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REVIEW:  Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

REVIEW: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

night broken_front mech.inddDear Patricia Briggs,

I’ve long been a fan of both your Mercy Thompson series and your Alpha & Omega series (which is set in the same world but follows different people in it).  I’ve read them all in print and listened to them all on audio as well.  Which series I like best most often depends on which book I read most recently. Right now it is the Mercy series.

This is the 8th book but readers would be mostly lost to start here.  All of the books have been B+ or higher for me, so I don’t feel bad saying that to potential readers.  (For those who haven’t read the series before, start with Moon Called and be aware there are spoilers for this and the Alpha & Omega series to follow.) I read the first five books in a marathon of about three-four days, so I’m kind of jealous of those people who could start at book one and read all eight in a row.

I admit I’m finding it difficult to summarise the plot without giving away spoilers.  It almost seems to me that to say anything much is kind of spoilery but I’ve gone with the rule of thumb that anything in the first third of the book is pretty much okay.

For readers who don’t want to be spoiled, here is the short version:  it is really good, the ending is rather abrupt and I am already salivating for the next book in the series.  Also I still adore Adam Hauptman – he is one of my favourite heroes and Mercy Thompson Hauptman (she insists on the additional surname these days) is awesome and kicks ass once again.

Now for the long version:

When Night Broken begins, two important things happen: Mercy is visited by Alistair Beauclaire (the fae Gray Lord who, in Fair Game (A&O 3) all but declared war on the US after the justice system failed his family).   The walking stick, the fae artifact which has been following Mercy about since early in the series and which has come in very handy from time to time, was made by Beauclaire’s father.  He wants it back. Now. The problem for Mercy is that, after the events of River Marked, she “gave” the walking stick to Coyote – and she doesn’t know where he is or how to get in touch with him quickly.

The other thing is that Christy, Adam’s ex-wife calls, terrified and traumatised by a man who is stalking her.  She asks Adam for sanctuary and because she is the mother of Adam’s child (Jesse) and because Adam is who he is – a protective, care-taking Alpha – he says yes.  This puts a strain on Mercy’s relationship with Adam to some degree, but more so with her relationship with the Pack.  Mercy has to balance her own jealousy and her desire to smack Christy down fast and furious and her (most of the time) stronger desire to put the well-being of both Jesse and the Pack first.  The stalker, Juan Flores, is a Very. Bad. Man.  Actually, he’s not a man.  I think I won’t say what/who he is.  Finding out is part of the fun of the book.  Essentially, the rest of the story is Mercy and her compadres trying to identify, locate and defeat Flores – the walking stick and Coyote play a part in the whole thing.  And then there’s Christy.

I’m not usually a fan of the “evil ex-wife” trope.  I don’t like one-note characters who are only there to make the heroine look good.  Christy certainly fit the stereotype but I found her well developed enough that it made her more than a caricature.  She has been a consistent though bit player throughout the series.  She’s not a bad person per se, but she’s very selfish and takes care of herself first (and possibly second), and others after.  Series readers know that she hurt Adam deeply by rejecting him, his wolf and his Pack (she left him – whyyy? *flails*) and that she is unreliable when it comes to visits with Jesse. I felt there was some attempt to make her more than just a thorn in Mercy’s side, while still keeping her character consistent and I don’t think she was demonised (although I also think there might be robust debate on this issue).  It was completely understandable that Mercy would not be Christy’s biggest fan – and the book is told from Mercy’s first person POV so that was always going to be the flavour of things. That said, Mercy is not an unkind person and she tried hard not to hate Christy and to see good in her. I don’t think many women would cope so well with her husband’s ex-wife coming into her house – the house said ex-wife decorated and used to live in no less – and basically taking over.

Mercy is worried about what it will do to Jesse if she and Christy are openly at odds as well as the effect it would have on the Pack.  The Pack was damaged by the death of their only submissive wolf, Peter, and things haven’t yet settled.  Mercy does her best to keep the peace under great pressure from Christy.   Christy is just about everything Mercy is not.  Christy is a girly-girl with beautiful nails and wonderful cooking skills and she “needs” someone to take care of her.  She also “threw Adam away.”  Mercy is none of those things and she would never, ever, throw Adam away.  Christy brings out insecurities Mercy was aware of and some she didn’t previously know about.

Christy uses tactics I’ve unfortunately seen in real life (used by women and men) which makes one appear petty and small to argue with them.  One inevitably feels drawn down to their level to engage at all and they are very frustrating to deal with.  Because I know people like that, I was prepared to give Christy’s characterisation a pass here.  Not everyone will.

