REVIEW SUMMARY: River Marked is a solid entry in the Mercy Thompson (shapeshifter and mechanic extraordinaire) urban fantasy series, rich in magic and Native American lore.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When Mercy and Adam head off to their honeymoon, they get more than they bargain for in the form of an ancient river monster that’s out for blood.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Showcases Mercy’s growing maturity and her bond with Adam; the final showdown is one of the best in the series.
CONS: While Adam and Mercy’s romance is one of my favorite parts of the series, I missed the rest of the wolf pack as well as other various friends and allies.
BOTTOM LINE: Six books in, Patricia Briggs proves she’s still got the touch, and introduces some new magic to the series as well in the form of Native American lore. Kept me reading and certainly got me looking forward to the next book, Frost Burned.

(Spoiler alert: Please keep in mind this is 6th in a series, but there’s nothing much here that you won’t find on the back cover copy. However, if you’d like to remain in the dark until you’ve caught up, this is a friendly warning…)

As River Marked opens, we find our favorite shapeshifter/walker (and crack mechanic), Mercy Thompson in the midst of planning her wedding to Alpha werewolf Adam Hauptman. Her mother is driving her crazy (pigeons, balloons, you name it). It doesn’t help that she’s worried about friend and vampire Stefan, who has been grieving since his betrayal at the hands of Marsilia, Mistress of the Tri-Cities vampires. His grief is one thing, but the people, and vampires, that depend on him are another. Mercy is determined to break him out of his slump, and she figures Bad Movie Night is just the thing. It seems to help, and with Stefan back on the right track (she hopes), Mercy can concentrate on the wedding plans. Little does she know that her honeymoon is where trouble will find her, as it usually does. Adam takes Mercy to a lovely campground along the Columbia Gorge, and they even have the place to themselves, but soon they’ll discover a presence in the nearby river, and it has really big teeth.  Luckily, there’s a certain group of people that may know exactly what’s hiding in that river, and, unfortunately for Mercy, she may be the key to ridding it of its ancient menace.

I love this series, and it’s been a while since I’ve read the last installment, Silver Borne, which was one of my favorites of the series. That said, River Marked fell a bit short for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, it may be because I thought Silver Borne was one of the strongest of the series, I was ready for more of the same, but sometimes, it’s a natural thing with a series to have sort of a palate-cleansing book. Maybe that’s the case with River Marked. Don’t take that to mean that I didn’t like the novel, since that would be very far from the truth. I enjoyed the exploration of Native American magic, and its connection to Mercy, but for me, sometimes the narrative lagged a bit and served to pull me out of the action. This did serve a purpose though, since Mercy knows very little about her father, and her past has very much to do with who she is now, and with where her power originates. I never really got emotionally invested in the group of people that help Mercy in her fight with the river devil, but that’s sometimes inevitable when you need characters that will serve a rather limited, short term purpose. I’m plenty emotionally invested in Mercy and Adam, however, and her willingness to sacrifice herself for others is one of her most enduring traits, so that more than made up for it.

I think my biggest issue with River Marked is that  I really missed the pack, especially Adam’s daughter, and aside from the beginning bit with Stefan, the rest of the gang was largely absent. To give credit where credit is due, however, I loved the fact that Mercy finds out more about her father, and if you’re familiar with Native American mythology, even in a peripheral way, her dad is kind of a big deal, which would explain a lot, plus the fact that the lore is fascinating, and it’s obvious that Ms. Briggs did her homework. Aside from my admittedly personal preference to consistently involve the extended cast of the series, I can absolutely see the necessity of Mercy and Adam having at least some downtime as a couple. They did just get married after all, and for me, the final, nail biting showdown was one of the scariest of the series. And then there’s Coyote, and those strange otters…

This still is, and I suspect will remain, one of my go-to urban fantasy series for a long time. If you’re a UF fan and are looking for a series that offers up constant surprises, not to mention a heroine that you can genuinely like (and who is vulnerable in many ways, but can still kick some serious butt), Patricia Briggs won’t steer you wrong.

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