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Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs: A Pandora’s Box

Today, AAR reviewers Maggie Boyd and Mary Skelton tackle Fire Touched, the ninth book in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.

Here is Maggie’s summary of the novel:

Tensions between the fae, humans and the supernatural community at large are at an all-time high. Everyone now knows that magic is in the world, not everyone is thrilled it exists. It doesn’t help that just like with people in our world, the fae are comprised of good (well, almost good) and evil (well, really, monstrously evil). In this stress filled environment, the Columbia Basin pack led by Adam Hauptman, has become the public face of the werewolf community. When coyote shape-shifter Mercy and her mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves in a genuine mess. Escapees from the fae are seeking asylum with them. Two, Zee and his son Tad, are friends who have been helpful to the pack – and Mercy in particular –before. The third is a human child who lived in Underhill, the magical home of the fae, for a long time. And it seems he acquired some powers while he was there. . . .

 Impetuous Mercy declares the tri-cities under the protection of the pack and all of them choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But just what will it mean for them to both publicly claim a territory and agree to protect a boy hunted by the fae?

Maggie: I really love this series – and this book. I can’t believe she has managed to keep the quality of the books so great this far into the series.

And I have to say the start of the novel, with the lady selling essential oils was just hilarious. That moment of levity was exactly what was needed to get the story going. The scene that followed with Adam chasing Mercy about the house was just a perfect blend of fun and romance for me. The author has really kept the sexy going in this relationship. Nudge is now one of my favorite romantic words. What are your thoughts of that initial scene?

Mary:  I also love this series.  I discovered it after reading the last in Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels books and was looking for something similar to read.  I blew right through all of the books and then jumped on the chance to read this one.

The essential oil scene did crack me up.  Haven’t we all known someone like that?  The Avon lady, Pampered Chef, or some other pyramid product salesperson who dips into friendships and acquaintances to sell a product?  It made Mercy and Adam’s life seem normal in between saving the world from mass destruction, and showed Mercy in her role as step-mom to Jesse taking one for the team.

I also love how Adam treats Mercy and vice versa.  A perfect combination of protectiveness while at the same time respecting the autonomy of the other.  Their relationship is to the books what the bond with the alpha is to the pack.  It is the glue that holds everything together.

Maggie:  Yeah, they’re a great couple. One of the complaints I’ve heard by readers leveled against Mercy is that she takes too much on herself and is quick to put others in danger. What did you think of the situation with Aidan (on the bridge when she offered sanctuary)? Was Mercy acting too independently or was the choice she made the right thing to do?

Mary:  That might be a legitimate complaint, but that is who Mercy is (her name is not incidental, in my opinion).  She was bullied as a young child/coyote and her natural instinct is to stand up for the underdog (ah…so many puns) and as we found out in this book, that is part of Coyote’s psyche – looking out for the underdog.  Adam was fully aware of this when he got involved with her, so I do not believe he could complain about placing the pack in a sticky situation.  In fact, he pretty much tells her in her head that he approved of what she did.  He as an alpha is also uber protective, so I think he understands where Mercy’s head is.

What I wonder is how this acquisition of new territory will affect the Pack in the future and how it will play out for all of the other packs.

Maggie: I thought it was more a public claim of their already existing territory but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Let’s talk characters.

Bran has to be the person/werewolf I most want to see more of in this series. I just find him very, very fascinating. In this book, I found it intriguing that Mercy used him as a defense when explaining the laws of sanctuary to the pack re Aiden.  I found Bran’s reaction to the entire situation and Mercy’s response his actions deeply interesting. What did you think of that aspect? Are you as fascinated by Bran as I am?

Mary:  Oh yes.  Bran is an enigma.  Little bits and pieces of him have emerged through this series as well as the Alpha and Omega series and those little bits just make me want to know his whole story.  He seems like a man torn between his enormous duty as the Marrock and his need to be a regular man who can love.  Maybe that is one of Patricia Brigg’s goals; to write Bran’s story when all the other stories are told.

Bran also plays the long game very well.  No one, not even his sons are privy to what goes on in his mind.  From the Alpha and Omega books, we know why he mated with Leah.  I would absolutely LOVE a Bran love story!  Can you even envision who would be strong enough to be his perfect mate?

