Mercy Thompson Series Review: Iron Kissed

Iron Kissed cover I could smell her fear, and it satisfied something deep inside me that had been writhing under her cool, superior gaze. I curled my upper lip so she could get a good look at my sharp teeth. I might only weigh thirty or so pounds in my coyote shape, but I was a predator…

Mechanic Mercy Thompson can shift her shape – but not her loyalty. When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it’s up to Mercy to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not.

Mercy’s loyalty is under pressure from other directions, too. Werewolves are not known for their patience, and if Mercy can’t decide between the two she cares for, Sam and Adam may make the choice for her…
And now on to Iron Kissed where we start getting to know the fae a little better. In this book, Zee asks Mercy if she can help investigate the deaths of several fae on the reservation. With her heightened sense of smell, she finds a common link (a security guard) at every crime scene. When Zee goes to confront the guard about his involvement, he finds the man dead by supernatural means, just as the police arrive. Zee gets put in jail to await trial for a murder he didn’t commit, and it is up to Mercy to get him out.

Right off the bat, we get off on the wrong foot in this book. In the very first chapter, Mercy’s movie night with her man-girlfriends Warren and Kyle is disrupted when Warren decides to take a time out and guilt trip Mercy. He tells Mercy that it’s only a matter of time before Sam and Adam totally LOSE CONTROL and FIGHT TO THE DEATH for Mercy’s hand, and that they have ‘given her a lot of leeway’ in not forcing her to choose already (excuse me, that’s allowing her leeway? as opposed to what, just taking her against her will or telling her to fuck off? big loss). So anyway, if she doesn’t hurry up and pick one, and they kill each other over her, it will be ALL HER FAULT.

WELL, MERCY, YOU BITCH. GOD FORBID YOU TRY TO DATE, GET TO KNOW SOMEONE BETTER, AND EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS BEFORE DECIDING TO MATE FOR LIFE! This is another good example of the book placing all the blame on Mercy for the decisions other people make. Sam and Adam are grown men who should be capable of controlling their own actions; Mercy shouldn’t bear the responsibility for keeping them from losing it, nor should she be pressured into making a decision because of that. This isn’t the only guilt trip that Mercy has to endure, but we’ll get to that in a second.

As far as Mercy’s two suitors go, this book really solidified our dislike for Adam, and there are two big reasons for that. One: the heavy-handedness and liberties he takes on Mercy’s behalf (see: security cameras), and two: his behavior in the wake of his daughter Jesse’s attack. About a quarter of the way through the book, Jesse is attacked by school mates because her father is a werewolf, which apparently does not discourage morons from picking on his offspring. She is saved by her boyfriend Gabriel, but sustains a few injuries in the process. After hearing about the incident, Adam flips, to the point that he almost loses control of his wolf (like this is anything new). Mercy is called to the scene by Ben, and finds Adam enraged and taking it out on Jesse and her savior, Gabriel. Mercy interferes and defuses the situation, but not before Adam yells at her and punches the wall in an expression of rage.

Adam’s behavior is disturbing. It is, of course, understandable to be angry that your child is attacked, but both Jesse and Gabriel are hurt and scared upon their arrival, and he turns the full force of his anger on them when they won’t reveal the names of her attackers. Even though Jesse is crying and her injuries haven’t been tended to, instead of comforting and cleaning her up, Adam makes the situation worse and leaves Mercy to come pick up the pieces. For us, it’s borderline abusive behavior on Adam’s part. Way to be a dick to your traumatized daughter, asshole. But we were very proud of the way Mercy handled it. She took care of Jesse, yelled at Adam, and dealt with the situation the way he should have.

Adam’s temper, however, is not the only troubling issue we learn about in this particular sequence. While Mercy is caring for Jesse, it occurs to her that the reason Adam flipped so easily was because he had been so ‘on edge’ lately. Not two seconds later, Honey explains why. She comes to Mercy and tells her that she ‘needs to do something’ about Adam’s situation, and takes it upon herself to explain to Mercy the magical side effects of Adam’s having declared her his mate. She explains that Mercy’s reluctance to either accept or refuse Adam is having a tangible effect on his ability to control his pack and temper, not to mention putting extra strain on him and making his pack uncomfortable. Essentially, putting him ‘on edge’.

