Review: SMOKE BITTEN by Patricia Briggs

Publisher: Ace Books
Release Date: March 17th, 2020
Page Count: 352
Series: MERCY THOMPSON, Book 12
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked It!

Warning: Light spoilers ahead for earlier books in the series!

44571368Mercy Thompson and her mate’s werewolf pack have had a rough year.  After Mercy declared the Tri-Cities area neutral territory and that any creatures in the area were under the pack’s protection, they’ve had their hands full enforcing the new law of the land. But the recent attacks from a group of vengeful witches was a harsh blow, and Adam, pack alpha and Mercy’s mate, is still reeling from the emotional trauma of being enthralled to the witches and under their control.  So now is not the time for a rogue band of werewolves to be making incursions into the pack’s territory, intent on overthrowing Adam and making the pack their own.  Making matters worse, the fae land of Underhill has placed a doorway in Mercy and Adam’s backyard – and something once imprisoned in the land has escaped.  Something that shapeshifts and controls its victims once it bites them. It’s up to Mercy to discover what this creature is and how to defeat it, because until she does, literally anyone could be this creature in disguise.

SMOKE BITTEN is another fun Mercy Thompson adventure, though it’s becoming clear that the Tri-Cities area has become a slow pressure cooker, and we’re biding our time until the lid blows clear off. After the much more action-packed STORM CURSED, SMOKE BITTEN takes a moment to look at the emotional toll recent events have taken on the pack, human and werewolf members alike.  There’s still fights and tense moments, but the focus here is on how lives are changing.  That means that a considerable amount of time is given to the strain in Mercy and Adam’s relationship due to the pressures they face as leaders of the Columbia Basin Pack, pressures exacerbated by Adam’s recent trauma. This made the book a little less enjoyable for me personally because I have always appreciated that Adam and Mercy have been a relatively drama-free couple, rare in any kind of narrative medium.  Thankfully, it’s a situation which they will work through by the end of the book, so this strain is not going to be the new normal.

What this book DOES have going for it is a villain that adds tension to every interaction.  The smoke demon, as it is referred to as they try to figure out what the creature actually is, can either shapeshift into someone, or can puppet a person they have bitten.  That means that at any time, Mercy can realize that she’s in a lot more danger than she realizes, and one such twist actually made me gasp.  Yes, the rules are convoluted (something admitted to in the book and blamed on the nature of the fae), but it was nice to have a villain you couldn’t deal with in a head-on confrontation.  It also meant we got to spend more time in Mercy’s “soul space,” the place she goes to in order to see any magical bonds she shares with people.  Mercy continues to grow in her manipulation of that space, and this new villain in particular pushes her to expand her abilities.

The big takeaway from SMOKE BITTEN is that war is coming.  Underhill is very clear (or as clear as a fae can be) that her actions in this book are in preparation for “something.”  Only time will tell what new drama will face Mercy and her pack, but for now you can cozy up with the suspenseful tale of a monster who could literally be anyone.

 

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