae family.

The stories are available to read online: Rat-Catcher can be found here, and Forbid the Sea is available for download from the author’s website, here.

As good as these stories are, I’d read them already. The true joy for me was reading nine (NINE!!!) Tybalt stories via Patreon… And for those not familiar, Patreon is a platform where artists can offer their works to subscribers for a sponsorship fee. In my case, I’ve joined at the $1 level, which means that once a month I’m charged a dollar on my credit card, in exchange for which I get access to Seanan McGuire’s newest Patreon-exclusive content. It’s awesome. Check it out, here.

The Patreon page banner

I’m relatively new to Patreon, and had only read the stand-alone pieces by Seanan McGuire so far (including a super scary piece about viruses and a creepy horror story involving marshmallows — yes really, marshmallows!). This month’s new story was a Tybalt story, and I decided to dive in, find all the earlier Tybalt pieces on Patreon, and read them in order. And so I did. And they rocked.

The titles are (in publication/story order):

  • Stage of Fools
  • The Voice of Lions
  • The Act of Hares
  • Instrument of Darkness
  • With Honest Trifles
  • In Deepest Consequence
  • Jealous in Honor
  • Quick in Quarrel
  • Of Strange Oaths

The stories follows Tybalt through the years of his reign over the Court of Dreaming Cats. As I started these, I wondered how Tybalt ended up leaving London, because when we meet him in the modern-day world of October Daye, he’s king of the Cait Sidhe in San Francisco. This question is answered by the 9th of these stories, although there are plenty more questions to be answered in what I hope will be many more stories to come!

I’m so glad to have read these. Tybalt is a beautiful, loving, moral being with an iron will and the ability to rule a kingdom — and with the arrogance and ease of a cat. These stories show us the family he loved, back in the early years after his ascent to the throne, and the sacrifices and sorrows he endures to keep his loved ones safe. There’s tragedy, but also joy in seeing Tybalt’s devotion and unconditional love. Sigh.

I’m feeling all happy and content at the moment, having just finished the 9th story… and also strangely unsettled, because I want more, dammit — and right now, there isn’t any more!

Here’s hoping that the author-lady graces us with more Tybalt before too long, because I absolutely need to know what happens next! And meanwhile, there are all sorts of Toby-related works for me still to explore… so here I go!