~~Moved from GR~~
River Marked (Mercy Thompson #6)
by Patricia Briggs
I've really enjoyed this series: despite being very PNR UF, the romance doesn't overwhelm the fun parts and Mercy Thompson herself is a strong, independent heroine. The plots are typically adrenaline-filled and the characters are engaging and sympathetic. However, this instalment of Mercy's story lacked the action and tight plotting of her other adventures, and this in turn brought into focus a lot of my issues with the characters and their relationships.
The story starts with a wedding six books in the making. Mercy and Adam head out to the wilds near the Columbia River on their honeymoon, but due to a little fairy fiddling behind the scenes, they end up right in the middle of some serious supernatural shenanigans. There's something in the water, and it's not particularly friendly. Mercy quickly becomes involved in an ancient struggle between Native American spirits and finally has the opportunity to explore her own heritage.
Is there such a thing as a guilt-induced manuscript? If there is, I'd say this would qualify as a prime example. In my opinion, Briggs has been brushing aside (whitewashing?) Mercy's Native American ancestry for the last five books, and in this one, she finally addresses it. So many UF authors promulgate positively horrendous Native American stereotypes (*cough* Jim Butcher *cough*) and I really appreciate Ms. Briggs' respectful treatment of both Native American issues and culture, as well as her evident research efforts, but in my opinion, this book wandered dangerously close to hardcore infodump territory. The story's action is routinely bogged down by plot-irrelevant stories and discussions of culture and heritage. Personally, if I were marked for death and enslavement by a river devil, I don't think I'd care too much about the history of a local building or my deepest feeling about types of walkers. And the Mercy I know and love usually tries to solve problems rather than wallowing in them.
With none of the pulse-racing plot points of the previous stories, and with most of the recurring characters offscene, I was forced to spend more time actually thinking about Mercy and Adam's relationship and just how problematic I find Adam.
***Guys, if you like romance and/or Adam, please skip the next few paragraphs. I have romance and/or Dominant Alpha Male Issues, and I'm about to kvetch.***
First, I finally figured out who he reminds me of. Adam is dark-haired, handsome, hirsute, and very muscular. His personality is textbook alpha male: arrogant, possessive, egocentric, and dictatorial. He believes he knows what is best for everyone and pushes in to solve everyone else's problems, no matter how much they protest. He views the people around him as his possessions, under his rulership. And every last inch of him's covered in...fur, I guess.
In fact, to me, he comes across as Gaston.
"My little wife massaging my feet, while the little ones play on the floor with the dogs (or other Pack members). We'll have six or seven."
So, what would Gaston do if he was a werewolf living in modern-day America? Would he:
- Claim a girl as his mate without ever even telling her about it, let alone asking her?
- Install security cameras in the girl's office, completely without her permission, "for her safety" and then watch her all the time?
- Inform her that she can't "run away" from him, and that wherever she goes, he'll find her?
- Be undecided about whether he will allow her to go to WalMart by herself?
- Inform her she can never remove her ring?
- Repeatedly say "Mine. She's mine!" whenever anyone tries to describe her?
- Become incensed any time another man even looks at her, to the point where she is worried about whether he will attack any man who finds her attractive?
Guess what? Adam does all of these things. Sure, he's a kindly owner, who, after some amount of thought, allows Mercy to go to WalMart, etc. But to me, that doesn't supersede the fact that both of them think in terms of him allowing her. Not ok.
Otherwise, the story was the usual entertaining romp with Mercy. It was interesting seeing her in a new setting, bereft of her usual allies and enemies. No matter how irritating I find Adam, I always find myself liking Mercy's practical, down-to-earth attitude to just about everything. I enjoyed seeing her explore her own ancestry and her confrontations with some new supernatural movers and shakers. Overall, despite some irritations, it was another solid entry in the wonderful Mercy Thompson series. If you haven't tried these books, you really should--the first is Moon Called.