There were some things in the plot which didn’t seem to go anywhere and where I felt the story lost momentum. Perhaps they are part of the setup for a future book in the series, but here, the Cantrip agents felt out of place and Zack didn’t seem to have much to do.

I love the romance between Mercy and Adam and I think there is a lot of it for romance readers in Night Broken. While, Adam and Mercy aren’t seriously threatened by Christy’s machinations, there is some minor damage to be cleared up from time to time and they take the time to attend to those small wounds throughout the book so that they don’t fester.  Adam knows who and what Christy is, even though he can be manipulated by her along with everyone else it seems.  Maybe that’s a bit odd given who and what Adam is, but I put it down to the long history he had with Christy and the thousands of little wounds that left weak spots when it came to her. Plus, I think it has been consistent in the series that one of the surefire ways to get to Adam is to suggest he is a poor caretaker/protector.

I had heard that the book has an abrupt end.  It does. There is no reason to be scared by this *shifty eyes* (My lips are sealed).  There are a couple of things which aren’t tidily cleaned up, a new spanner in the works which could be pretty interesting (or not) and Coyote is his usual cryptic self – there’s more about he and Mercy to be learned in future books I feel – but the story doesn’t have a relaxing epilogue to allow readers to catch their breath.  Because of that, there is a sense of ending on a gasp but I can’t really complain about it.  I’m always happy to read more Mercy (and Adam) so I would have liked more but I’m not sure the book needed it.

There was a part, near the end, which had me teary – it was one of those “darkest before the dawn” moments and everything was looking pretty dire.  Mercy and Adam just about broke my heart and I was seriously wondering if – well, perhaps I shouldn’t say anything more about it because: spoiler.

Mercy and Adam work together in this book (I feel like it was more so than in previous books which seemed fitting given the progress of their relationship), but Mercy is her usualy resourceful, clever self and she remains front and centre in the story.  She doesn’t foolishly put herself in danger; she realises her strengths and weaknesses but she fights when she has to and she fights hard and well.  Her actions in this book did a lot to garner her more support/respect within the Pack.

I love this series and I devoured this book in one day – I plan on getting the audiobook too (the narrator, Lorelei King is wonderful) and it will be one of those few books/series I will re-visit.  Night Broken gets an A- from me.

[Kyle Warren] frowned at me. “Before Christy came, I never thought about how much you manipulate the people around you—it doesn’t feel like manipulation when you do it.”

“The difference is,” I told him, “that I love you and want everyone to be happy. And”—I lifted a finger—“I know what’s best for you.”

“And,” said Adam, “Mercy’s not subtle. When she manipulates you, she wants you to know you’ve been manipulated.”

I’d already crossed the living room toward the wing with the bedrooms, but I turned around to stick my tongue out at Adam.

“Don’t point that at me unless you are going to use it,” he said.

I smiled until I was safely out of sight.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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GUEST REVIEW:  Written in Red by Anne Bishop

GUEST REVIEW: Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Dear Ms. Bishop,

This is my first time reading one of yours. The first book in the rather prolific Black Jewels series has resided on my shelf for a few years now, but for whatever reason I just haven’t found my way to picking it up, likely due to a nagging suspicion that that particular dark fantasy might, in fact, be a bit too dark for me. But then this year I began hearing murmurings of a new urban fantasy series, and the possibilities started to take shape in my mind. These murmurings ran along the lines of complicated social order, shapeshifters, exceedingly gradual relationship development, vampires, detailed world building, etc. Before long, Written in Red was giving me that vibe, and it was only a matter of time before I picked up a copy and settled in to see for myself.

Written in Red Anne BishopMeg Corbyn needs somewhere to hide. After fleeing the only home she’s ever known, she finds herself answering a want ad for a human liaison within the notorious Lakeside Courtyard. A collection of businesses run by the Others, Lakeside is headed up by one Simon Wolfgard. Together with the heads of the various shifter and vampire factions, Simon has little use for humans except as prey. But the courtyard requires a go-between, someone who will sort through the mail and day-to-day communications between the Others and their uneasy human counterparts. And so Meg is given the job, despite Simon’s misgivings, including her nonexistent past and indeterminate scent. Profoundly grateful, Meg sets out to learn how to live a life and do her job so well no one will ever think to ask her why she showed up desperate and alone on their doorstep in the first place. But the Others are far too canny for that, and when local human law enforcement begins sniffing around the courtyard, Simon knows it’s something to do with their recently acquired human. But by this time, the wild and wary inhabitants of the compound have grown surprisingly protective of Meg. Even the vampires have allowed her onto their grounds. And so Simon finds himself racing to discover her secret before it sets off the kind of conflict between the Others and the humans from which they may never recover.

