2013. Ace. Hardcover. 340 pages.
If you’ve never read the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, allow me to point you to this review of the series that I wrote last summer. This isn’t a series that you can jump in anywhere – best to read from the beginning.
Frost Burned is the newest addition to the series, released in March of this year, and I’m happy to report that the series is still as strong as ever. The book begins with Mercy and her step-daughter Jessie braving Black Friday crowds to do Christmas shopping. I love that the characters still participate in such normal activities this far in the series. Of course, normal life is interrupted when Mercy’s husband, Adam Hauptmann, is kidnapped along with other members of his werewolf pack.
I really loved this first part of the book. With many of her supernatural friends taken or incommunicado, Mercy must reach out to those few allies that are available. Fraying relationships are repaired in a time of crisis, a new werewolf arrives on the scene, homes are busted up, and a likable character meets a tragic end.
Mercy gets to do some cool magic in Frost Burned, the ramifications of which I hope will be explored in later books. Her ability to communicate with ghosts, one of my favorite aspects of the series, surfaces again in several touching and eerie scenes.
I appreciated that Mercy’s frequent close-calls with death over the course of the series was not ignored in Frost Burned. Her friends and others warn her that she’s been very lucky so far, but that her luck won’t last forever. It makes me wonder if Patricia Briggs has an end-game in mind for this series.
The events of Frost Burned crystallized a theme of the series for me. Much of the plot in this book and in the previous books involves supernatural groups using Mercy and her morality to fight their battles. They know they can count on her loyalty and obligation to do the right thing, even if they themselves are morally ambivalent. Also, unlike most of the other supernatural creatures – the vampires, the fae, and even the relatively moral werewolves – Mercy isn’t constrained by the politics of her own supernatural group. Yes, she’s part of a werewolf pack, but she is not a werewolf, and that gives her some wiggle room. While there are other shapeshifters like her in the world, they are loosely tied together, not hierarchically organized like the other groups.
Frost Burned is not a perfect book: as with previous books in the series, the convoluted plots and lengthy scenes where characters discuss their next move, can almost drag. On the other hand, those same plots give proper due to the complex supernatural world that Briggs has created. Those scenes of dialogue where characters discuss logistics and supernatural politics demonstrate that the characters have recognizable, relatable limitations. They don’t immediately know the right course of action; they disagree with each other on what that action should be, and who should be the one to do it.
My one quibble with Frost Burned is that I sometimes felt lost because I had not read Fair Game, the most recent book of Patricia Briggs’ parallel Alpha & Omega series. Major events that happened in Fair Game are repeatedly referenced in Frost Burned. It got to the point that I stopped reading Frost Burned midway through, and went out and borrowed Fair Game from my library. I didn’t read it all the way through, because I don’t enjoy the characters in that series as much, but I made sure to skim to the end. With that necessary background, I resumed reading Frost Burned. So just be forewarned that there’s a more cross-pollination than usual in Frost Burned.
Excerpts from others’ reviews:
Beyond Books – “The one problem I had with the book was the ending. I was sort of disappointed once the Big Reveal was announced. I had sort of hoped for more than what it was because I thought it was…lacking? Anti-climatic? It felt somewhat dissonant to the rest of the novel. Oh, well. I still enjoyed the book immensely.”
Dear Author – “I particularly liked the number of dangerous creatures in this book. It fits with my worldview of old, powerful beings. They either crave more power or are insane or both. Sometimes you end up cheering on the least evil person in the melee.”
Lovely Books Blog – “The number one thing I adored about this novel was that Briggs included Adams point of view. After six books completely from Mercy’s point of view it was a bit strange to read from Adams point of view but ultimately I loved it.”