Before we get to the book individually we would like to talk about the issues we have with the series as a whole.
We’ll start with our biggest, most lasting issue with this series as a whole: the sexism. We touched on this in our Moon Called review, but we’ll recap and summarize here. To put it bluntly, female werewolves in Mercy’s world cannot hold any power. Regardless of their wolf’s dominance, unmated females are automatically ranked lowest within the pack, and have no chance of moving up on their own. They are victims of – and generally resign themselves to – abuse doled out by the males in the back because, by and large, they don’t have the authority to challenge it. It is portrayed as pretty rare to find a pack that doesn’t victimize it’s women, and even rarer to find a wolf who will view one as equal.
The only way a woman can claw her way up from the bottom of the food chain is by attaching herself to a higher-ranking male, but even then, her individual abilities are not recognized, because she is bound to her mate’s rank.
Unfortunately women aren’t the only ones resigned to sexist roles in the Mercy Thompson world. The vast majority of male ‘wolves are dominant, macho, easily-angered, testosterone-crazed, violent MANLY MEN perpetually engaged in pissing contests with everyone they meet. In fact, the official Mercy Thompson explanation for the refusal to allow women into pack hierarchy is that all the really powerful weres are ancient and therefore “old-fashioned” (primary love interests included). Apparently they were absent for the sixties, or at least didn’t understand what all the bra-burning was for.
For the ‘heroes’, Briggs wraps all these unattractive qualities in cloaks of ‘protectiveness’ and ‘their nature’ and adorable quaintness, and we’re expected to forgive it.
These issues make it really hard to get into the romantic aspect of the series. Its difficult to root for either Sam or Adam when neither of them really show genuine love for Mercy. Sam’s only interest in Mercy as a mate is her ladyparts, and her (suspected) ability to bear his children. Then there’s Adam. There’s no part of that relationship that’s healthy.
In order for Mercy to be with Adam, she is forced to sacrifice much of the independence and self-reliance she’s worked for, because of Adam’s dominance and status as an Alpha. But the sacrifice is not mutual; Adam does not give anything to be with her. Instead, he forces changes on Mercy in the name of ‘protecting’ her and integrating her into his life, which she later, thanks to Briggs’ god-hand, ends up thanking him for. None the changes are not strictly necessary; they’re manifestations of Adam’s possessiveness and need to control Mercy’s life.
The second major problem we have with the series is Mercy, as a character, and how Briggs deals with her. Mercy is billed as a tough, independent, stubborn, don’t-take-shit-from-nobody person, but Briggs continually undermines these traits with the way she has Mercy behave. Mercy begins the series as the above described character, with her own home, business, and little interest in romance or a pack, and book-by-book, Briggs breaks her down.
We don’t like bashing authors, but we’ve come to feel that Patricia Briggs is making a statement, perhaps subconsciously, about what she believes a real man is, what a woman’s role really should be, and what kind of relationship the two should really share.
For all her weaknesses, Briggs’ strength lies in compelling and distinctive side characters. A big issue that we have with a lot of books is that the supporting cast is very one-note or bland. But with Briggs’ books you get a wide variety of intriguing and well rounded people. Even if you don’t end up liking Mercy, Adam, or Sam you will find yourself reading for Jesse, Warren, Zee, Stefan, or Ben (who are some of our favorite characters).
So with that out of the way, let’s get started.
Under the rule of science, there are no witch burnings allowed, no water trials or public lynchings. In return, the average law-abiding, solid citizen has little to worry about from the things that go bump in the night. Sometimes I wish I was an average citizen…In Blood Bound, we are thrown into the world of the vampires when Stefan asks Mercy for her help dealing with a demon-ridden vampire sorcerer. Yes, you heard us, a demon-ridden vampire sorcerer. That is quite a resume. At any rate, to repay the favor she owes Stefan from the previous book, Mercy accompanies him to greet this visiting DRVS. One massacre later, Stefan stands accused by his seethe of killing multiple humans and attracting unwanted attention to the vampires, and only Mercy, with her resistance to magic, knows the truth. With the information Mercy provides, the Werewolves and Vampires ally temporarily to track down the sorcerer and his maker.
Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.
But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.
One of our biggest problems with this book is that Mercy doesn’t do anything until the end. Mercy is a frustrating character in that for all of the “independence” and “stubbornness” she is billed with, she often allows the men in her life to make decisions for her. It’s not really that she’s incompetent, just that despite her supposed qualms about their archaic way of thinking, she trusts these guys’ judgment rather than her own. So if Warren or Adam or Sam tell her that she’s too weak or that it’s not her place to do something, she’ll argue a bit for show, but will ultimately give in. Because of this she sits the entire first half of the book out until there is no one else left to take care of business, and then gets off her ass.
Hey Mercy, um, why are you the protagonist again?
Anyway, in the process of ignoring the central plot, Mercy spends her time exploring her submissive side with her fellow love-triangle participants. Aside from the usual daily exchanges there are two scenes in particular that serve to develop the relationships between Mercy and her men. Neither of them do much to bolster our confidence in these romances.
