Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson) - Patricia Briggs

(Say it out loud to yourself.)


~~Moved from GR~~

Iron Kissed

by Patricia Briggs


Mercy Thompson, car mechanic and Walker--a human who can change into a coyote--is just beginning to settle down after all the vampire shenanigans from the last book when trouble pops up on her doorstep yet again. In fighting off angry vampires, Mercy had been forced to request aid from her fey acquaintances, and fey aren't ones to forgive a debt with a simple thank-you. Instead, her old boss tells her that to repay her debt, she must use her supernaturally keen nose to determine who is responsible for a recent rash of thefts and murders on the fey reservation. And who would have thought that identifying a murderer could lead to complications? Before long, Mercy is in an even bigger mess than usual, and not all faerie glamour in the world can stop this mess from turning ugly.

Just like probably every long-running urban fantasy series out there, the Mercy Thompson series starts out with conflicts between pedestrian horror creatures in the first few books--werewolves and vampires mostly--before getting to the fun stuff: the fey. I'm never particularly enamoured by vampity and wolfie UF; maybe it's because these relatively recent creatures tend to pull their mythology from 19th-century erotica and B-movie horror (which I don't read, watch, or like) rather than ancient myths. Whatever the reason, no matter the series, I'm always most enchanted (pun not intentional, I just can't think of another word) by intrigue in the world of the fey. This book was no exception.

I can't really ignore my ridiculous pleasure at reading faerie-based urban fantasy in my reaction to this book, because otherwise, it contains several themes that would not normally appeal to me. This one falls into the paranormal romance mould far more than any of the previous books in the series. A major subplot is Mercy being attracted by-- and having to choose between-- the two alpha male werewolves who are competing for her affections. We have a lot more of the quivering emotions, passions, and temptation than I would have hoped for from the normally level-headed Mercy. This includes obnoxious discussions between said males about who Mercy has to choose, who "owns" her, and whether or not she's "afraid" of "commitment." However, the reason why I still love this series is that even though the males of her acquaintance treat her like this, even though we have to listen to her rosy-tinted lovey-dovey emotions, Mercy completely recognizes what is going on here: submitting to the "passion" means losing her agency. Period. Yes, Mercy routinely submits to the alpha males of her acquaintance and considers ways to placate them, but that doesn't stop her from at least acknowledging that submitting will mean no longer owning herself. So PNR though this may be, we still have a heroine whose brain isn't completely submerged in a puddle of estrogen.

Of course, the "happy" ending is one of said males very literally and explicitly claiming possession and ownership of her. Yuck. But at least there was some acknowledgement that this concept of possession is problematic. Possibly reversed by the weird "resolution". Alpha male: I expect you to ask me before you go anywhere or do anything, I own you now, if you ever try to flee me I will chase you, but no worries, because I'll let you take risks. Mercy: Awesome! I was just traumatized and raped and feel dirty and guilty, so (in the book's last sentence) let me strip for you and let you use me just as I was just used by another sick man! Hmmmm. Note that the happy resolution involves Mercy losing her agency. Joy.]

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The other plot point involves an extremely emotional and violent scene that traumatizes Mercy deeply

[: Mercy is raped in this book. The rape is not physically explicit, but it is emotionally raw and is very full of "fridge horror:" think about what is actually said for more than about a tenth of a second, the actual events which Briggs skirts around are absolutely horrifying. It's also in some ways a "double rape": Mercy is enchanted/forced so that she submits, so that she doesn't resist, ]

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leaving Mercy with a tremendous sense of guilt that she cannot overcome. It makes for a very, very hard read, but at the same time, I really appreciate two things about the structure of the narrative.

[First of all, the rapist isn't a good guy, and we don't have to accept him suddenly turning into the love interest. Second, Briggs explores the complexity of emotions surrounding the rape: the ways in which Mercy is made to feel complicit in her own victimization, the ways in which the guilt and violation torture and eat at her, the ways in which she feels blame and condemnation from all of the people around her.]

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There are some very raw emotions here, and I think Briggs does a reasonable job in empathizing and understanding the very complex emotions the victim.

So no, this isn't exactly the most fun or lighthearted book, and it very much treads very feminine PNR rather than UF ground, but despite all of this, I think it's a very fine addition to the series, and I can't wait to read the next.

One last thought: the heavily sexualized covers of these books initially made me unwilling to try them, but I'm glad I did, since the contents don't match the illustrations. However, given the subjects discussed in this one

[--slut-shaming, victim-blaming, rape, a victim's guilt over any possible sense of having "deserved it"]

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--the cover strikes me as positively obscene. How on earth did the publisher let it stand?