On the Lam from the Fae: Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

Fire Touched is Patricia Briggs’ latest urban fantasy novel. Ninth in the Mercy Thompson series (although thirteenth in this particular continuity if you count the Alpha & Omega spin-off series), it follows on from the events of Night Broken into a whole new coyote-shifter-and-werewolf-pack-and-occasional-vampires-and-faeries adventure.

I confess, I had all but forgotten what transpired in Night Broken by the time I picked up Fire Touched—there was a volcano god-monster? Mercy Thompson’s husband’s ex-wife showed up and there was a very frustrating catty insecure-women competition between Mercy and said ex-wife?—so it’s a good thing that Fire Touched doesn’t require its reader to recall too much backstory. Mercy is (still) married to Adam, leader of the local werewolf pack—and poster boy for werewolf integration—and his pack is (still) not entirely happy with her. The fae are (still) on the outs with the US government in a dispute that may yet break into open conflict. This is where matters stand as the novel opens, with a bad dream and some cosy domesticity and then a rousing call to go fight monsters before the beginning of Chapter 2.

Despite Fire Touched being an undemanding book to fall into, this is not a good place for a new reader to start the series. All of its emotional weight relies on the reader’s previous familiarity with, and investment in, the characters. And this is the ninth book of a series with a lot of recurring characters. A significant number of them make an appearance within its pages, and come along for the ride.

It’s a fun ride, if structurally and in terms of its narrative payload very similar to the previous two or three Mercy Thompson novels. When a fae monster turns up and starts throwing cars around in the middle of a bridge, Mercy and the werewolves lend aid to the overwhelmed police. It turns out that the monster—a troll—was let loose to pursue a trio of prisoners escaped from the fae: Mercy’s old fae friend Zee (the Dark Smith) and his half-human son Tad. And a human child, trapped for centuries Underhill: the fae realm which has turned hostile and unwelcoming to the fae. Aiden looks like a boy, but he’s lived hundreds of years and has acquired powers few humans (or fae) ever attain. But the fae want to take him apart, to find out how he can have such powers, and how Underhill let him remain within its boundaries long after it turned on the fae. When he asks Mercy and Adam for protection—a protection that is at first temporary, but swiftly becomes far more permanent—and Mercy offers him sanctuary on the pack’s behalf, it puts Mercy and Adam in the crosshairs of fae politics and conflicts, and puts them at risk of war with the fae.

Cut off from the support of the other American werewolf packs, Mercy and Adam must navigate the factions among the fae that want to use them or destroy them. The course they’ve set will take them into Underhill itself, to fulfill a powerful bargain with the fae’s Grey Lords. Some of the Grey Lords, anyway.

Some of the others are still arrayed against them.

This is a novel very much in the mould of the series. It has all the things you expect of a Mercy Thompson novel—banter, fight scenes, supernatural politics—and also many of its flaws. Mercy still has no significant relationships with other adult women, for example, and werewolf pack politics remain on the frustrating side. And in the manner of many long-running series, the Mercy Thompson books have grown more predictable, rather than less, as they have progressed.

But on the whole, Fire Touched is a fun and fast read. An entertaining diversion, if not particularly deep.

Fire Touched is available March 8 from Ace.

Liz Bourke is a cranky person who reads books and other things. She has recently completed a doctoral dissertation in Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. Find her at her blog. Or her Twitter.

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