Book Review: Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 12 of Mercy Thompson
Publisher: Ace (March 17, 2020)
Length: 368 pages
Along with the Dresden Files, the Mercy Thompson series is one of the longest-running urban fantasy series I’m currently following right now, and I gotta say, at twelve books it’s still going strong. Granted, we’ve had some ups and downs with the last few installments, but Smoke Bitten puts us back on track with some intense paranormal action and good old-fashioned intrigue.
Of course, we have Underhill to thank for most of that. Obviously, if you haven’t read all the books up to this point, you might want to catch up before proceeding with this review as it may contain spoilers for the previous volumes, and Underhill definitely counts as one of these major plot developments. Also known as the fae realm, Underhill has opened one of her gateways quite literally into Mercy’s backyard, letting through a lot of strange types—and strange vibes. Not that Mercy needs any more complications in her already drama-filled life. Her relationship with Adam has been quite strained lately, thanks to the meddling by his manipulative ex-wife. After one particularly heated conversation, Mercy decides to take a brisk walk to cool her temper, and that’s when she hears the gunshots.
To her shock, she finds two of her neighbors dead from an apparent murder-suicide. But something about the situation feels very wrong, and as usual, Mercy’s suspicions prove correct. This tragedy had the mark of Underhill all over it, a place where only the deadliest, trickiest creatures have managed to survive in the aftermath of the great fae exodus, which left the realm lawless and unguarded. Now something malicious has passed through its gates into this world, something capable of taking the form of anyone it chooses. Worse, it can also seize control of anyone it bites, stealing their memories and knowledge. And unfortunately, its rampage has just begun.
After the rather stagnant feel of the previous books, it’s nice to see Smoke Bitten return the series to fine form. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of Mercy Thompson for a long time and that’s not about to change. Still, we’re talking about a series that encompasses a dozen novels, not to mention all the spin-offs and anthologies it has spawned. All these stories add up, and thus you end up with the difficult challenge of balancing years of history along with the repercussions, while trying to come up with new ideas to keep things fresh. I certainly don’t envy this part of the author’s job, considering how she’s also been juggling the Alpha & Omega series, so on some level, it’s really no surprise that pack drama and supernatural politics take up a lot of page time in her books.
Still, it can get tiring, which is why I personally found Smoke Bitten so revitalizing. Compared to Storm Cursed, which I had described as being too unfocused and bogged down by useless posturing and talk, this book saw Mercy plunge right back into the action, taking charge and kicking ass. I guess if there’s one positive thing about the previous installment feeling too much like a “bridge book” is that it ultimately led to plenty of compelling developments in this one. I do so enjoy the way Mercy gets the other werewolves to follow her lead, as well as stand on even footing with Adam. As a coyote shifter, she’s part of the pack but not bound by the strict rules of their magic, and I think it’s important that she never allows anyone to forget she is her own person.
And speaking of Adam, there are some marriage woes in Smoke Bitten, and I’m still of two minds about it. On the one hand, I adore the passion between Mercy and Adam, as well as the strength of the love they have for each other. It honestly pained me to read about the problems in their relationship. Yet on the other hand, given how Adam’s issues were a direct consequence of certain events that happened in Storm Cursed, they weren’t completely unexpected and hence Briggs can’t really be faulted for throwing in unnecessary drama. I don’t want to go into any more detail than that for fear of spoilers, but what I will say is that the issues Mercy and Adam faced here were very unique and, if nothing else, an interesting way to test their bond. At the end of the day, I believe they are an even stronger couple now for having weathered through it.
Bottom line, I will always love the Mercy Thompson books. While some are going to be better than others, it frankly amazes me that we are on book twelve and I still find the series as fun and engaging as the day I first picked up Moon Called years ago. The world only gets richer and more vivid with time, with the characters feeling deeper and more alive and rewarding to follow.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Reread of River Marked (Book 6)
Review of Night Broken (Book 8)
Review of Fire Touched (Book 9)
Review of Silence Fallen (Book 10)
Review of Storm Cursed (Book 11)
Review of Shifting Shadows (Anthology)