Review No.114 – Iron Kissed

Iron Kissed – Patricia Briggs

Orbit, 2008

Mercy Thompson is already entangled in the dangerous world of werewolves and vampires. The last thing she needs is to be dragged into Gray Lord politics, but a string of murders on a fae reservation brings her old friend Zee to her door in need of an expert nose and she can’t say no. Things go downhill from there. The prime suspect turns up dead, Zee is found at the scene of the crime, and with greater forces aligning the evidence towards an open-and-shut case, Mercy knows she can’t count on help from anyone. There’s someone out there stealing magic and if she can’t catch them, the next one to show up dead might be Zee…or herself.

This is the third in the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, the previous two books of which I’ve read and reviewed. I had mixed feelings about them, as I said at the time, but kept reading because the world is interesting and I like Mercy. After this book, I don’t know if I’ll continue. My main frustrations with this book centre around Mercy’s personal freedom, or the lack thereof. I’ve included spoilery specifics below.

SPOILER: (Trigger warning) Mercy is drugged with magic and raped during this book, which was confronting, but I could have accepted that if it had only been handled better. There was so much that was problematic, though. Firstly, she’s told by a friend not to ‘flirt’ with the man who later attacks her, when all she’s doing is having a spirited debate. She constantly has to modify her behaviour to protect herself from the overheated emotions of various werewolves, as if it is her responsibility to keep them from losing their tempers. That’s classic victim-blaming that never really gets addressed or refuted.

Later, though she manages to kill her attacker, all control is taken out of her hands by well-intentioned men. Neither of her female friends are asked to look after her in the aftermath; she’s left instead with a male werewolf who has always behaved badly towards women and with whom she’s not, at the time, at all friendly. She blames herself for the attack, at least in part because of magical mind control. This warped perspective is explained and refuted by the aforesaid werewolf, but mid-explanation it stops being about her and becomes about his own childhood abuse. Which would be okay if we ever saw Mercy’s own thinking once she’s had time to recover from the drugs, but we don’t. In fact, we never get to hear what Mercy herself feels – only what the male characters think of her experience. Possibly these issues are addressed in book 4, Bone Crossed, but I doubt I’ll be reading it.

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