Making the New York Times #1 Best Seller list is every author’s dream–or, at least, it should be. Patricia Briggs has landed novels on this list at least three times!!! Why is the Mercy Thompson Series worth reading? Well, it’s not often that you find an urban fantasy series quite this unique.
An Unexpected Protagonist
Mercedes Athena Thompson is not your typically mechanic. She was raised by wolves–literally–and she can transform into a coyote at will. In her spare time, Mercy practices shisei kai kan and uses her history degree to try to guess the age of her supernatural friends.
Her backstory is a mixture of a few stories familiar to many readers: Mercy was born to a Caucasian teenage mom, who was never able to tell her daughter’s Blackfoot Indian father of her pregnancy due to his early death. Mercy was raised by two adoptive parents, their Alpha, and their reluctant wolf pack, but after their deaths, Mercy found herself living with her biological mom and her new family.
Mercy isn’t liked by every character who crosses her path. She’s stubborn, blunt, and often covered in oil and grease. Yet her witty sense of humor and fierce loyalty leave something to desire. Mercy Thompson makes an interesting protagonist from the get go, but then so does the other characters readers soon come to love.
The Mercy Thompson characters are a colorful array of humans, witches, werewolves, fae, vampires, and others. Characters not only vary by species, but also by ethnicity, race, and sexuality.
At the moment, the only openly gay people are Kyle, who is human, and Warren, who is a werewolf. Kyle is a well paid divorce attorney whose human family has chosen to blatantly ignore him. As the series progresses, Kyle becomes one of Mercy’s close friends. His boyfriend, Warren, is ranked third in the local Colombian Basin wolf pack. Although, he has a cowboy look and works at a rinky-dink gas station until Kyle hires him to help protect his clients.
More Prominent Characters
Mercy’s inner circle of friends and family include Adam Hauptman, Siebold “Zee” Adelbertsmiter, Bran Cornick, and Dr. Samuel Cornick. Mercy’s neighbor, Adam, is Alpha of the Colombian Basin wolf pack. He is divorced and has a teenage daughter, Jesse. He once fought as a Ranger in the Vietnam war, but that does not make him the oldest character by far.
Zee is a German fae who taught Mercy everything she knows about cars, and then sold her his garage when retired. Based on Mercy’s limited knowledge of German, and Zee’s comments on historic events, Zee must be one of the oldest fae in existence. He also happens to have a half-supernatural child, Tad, who can be found studying at his ivy league school.
The werewolf, Bran, and his son, Samuel, are also difficult to date. The often speak old forms of Welsh. Although, Bran keeps the appearance of an older teen, and Samuel, a young doctor.
Other Notable Characters
Other notable recurring characters include Tony and Darryl Zao. Mercy befriended Tony when she almost blew the undercover policeman’s assignment. One day he was the “low-key, cheerful, middle-aged” Hispanic man running the pawn shop around the corner. Days later, he was the “hollow-eyed kid” holding a sign that said WILL WORK FOR FOOD. Darryl Zao is Adam’s second, which might explain why Mercy frequently butts heads with him:
“Darryl was a big man, well over six feet. His mother had been Chinese, Jesse had told me, and his father an African tribesman who had been getting an engineering degree at an American university when they met. Darryl’s features were an arresting blend of the two cultures. He looked like someone who should have been modeling or starring in movies, but he was a Ph.D. engineer working at the Pacific Northwest Laboratories in some sort of government hush-hush project.”
The best part about the Mercy Thompson Series is that each book can stand alone. Each book’s plot is independent of the others. The the subplots are layered and sometimes subtly stretched across two or three books in a way that makes reading the Mercy Thompson Series feel like you’re eating a perfectly prepared, fresh out of the pan, baklava.
The Setting Varies
Mercy is often at her trailer with her cat or working at the garage. Depending on the book, she often travels… to Adam’s house next door, to the hospital, to Bran’s home in Montana, to a local supernatural bar, to the Fae Reservation, to a campground, to a friend’s house, and so on. The change in location allows Briggs to explore the world in which Mercy Thompson lives. A change in scenery also often gradually reveals more about the supernatural creatures Mercy comes across.
Writing Style & Technique
Of course, there are plot twists! Jokes are occasionally made when the tone is too somber, and Briggs is not afraid to step out of her comfort zone to research a topic heavily discussed in a book–whether that be folklore, historic events, or the creation and efficiency of weapons. In one of the books, Briggs collaborates with a fluent German speaker to ensure that her foreign poetry is correct.
Briggs also addresses more delicate topics such as interracial couples (inter-species couples) and abuse. Mercy and Adam face difficulties within the pack and criticism from outsiders because a coyote does not naturally run with a wolf in the wild. Samuel later reconnects with an old love who is supernatural, but not a werewolf.
Different forms of abuse appear in this series. The British werewolf, Ben, was sexually molested as a child by an authority figure. Mercy is raped in Iron Kissed, and we see how she copes with her post traumatic stress in Bone Crossed and Silver Borne. The fae woman, Arianna, was mentally and physically abused by her father and his dogs. Briggs stories are full of danger and adventure, but they’re not always as cheerful as the story begins.
The Mercy Thompson Series isn’t immune to faulty logic and problem children. Here are a few shortcomings which make an obvious appearance in the Mercy Thompson Series. They have been listed in bullet form because each of these points could easily turn into a full article.
- Daniel Dos Santos’s cover art for the Mercy Thompson Series is awfully sexy for a dirty mechanic who is rough around the edges.
- Of the two inter-species couples we see, only Mercy and Adam face discrimination. Readers do not see the racism Samuel and his mate face.
- On a similar note, the world of Mercy Thompson seems to lack representations of the LGBTQ+ community.
- There seems to be gender inequality in the Mercy Thompson Series. Mercy seems surrounded by male characters, and when women do appear, they lack strength.
- Beginning in Frost Burned, the point of view unexpectedly switches from Mercy’s to Adam’s for two chapters. To the obsessive compulsive, this stylistic choice is not good.
- Many characters have jobs, which demonstrate their ability (or inability) to blend into society. For some reason, the vampires don’t.
- Love triangles happily make an appearance a couple times throughout the first half of the series.