Maggie: I can’t. I can’t imagine who would be smart enough and strong enough to be his mate. I just hope whoever it is isn’t like Leah. Can not stand that woman.

We lost something very special to the series at the end of the novel. Technically it’s not a person but I’ve always thought of it as a sentient being. Do you think it is truly gone or are you hoping for a comeback like I am?

Mary:  I am hoping it is not gone.  It was like another character and I mourned its passing.  I cannot remember the significance of lavender (cleansing?), but maybe that is a foreshadowing of something to come.  Things have a way of regenerating in these books.  So who knows?

Maggie: Right. I mean, the books deal with a magical world so anything could happen, couldn’t it? I’m hoping for a return.

Uncle Mike. What did you think of his part in all the shenanigans of the book?

Mary:  Once in the book, I think it was Beauclaire who said that the fae did not really care about themselves as a race.  They cared about their individual families.  That was one reason given for the difficulty in getting the fae to work together.  I think that family means different things to different fae.  Zee sees Mercy as family and therefore he cares about her and her extended family.  I think Uncle Mike is headed in that direction, whereas he used to stand on more neutral ground.  But he had a stake in wanting to be allowed to stay out in the human world, so he aligned with Mercy and the Pack in this battle (and he was angry at what was done to Zee).  We see this when the visit to his bar shows everything in readiness for him to reopen.  Also as we have seen before, going through fire with someone forges bonds that are hard to break and bonds with the Pack were strengthened during this latest battle.  At the end of the book, Uncle Mike’s bar has changed.  It is no longer a place for just the fae.  I think that kind of gives us the direction Uncle Mike has gravitated toward.

Maggie: I totally agree. I think Uncle Mike likes it out in the human world and wants to stay as part of that. Another character that intrigued me was Josh Harper, whom we met in the scene at the church. Mercy’s faith has played a part in the books throughout the series and I have a feeling that moment is going to have impact down the line. What about you?

Mary:  I don’t think Briggs writes very many throwaway characters.  Pastor White is probably one of those, but Josh Harper may have more staying power.  I don’t think Mercy would continue to attend a church where her kind was not welcomed, so White probably won’t last very long.  But she is Coyote’s daughter and a former alcoholic like Harper would be just the type of person she ends up defending.  I think Mercy has faith, but it is different from what we traditionally think of as faith.  I think her church serves as a sort of touchstone to the human part of her soul.  Her Coyote spirit is something else altogether and something she has not totally come to terms with.  I expect her spirituality to change and grow even more as she embraces all aspects of her soul.

In this book, Mercy tells the reader that Adam believes in God, but that he does not like him very much (or is angry with him).  I find it interesting that the character (Adam) that has lived longer and seems much more put together has this attitude.  Do you think this is just an observation by Briggs or will Adam’s anger at God come into play in the future?

Maggie: I don’t know how much Adam’s anger will be a part of the coming books but I’m not surprised he is angry. He was changed against his will and had his life altered completely as a result. I think that would be a lot to live with – to have this massive change forced on you. He adores family and the miscarriages and failed marriage in his past have been painful for him. Being a wolf played a large part in both of those things so I don’t blame him in the least if he feels like God turned his back on him. When you add in all the horrible things that have happened to their pack, I’m amazed Mercy still has faith!

Then again, I think it is easier for Mercy (and Charles) because they have been who they are their whole lives. Their change is fast and painless whereas the others all have these long, horrific experiences every time they change. Also, for Mercy, she has led something of a charmed life. Sure, she’s had lots of struggles and fights but she has a lot of good going for her too. She found a really nice vampire to be friends with who protects her from the seethe, she has powerful fae allies in Zee and Tad, she’s buddies with a cop and a volcano god – rather than being a coyote she should be a lynx or mountain lion! She’s got at least nine lives and she always lands on her feet.

It sounds like we both really enjoyed the book. I would give it an A-/ B+ grade overall and I would recommend the series to fans of paranormal romance. I would strongly encourage people to start with Homecoming or Moon Called. Ms. Brigg’s has a nice timeline to her Mercyverse here that should help readers know what order to read the books in.

