I know I’ve already posted a review for the latest in the series (see River Marked), but with the release of that latest installment – and with the need for a temporary retreat from some of life’s inevitable disappointments – I was recently inspired to reread the whole series again. I do that pretty regularly with all my favorite series; there are certainly times when I wish I could live in the universe of one of my favorite heroines. In the case of Mercy Thompson, because of the way the stories are written, it seems like dealing with creepy critters who can physically kill you… may actually be preferable to facing emotional turmoil and trauma.
My old literature professor would say that the series is “low fantasy”: a story set in a world we know, with current technology and very limited world-building, with elements of the fantastic overlaid on a known space. Patricia Briggs is particularly adept at blending the real with the unreal, making her heroine a VW mechanic living in Washington state. Her immediate curveball is that Mercy is only half-human, and has inherent magic from her little-known American Indian Blackfeet heritage. (And I have to say, I would love to read more speculative fiction incorporating American Indian mythology–if anyone has any recommendations along these lines, please comment!)
Given her own heritage, it’s natural that Mercy would be aware of other elements that “go bump in the night.” She immediately shares that she was raised by a pack of werewolves, so is intimately familiar with their social structure, mores, and heirarchy–and enjoys getting away with rubbing their noses in their deficiencies as much as is safely possible with a species so prone to violence that they don’t always trust themselves with their human families.
Each book, then, deals with a different set of supernatural creatures in a way that naturally builds on past story lines, carries forward the story arc seamlessly, and develops a wonderfully “human” set of characters who quickly entice the reader into wishing they were real.
One reason I prefer fiction (and especially any kind of speculative fiction) to other types of writing is that it forces your brain into a framework where anything is possible. And that is enough to pull me out of any kind of doldrums.