I’m one of those people who likes to take a breather between stories. Don’t get me wrong, I binge just as much as the next person. You should’ve seen me scream my way through the new Dr. Who series after I made it past that first season. In general though, and especially with books, I require time to digest what I’ve read, to absorb the characters, and reflect on the novel.
I never used to do that. Take Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake. I cruised through that series until I was forced to stop simply because she hadn’t written the next book. That’s fine and dandy, but once I talked with others about the books, (“oh man I just about died when that happened, and did you get to the part when this happened, and then this happened,”) I couldn’t, for the life of me, place what scene happened in which book. It may seem trivial, but it made me feel so memory jumbled that I quit binge reading.
Here’s the downfall of that. The older I get, the timespan between finishing books increases until years go by before I even get to the second book in a series. That’s what happened with good old Mercy Thompson.
I liked Moon Call. I distinctly remember enjoying Patricia Briggs’ ability to make her protagonist actually have real person fear and real person hesitations about getting involved with issues above and beyond her head. I enjoyed watching her struggle to maintain a distance from her old flame, Samuel, while fighting her growing, ahem, affection for the Alpha wolf Adam. It sealed the deal that it was partly set in an area I grew up in. I read it just before I started graduate school, took a breather, and didn’t get back to the world until two years later.
I didn’t particularly like Blood Bound. The plot seemed tedious. The characters, particularly Mercy, reiterated knowledge over and over again until I wanted to pull my hair out. Just how exactly do you kill a vampire, Mercy? Oh, just like they show you in the movies? I hope the next three characters you talk to tell you the exact same thing in different ways. Can it be that Adam and Samuel are actually captured by the Big Baddie Littleton? Remind me very five pages about how if you don’t find them tonight, they will die. The sixth reminder will do the trick.
Halfway through the novel, I got to thinking I was being unfair. I checked ratings and reviews online, avoiding spoilers (go me), and found the book was relatively well received. In fact, many recommended continuing with the series. This caused me to go through a devastating realization. Perhaps I’ve outgrown the urban fantasy vampire/werewolf genre.
I’ve been reading this genre for a while now. Christine Feehan Dark’s series, some of the obvious Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles, and Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries…all before the whole Twilight fad too. Anita Blake was my hero until I couldn’t stomach the story anymore, but that’s a whole other can of worms full of incredibly long-winded ranting on my part. So, it’s a little crippling to realize I’ve outgrown something I love, especially when I’ve purchased the rest of the Mercy Thompson series because those damn fill-a-bag-of-used-books-for-a-dollar charities get me every time.
So here’s what’s stuck in my craw. The whole book was full to the brim of supernatural politics and roundabout conversations. Let’s talk to the vampire mistress, Marsilia, who hates my coyote ways and let her fill me with a bunch of semi-helpful bullshit. Then, let’s talk about demonic sorcerers to nearly every other side character and find out they do know more, but didn’t have time to share earlier. Half the time Mercy is going around in circles coming to conclusions I saw half a mile away and then she has to talk about it some more. Condense, people. I also find it frustrating that every badass supernatural beast wouldn’t lift a finger because of politics. Another reason I’m tired of supernatural books. What’s the point of being the most powerful fae in the world if you can’t do anything because, oh lord, the humans might find out and wipe you out? How is one coyote supposed to save everyone from this whole catastrophe because of her power to see ghosts who avoid evil?
Other scenes had me squirting pop out of my nose. Take the scene where Mercy is practicing martial arts with Adam. I had these absurd images of Mercy flying towards training bags Quentin Tarantino style with Japanese anime techniques where gravity’s on vacation and white light is around her as she hi-yahs stuff. Grappling with Adam was just…ridiculous. I get that it’s supposed to be a sexual scene, but it fell flat. Then there’s the problem with her coyote wanting to submit to Adam’s wolf. I get this is suppose to be arousing, and after Antia Blake’s quadeightsomes I read about years ago (oh, I guess we are going to go there), it even felt a little tasteful. But unnatural. Still supernatural though. Ha.
I promise I’ll get to a spot where I’m not bitching. That time is not here yet.