This tells us two fucked up things with one revelation. First, Adam blew up because he was on edge, therefore, by Mercy’s previously stated logic, it is her fault for not accepting him and thus putting him on edge. LOL I SEE WHAT YOU DID THAR BRIGGS. Second, this is more pressure on Mercy to MAKE A DECISION NOW, because her indecision is affecting the whole pack. What the Hell? Yet again, Briggs is manufacturing reasons for her own character to feel obligated to choose a man. Mercy didn’t ask Adam to declare her his mate, and she had no idea that it would affect him or his pack at all. Coupling this with the idea that Sam and Adam could at any moment fight to the death over her, Mercy is totally cornered into deciding right now, or whatever happens will be all her fault. It is totally unfair to put any of this on her, specifically to guilt her into making a decision between Sam and Adam. Apparently Briggs just couldn’t bear for a relationship to develop naturally or something (lol, relationship development, who does that anymore, anyway?) and instead engineered this excuse to force one into existence.

She has Mercy make her decision between the two in a similarly forced way; almost totally out of nowhere, Mercy comes to the realization that, although she loves Sam, she doesn’t want to be with him as a mate, because – and get this – he would be too controlling protective, and would not allow her to live the life that she wanted. Which is perfectly understandable, right? I mean, God, at least Adam gives her the illusion of independence. And they say this flat-out. Jesse tells Mercy that Adam is the kind of guy who will take the lead, but allow Mercy to follow and back him up. HOW GENEROUS. What bugs us about this is that there are two options for Mercy: not doing anything at all (if she were to be with Sam), or following Adam’s lead. There is no option for equality, or standing side-by-side with her mate. It’s take orders or nothing.

But this is all okay, of course, because, as we so wonderfully discovered last book, she wants to submit to Adam. It’s not love without submission! Besides, Sam never really wanted Mercy, anyway (no really, they talk about it and this is the conclusion they come to).

Blah. The attempts at romance in this series make us sad :/

Okay, so here we go. The proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to this particular book.

Iron Kissed is the first entry in the Mercy series in which Mercy is totally involved with nearly every aspect of the main plot. She is the one who tracks down the fae killer in the beginning; she’s the one who makes it her business to find the real perpetrator of the murder Zee is blamed for, even against the wishes of the Grey Lords (leader of the fae), and Zee himself. And it is Mercy who infiltrates the anti-fae group she believes may have a connection to both crimes. For the first time she leaves very little, if any, legwork to be done by the weres or the vampires, and even rejects their attempts to sideline her, and we appreciated this. It made for an interesting, tense, compelling story, and also lead to the biggest, most disturbing event in the entirety of the series.

In her quest to gather evidence related to the death of the human Zee is accused of killing, Mercy accepts a date with a man named Tim, who may have some key information, in his home. While eating dinner, Tim uses one of the magical fae items (which he has been murdering the fae in order to acquire) to essentially magically drug Mercy, compelling her to do exactly what he wants, and feel the way he wants her to feel. He uses this compulsion to order Mercy to fall in love with him, takes her to her garage, and rapes her.

While the rape is disturbing, it’s really what we felt the rape represented that bothered us about this event. When we thought about why Patricia Briggs, or really any author, would have this sort of thing happen to their character, we came up with two reasons: character development and to convey a message.

The character development aspect is both easy to see and extremely troubling. In the process and aftermath of the rape, Mercy’s point of view changes a bit, and she comes to some realizations about Adam. As she is antagonizing Tim, her rapist, she wonders why she is intentionally doing things to make him angry (being under the influence of the fairy juice, she understands that this doesn’t gel with her orders to act as though she loves him), and flashes back to Adam when he punched the wall after Jesse was attacked. She realizes that she likes making Adam angry, and loves the rage and violence he displays, because she feels that he ‘would never turn it on a person he loved’. Then, not long after the rape, Tim’s wish for her to ‘always be alone’ strikes a cord, and she decides that the real reason she has been resisting taking a mate is because she doesn’t want to be rejected. She feels alone.

There are so many things wrong with this. First, here it is from the horse’s (Briggs’) mouth: violent, angry, borderline abusive men are the ideal in this world. The way Mercy sort of idolizes Adam in the moment when he is seething with anger and punching the door frame is proof of that. Second, Mercy is not alone. She has Zee and Warren and Kyle and Gabriel and Stefan and Bran and Sam and a number of people who care about her, but apparently without a mate she is totally alone. Since when does being a single woman with a shitton of friends make you sad and hopelessly alone?

tl;dr Being raped really made her realize she needed a boyfriend.

