Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Iron Kissed - Patricia Briggs

This post begins with a disclaimer. Mainly, that though I've read several urban fantasy novels, I'm not a big fan of them. They're not bad, but the mix of romance, mystery and a modern setting don't thrill me for the most part. So, while I read them, I don't expect much from them. The one exception was Patricia Briggs's Mercedes Thompson books. I loved Moon Called and Blood Bound. Therefore, it was with a lot of anticipation that I picked up Iron Kissed. And that made my disappointment in the book that much worse.

Let me also say that as writer several of my complaints are things that most people would never notice let alone criticize. That's just life. There are serious spoilers ahead, so if you haven't read the books, consider yourself warned.

1) Sam never picks up an instrument in the first two books. He never sings. I think there's a short descriptive paragraph before we meet him the first time that states he participates in campfires but beyond that there's no indication that music is important to him. So it came as a huge surprise when Sam's love of folk music became a huge plot point in this book. All of a sudden he's always playing his guitar around the trailer. Odd for a man who never played before when he was upset or needed to calm himself.

2) We're told in book 3 that Adam's claiming of Mercedes as a mate creates a weakness in his leadership that could be exploited by other werewolves. Didn't he claim her when he first moved opposite her? Wasn't that quite a few years ago? Why is this suddenly a problem when for years it wasn't? And why are people suddenly blaming Mercy for it when she had no knowledge of his actions before book 1 (or was it 2? At any rate, recently in the timeline).

3) Adam actively scared me in this book. I started wondering how much it would take for him to actually hit Mercy for opposing him. (Which may be why I objected to the ending so much, it was as if he were happy that her spirit was broken, though that would be going against his character as I understood it from the other books.) I actually wanted her to choose Sam. I thought they'd be able to have a more healthy relationship. Passion is great, but when it's coupled with fear (as a lot of the scenes with Adam in this book seemed to be) it's disfunctional.

4) The biggest problem I had was the ending. The others were merely annoyances that I could live with and ignore were it not for the final sentence in the book. Mercy is raped by the bad guy. As disturbing as the idea is, the scene was tastefully done. The problem I had was that Adam used this as a means of claiming her. He claims that since she asked him for help two times she's basically said she'll be his mate (say what? Gosh, I'll have to watch who I ask favours from in the future in that case). Also, instead of letting Mercy heal, and simply talking through what happened and what their mating will mean for their futures, he sleeps with her. Mercy's reasoning here is also flawed. She decides that sleeping with Adam will clear away the memory of the rape, allowing her to triumph over it. I saw it the other way. It felt like the rapist won here. Rather than healing and becoming a strong, independent woman who overcame her fear, she fell prey to fear, and decided that being with Adam would keep her safe. She can't protect herself so she'll find a protector. This will ultimately backfire on both of them. Adam will realize that Mercy's no longer the strong woman he fell in love with and will miss the woman who argued with him and pushed his buttons. Mercy, on the other hand, will realize Adam is a crutch. She'll come to resent the fact that she is no longer a strong woman because she leaned on him rather than learning how to live without fear on her own. Sleeping together also undercut several things that the author pointed out earlier, mainly that Adam was old fashioned and didn't believe in sex outside of marriage while Mercy didn't want a child out of wedlock (though she is on birth control). All the same, they should have waited until they were sleeping together for healthier reasons than 'I'm scared, protect me from the boogy man'. Even if the boogy man happens to be real.

I understood Mercy offering herself to Adam at the end, but I would have liked Adam more if he'd stopped her and said, 'You're scared and hurt right now. I don't want you like this. Let me help you through this and when you're ready, then we'll move on to the next step.'

On the other hand, I loved the scene where Ben explained why a rape (or molestation) if you can't fight back is horrific. Again, like the rape scene itself, it was handled with care and explained a lot about Ben's character.


Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm Mike, Patty's husband. This was a very good review. I've read several reviews from people who hated the ending of Iron Kissed, and to be honest I've been largely unable to decipher what it is that has them so angry. Your post was very articulate, and I have a clearer picture of what the problem is.

Let me throw a couple of possible future spoilers out, and see if that helps. First -- you're absolutely right about Mercy throwing herself at Adam. She's not ready yet. However, this is a very common reaction among rape victims. It's a way of saying "See, sex is no big deal." Patty's treading a VERY fine line, trying to show Mercy's reactions realistically, yet not have her spend the next three books whining. So, her decision is ill-considered, and not likely to actually help her heal. It's also realistic.

Second, you mentioned that Adam was, basically, a jerk for accepting her offer. Again, you're absolutely correct. However, did you notice that the book cut off fairly sharply? The next book picks up immediately after Iron Kissed, and I think that within a few pages your confidence in Adam will be greatly restored.

Thanks again for the very well-written review; it's helped me understand were some of the negative emotions are coming from.

All best,

Jessica Strider said...

Thanks for leaving a comment.
You're right, while I didn't like Mercy's decision it was a very realistic decision. Given what she went through she wasn't thinking clearly. The ending also does allow you to assume a lot (and I at least assumed the worst, which wasn't necessarily fair of me), so I'm glad to know that the next book picks up right away. Damn, and I have to wait a full year to find out what's going to happen next...

I normally don't like writing negative reviews, but I couldn't stop thinking about this book and how it ended and why it bothered me. As far as publicity goes, that's sometimes better than a good review. It makes people want to read it and decide for themselves. And I will definitely read the next book.

Anonymous said...

Reviews are funny things. Every author likes to hear glowing praise. That's how you know you did something right.

Negative reviews, while less fun, are often more useful, because they point out where the author went wrong. Yours was great, because it helped me understand where some of the negative reactions were coming from. Bottom line, Patty painted Adam as a little too domineering in this book, and didn't leave enough clues for the reader to trust him, given the ending of Iron Kissed. Knowing the problem, it's easier to avoid in the next book. Thanks again, you've been VERY helpful.

Jessica Strider said...

Thanks for that. This is the first negative review I've posted. I was apprehensive about it, precisely because (as an aspiring author) I know how negative reviews can affect you. That's why I tried to be as specific as possible, and why I tried to emphasize that these were my own thoughts.

Having said that, the reason I posted it was because the book did affect me. In a lot of ways. Writing the review allowed me to explore why and how it bothered me and to see if anyone else felt the same way. See the next post where I delve into this a bit more.

On a more positive note, I did a review for Moon Called in my newsletter blog (the one that gets more hits and is displayed in the store where I work). If you want to check that out it's: (You'll have to scroll down at bit as it's in the first February post. I don't know that post's url.)