Wolves and coyotes are similar, yes, but have different natures. Wolves crave a pack. Coyotes generally hunt in pairs or alone. I’m not an expert, but I can work a Google machine. While Briggs may touch on this in later novels (who knows, I might not read the next novel until I’m 80), Mercy acts like…a wolf. She plays dominance games to survive, and yes, she has been influenced by her upbringing, but aren’t there any of her coyote traits at war with the wolves? I wish that was shown, besides her ability to see ghosts and resist magic. We’re told that the walkers terrified vampires a long time ago, but honest to God, Mercy seems just about as interested in learning about her people as she is in getting her nails done. It would make her feel good, and appeal to her History degree, but it would just get ruined in the span of a day, so why bother? To me, her people should be fundamental to her nature. Her ability to take down a sorcerer demon vampire doesn’t mean much when we don’t know squat about her people. Especially when she doesn’t really care to find out. Someone insert the Trickster myth. Please.
Other annoyances. Mercy constantly reminds us that vampires are evil, but I can’t get past how evil the werewolves are. When a tween gets turned into a werewolf, Mercy and the Marrok, Bran, have to figure out which pack they can give her to that won’t kill her, rape her, or enslave her. They come up with a list of ten, and according to Mercy, that’s a small number. This evil isn’t even touched upon, and Stefan the vampire, who takes care of his menagerie and yes, by definition is dead, is the evil one? C’mon now.
Despite my frustrations, I do have a modicum of respect for Mercy. She actually loves the people in her life. When she decides to go up against the Big Baddie Littleton, she leaves a detailed letter telling Adam, Samuel, Bran, and whoever comes looking for her, where she went and her purpose. Instead of thinking they would be better off not knowing anything (a trait seen more often than not), she shows that the people in her life are actually worthy of knowing the reasons for her actions. Brava, my Lady Coyote. When she goes to kill the second Big Baddie, she realizes that she is obviously committing murder with intent and asks herself if his death is worth her soul’s death (and her physical death because Marsilia will have her head). She realizes that murder is going to change her, and she accepts that fate willingly to avenge the many people he hurt and families he ruined.
There were even two particular passages that gave me the heebie jeebies:
“It wasn’t a really loud sound. If it had been less irregular, I think I could have ignored it.
It was coming from my window near the bed. It sounded like the rosebush that had grown outside of the window of my mother’s home in Portland….I pulled the pillow tighter over my ears. But there was no blocking the noise…In an instant I was fully awake. I threw the pillow on the floor, sat up in a rush, and turned to press my face up against the window and look out…
But there was someone’s face already pressed up against the window. Someone who wasn’t Stefan. Gleaming iridescent eyes stared at me through the glass, not six inches from my own…The face didn’t move. He’d pressed so hard against the glass his nose and lips were distorted, though I had no trouble recognizing Littleton. He licked the glass, then tilted his head and made the sound that had drawn me from my sleep. His fang left a white mark as he scored the glass with it.
There were a lot of little white marks, I noticed. It gave me the creeps, as did the realization that unless he was very, very tall, he was hanging in the air.”
“Wulfe was leaning against the wall of the house, looking up at the sky, his head banging rhythmically against the wall of the house in time with my furiously beating heart.”
And I really enjoyed this:
“‘I have chocolate chip cookies,’ I told him [Adam]. ‘Or brownies, but they’re still pretty hot to eat.’
He was shaking with rage, his eyes brilliant yellow wolf’s eyes. His cheeks had white marks from the force he was using to clench his jaws.
I took another bite of my cookie.”
And if a vampire/werewolf/human triangle was intense, let’s try a double werewolf/vampire/coyote foursome that came out of left field:
“He [Stefan] leaned over and kissed me full on the mouth, a quick gentle kiss that told me I hadn’t imagined the passionate words he’d murmured as I’d drunk his blood the night I’d killed Littleton. I’d really hoped they had been my imagination.”
This might turn into Anita Blake after all.
The obvious problem was lack of Favorite Character. I enjoyed the Kyle and Warren lovers’ reunion, but that hurt comfort side story had a predictable outcome. If it had ended a different way, I’d be unhappy. The Wulfe vampire? Mmmm maybe. Adam, kinda. But that’s the extent of characters worthy of Favorite Character.
Now I’m at a crossroads. I will most likely read the next book when the fire in my belly has simmered down, but should I begin the next gunslinger? Or find a stand-alone novel to fill my days? Perhaps the end of summer means the completion of all second books across the board, and if that’s the case, I have at least two more that I could take on. Only my bookshelf will know.