I received an Advance Reading Copy of Smoke Bitten via a contest. This is my non-spoiler review for those who won’t get to read it until March 17th.
Mercy is at it again. And so is Patricia Briggs — she’s putting Mercy through stress and pain, torturing her with life and death decisions, and making her (and us readers) worry about friends, family, and pack.
The book started with stress and issues that had my head spinning (and mumbling variations of “what the heck?” and “no, no, no, no”) and ended with me smiling. There were definitely things to smile about, even while knowing that Mercy’s big issues (surviving lots of dangerous enemies) aren’t settled or finished, and that there’ll be danger ahead for everyone.
I liked how the story pulled in threads and unfinished business from previous books and tied those to Mercy’s challenge of fighting an all-new foe. I loved how the visuals of the pack bonds she first saw in Silver Borne are a huge part of the story, and how everyone from Beauclaire to Ariana to Baba Yaga to the walking stick makes at least a brief appearance and helps Mercy figure out a path that might see her and all those she cares about survive. It takes a lot of writing skill to make diverse threads (like black witches and stalkers) fit into a character-driven story, and Briggs does a good job of turning all those threads into motivations for both Mercy and her companions.
Mercy’s main emotion throughout is worry. She’s worrying about monsters, about her friends (including my favorite, Ben the foul-mouthed Brit), about black witches and their powers, about Underhill, about Jesse, and about Adam. I’d have overdosed on antacid by day two if I was in her place, but as Coyote’s daughter and Adam’s mate, she puts on her game face and takes charge. She doesn’t survive unscathed, of course — as always, there’s a bit of pain associated with a car stopping suddenly, and more bruises than readers can count. (And I agree with Adam, here — Mercy really needs a car with air bags. Or maybe an entire car made out of air bags and feather pillows.)
The Smoke Monster (the one who bites) has enough mystery and complexity to keep me interested, and the challenge of figuring out how to overcome what seems like an overpowering enemy was dealt with in a nice fashion. I love how Briggs took a tired fairy tale trope and turned it into something scary. (Or should I blame Underhill for that? Hmmm.) And having one of the final danger/fight/etc. scenes take place in Mercy’s garage (which is also used for several other scenes in this book, including the opening scene) brings everything in a nice circle since that’s where we met Mercy back in the first book of the series.
Smoke Bitten is a good addition to the Mercyverse — it’s well paced, has good monsters, adds (and even removes) multiple levels of emotional stress that are a hallmark of the series, and winds everything up with a smile. I enjoyed it greatly, and look forward to finding out what Mercy does next.