In Mercy and Sam’s scene, Sam comes home from a bad day at work right on the edge of Changing. In Mercy world, this is very bad, because he could potentially freak out and eat her. In order to avoid being attacked and get close enough to comfort him, Mercy has to crawl on her belly to his side. She holds him as he tells her about his life after their split, which left him emotionally damaged. It’s a sad confession, and this scene would have been really effective if it didn’t start out with her crawling on her belly. TO APPEASE A GUY. This is a prime example of Mercy’s “defiance” in action – she qualifies it in her head as not being true submission because she doesn’t mean it, but that doesn’t really matter because she performs the act anyway. As usual, and as will become more frequent in later books, Mercy is forced to give something up – be it dignity or freedom or what have you – to bond with one of her lovers.
The scene with Adam and Mercy is slightly more disturbing than the one above, mostly because it is meant to be romantic. For us, however, this is where Mercy starts being chipped away so that she can fit into a relationship with Adam. To summarize, while angry at Adam, Mercy agrees to spar with him in his dojo and ends up in a steamy encounter. Simple enough. However, all through the steamy massage &etc, Mercy is unwilling – reluctant to be touched or to let go of her anger. Eventually she relaxes and does not object to Adam’s rather forceful advances. In the heat of the moment, Mercy finds herself wanting to let Adam just take her; to submit to him willingly. Only later does Mercy realize that her reluctance was overridden by Adam’s Alpha mojo – or, the submission-inspiring influence his dominance has over pack members.
This has all kinds of creepy date-rape-ish inclinations, but the important thing is that, while annoyed with herself for being affected by his Alpha charm, instead of becoming weary of Adam and his influence, Mercy excuses Adam’s slip and begins pondering allowing herself to give in to him. This demonstrates two important things, to our minds. One: Mercy’s willingness to blame herself for the actions of others, and two: the start of the loss of her independence, and transformation into a submissive mate.
Another subplot that kept Mercy busy this go round (while, you know, everyone else hunted down the big bad) involved a young girl, about 13 years old, who had been attacked and turned into a werewolf. Since the wolves are out to the public now, and Adam is known as the local Alpha, the girl’s father comes to Mercy in the guise of a reporter and begins inquiring about Adam’s character. He eventually reveals that his daughter has not yet learned to control her wolf, and he is afraid for both her and the general public. He wants to get her help, but is wary of werewolves in general. Mercy consults Bran on his behalf, who tells her that there are only a handful of packs that he would trust not to abuse a girl that young. We really shouldn’t have to explain why this is highly disturbing, and what it says about both sexes positions and attitudes in Briggs’ world.
Anyway, there does finally come a point where Mercy runs out of men to submit to, side stories to see through, and fae bars to sing Christmas songs in (no really, she does, and there is NO POINT TO IT AT ALL), and must go about tying up the main plot. This comes when all the other wolves and vamps who have been pursuing the demon-ridden sorcerer have been captured, and there is really nobody important to override Mercy and tell her not to try and help. Through a very convenient use of her seemingly unsuitable powers (really, it takes a big stretch to make her ghost-powers relevant at all), Mercy tracks down the sorcerer’s lair. She and her previously captured companions then engage the sorcerer in a very frantic and anti-climactic fight, in which Mercy – gasp! – actually kills him. Granted, she has Stefan’s blood, and Andre’s help, but by god, she kills him. YAY MERCY YOU ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING USEFUL!
She continues her streak of useful stuff-doing when she figures out that Andre is actually behind the whole demon-ridden vampire sorcerer thing, and turns him in to Marsilia, who clears Stefan of his misdeeds, but refuses to punish the true culprit. In an extremely tacked-on-feeling sequence that was probably only included to set up the plot for a future book, Mercy temporarily goes badass and takes matters in to her own hands. She tracks down Andre’s lair with her VERY USEFUL, DAMMIT ghost-seeing powers, and kills him. HOLY SHIT MERCY YOU DID IT AGAIN, TWICE IN ONE BOOK WE’RE SO PROUD! BUT she botches it, because, you know, she is a woman, and doesn’t think shit through, and Stefan must come to her rescue, retrieving her vampire-slaying items and killing the witnesses to her crime. Not that that helps any if you’re to believe Bone Crossed, thanks for killing innocent people for no reason, Stefan.
Okay. So that aside, there were a few things we liked about Blood Bound. Like Honey. Honey turns out to be one of the few female weres who comes to like Mercy (OMG NO BABY ENVY!), and grows on you quite a bit through this and the following book. Then there’s Stefan, who we figure would probably make a better boyfriend than either Adam or Sam. This is also the book where Ben’s development into an interesting and likable character begins, which we enjoyed. We also liked the relatively straightforward plot (you know, the main one that Mercy wasn’t really involved in), the vampire world that the book explored, and the concepts that this book brought to the table (demon-ridden sorcerer? Wordy by neat. The truth chair? Kinda cool).
All in all, we’d say:
The Mercy books are freakishly readable, and, as we’ve mentioned before, at the very least, fun to bitch about.
And then, there’s Iron Kissed…