Writer: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book Three (Mercy Thompson)
After reading Blood Bound, it only made perfect sense to keep reading what I had of Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series and read Iron Kissed. Not that I’m trying to play catch-up or anything: the fourth book will be released early next year, and I would get it, if not for the fact the publishers have decided to release it in hardcover, which means I’ll be waiting six months to a year for the mass-market.
I don’t begrudge the author or the publisher for having a successful enough series to warrant a hardcover. I really don’t. But I do begrudge the publisher for MAKING ME WAIT to read the book because I refuse to frak up the aesthetic look of my collection. /grumble
Iron Kissed was a book many fans warned me about when I reviewed Moon Called. People had heard spoilers and therefore refused to read the book because they don’t like what happens, and I told everyone who told me that to keep the spoilers to themselves. I liked the series, and didn’t want any spoilers detracting from my enjoyment of the book.
But that didn’t stop me from glancing at the end when I was ready to read, nor from glancing at the Amazon.com reviews to get a clue as to what happens. I’m going to discuss what happens in DETAIL behind the cut, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, then for god’s sake don’t read behind the cut.
The premise: Mercy’s got supernatural friends in high places, and it seems she’s always owing them favors. Her mentor and former boss, the fae Zee, calls in his, asking her to put her coyote enhanced nose to a string of murders on the fae reservation. Mercy targets the killer and thinks it’s all over, until Zee himself is arrested and left there to rot by his own kind. Mercy refuses to let him take the fall for something he didn’t do, which gets her into all kinds of trouble.
Oh yeah, and she has to choose between Samuel and Adam too, before the two werewolves tear out each other’s throats.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Discussion: There are two reasons I think people avoided this book.
1) The choice of Adam over Sam.
Let’s face it: when you have a series (television, books, whatever) where a woman is courted by two men, there are going to be fans in one camp or the other. Look at the television show Lost and Kate’s choice between Jack and Sawyer. Look at Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and Bella’s choice between Edward and Jacob. Hell, even Rowling’s Harry Potter, where Harry (at least, from several fans’ POVs) had the choice between Hermione and Ginny.
When it comes to ships, people pick their pairs and defend those pairs religiously. And when the choice is finally made, it’s going to make some people MAD.
I can’t say I had a choice of Adam or Sam. In Moon Called, I felt really sorry for Samuel and his inner wolf, but once I got used to Adam, there was something I really liked about him. In Blood Bound, I never really swayed in either direction. Samuel and Adam got equal attention, and it’s clear that Mercy cares for both, but she’s terrified of loosing herself to another man’s Alpha.
So Mercy chooses Adam, and frankly, I think it’s done well. A little odd, but I enjoyed reading the scenes between Samuel and Mercy where they discussed their pasts (with and without each other) and Mercy learned more about Samuel’s wolf. Let’s face it, I think it would’ve ALWAYS been hard for Mercy to be with Sam, even though she loves him fiercely, because there’s always going to be the “broodmare” element in that relationship. Especially if she ever got pregnant by him. So logically speaking, it works that she chooses Adam over Sam. Well, maybe not directly chooses: once Sam steps out of the running, Adam can court her all by himself, which still leaves Mercy with the struggle of making a decision and being torn between keeping herself and submitting to what she really wants. For the most part, I think it’s handled well, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Mercy and Adam work as a couple in future books.
That said, it’s not a happy ending, which leads me to the second reason I think people avoided this book:
2) Mercy is raped.
When I read Amazon reviews and glanced at the very end of the book, this is what I figured would happen. And if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know rape is my hot-button topic. After all, the rape of Anna Strong in The Becoming pissed me the hell off, but not just the rape itself, but how it was handled and how it fit into the rest of the story.
I’ve had a good day to think about the events of Iron Kissed and how I felt about the rape and whether or not it pissed me off and whether or not the whole thing should’ve been handled differently. I come up with logical questions, but there’s no real emotion driving my reaction to that whole plot, which pretty much tells me that I’m not pissed off. Because if I were, I would’ve been the moment it happened in the book.
The story: Mercy meets a Tim Milanovich at Tumbleweed, a local music festival where she and the others go to hear Samuel play. He’s a real intent nerd, and the initial introduction of him is rather funny, as he’s correcting Samuel’s Welsh (and Sam was BORN to the time, so of course he knows the proper pronunciation of Welsh). Mercy runs into him later during the final night of the festival when Sam takes her out to dinner. She strikes up a conversation with the guy, who tickles her love for history, so they get into a spirited debate. Sam thinks she’s flirting, and warns Mercy to cut it out, because if Adam had seen it, he’d tear Tim’s throat out (this scene actually leads to the scene where they realize they’re not going to be together). Tim, it turns out, is part of a fae-hating group and invites Mercy to one of the meetings. Mercy shows, because a member of the group is the dead guy Zee’s accused of killing and who actually was responsible for the serial killings on the fae reservation. At this meeting, she’s convinced to meet with Tim in a couple of days for dinner–something she feels bad for even agreeing to, and plans on calling it off.
Until one of the group members tries to kill her. Fideal is a kelpie and is intent on killing her for knowing too many of the fae’s secrets. Mercy leads him to Adam’s, and Adam and his pack help. Now that she knows there’s a connection between the fae, the group, and the murder, Mercy agrees to meet with Tim, because he implies he can get her information.
