Bone Crossed is the fourth book in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. The first three books in this popular urban fantasy series are Moon Called, Blood Bound and Iron Kissed, respectively. Silver Borne, the fifth book, will be released in hardcover in March 2010. Briggs is also writing a related series featuring different main protagonists called Alpha and Omega, which currently consists of two novels and a novella.
As this is a review of a book in an ongoing series, there will be spoilers for the first three books.
This novel picks up shortly before the end of Iron Kissed and expands on that ending. While Mercy and Adam are still discussing their relationship and the trauma Mercy recently endured, Mercy has several surprise visitors. First, her mother shows up after reading about Mercy’s rape in the paper – Mercy doesn’t exactly like to talk about it and would like everyone to stop looking sorry for her so she hadn’t yet told her. Soon after that, Stefan appears in her living room in such bad shape that Mercy is afraid he might die (or whatever it is vampires do when they cease to exist since they’re sort of already dead). All Stefan manages to tell Mercy is that “she knows,” but Mercy is aware that he is referring to Marsilia discovering that she killed a dangerous vampire from the vampire’s seethe and that Stefan covered it up. Now they are both in danger.
Soon after the first two visitors arrive, there is a knock on the door. It is Amber, an acquaintance of Mercy’s from college, who also heard about Mercy rape in the news along with the fact that she is dating Adam, a werewolf. Now that Amber realizes Mercy’s drunken ramblings about being raised by werewolves is plausible, she thinks perhaps she meant it when she said she could see ghosts too. Amber’s house is haunted and she requests Mercy’s help. Mercy finds the timing somewhat suspicious at first, but she later finds out there is no reason Marsilia would want her to go to Amber’s hometown. Neither she nor any of her vampires would be able to get near Mercy there since it is inhabited by a very territorial, uncooperative vampire who will allow no others in his area. Mercy decides to pay a visit to Amber and investigate her ghost problem if it will get her away from Marsilia, especially since she believes Marsilia would not hurt any of her friends without Mercy around to witness it.
There is a lot happening in this latest installment in spite of the fact that is not a long novel. It has the vampire plot with Stefan/Marsilia and the ghost plot with Mercy’s college acquaintance Amber and her family. Plus there is the aftermath of Mercy’s traumatic experience from the previous book and great moments with many of the characters – especially Stefan, Adam, and Amber’s ten year old son Chad. Briggs continues to maintain a great balance between keeping the plot moving and characterization.
Each book seems to contain some new insights into the various types of paranormal beings that inhabit this world. This one had most of the focus on the vampires with a little more information on the werewolves. There were also some interesting revelations about Mercy’s own powers, which she knows very little about since she doesn’t know of any other walkers like her. Mercy seems more like an ordinary human than most of them – she can shapeshift and is gradually learning more about her abilities but she’s not dangerous like the werewolves or evil like the vampires.
Mercy is very enjoyable to read about and her character is one of the highlights of this series. The novels are all told from her first person perspective and she’s such a fun narrator. She has a humorous way of looking at the world around her and Briggs gives her such a great voice that she comes alive. In spite of the fact that she can shapeshift into a coyote, she seems like an ordinary person with a mixture of real personality traits. She’s loyal to her friends and seems to be very likable, yet she’s also hesitant to really open up to others. While she likes to be in control and is stubborn and independent, she’s also pragmatic enough to let others take over if it’s the logical thing to do and seems necessary (at least most of the time). She’s not so perfect that she’s hard to relate to – she still has vulnerabilities and makes mistakes. Whenever she does mess up, though, it always seems to fit with her character and makes sense.
In this novel, there is a lot of hardship for Mercy. After her traumatic experience in the previous book, she still panics when she knows there is no rational reason to do so. While she does her best to overcome it, it’s also not something that she can just brush off and forget about immediately, either, even though she seems to like to be reminded of it as little as possible.
In general, the characters are all very interesting and seem to have unique personalities even if lots of pages are not dedicated to their development. The friendships are well-written and enjoyable to read about. I was especially happy to see so much of Stefan in this installment – even though I am not normally a vampire fan, I do really like Stefan. Everyone always says he is not that bad for an evil vampire, but even he isn’t what one would call a “good guy.” He does have the capacity to care for others, but he’ll also still commit acts like murdering innocent people if he thinks it’s necessary. Stefan is more complex than good or evil and I like that in a character.
It’s not a perfect book, although I had so much fun with it while reading it that I didn’t notice many flaws until afterward. There is still some info dumping, but there is still a lot less of it than in the first book in the series. Also, perhaps there was a little too much going on in this novel sometimes – this one seemed to lack some of the emotional impact of the previous two books and that may have been because it was always rushing on to the next scene. Sometimes, as is often the case in novels, everything may work out a little too conveniently, too.
While Bone Crossed was not quite as good as the second and third books, I was immersed in the story from start to finish. Reading a new book in this series is like visiting old friends, and I’ll definitely read the next one.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.
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