Fire Touched: An excellent installment in a fresh, inventive series

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Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs urban fantasy book reviewsFire Touched by Patricia Briggs

*Note: spoilers for earlier books in the series

Fire Touched, just published on March 8, 2016, is the ninth novel in Patricia BriggsMERCY THOMPSON urban fantasy series, and the series is still going strong. In fact, this is one of the stronger entries in the series.

Mercy is relaxing in her home with her husband Adam, the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack. Of course there are all the small day-to-day annoyances: Adam’s ex-wife, a thorn in Mercy’s side, is still in town; the fae walking stick is still stubbornly following Mercy around; the other non-werewolf member of the pack, Joel the tibicena (sort of a brimstone demon Pressa Canario) is having trouble controlling his demon dog shape and shifting to human form for any appreciable amount of time; the mother of her stepdaughter’s friend corners Mercy to sell her vitamins and essential oils that may be infused with witchcraft as well as lavender.

A bigger problem is that the fae are still barricaded inside their reservations, magically blocked off from humans, but there are signs of trouble. Some deadly fae monsters have been released upon the human world, and the media is starting to take notice, though the government is trying to keep a lid on it and avoid publicity and any resulting panic. This latest monster blows the lid off all containment efforts: an elephant-sized troll takes over Cable Bridge on the Columbia River, playing with and tossing around vehicles like they’re Matchbox cars and chomping down on a few humans. Mercy, Adam and the rest of the werewolf pack take off to try to take care of the problem, and a rousing battle ensues. But this is only the first symptom of bigger problems.

MERCY THOMPSON Series

MERCY THOMPSON Series

At the conclusion of the battle, Mercy officially agrees to extend the protection of the werewolf pack to a human who is “Fire Touched,” gifted by the fae’s sentient Underhill with magical control over fire. Aidan looks like a ten year old child ― the age he was when he was kidnapped by the fae centuries ago ― but he has a very old mind, and he’s just escaped from both Underhill and the fae, who want him back very badly. Mercy’s actions, though justifiable because of some significant assistance Aiden has provided to friends of the pack, may endanger the pack and the humans who live in their territory.

It’s amazing how Briggs continues to keep the MERCY THOMPSON series so fresh and inventive. Briggs continues to weave a complex and well-integrated overarching story as the ripple effects of past events and decisions continue to affect the characters’ lives. Seemingly minor occurrences early in Fire Touched resurface later to play a substantial role in the plot; old characters learn and grow and new characters are introduced who are well-rounded and seem likely to play a role in later installations in this series. One is Aidan, who is out of touch with modern times and displays a poignant mix of defensive anger and vulnerability. Another interesting add is Sherwood Post, a troubled werewolf sent by Bran to Adam’s pack, amusingly named after two authors (Sherwood Anderson and Emily Post) that Bran was reading at the time, but not-so-amusingly dealing with suicidal tendencies arising out of his disability and traumatic past.

There was a surprisingly swift resolution of the longstanding issue of how Mercy is having difficulty being accepted by some of the pack. The suddenness and completeness of it surprised both Mercy and me, but a reasonably satisfactory explanation is offered that is consistent with wolf pack behavior, and frankly it’s relieving to have this issue finally resolved (at least one hopes).

Mercy Thompson remains one of the most appealing characters in urban fantasy, with her unusually well-realized traits of loyalty and concern for others, courage in the face of sometimes overwhelming odds, and selfless determination to do what’s right. Combined with an intelligent plot that has a satisfying amount of action as well as character growth and change, Fire Touched will be beloved by Briggs’ many fans and is likely to win her some new ones.

Published March 8, 2016. Mercy Thompson has been hailed as “a heroine who continues to grow and yet always remains true to herself.”* Now she’s back, and she’ll soon discover that when the fae stalk the human world, it’s the children who suffer… Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae. Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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4 comments

  1. I did not know these were set in Oregon! I started one (not the first one) a while ago and could never get into it, but now that I know that Portland might make an appearance, maybe I’ll give it another go.

    • Marion, actually they’re set in the Tri-Cities area in Washington, but maybe that’s close enough for you. :) This is one of those series that took two or three books to really get rolling, but now I really love it. I whipped through the last five books in record time so I could get to this one. Now I don’t know what to do next! (Okay, actually I do know, but I will miss this series.)

  2. I didn’t realize that this was the latest book–I’m glad you liked it! I’m sure waiting for the next installment is going to be tough. :)

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