The deal: the murders of the fae also connected with the theft of magical items. These items are missing and the fae are trying to collect. One of the items, a walking stick, is literally following Mercy around, showing up wherever she’s at, proving it has a mind of its own and it belongs to her, at least for the time being.
What happens is when Mercy meets Tim for dinner, she learns an ugly truth: Tim, who promised to make a list of the items that were missing (as he was a friend of the murder victim and saw the items at the house), didn’t, and she learns that he’s using them against her. One of the things are bracers that gives him a giant’s strength, which he uses to pretty much pulverize Mercy’s arm. Another is a silver ring that makes the wearer’s words like honey (anyone would believe someone wearing that ring), and last, but most deadly, is a goblet that fills up whenever someone is commanded to drink. By drinking, the person is under the other’s control.
Now, you can guess how all of this is put together: Tim is a loser who’s angry at Mercy for leading him on and generally hates women because he’s never had any luck with them. Mercy is also forced to admit to having the walking stick, which Tim is trying to find. He keeps forcing her to drink because she keeps resisting, and after a point, she can’t resist. He pretty much tells her that he’s the most handsome man she’s ever seen, that she’s madly in love with him, and that the sex they’ll have together will be the best ever.
Like I said, he’s a loser.
Why resort to this? It’s not a comfortable couple of chapters, believe me. Briggs skimps on the more sensual, note-for-note detail, so some is left to your imagination. When they get to Mercy’s garage for the walking stick, Tim rapes her. She passes out, but because of the drink and what Tim tells her (you’ll never feel like this again, no one will ever love you again, you’ll be alone and you’ll want to drown yourself), she feels like a willing participant in the act. But the coyote mind, at least, takes over, giving her the strength to use the walking stick to kill Tim for what he’s doing to her.
Here’s the thing: there’s another artifact Tim stole: a cloak that protects him from his enemies. While wearing that cloak, no enemy can hurt him. He’s wearing the cloak (it’s invisible once on) during the rape, but here’s the thing: Mercy believes she loves him, which enables her to kill him.
There’s more to the rape than this: when Adam and his pack finally find her, she’s ashamed and doesn’t believe anyone will love her, least of all Adam, and she wants to die. She’s still in Faeryland, still under the effects of the goblet, and it takes her a while to come to terms with what happened and to break Tim’s spell over her. And it also takes Adam some time to understand that Mercy’s not afraid of him (he doesn’t believe she betrayed him, he knows it was rape) and that the effects of the faery are creating a guilt she doesn’t need.
And this, in its own tender way, brings these two together. Mercy has to believe she’s not worthless, and Adam has to learn how to comfort without exuding his Alpha power.
Sure, it’s hurt comfort, but Mercy’s no victim by the end. After all, she saved herself from her rapist by killing him (during the act), and she makes the choice not to be a victim, but a survivor (once the magic of the fae wears off). She chooses Adam at the very end (in Adam’s time, sex is pretty much means marriage, so when I say Mercy chooses him, she CHOOSES him) which means psychologically, she refuses to let Tim have the last word in how she regards her body and the people she loves and who love her.
It’s done well. I kept thinking all day about ways Briggs could’ve avoided the rape. Maybe the cloak didn’t have to exist, so Mercy could’ve been able to kill him without thinking she was in love with him. Or, more importantly, she could’ve tried shifting to coyote, but I think that she was so drunk with the fae magic that Tim forced her to drink every five minutes that it was all the coyote could do to alert Adam via the garage’s alarm system and to kill Tim when the she had the chance.
Not that I was happy with these turn of events. They’re very, VERY uncomfortable, but there is a good message that comes out of it. Rape is most certainly overdone in fiction, particularly genre fiction, but I forgive it if it’s handled well and vital to the plot, and in this case, it was. I would’ve rather it hadn’t gone so far (the actual rape avoided), but honestly, I can’t think of an alternate scene where the rape doesn’t happen.
My Rating: Good Read
It’s actually the best of the Mercy Thompson books, because characters make tough choices and they go through hell. The plot’s stronger here than Blood Bound and the readers learn more about how the supernatural creatures of the world are co-existing with humanity at large. There’s bigger issues involved than the two spoilers I detail behind the cut, and I think those issues are going to become more important as the series goes on, which I’m looking forward to reading (once the mass market is released).
Though, there is one thing I don’t like about these books: the covers. For starters, the only tattoo that’s EVER described on Mercy is the coyote print on her abdomen. All the others the artist is depicting? I have NO CLUE where they’re coming from. Also, and maybe my memory is faulty, but never once does Briggs describe Mercy as the kind of girl who goes around where her shirts so that her rather well-endowed, bra-covered chest is exposed. I mean, SERIOUSLY. Look at these covers: Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, and Bone Crossed. Mercy’s a mechanic, not posing in a car magazine, and every time it talks about her wearing clothes in the garage, I swear she’s putting on a cover-all. But then again, maybe I’m just forgetting something. Either way, considering the books are marketed to women, the art drives me crazy. It’s just like Cosmopolitan Magazine showing the same poses and clothing on their covers. It’s eye-candy for men, damn it, not for women. Well, not for MOST women, anyway.
That pisses me off more than the particular spoiler I discussed behind the cut.