River Marked is the sixth book in the popular Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. The previous books are in order as follows: Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, and Silver Borne. The next book is supposed to be released in spring 2013. Briggs also writes a related series with different main characters, Alpha and Omega, that will contain three books with the release of Fair Game next month.

Since this is six books into the series, there will be spoilers for the first five books in this review. If you haven’t read any of the books yet, here’s my review of the first book. This is a series I highly recommend – it’s one of my three favorite urban fantasy series and the first one I really got hooked on back when I was a bit skeptical about how much I’d like the genre. Mercy is also my favorite urban fantasy character because she is so reasonable and practical, yet she also has a sense of humor and lots of personality. Briggs adeptly handles both plot and character development in this series and combines common myths in an interesting way.

Once Mercy and Adam are married, they go on a peaceful honeymoon camping in the wilderness. At least, it was supposed to be peaceful, but life for Mercy is never dull for long.

Stumbling upon a terrified man bleeding in the river leads Mercy to some full-blooded Native Americans, including a mysterious elderly man who seems to know more about Mercy’s father than he’s willing to share with her. As is often the case with mysterious elderly men unwilling to part with vital information, he sends Mercy on a quest to discover what he wants her to know for herself. Mercy discovers more about her Native American heritage and the river devil, a being that devours all it can, and the story of its defeat by Coyote. Once again, the river devil is killing people and it must be stopped – no matter what the cost.

Although River Marked is a little different from the previous books, it’s now one of my personal favorites in the Mercy Thompson series, right behind Iron Kissed. It’s different because most of the regular characters are only present at the beginning and the end and most of the book takes place in the wilderness when Adam and Mercy are just trying to enjoy their honeymoon. It takes a while to get to the main plot since it spends some time on the wedding and then just showing Mercy and Adam together before revealing that all is not right in the woods. In spite of that, I was never bored by it because I enjoyed spending time with Mercy and reading her conversations with other characters. She and the other characters have such wonderful relationships that come alive through their conversations – and are constantly enhanced by a great sense of humor.

What makes this particular installment so wonderful is that Mercy finally learns more about her Native American heritage and her shapeshifting ability. In this novel, Mercy meets some other Native Americans and also has to come to terms with her mixed origins. I think we see more of how this affects her and how she doesn’t quite feel like she belongs anywhere in this novel, but it also doesn’t become driven by overpowering angst since Mercy isn’t the type to dwell on her problems or feel sorry for herself. For instance, after she shares the details of her vision quest involving confrontation with Coyote from years ago with Adam, he asks her if she knows what it meant:


“It meant that I’m not Indian enough,” I told him. “I don’t belong anywhere.”

He burned another hot dog while we sat together and watched the flames.

“I think you’re wrong,” he told me, finally. “It didn’t sound like Coyote was rejecting you.”

“He was talking about my coyote half,” I said.

Adam smiled and rocked me a couple of times. “How confusing it must be to have a coyote half, a human half, an Indian half, and a white half.”

I snickered and felt better. It was seldom a good idea to take myself too seriously. [pp. 67]

With the increased focus on Mercy’s Native American half, the plot is heavily focused on Native American culture. I thought this new focus worked quite well, and it also introduced some rather interesting new characters. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’m not going to name any names, but there was one character in particular who is a new favorite in the series for me. He was incredibly well-written and Briggs illustrated his character wonderfully through dialogue and how he conversed with Mercy.

The stakes are high in this one, and it had quite the exciting ending even if it is slower paced overall. Throughout it all, the highlight continues to be Mercy as a character and this book certainly shows more of what she’s made of. I love how practical she is and how she always seems to be in character. She doesn’t do things that make me wonder why she would do a thing like that, and she has so much personality that comes through her first person narration.

This book also had some great emotional moments, especially Mercy’s wedding – but not for the romance. It was actually the time spent with other characters at the wedding that were most heart-warming, especially Samuel describing the fight between Bran and Zee over who would give her away and Bran’s comment to Adam when he did give her away. Seeing Mercy’s friends and family come together at her wedding and how much they cared about her was a high point. That’s not to say Mercy and Adam aren’t great together, though, because they certainly are. They love each other, but they still have their problems at times and seem like a very realistic couple because of it.

