By Laurel Newberry
Patricia Briggs is right at the top of my list of favorite authors. She is a brilliant storyteller who weaves vivid three-dimensional characters through a tapestry of regional history and believable fantasy. These characters will stay with you long after the cover is closed and keep you checking back to see if there is a release date for the next installment.
March will see the release of Briggs’s ninth Mercy Thompson book, “Fire Touched”, which shares a timeline with her Alpha and Omega series. This makes it the fifteenth in what the author calls the “Mercy-verse”.
Urban Fantasy at its finest, this series invites the reader to explore an entire community of creatures that range from werewolves and fae (like you see on Grimm), to witches and vampires, all living in community with the unsuspecting human population. Based on locations you can actually visit, Briggs creates the supernatural so well we are left to wonder if she knows something we do not.
The series begins with “Moon Called” where Mercy Thompson, a coyote shape-shifter, is making a living as a Volkswagen mechanic in the desert of southeast Washington State. When she offers assistance to a needy teen her singular act of kindness takes her out of the safe(ish) life she has made for herself and straight into the heart of werewolf business. Raised by werewolves in Montana, she has made it a point to maintain her independence from the local pack, especially the very attractive Alpha, but soon she is embroiled in a mystery that puts everything she values in jeopardy. She is a wonderfully strong female protagonist, one who uses her limited supernatural powers to their greatest advantage and who suffers the consequences when things go wrong.
The secondary series, starting with the short story “Alpha and Omega,” follows Anna Latham, a werewolf abused by her own kind, who gets a chance to rescue herself. This first story offers extra details about the events in the first Mercy Thompson book. In addition to this extensive series, Briggs has written nine other full-length books and a number of short stories. You can find details on her books and other adventures at her website: patriciabriggs.com
Okay, I’ll admit it, I am a fan of Patty Briggs. Not just the “I really like her, she writes good books” kind of fan. I am a – sit in the front row at the book signing -“Don’t you think you could write faster? – Please keep writing this series! – Can you give me a hint about the next book? – Would you please sign all of the books I brought with me?” – honest to goodness fan girl. I LOVE her Mercy Thompson books as well as her Alpha and Omega books.
Why do I love them? For one thing, they are written in a world I know, the southeastern corner of Washington State, right on the banks of the Columbia River gorge. It isn’t the part of the region most people think of with the trees and rain and mountains. This is desert, dry and stark and desolate… and beautiful. It looks and feels simple – until you read this series. Thanks to Briggs, the world I thought I knew has become home to an entire cadre of frightening, mysterious, and sometimes heroic creatures. I have to admit that every time I drive east out of Portland, up the Columbia River, I wonder just what lurks out there. I recently listened to the audio book version of River Marked as I drove along this route. I found myself looking at the landmarks with new appreciation. Briggs’ writing has always been vivid to me, reminding me of hot dry summers and cold windy winters, blue skies and scouring wind.
For another thing, there is a vivid cast of characters who live and breathe and struggle to survive. Mercy Thompson is tough and snarky character who knowingly makes some tough choices, ones with dire consequences, for good reasons. I love Mercy’s humor and her sense of optimistic fatalism. Or should that be fatalistic optimism? Who can blame her, what with the potential love interests ranging from an old werewolf with ulterior motives, a vampire who drives a Scooby-Doo mystery-machine VW bus, to the overly protective and imperious Alpha of the Columbia Basin Pack.
This is more than fantasy. Briggs weaves in local history and Native American legends with Old World mythology. You will find the Fae (fairytale folk) of the British Isles brushing up against shape-shifters from Native stories, a seethe of vampires, and a pack of Werewolves. Sometimes there are creatures from other cultures and continents. It is a complex world with political hierarchy and territorial disputes and intrigues. Every group has their villains and heroes just as in real life so that you never know for sure just where the trouble will come from next.
If you are looking for something new to read I wholeheartedly recommend anything by Patricia Briggs. You will find her shelved under Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, and sometimes under Romance.