As to the message, we’ve mentioned that this is the first book where Mercy has really taken action herself, and been holy crap, useful throughout the entire story. And what happens? She gets raped. And why? Looking at the book as a whole, to us, it felt like Briggs was saying: this is what happens when women try and do shit on their own, without man backup, ignoring the men who tell her to do the safe thing and go back to the kitchen. They get raped. Quite possibly the worst thing that can happen to a woman happened to Mercy when she had the audacity to do something for herself. It feels to us like a cautionary tale, like when people tell you “Oh, don’t go walking out in the city after dark, because you’re a woman and you’ll get raped.” Like there is no possible alternative.

Btw, way to have the first instance of sex in the series be rape, Briggs.

At least Mercy killed the bastard in the end though!

We suppose, if you want to take it a step further, you could say that Tim Milanovich could be Briggs’ skewed take on non-Alpha-male-type men, who don’t seem to be present in her stories except as villains. He is one of the few instances of a man who isn’t immediately identified as a controlling, physically powerful, agressive jerk, and he turns out to be a sniveling rapist. But your mileage may vary on that one.

Our final complaint has to do with something Adam says to Mercy, post-rape. As a way of, idk, comforting her or something, he tells her that because she has gone to him twice to save her, she has basically accepted him as a mate, and is now ‘his’. Nice to see he’s not taking advantage of the situation. Not that it matters much, because being claimed is totally okay with Mercy now.

On the bright side, we did like the way Mercy handled Jesse’s attackers. In a moment of bonding and development, she and Ben, in wolf form (we love Ben!), agree to confront and scare them a bit. We liked Ben’s willingness to participate for Jesse and for Mercy.

And for all its disturbing content, the rape scene and those that followed were very convincingly written. We liked the kind of disjointed feel they had, and the way Briggs wrote Mercy’s impaired and traumatized state of mind. And while we feel that Ben’s explanation of Mercy’s emotions were a bit too convenient (there’s only so much you can chalk up to shared experiences and ‘knowing’ someone), we understood the need for it (Adam and Mercy would never have done it on their own), and appreciate the development that Ben’s character received through it.

one star

You know, we’re harsh on these books because they have so much potential, and such good, interesting characters, and yet with the romance and world aspects Briggs shoots herself in the foot. She makes it so difficult to enjoy these books, especially Iron Kissed, when she is slowly breaking her own character down so that she can push a very disturbing relationship and worldview on us. The problems lessen a bit in the following novels, but really only because it seems like Mercy stops fighting.

Anyway, tomorrow, Bone Crossed and Silver Bourne.



6 Responses

  1. Savannah

    July 14, 2010 1:05 pm, Reply

    I also have a complaint about what Adam said to Mercy. That part you mention, when Adam said she came to him twice for help. Right there, I was uspet. How dare he say that after in the first two books, Mercy saved his life and his daughters without anybody’s help. So techincally he owed her. And for him to say she came to him for help. Those were small instances, not the like the big ones Mercy help with.

  2. Mystee

    July 14, 2010 5:01 pm, Reply

    I haven’/t read any of these…but, from this one, they seem interesting. I will need to add this to my TBR list and pick these up soon.

  3. Kayla + Cyna

    July 16, 2010 5:56 pm, Reply

    @ Savannah Oh, that’s absolutely true, it’s not like Mercy hasn’t done anything to help him, it’s crap that she goes to him for help and all the sudden she owes him for it. I’m guessing it was supposed to be romantic or something, but it just came off as a jackass move to us.

    @ Mystee lol it certainly is interesting, in a rageful way, lol. Worth reading at least to bitch about.

