April 22, 2021

Review: Smoke Bitten

Smoke Bitten Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The heyday of urban fantasy is long over, unfortunately, and this is one of the few series (along with Seanan McGuire's October Daye and Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files) that remain. (Urban fantasy seems to have gone the way of the late, much lamented mass market paperback, both of which take up a huge chunk of my collection.) This was always one of the better ones, and this entry in the series showcases why I think it has survived.

To begin with, the protagonist, Mercy Thompson, is not some overpowered wizard or witch. She's a coyote shapeshifter, daughter of (heh) Coyote, and she does not have the size or strength to take on bad guys like her mate, werewolf Adam Hauptmann, can. She must survive by her intelligence, her wits, and most importantly, her friends. Over the years and through the eleven previous books, her network of friends--especially the members of Adam's pack--have come to her aid time and time again. Mercy repays these relationships with her fierce loyalty, on full display here when she refuses to give up on her husband Adam, who is falling prey to a combination of a witch's curse and his own guilt/PTSD over what he did in the Vietnam War.

Because of this, Mercy comes across as more of a regular person, or as "regular" as urban fantasy can get. She has a number of oddball powers including, in this book, seeing and talking to ghosts, but they are never overwhelming. She has a job--she is a mechanic with her own garage--and this also serves to keep the series grounded, even if her partner in the business happens to be an ancient Fae. This being the 12th book in the series, the plot mostly springs from the last two, but I was able to follow it well enough. That said, you would also benefit from reading at least the previous book, Storm Cursed. This series is lower-key than some (especially Harry Dresden) but its longevity and consistent appeal does much to recommend it.

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