River Marked is more focused on Mercy herself and exploring her Native American heritage than previous books, but I found this to be a very welcome development. It has the same characterization and sense of humor I’ve come to love and expect from the Mercy Thompson series, and I loved the incorporation of Mercy’s cultural roots.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Chapter One

Reviews of other books in this series:

Other Reviews of River Marked:

This was a very good week. I bought one book that I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and I got 5 review copies that all look wonderful! Half are fantasy, and the other half are science fiction books. Here’s some information on them in case you want to check any of them out.

The Scar by Sergey and Marina DyachenkoThe Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

This is a translation of a Russian fantasy novel written by a husband and wife. Sergey and Marina Dyachenko are very well-known in Russia and are considered Russia’s equivalent of George R. R. Martin or Philip K. Dick according to the press release that came with my copy of the book. The European Science Fiction Society awarded them as the best Author of Europe, and they have received 80 literary awards for their books and short stories. The Scar was the recipient of the Sword in the Stone award for best fantasy novel. This novel will be released on the US on February 28 and will be available in both hardcover and ebook formats. An excerpt is available on tor.com.

I was really excited when an unexpected copy of this book showed up in my mailbox this week because I have been curious about it since first hearing about it last year. Until seeing the press release that came with it, I didn’t realize just how well received work by the authors was in Europe. Now I’m really excited about reading it! I already had a plan for the next few books to review when this showed up, but I’m hoping maybe I can fit it in sometime over the next month or two.

Reaching far beyond sword and sorcery, The Scar is a story of two people torn by disaster, their descent into despair, and their reemergence through love and courage. Sergey and Marina Dyachenko mix dramatic scenes with romance, action and wit, in a style both direct and lyrical. Written with a sure artistic hand, The Scar is the story of a man driven by his own feverish demons to find redemption and the woman who just might save him.

Egert is a brash, confident member of the elite guards and an egotistical philanderer. But after he kills an innocent student in a duel, a mysterious man known as “The Wanderer” challenges Egert and slashes his face with his sword, leaving Egert with a scar that comes to symbolize his cowardice. Unable to end his suffering by his own hand, Egert embarks on an odyssey to undo the curse and the horrible damage he has caused, which can only be repaired by a painful journey down a long and harrowing path.

Plotted with the sureness of Robin Hobb and colored with the haunting and ominous imagination of Michael Moorcock, The Scar tells a story that cannot be forgotten.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin AhmedThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

The first book in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms series is a debut novel by an author whose short fiction is supposed to be excellent. From what I’ve been hearing, Saladin Ahemed’s first novel is excellent as well. I’ve been hearing so many good things that I actually ordered the hardcover instead of waiting for paperback, and I’m hoping to read it really soon.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is available both in hardcover and ebook formats. The first chapter can be read on the author’s website.

From Saladin Ahmed, finalist for the Nebula and Campbell Awards, comes one of the year’s most anticipated fantasy debuts, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, a fantasy adventure with all the magic of The Arabian Nights.

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince.  In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea.  Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God’s justice. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time–and struggle against their own misgivings–to save the life of a vicious despot.  In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

The Silent Tower by Barbara HamblyThe Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly

This is the first book in the Windrose Chronicles and was originally published in the 1980s. Many of Barbara Hambly’s books are unfortunately out of print, but a lot of them came out as ebooks last year. This is one of them, along with Dragonsbane, which I reviewed last year when it was re-released. I loved the fact that the main character Jenny was not a traditional fantasy heroine – not young (she’s 37) or beautiful or a very powerful witch even. It also had a very memorable ending, and I really enjoyed what Hambly did with this story so I’m looking forward to reading more by her.

A sample from The Silent Tower is available on Amazon.

The Silent Tower has two sequels, The Silicon Mage and Dog Wizard. Both of these were also released as ebooks last year.

A wizard and a computer programmer from opposite sides of an interdimensional portal must work together to save their worlds from destruction

In a world where wizards are relegated to ghettos, it is no surprise to see one murdered in the street. But for Stonne Caris, a young warrior monk who sees the killing and gives chase to the culprit, there is nothing ordinary about seeing a murderer disappear into a black, inky portal. The Archmage sends him in search of Antryg Windrose—a half-mad mage who understands the nature of these passages between dimensions.