What are your thoughts re grading and recommendations?

Mary: I would also give this book an A-/B+ grade.  A poorly written series does not have me spending full price for eight books and reading them all within one week.  Each book seems to be standing on its own merits and I think Fire Touched is just as well written as the first in the series.  I also agree that those new to this series need to start at the beginning.  One could probably follow the story fairly well, but there is too much history that impacts on this story to skip those that came before it.  Plus they are all just wonderful books.  This is one of those series where you would love to see a television series emerge where there would be months of arguing about who would make the best Mercy and Adam and would they be true to the books.

Fire Touched may be ordered here.


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03/05/2016 2:16 pm

On ebook pricing, I flat-out won’t buy any ebook priced at $10 or more, so I currently have almost 200 titles (including the subject of this column) in my eReaderIQ price-watch list. Since I already have thousands of tbr books on hand, I’m willing to wait years for reasonable prices rather than support price-fixing publishers.

maggie b.
maggie b.
Reply to  Mark
03/05/2016 7:57 pm

I tend not to buy if they are over ten dollars. That said, I have probably five authors whom I will buy if the ebook is over that price and Briggs is one of them.

The situation is very frustrating because a lot of times I want to support the author and frankly, I want to read the darn book. It’s difficult to have to walk away just because the publishers are such jerks. I can remember reading an article a few years ago where the publisher proudly declared that charging exorbitant (my term, not his) rates for ebooks allowed them to pay authors for meaningful books they knew wouldn’t sell but they felt needed to be published. He mentioned a new biography of Lincoln where they were able to essentially support the author for the two years he wrote. I was livid! If the book isn’t going to make money and you know that up front you do not pay the author. If he can’t do the work in his spare time then he shouldn’t do it.It’s a miracle any of them have managed to stay in business with that kind of business ethic.

Reply to  maggie b.
03/05/2016 10:21 pm

I would also be angry if I were an author and my work was subsidizing another author.

03/05/2016 5:12 am

Thankyou AAR for this Pandora’s Box. It was a very interesting, and reassuring, discussion. Patricia Briggs is an autobuy for me but I must admit the greed of her publishers who are charging $16.99 Australian for an ebook had me very nervous when I preordered in case it turned out to be just ok. However it sounds as though it will be a really great addition to the series. In my opinion Patricia Briggs ( Mercy Thompson series) and Ilona Andrews ((Kate Daniels series) are outstanding in the urban fantasy genre. Each new story is not just not our h/H fighting the beast/ villian/ crazy du jour but advances both the growth of the protagonists and the overall story arc. Of course the real test will come if the authors resist pressure to continue a successful series ad nauseum ( I suspect their respective publishers will pressure them to do so) and instead wind the story arc up at a natural and satisfactory conclusion. On the issue of exorbitant pricing for ebooks, don’t publishers realise that many book lovers like me buy ebooks, hard cover/ paperback and sometimes audiobook of favourite authors if we can afford it? However if the prices are too high we will choose to wait to buy it secondhand or get in the queue at the library. I really appreciate authors (and their agents) who negotiate for their books to be priced reasonably. It seems to me that as things are at the moment, it’s a no risk for the publishers: if they price an author’s book so high that it prices itself out of the market, they blame the author for poor sales. Has there been any research done on the sweet spot for book prices, especially ebook prices? Do agents actually use any such research to negotiate the selling price of books by authors they represent? If you could get some authors and agents to brief you on book pricing ( even if off the record) it would be an interesting blog post by one of your staff and I suspect would generate lots of discussion. Anyway thankyou for the insight into the new Mercy Thompson story. I am looking forward to it downloading to an iPad near me on Tuesday 8 March.

Dabney Grinnan
Dabney Grinnan
Reply to  Frances
03/05/2016 8:35 am

That’s a great idea. I see lots of discussion about pricing and placement, publishing and Amazon. We will work on putting together a piece.



maggie b.
maggie b.
Reply to  Frances
03/05/2016 7:47 pm

I think you will really enjoy this one. The quality is consistent with other books in the series. But I agree that the price is outrageous.