  4. Hailey K

    September 6, 2015 12:42 pm, Reply

    Um excuse me? Who is the “we” you are referring to? Everyone I’ve talked to likes Adam. You’re thinking about this all from a human point of view when you should be looking at it from a supernatural stance. Adam is old and magical and he doesn’t have full control over his actions. First, he is a werewolf, for God’s sake. He’s going to get angry! Sorry! And second, when he was growing up and well into his adulthood, men were superior to women. Do you think it’s easy to just change that way of thinking after it’s been ingrained in his behavior for so many years? No. It’s not. Think about old people and technology. Some of them pick up on the new and improved technology, some don’t. Adam can’t do it all. And I like that Briggs gives all of her characters faults. It makes it more realistic! If everyone was absolutely perfect, if Mercy and Adams relationship was perfect, then it wouldn’t be relatable. If Adam had reacted calmly to Jesse’s situation, who would relate to that? Parents are protective and alpha werewolves are protective… Put them together and what do you get? Exactly. I don’t know a single parent who wouldn’t get angry if their child was hurt. Mothers tend to be more nurturing and fathers are protective. I think Adam handled it like a normal father, who is also a werewolf, would. And as for Tim being the first “non-Alpha male type,” I can list a few of them for you: Zee, Tad, Gabriel, Peter, Kyle. And it seems, though I may be wrong, like you’re insinuating that rape is the worst thing that could happen to a “woman.” Yet, Ben was raped as a child and look how it has affected him. He’s a man. This “message” you’re saying Briggs is trying to send (that if a woman tries something on her own, without a man to guide her, she will be raped), is completely absurd. You’re contradicting yourself because you were getting angry that people were blaming her for Adam’s anger and whatnot, yet here you are saying Briggs is blaming Mercy for getting raped. In reality, the message was to show Mercy surviving, that women (and men) can go through something horrifying and still survive. It was also to bring out the positive characteristics of Ben! Up until this point, all we knew about Ben was that he’s a woman-hating pig who may or may not have raped those girls. After we found out about his past, he became a key role in Mercy’s story. And Briggs was not implying that she needed a boyfriend to not be alone, despite the plethora of friends she has aquired throughout her life. Mercy meant alone in the sense of a significant other. You can have hundreds of friends and still feel alone. To have a significant other is to have someone who will lay by your side and be there for you when you need them most, who knows you on a different level than everyone else. And what? Because the “alpha male types” get angry means they’re abusive? Who never gets angry? Everyone shows anger in different ways, and considering how much harm werewolves can do if they want, Adam punching the doorframe is equivalent to a teenager slamming a door. So Adam is a villain in your eyes because he told Mercy she’s his after she was raped? Here is Mercy, scared and alone and thinking she messed everything up, and Adam tells her she is his and he loves her and you think that’s a bad thing? You are telling me that you wouldn’t want your boyfriend to tell you that he wasn’t going to leave you after you were drugged with magic that made you submissive and willing and raped? As for Ben’s “bit too convenient shared experience,” are you joking? No really, I want to know. If that’s “convenient” then so is Mercy killing Tim, and Adam adding security to the garage, and every other set of events in the book. I guess it is convenient that he was raped as a child. Are you serious? And you say “she makes it difficult to enjoy these books” but she has plenty of readers who absolutely love them. That “disturbing relationship and worldview” is called supernatural, which is the type of genre she is writing. Needless to say, I found your review close-minded and irritating.

    • Cyna Cyna

      September 7, 2015 1:35 am, Reply

      Alright, so! You are correct about the description of rape as “the worst thing that can happen to a woman”. That is horribly inaccurate, rape is a terrible thing that happens to people of all genders. I’m glad to be given the opportunity to touch on this a little, because many of our reviews are several years old, written while we were still learning about criticism and sensitive social issues and how to discuss them, and the douchey things that we’ve said and the ways we’ve said them makes me cringe sometimes.

      I also admit that the whole “Briggs meant rape as a warning to active female characters” might have been jumping the gun, although that is genuinely how it felt to us reading Iron Kissed. The handling of the fallout from the rape over the following books was one of the few things we appreciated about the series. It was generally well=handled. That being said, I still personally find it repugnant that the rape was used as a plot device/catalyst for the Mercy/Adam pairing. That shit is gross.

      Second, the “we” used in the review refers to the royal/collective We, because when we discuss terrible PNR and UF on this site, obviously we’re speaking for the entire fandom.

      No, it’s because two people collaborated on this review. Come on man, it’s in the tags, the logo, the about page, the url. That was the gimmick for like the entire first season.

      As for the rest of it, I mean, it basically seems like you’re trying to justify all of these things that you had a problem with me having a problem with to me with series canon, but the canon is the part that I take issue with. Like, werewolves are not actual creatures out there in the wild who’ve had studies done about them that the author had to portray accurately. Every decision made, from werewolves being hyper-agressive to Adam having an attitude towards women from the ’50s to Mercy idolizing his over-the-top toxic masculinity to the rape forcing Mercy to confront her loneliness is a decision that Briggs made for the series, and its those decisions that I’m not a fan of.

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