Patricia Briggs reconfirmed all the reasons I already love her by the way the story begins in River Marked. There's something going on in the Columbia River, and Mercy and Adam just happen to find themselves on the scene … I love it. Mercy is manipulated into something she would have probably done anyway, but in such a way that she can't really take offense, and that at least the beginning of her honeymoon is untainted.
I love the slow unraveling of a knot that had been in the background of every book: the subject of Mercy's father.
I've read some good books this year. I've read a few great books this year. But the fact of it is that I've read a whole lot of schlock this year, too; I let myself get to the point where for the first time in my life since school I was letting someone else determine the bulk of my reading. I wasn't suffering – like I said, there was some good stuff I'm grateful to Netgalley for, because I might not have read it without. But I hit a point a little while ago where a lot of the joy had been sucked out of reading. It was just sad.
There's one sure fire cure for that sort of thing.
Comfort books. Old favorites. Old friends.
Almost by instinct – maybe because River Marked kept cropping up on my Kindle like a digital version of a fae walking stick – I turned to Patricia Briggs and Mercy Thompson. The first three books in the series were rereads, and devoured quickly, but the other three were shiny new-to-me Briggs. There is nothing better than a reading something new by a favorite writer and not being let down.
And I just finished Number 6, River Marked. I feel like I've taken a wonderful vacation. I took a break from the grind at the office and all that had become usual, and went somewhere vivid and stimulating and fun, with friends. Closing the (currently) last book of the series with tears in my eyes, I didn't feel sorry that it was over – I am, but there will be a new Mercy Thompson next year, Mayans willing, and it was a perfect place to stop for a while – I felt recharged and refreshed and ready for any book Netgalley can throw at me.
River Marked. It's a pretty simple story, really; on (spoiler alert!) their honeymoon (I'll say no more), Mercy and Adam come across a terrible Native American fae – the river devil – that has taken to killing people in and on the Columbia River, and they must find a way to stop it. Along the way they are helped by a wonderful assortment of Native American powers, an old shaman, a young shaman-in-training, and a few other types I'm not going to spoil, and are opposed by not only the river devil (quite enough to be going on with, thanks) but also the need to keep Adam largely out of the fight (werewolves don't float) and a six-pack of otterkin (sea otters are lovely; river otters, to my vast disillusionment, are even cuter but mean as sin. Otterkin are meaner than river otters). A knot in the shape of Mercy's father that has been taut all through the series finally gets loosened a little; Mercy's human family finally gets a cameo; Yo-yo girl gets a name and, if possible, a little scarier.
I became completely invested in this story, fiercely partisan for my team, and devoured the action scenes and laughed out loud several times and, yes, teared up at the end.
For Patricia Briggs has the enviable (to die for) ability to take something that could easily be old hat – dragons in Hurog, or vampires and werewolves (and give her credit, she did vamps and weres before most), even a happy ending (it's a first-person book, so there's no real doubt Mercy's going to make it in the end. Although I did just have an idea about that …) – and give it all a joyous new life. Without making anything sparkle. The happy ending here is not a hero-and-heroine-smooch-while-a-heart-shaped-cutout-closes-around-them. Oh, no. It's deeper and richer and bigger and quieter than that.
And this book contains a letter which I may just - may - rank up there very near the two letters that reduce me to a blithering mess every time: that of Sullivan Ballou (Civil War edit) and Frederick Wentworth. I will say no more than that – but it was as rain to my shriveled little desiccated heart.
Thank you, Ms. Briggs. Bring it on, Netgalley. I'm ready.