On the other side of the Void is Joanna, a programmer as mild as Caris is deadly. She has spent her life in cubicles, staring into computer terminals, as far from heroism as she can get. But when the power that is crossing between dimensions draws her through the Void, she finds herself battling to save a world she never even knew existed.

This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon WilliamsThis Is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams

This is the first book about Dagmar Shaw in a near future science fiction series. I’ve read one book by Williams, a space opera called The Praxis (review). I rather enjoyed it so when I was offered the chance to read the latest Dagmar Shaw book, I asked about whether it would stand alone well or not. I was told it was, but the publicist was kind enough to send me all three books in the series to check out. I love the sound of it since I like books about games, and I’ll be reading this one very soon! I’m also excited to read some more science fiction since I haven’t read as much of it the last couple of years. For a while I was reading nearly as much science fiction as fantasy so I’m looking forward to getting some more science fiction mixed in to my reading.

This Is Not a Game is available both as a paperback and ebook (the Kindle version is only $2.99 right now), and a preview can be read on Amazon.




Deep State by Walter Jon WilliamsDeep State by Walter Jon Williams

Deep State is the second book about Dagmar Shaw, following This Is Not a Game. It’s available as a trade paperback and ebook, and a sample can be read on Amazon.

By day Dagmar Shaw orchestrates vast games with millions of players spanning continents. By night, she tries to forget the sound of a city collapsing in flames around her. She tries to forget the faces of her friends as they died in front of her. She tries to forget the blood on her own hands.

But then an old friend approaches Dagmar with a project. The project he pitches is so insane and so ambitious, she can’t possibly say no. But this new venture will lead her from the world of alternate-reality gaming to one even more complex. A world in which the players are soldiers and spies and the name of the game is survival.

The Fourth Wall by Walter Jon WilliamsThe Fourth Wall by Walter Jon Williams

This is the third book about Dagmar Shaw, and it just came out this past week. It’s available in trade paperback and ebook, and the first chapter is available to read online.

Dagmar Shaw got out of the game… and into the movies.

Sean is a washed-up child actor reduced to the lowest dregs of reality television to keep himself afloat. His life was a downward spiral of alcoholism, regret, and failure… until he met Dagmar.

Except Sean has secrets, dark even for the Hollywood treadmill of abuse, addiction, and rehab. And Dagmar is a cipher. There are dark rumors about her past, the places she’s been, the things she was involved in. People tend to die around her and now, she wants Sean for something. A movie, she says, but with her history, who’s to say what her real game is?


Shades of Milk and Honey is the debut novel of Mary Robinette Kowal, who had already made a name for herself before its release with her short fiction. By the time this novel came out, she had already won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2008 and been nominated for a Hugo Award in 2009. The recognition of Kowal’s work has continued since then. Shades of Milk and Honey was nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award, and Kowal won the Hugo Award for her short story “For Want of a Nail” the following year. She will be writing more novels as there are 3 sequels to Shades of Milk and Honey planned: Glamour in Glass, coming out this April; Without a Summer; and Valour and Vanity.

Shades of Milk and Honey is described on the cover jacket as “precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen…if she had lived in a world with magic.” It is very much a story similar to Jane Austen’s books, although much shorter and lighter in characterization. It’s set in Regency England and has the same focus on suitors and marriage, etiquette, and social gatherings as Jane Austen’s novels. Where it differs is having art as a theme and a world in which glamour, a type of magic, exists and is often used for the creation of art.

The story is about Jane Ellsworth, a 28-year-old woman who believes herself to have no marriage prospects due to her plain features. She can’t help but compare herself to her younger sister, Melody, who is very attractive. Yet Melody can’t help but feel she falls short in comparison to Jane, who may not be lovely to look at but is exceptionally talented when it comes to glamour and the arts. Melody may capture the eye, but it is Jane who often end up the center of attention at various social gatherings as she’s the only one who can come close to matching the skills of the artistic and mysterious Mr. Vincent. Furthermore, their neighbor Mr. Dunkirk is very appreciative of the arts, and both Melody and Jane have become rather attached to him.

