Shifting Shadows: Stories From the World of Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs
|Shifting Shadows: Stories From the World of Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Ten main, if shorter works, in this author's brilliant urban fantasy universe, providing many instant hits for fans and newcomers.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: September 2014|
To recap, then – meet Patricia Briggs. Besides one standalone book Aralorn her many novels have been set in one universe – a world in the NW USA where all kinds of fantasy creatures live in amongst humans, whether officially or otherwise. Car mechanic Mercy Thompson is part-coyote, and therefore can shapeshift, but we've also seen how she has other minor talents in solving problems and identifying threats that other aspects of the fantasy world can deliver. Her colleagues have been fae, her best friends (and worst enemies) vampires, and she's now the partner of the region's alpha werewolf – who employs a witch as fixer; everywhere you look there is lore as to how all these species interrelate and the books drip with rules about every aspect of living beyond the mundane. So far there is a minor trilogy set on the edges of Mercy's world, but eight major – and majorly successful – books fully focussed on her. But Patty Briggs must clearly have a very restless imagination, and a will to narrate strong stories, and the results have also led us to this fat volume of short stories, that come from instances, characters and times scattered throughout her mythology.
And mere left-overs they are not. Six have been presented before, four are brand new, and it's a crying shame we can't tell from this book which is which. But boy do they show the strengths of what must count as one of this genre's best authors. In being more concise than the novels, and often-times more concerned with one aspect of the tangled webs between the species I mentioned above than they are with action, they tend to highlight the more feminine, sometimes romantic, side to urban fantasy. (Plus they show that Mercy is too spunky a character to dissolve into lovey smush, much to her benefit and ours.) So we go way back in time to see a werewolf lose one master and gain independence – and a partner; we see a mysterious female desire a particular, haunted apartment much to the surprise of her team of developers; a werewolf finds a particular connection with a witch he employs on a missing-persons hunt, and more.
While we only really meet Mercy the once – and her story of her ghost-hunting shows how the character has been driven to progress since her first novel outing – the tales are definitely of interest to Briggs fans. That trilogy I mentioned gets a fully-rounded prequel in one of the two longer stories here, but they all tie in, and they all show the strengths of Briggs to such an extent newcomers will feel welcome and will be very pleased to be so – the minutiae with which she brings her mythology to stand in the complex status games of werewolves in the tale 'Roses in Winter' is just superb. Minor characters that Mercy knows face zombie attack, or defend a violent and damaged werewolf boy from something even worse, but never without much forethought being given to character – these people are always written so well as to feel human, even when they most certainly are not.
OK, a couple of the tales seem to end quite bluntly, and one where an office bore saves a secretary from the office abuser really didn't float my boat with its patronising exposition about computers (did we need to be told what IT stands for, really?!), but on the whole the writing is exceptional. I wouldn't write home about the two deleted scenes included at the end here, but it just goes to show these stories are no mere knock-offs for anthologies, or a quick commission. They combine to cover a gamut of factors that make fantasy so great, and the urban kind of it so warmly accepting a female reader, and they show that while they may well mention the odd bit of blood and guts this author at least can always bring a lot of heart to proceedings as well.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The Ripper Affair by Lilith Saintcrow shows women in command of many other kinds of fantasy - in this case, Victorian steampunk.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Shifting Shadows: Stories From the World of Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs at Amazon.com.
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