Saturday, November 21, 2009
Paranormal fiction is a hit or miss genre for me. Most books fall into the vampire or werewolf sub-genres, though it's becoming increasingly common for authors to incorporate ghosts, demons and other fey creatures into an urban backdrop. Patricia Briggs brings them all and she's one of the most reliable writers in the field. Bone Crossed, Briggs' fourth book in the Mercy Thompson series, follows the story of a skinwalker named Mercedes (the VW mechanic) who was raised by werewolves. Skinwalkers, Native American's who have the ability to magically change into animal form, are rare and Mercy has spent most of her life not knowing much about her abilities other than the fact that she can change into a coyote. But skinwalkers have an unusual affinity for ghosts and, Mercy is discovering, some vampire hunting abilities as well. Mercy has never sought to put herself in the middle of vampire or werewolf politics, but both groups find her strangely compelling and whether she wills it or not, she frequently ends up in dangerous clashes between the two. The third book of the Mercy Thompson series was the darkest chapter in Mercy's experiences so far, and in this fourth installment, Mercy is coping with the aftermath just as she's being drawn into another deadly situation. Amber, one of Mercy's college friends and former roommate, shows up on her doorstep unexpectedly with a plea for help. Amber's son is being haunted and the situation is rapidly getting out of control. Knowing that Mercy can see ghosts, Amber begs Mercy for help. Wanting to gain some distance from recent events, Mercy agrees to go with Amber, but, once again, there's more to the situation than meets the eye. Complicating the situation is Mercy's relationship with the werewolf alpha, Adam, who has convinced Mercy to be his mate, even though many wolves in the pack don't like the fact that Mercy is a coyote. "Bone Crossed" is very much like the rest of the Mercy Thompson series in that it's very busy for a relatively small book-- just over 300 pages. Mercy bounces between the wolf-pack, various vampire attackers and her friend, all while trying to deal with some fairly heavy emotional baggage. But Briggs is good at dealing with multiple threads to the story and it never feels overly confusing. The main strength of the series is the character of Mercy Thompson. She's a well rounded and likable main character. She's someone who's used to being the outsider and she's tough and self-reliant. At the same time, she's vulnerable and gun shy when it comes to trusting others, but she never comes off as bitter or angry. In short, she's a relatable main character that's easy to root for. I also appreciate that this particular series continues to move forward and introduce new elements to the usual urban fantasy tropes. Like most paranormal fiction "Bone Crossed" isn't Shakespeare, but it's pretty darned entertaining if you're a fan of the style and Briggs continues to be one of the consistently better authors in the genre.