Mostly, it is the story of Jane and her relationships with her family and neighbors, her moral decisions, her views on art, and her development as an artist – and how she finds true love.

Shades of Milk and Honey is a very short and quick read. While at first I found it enjoyable but somewhat lacking in substance, I found myself still thinking about it and reflecting on it quite a bit after reading it. My opinion of it has become more positive after really thinking about it since at first I had some trouble not comparing it to Jane Austen and finding it coming up short. Taken as its own separate entity, I think it works very well as a light historical fantasy romance. It’s just that the very obvious similarities to Austen’s works (Kowal’s site describes it as a tribute) make it very difficult not think of this novel as “kind of like Jane Austen but not as good.”

The problem with calling Shades of Milk and Honey a tribute to Austen is that it forces a comparison between this book and Austen’s work. (This is why I try to avoid comparing books in my own reviews – even if there are similarities, what you first think of when hearing the name of a book may not call to mind the same exact qualities others think of when first thinking of the same book.) There are many parts of the book that are instantly recognizable as having similarities to Austen’s novels if you’ve read them. Jane is in some ways like Anne Elliot, the heroine from Persuasion who remains unmarried at an “old” age. The two sisters are in many ways like Marianne and Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility with Jane the more sensible sister and Melody more likely to give in to feelings and passions without thinking about the consequences first. For example, here is the scene when Jane learns Melody had only pretended she hurt her ankle to get the attention of a man:


Jane shook her head, bewildered by her sister’s jealousy toward her. Her! Who had not the slightest hope of marrying, were it not for the sum Mr. Ellsworth had put away for her dowry. But more than the bewilderment, she was dismayed by what her sister had confessed. “You could certainly have explained the injury was not so great as it first appeared; that the shock had given it more weight than it had merited. Oh, Melody, what were you thinking?”

“I was not thinking! I was feeling! And is it so terrible a thing? I have hurt no one save myself, and he came today, did he not?” [pp. 104]

Jane and Melody’s parents were also very like Elizabeth Bennet’s parents from Pride and Prejudice with the rather silly mother and the more reasonable father, and there many other nods to Austen throughout the story.

Shades of Milk and Honey suffers from the baggage of the Austen comparison, though. It does not have the same depth of character, the same wit, the memorable heroes and heroines, or the same social commentary that Austen is known for. For some this may be a good thing–especially those who perhaps liked the idea of Austen’s stories but felt her books were too verbose or lengthy. For others, who love Austen’s novels with all their hearts, this may color their perception of the book a little, making it appear thin next to her monumental works.

However, once I got past the fact that Shades of Milk and Honey is mostly a superficial tribute to Jane Austen instead of a clone, I found it to be a delightful, enjoyable story, particularly the latter part where it diverged more from the type of story Austen would tell and seemed less like a mashup of several of her novels. It’s a very readable book that kept me turning the pages, and it had a very exciting ending. Unfortunately, a lot of what I found most enjoyable about it is really hard to talk about without spoiling how the romance turns out. Since I want to talk about this anyway, I’m hiding it behind spoiler tags:

While there is magic in this book, it’s mostly important in the context of the exploration of art. Glamour is largely used for making illusions, whether they are for lighting in a room, making the hair in a painting move in the wind, or making a bunch of people disappear because they’re obscuring the view. It’s not well-explained, but I think art in general is more important to the story since it was Jane’s main interest and what accomplished women do. (I am still curious about why more women knew glamour than men and it if it is as Jane thought that men were perfectly capable of it but just lacked the training.) There are several conversations about art – how it enhances the home and makes it more comfortable, whether or not it’s possible to enjoy art if one stops to examine it, and the relationship between flaws and perfection. A love for the artistic permeates the book, and I rather liked this aspect of it.

Comparing Shades of Milk and Honey to Jane Austen is unavoidable, and I do think that my reading experience suffered as a result because I was expecting Austen’s depth and cleverness. However, I still found Shades of Milk and Honey very compelling, especially the later parts which moved away from Austen’s template. I loved the ending and actually find myself very eager to read Glamour in Glass when it comes out in April. This is both because I truly enjoyed this book and because I am expecting the sequel to stand on its own a bit more – and how could I resist it after seeing Mary Robinette Kowal described it as “a little more swashbuckling than the first book” on her FAQs page?

