Iron Kissed, by Patricia Briggs (Ace, 2008)

If there’s one thing Mercy Thompson, mechanic and skinwalker, knows, it’s that when you deal with the Fae, there’s always a price to be paid. Some time ago, she borrowed several of their artifacts in order to take care of a problem, and exceeded the terms by which they could be used. Now the Fae have come to collect their payment. Luckily, it’s right up her alley. She’s taken out to the Fae reservation outside of Walla Walla, Washington, where they need her help to investigate the scenes of several murders. That’s right, some one’s been killing the Fae, and Mercy may be able to help discover who did it.

Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because the resulting investigation lands her mentor, an old German Fae named Zee, in jail and living under a death sentence from his own kind, for the Fae value their secrets and their privacy very dearly indeed. Mercy, never one to let a friend down, takes it upon herself to find the truth of the matter, thus placing herself in the path of multiple killers, mortal and Fae alike. The trail leads her both into the magical corners of Underhill, where non-Fae are decidedly unwelcome, and into the meetings of a notorious anti-Fae hate group. Complicating matters in the meantime, her love life heats up, as both Samuel and Adam, two very different but equally dominant werewolves, vie for her affections, and she can’t bear to lose either one when she finally makes her choice. Ultimately, Mercy will be put through the wringer, emotionally and physically, as she tries to clear Zee’s name and save herself from the forces arrayed against her.

One of the strongest, most interesting aspects of this book was the further exploration of how the Fae fit into Mercy Thompson’s world. Only semi-outted to the world, with the majority of them living in heavily-guarded, prison-like reservations, they may be diminished from what they once were, but at the same time, it’s suggested that they’re much more powerful than they let on. Indeed, that being secluded as they are is helping them regain their power in some way. It’s intriguing to watch Mercy’s small exploration into an ever-more mysterious world, full of questions and definite danger. No harmless fairies these, but fey creatures once worshiped as gods in their own right. I’d have to say I was a lot more intrigued by the state of the Fae than I was in the doings of the werewolves which also appeared in the book.

The underlying mystery was a little convoluted, things further complicated by several false leads and a dramatic third-act revelation, but it moved the plot along quite nicely all the same. Of course, we have Mercy’s near-suicidal stubbornness and independence to thank for most of that. I wasn’t pleased with a certain turn of events near the end, which put Mercy through the wringer more than she deserved, but it seems as though she’ll pull through just fine. I won’t go into details, but I will hope that it doesn’t become a huge source of angst and woe later on, as that could very easily become tiresome.

Iron Kissed is a perfectly satisfactory urban fantasy, the third offering in a likewise entertaining series, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each installment to date. Mercy’s a fun, strong-willed character (and it doesn’t hurt that she turns into a coyote, which is a nice change of pace as far as shape shifting goes) and her world, one where supernaturals are still in the process of coming out of the metaphorical closet, is an interesting one. I’ll definitely be looking forward to her next adventure, and whatever twists Briggs has on the way.

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