When Mercy Thompson, skin walker and mechanic extraordinaire, receives a call from Tad, the son of her mentor Zee, she expects a little weirdness – par for the course when dealing with the fae. Tad’s friend Phineas had leant Mercy an antique book by and about the fae; he left a message for Tad, asking Mercy to take care of it. Sensing something awry, Mercy heads to Phin’s apartment – he’s not there, and his trying-hard-to-pass-for-human neighbour hasn’t seen him. Although everything seems to be okay, Mercy feels uneasy.
That all fades into insignificance when Mercy’s hit by a string of unpleasantness - someone in the pack uses her connection to it to influence her emotions and behaviour; Samuel, a lone wolf in Mercy’s partner Adam’s pack, is seriously injured in an accident that’s no accident; and bounty hunters, accompanied by a film crew, try to arrest Adam on a bogus warrant.
Series in other genres tend to focus on character development and, on occasion, a wider narrative arc, or the protagonists continue through each book little changed but possibly growing a little older. Paranormal series, on the other hand, tend to add characters, often supernatural, building and complicating the universe they inhabit. The first couple of chapters of each subsequent instalment are filled with back story upon back story, artlessly patched on to the narrative or, worse, the writer jumps right in, expecting the reader to be as intimately acquainted with and invested in the history of the character and their world. After a handful of books I sometimes feel as though I need a flowchart or timeline to keep all the developments, characters and entanglements intact, and there’s no real possibility of picking up a book midway through the series if you want to have any chance of being able to keep up. While the Sookie Stackhouse series is one of these, a stronger example is Harrison’s The Hollows series.
Silver Borne is the fifth in the Mercy Thompson series, and so far Briggs has done a great job of keeping the ‘twist’ developments that have to then be referred to and the extra, intermittently recurring characters to a minimum. Like all the paranormal series I’ve read thus far, each instalment expands the universe in which it’s set, adding new characters and, often, new supernatural creatures. The difference is that the focus is primarily on Mercy, her adoptive family (pack and work), and a world that is gradually discovering that mythical creatures really do walk amongst them.
Although there’s a plot involving the fae book, a fairy queen, murder, subterfuge and fantastic creatures, the heart of Silver Borne is the relationships Mercy has, primarily but certainly not solely with her Adam, head of the pack and recently her mate, and Sam, perhaps her closest friend. As these relationships grow and change, Mercy is also dealing with the aftermath of being raped (see Iron Kissed), which ties in with an attempted coup within the pack.
I found all these elements beautifully done. Briggs’s characters are complex and rounded, with histories and motivations that go beyond the purposes of the plot. Although surprised from time to time, because her writing is neither predictable nor formulaic, I have yet to find a description of someone acting out of character. So secure was I in this that when Mercy began behaving like a passive-aggressive princess I noted the section so I could complain about it in my review, only to have it be a pivotal, explicable plot point. And I know I mentioned it above, and in my review of Bone Crossed (book 4), but I so appreciate that Mercy has not just moved past being raped – though she is finding ways of dealing with it, it has profoundly affected her and her relationships.
I have been thoroughly engrossed in and captured by all the books in both this and Briggs’ sister series, and am hopeful that future additions to the universe will be equally well crafted and meticulous, even if that’s at the expensive of a long wait for the next one. - Alex