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

Instead of writing one huge post of all the books I’m looking forward to in 2012 with info on them, I had decided to highlight some of these books in their own posts throughout the rest of 2011. I’ve decided to carry this feature forward into this year as I discover new books coming out this year that sound interesting and continue with books of 2013 as it gets closer to the end of the year.

Queen's Hunt by Beth Bernobich

Queen’s Hunt is the second book in the River of Souls series, following Beth Bernobich’s 2010 debut Passion Play. It will be released in hardcover in July 2012 (and although I don’t see anything about ebook, I’d guess there will be an ebook version since the first novel is available in that format).

I got a copy of Passion Play at Book Expo America 2010, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel. Passion Play is one of those books that I hesitate a bit before recommending because I see it as somewhat flawed in spite of the enjoyment I got from reading it. Plus some content is likely to make some uncomfortable (my review). However, I really liked the main character and found it very readable. It seemed like it was setting the stage for future volumes, and the way it ended makes me believe the next book will be faster-paced. I’m quite excited about the release of Queen’s Hunt and finding out where the series goes!

Beware, the following description does have spoilers for the end of Passion Play!

About Queen’s Hunt:

Ilse Zhalina has left to start a new life in a garrisoned fort, leagues from her estranged lover, Raul Kosenmark. The violent quarrel that ended Ilse and Raul’s relationship was quite public. And also, quite fake. They hope to mislead Kosenmark’s enemies so that he can continue to influence the politics of the kingdom in an attempt to stave off an ill-advised war, while keeping Ilse safe from royal assassins who would kill anyone Raul is close to. Ilse longs for Raul, but is set on her own quest to find one of the three fabled jewels of Lir. One of the jewels is held by King Dzavek, sworn enemy of Veraene, who has used the jewel’s power to live for centuries. Ilse seeks one of the other stones to counterbalance Dzavek’s efforts to destroy her country.

In her search, she encounters a shipwrecked prisoner from another land, a woman who has a secret of her own…and the second jewel in her keeping. The two women become allies in their quest for the third jewel, because finding and controlling these stones could mean salvation for both of their nations. And their failure the ruin of their peoples.

Other Books of 2012:

This week brought one unsolicited ARC. Here it is in case you’re interested in looking into it further or reading it!

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

This YA book, first published in Norway, will be released in the United States in April. It won the 2008 Brage Prize for children’s literature and has been picked up for publication in 9 countries. When it is released in the US, it will be available in hardcover and ebook.

It sounds like it could be kind of creepy:

Three teenagers are going on the trip of a lifetime. Only one is coming back. It’s been more than forty years since NASA sent the first men to the moon, and to grab some much-needed funding and attention, they decide to launch an historic international lottery in which three lucky teenagers can win a week-long trip to moon base DARLAH 2 – a place that no one but top government officials even knew existed until now. The three winners, Antoine, Midori, and Mia, come from all over the world. But just before the scheduled launch, the teenagers each experience strange, inexplicable events. Little do they know that there was a reason NASA never sent anyone back there until now – a sinister reason. But the countdown has already begun…

Instead of writing one huge post of all the books I’m looking forward to in 2012 with info on them, I had decided to highlight some of these books in their own posts throughout the rest of 2011. I’ve decided to carry this feature forward into this year as I discover new books coming out this year that sound interesting and continue with books of 2013 as it gets closer to the end of the year.

Worldsoul by Liz Williams

I can’t find a whole lot of information on this one right now, probably because it’s not due for release until June. I’ve been hearing good things about Liz Williams for a while, and when I saw this book on Goodreads a while ago, the premise completely hooked me: What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world? The dangers of being a librarian and ancient legends coming to life sounds like a recipe for a great book!

Worldsoul will be the first book in a new series.

About Worldsoul:

What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?

Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die—or to flourish and rise again. Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. The city is also being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but…things…keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends and escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such dangerous creature. She turns to Shadow, an alchemist, for aid, but Shadow—inadvertently possessed by an ifrit—has a perilous quest of her own to undertake.

Other Books of 2012: