Mon
Jan 27 2014 3:00pm

Tidy Urban Fantasy: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs Night Broken Mercy Thompson Night Broken is the eighth instalment in Patricia Briggs’ popular Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series, after 2013’s Frost Burned. Readers familiar with Briggs’ series already know whether or not they are interested in reading this one: it follows faithfully in the footsteps of its predecessors, delivering a tidy urban fantasy adventure featuring the regular cast.

Readers until now unfamiliar with Mercy Thompson could probably drop in here and still enjoy the ride: while previous knowledge of the characters and the world would add depth and context, nothing in this novel actively requires an acquaintance with what has gone before. It stands alone pretty well, and in a landscape increasingly filled with works demanding a series’ worth of involvement, that makes it stand out. To be honest, I say that because I’ve gone very fuzzy on the details of Night Broken’s predecessors, and it didn’t do any harm.

Mercy Thompson is a coyote skinwalker, married to Adam Hauptman, Alpha of the local pack. In Night Broken, Adam’s ex-wife (and mother to the daughter who lives with him) Christy comes to him for help. Christy has a stalker, a man who’s already killed someone close to her, and she needs the protection of the werewolf pack. More even than she realised: her stalker is no mere mortal man, but rather something old and powerful and dangerously mad. Mercy, Adam, and the pack are all at risk.

But danger from one quarter isn’t quite enough. Mercy’s under pressure from another, too. One of the most powerful of the local fae—a Gray Lord—wants an artifact that was given into her keeping, and is not above carrying through on threats to get it. But Mercy no longer possesses the artifact in question: she gave it to Coyote—and Coyote is hard to find at the best of times. Trying, this time, leads her to a long-lost relative whose visions may mean the difference between death and survival for Christy and the werewolf pack.

There is one particular element about this novel which I found strongly irritating. That element is Christy, and the narrative’s positioning of her as both selfish and manipulative, and a traditionally feminine woman. That such people exist I have no doubt: but in a series of novels where the main character does not generally interact with other women in a friendly manner, and where the most important figures in her life and in the plot are men, setting Mercy, with whom we’re supposed to identify, up against the Manipulative (Female) Ex-Wife, an ex-wife who lives on the income provided by her ex-husband, who sleeps around, who manipulates the people around her by reflex...

Well, it plays into a pattern that frames women as competing with each other for men, or that frames one woman as maliciously jealous of another over a man. A pattern, moreover, that values femininity less than it values competence in traditionally masculine areas of enterprise. Christy is feminine in traditional ways, and is a weak selfish person. Mercy is not feminine in traditional ways—in many ways, she’s “one of the boys”—and is a strong good person. It’s a narrative pattern I find pernicious, and one that sets my teeth on edge.

Apart from that, in Night Broken Briggs has written a solid entry in the urban fantasy lists. Her usual standards of prose and characterisation apply, and at least one of the new characters introduced here looks as though he may have a greater part to play in some future instalment. The pace is swift, the incidents suitably full of action, and the tension mounts appropriately to a bloody and desperate conclusion. All in all, a perfectly cromulent novel, and one that should more than satisfy fans of the series.

 

Night Broken is available March 11th from Ace Hardcover


Liz Bourke is a cranky person who reads books. Her blog. Her Twitter.

11 comments
Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
The lack of women around Mercy who aren't in competition with her in one form or another is my biggest beef with this series. Her only close relationship with another woman is Jesse, Adam's daughter, and while they're relationship isn't mother/daughter, as they've been friends long before Mercy dated Adam, it isn't exactly a relationship of peers.

Mercy and Anna(from Brigg's Alpha and Omega series) are both such Exceptional Girls, it bugs me so much.
Marilynn Byerly
2. MByerly
Other books in the series do have strong women who follow the more traditional roles of women as well as those who follow nontraditonal roles. Some are Mercy's friends, some are not. A few have been mentors.

You have to realize that a writer has to balance character types. Another female character just like Mercy would be a poor choice as far as story dynamics, and Adam's ex-wife who is the opposite of Mercy has caused Mercy moments of insecurity about her feminity and desireabilty.

I put the Mercy Thompson series in my top five urban fantasy series because Briggs is able to balance the worldbuilding with each novel's story. So many UF series get bogged down in the politics and nuances of the supernatural character types. I also like Mercy.
KAsiki
3. KAsiki
What is so surprising about how Christy is portayed in this book? Anyone who has read the series has heard Christy described this way in every book she has been mentioned in. It says something about Mercy and everyone else in the series that the descritpions are accurate and not some over blown. It also shows Briggs either thought ahead, or stuck to her guns with how the character ended up. I haven't read this book yet( read the rest of the series in less than a week), but any of the answers show that this is a character driven series, so simply if you like Mercy and the rest of the Pack, then you should have some fun and enjoyment in every book.
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
I'm not surprised by the portrayal of Christy, it's been consistent since the beginning.

I'm just bothered that there are NO women in this story who don't resent Mercy for one reason or another. Either it's because she's not a wolf, or because she can have wolf babies, or because Adam likes her, or because Stefan likes her, or because Zee likes her... There's always a factor that sets Mercy apart from the other women in the story, and it bugs me.

And that's more a convention of the genre than anything, I don't lay the blame for that at Briggs' feet, necessarily. But there are some newer entries into the genre that are dealing with this better, and I'm just sad to see that Briggs isn't doing better, when there are so many things she gets right.
Allana Schneidmuller
5. blutnocheinmal
Patty has done better with including 'good' women characters besides the lead in the sister series, Alpha and Omega. Specifically the FBI agent in the last book, and Moira the witch who first appeared in a short story.

It doesn't really bother me though.
Chris Nelly
6. Aeryl
Having just finished Frost Burned, and having read the intro chapter for this one, at least it's being brought up by the author now.
KAsiki
7. Abi23
Can I just start off by saying that Mercy is a 'walker' not 'skin walker' say so in the books a few times. Because a skin walker is from the same tribe but different . A skin walker is where you actually have to kill and animal and use it's skin to transform into that animal, while a walker well a walker is Mercy there is Coyote, Raven ect. I don't mean to be rude but... Anyway I like the Mercy Thompson books. I also like the Alpha and Omega books. I started with the Alpha and Omega books first so when Sam was talking to Bran and Charles I was a bit confused as to who Mercy was. As soon as I read not even half of Moon Called I understood even though Sam hasn't moved in yet. I like the Mercy Thompson books better than the Alpha and Omaga books because well for one there are only four books in Alpha and Omega and I go through books so fast. I like the whole father daughter/not father daughter with Coyote and Mercy. I didn't get confused but if you walked up to someone who hasn't read that book but has other Mercy books and you say "hey, did you know Coyote is Mercy's father and he isn't Mercy's father?" Who wouldn't be confused? Old Joe Coyote Is Mercy's 'fathers' name. Old is from one of the old legends. Coyote because he's well sort of Coyote and Joe because he's just another Joe.
Beth Mitcham
8. bethmitcham
@Aeryl, by "this story" do you mean the entire series or this book in particular? Because in this book Mercy's relationships with other women get a lot of prominence . She and Honey work together a lot, she and Auriele butt heads and work together, she and Lucia understand each other quickly. I think Briggs worked hard to incorporate that since she had Christy in such an atagonistic role. Some of the women have traditionally feminine roles and skills (Honey) and others don't.

I agree that earlier books had a bit of "I'm not like other girls" but I didn't find that a weakness in this one.
Chris Nelly
9. Aeryl
@8, I haven't read this one yet(I wait till these are released in paperback), so yes I am referring to the previous ones. The excerpt I've read isn't promising, as the opening chapter has already set Mercy in opposition to all the other women in the pack, again(I thought they'd worked this shit out), but I will of course check it out and hope to be surprised.
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
I just finished this over the weekend. Since you haven't read it yet, Aeryl, I won't go into details. But, there are more women involved and the working things out seems to be an ongoing process.
Since it is in earlier books, I'll just mention that Jesse is supportive of Mercy--that's a nice switch from the usual "step daughter must hate new wife" trope.
Chris Nelly
11. Aeryl
Her and Jesse's relationship is a highlight of the books, I agree. It just bugs me that the only other woman she gets along with is one half her age.

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