There is something absolutely compulsive about this novel. It’s not fast-paced. It’s not action-packed (although there are a couple of rather spectacularly explosive scenes near the end). It has quite a large cast of characters. And it rather annoyingly switches scenes just when you want more from the people you’re with. But. I didn’t want to be anywhere else but there. With timid Meg and prickly Simon and the cringeworthy, blood-soaked nightmares that haunt her and threaten his people. I’ll be honest. I have a fairly weak stomach when it comes to cutting in general, and so the revelation of Meg’s role as a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, tested my bounds to a certain degree as she was raised, in a sense, to cut or be cut and receive valuable prophecies on the ensuing wave of mixed pain and euphoria. It never gets too grisly, and the Others’ protective instincts help to keep Meg fairly intact, but I remain uneasy as to what lies in store for her on that front as questions of both destiny and consent will play what I can only assume will be a fairly significant role.

What I fell in love with was those quiet, day-to-day interactions between Simon and his host of furry, fanged followers and the solitary human girl in their midst. The Other hierarchy is fascinating and rich. And it is very much other. These shifters and vamps are not interested in making friends and playing nice. They are so completely not interested in that. And so Simon’s frustrating reaction to Meg throws everything off kilter, as his instincts insist she’s not prey, while everything about her screams weakness and fair game. I can see how Meg could easily read too passive for some readers. But I found her both sympathetic and compelling. The very fact that she escapes from somewhere no one escapes from and manages to secure a job and the trappings of a new life for herself solidified my place at her side. I only grew to love her more as she is somewhat reluctantly roped into helping the Wolfgard’s adorable young nephew Sam deal with past trauma and find a balance between his wolf and human selves.

Meg’s gradually developing thing with Simon is so very gradual, and it got under my skin in a real way. She grew to assert her independence as he learned to respect her freedom. They continue to frustrate the hell out of each other throughout the book. And I loved it all. I didn’t even miss the lack of heated romance (though the signs are so all there and I am looking forward to developments in that arena most eagerly). Here is a fairly representative encounter between Meg and Simon early on:

The office’s back door wasn’t locked, so he slipped inside, removed his boots, and padded across the back room in his socks. He could hear low music even through the closed door that connected to the sorting room. As he entered the room, he saw Meg take a CD out of the player and say, “I don’t like that music.”

“Then why listen to it?” he asked.

She whirled around, wobbling to keep her balance. She put the CD back in its case and made a notation on a notebook sitting next to the player before answering him. “I’m listening to a variety of music to discover what I like.”

Why don’t you know what you like?

“Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Wolfgard? Today’s mailbag hasn’t arrived yet, but there are a few pieces of old mail. I put them in HGR’s spot.” She indicated the cubbyholes in the sorting room’s back wall. “Also, I’m still not clear if the ponies deliver mail to the Market Square businesses or if someone from the businesses is supposed to stop in for that mail.”

Right now he didn’t care about the mail or packages or any other damn monkey thing. He took the poster out of his pocket, opened it, and set it on the table. “No more lies,” he said, his voice a growl of restrained menace. “What happens next will depend on whether you answer two questions honestly.”

She stared at the poster. Her face paled. She swayed, and he told himself to let the bitch fall if she fainted.

“He found me,” she whispered. “I wondered after the other night, but I thought . . . hoped . . .” She swallowed, then looked at him. “What do you want to know?”

The bleakness in her eyes made him just as angry as her lies.

“What was your name, and what did you steal?”

The slow but steady incline in this complicated story worked for me. In fact, the whole thing reads quite a bit like a police procedural/urban fantasy mash-up, as the focus revolves between Others, humans, villains, and Meg. Or “The Meg,” as many of the shifters so charmingly refer to her. Yes, I could have done without one ridiculously overdone wannabe villain. And, yes, the pacing does plod from time to time as threads are flung far and wide in not-always discernible directions. But the incredibly subtle development of the key relationships, combined with a truly fresh take on supernatural politics, set Written in Red apart from the pack. I can’t wait to return. B+

 

Cheers,

Angie

 

BIO

Angie is a bookish sort with a soft spot for urban fantasy, YA, historicals, and mysteries. Ever since she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and made the acquaintance of one Nat Eaton, stories with no romantic subplot need not apply. Her favorite authors include Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Sharon Shinn, Mary Stewart, Megan Whelan Turner, Kristin Cashore, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, and Ellen Emerson White. You can find Angie at her blog www.angie-ville.com or on Twitter @angiebookgirl.

 

 

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