Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Title: Shifting Shadows
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson World, Anthology
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 2 September 2014

Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger...

A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends...

Includes the new stories...
“Roses in Winter”

...and reader favorites
“Fairy Gifts”
“Alpha and Omega”
“Seeing Eye”
“The Star of David”
“In Red, with Pearls”

Most of these stories have been out for a while, but - for some reason - I've had a hard time getting them and reading them. Nearly all of them were new to me when I picked up the book this time. Even if you have read all the previously published short stories, this anthology is definitely worth picking up for the four new novellas. "Roses in Winter" is my favorite of the four, but all of them were fantastic.

These stories are organized in the chronological order in which they occur within the Mercy Thompson world and, though they can nearly all be read whenever, my organization-orientated mind appreciated that. Also, at the beginning of each story Patricia Briggs gives a little blurb on the history of the story, why it was written, and where it occurs in the overall storyline. It's a fun little insight into the mind of the writer. Now, onto the individual stories (as they appear in the book)...

**Note: This review got a LOT longer than I anticipated. TL;DR (too-long; didn't-read) summary is: This is a fantastic collection of stories set in the Mercy Thompson world. Many beloved characters make an appearance, and some even get to take center stage. The new stories are - by far - my favorite, because they don't feel as if they're under length guidelines (like some of the previously published in other anthology stories do). Highly recommended for fans of the Mercy Thompson world. For anyone new to this series, I think you can read them and enjoy them on their own, but most of them will have greater significance within the greater context of the world.**

Silver: Takes place many years before the events in Moon Called - thousands (maybe?)...

This is the story of how Samuel and Arianna first meet. They meet again in Silver Borne, but that's many, many years later. As you can imagine, especially if you've read the novels in this series, this is an incredibly heart-wrenching story. Fans of the series have been asking for this story for years, even knowing how much it was likely to hurt. It opens, right off the bat, with Samuel mourning his wife and children and though there's some small slices of happiness and hope, it ends in almost as sad of a place. Even as much as it broke my heart, I loved seeing this early beginning of Samuel, Bran, and especially Arianna. It fills in some of the history of beloved characters and gives more depth and insight into all three of them.

Fairy Gifts: Takes place before Moon Called.

This is a story that's set in the Mercy Thompson world, but with completely new characters. Here were have Thomas, a young Chinese man living in Butte, Montana with his father before he's made a vampire. For many years he serves his father without choice, until chance leads him to Maggie, a fae trapped in the mines. Their meeting is short, but has long lasting implications. I enjoyed reading from Thomas' point-of-view. He's an interesting, and intelligent, character. Maggie was less developed, as most of her time was off-screen, but she intrigued me as well. The only downside to this novella is its length. Being a rather short story and having completely new characters means there isn't as much time to become attached and invested in the characters. Then there's the rather abrupt ending. More abrupt than I'm used to from even Patricia Briggs. Despite this, I'm hoping we see Maggie and Thomas again sometime.

Gray: Takes place before Moon Called.

Another story that has completely new characters. Elyna is a vampire returning home to Chicago. She purchases her old apartment specifically because of the 'haunted' reputation it has, hoping to reconnect with the one that's still there. This story worked a bit better for me than the previous one with new characters. Despite never having met Elyna before I got a good feel for her character, her history and her pain. She's a strong and honorable vampire, just trying to live her life in as much peace as she can manage.

As Stefan is probably the only honorable vampire we've met in the novels of this series it was nice to get a glimpse of some more vampires - Thomas and Elyna - that are "good" people. I liked them. They do what they have to do and live as they must, but they've got values that they won't compromise on.

Seeing Eye: Takes place one year before Moon Called.

I loved Tom and Moira when we met them in Hunting Ground. The white witch that's more powerful than she seems always intrigued me. I wondered what her history was, and here we get that. This is the story of how Tom and Moira meet. Tom's brother has been taken by what Tom believes is a coven of witches. This leads him to asking Moira for help. Despite knowing this is seriously dangerous to herself, Moira feels an obligation to help - after all the coven is led by someone who was once very, very close to her. I won't say too much more in case you, like me, haven't read this yet. But the story is interesting, dangerous, and fun. Seeing Tom and Moira's connection bud made me smile. Again, it ended a bit abruptly, but I as I knew these characters, and we see them again, it didn't bother me quite as much.

Alpha and Omega: Takes place during Moon Called.

This is the novella that started Anna and Charles story. In Moon Called there are some discoveries that lead to Chicago. Here, we learn that Anna's right in the mix of that story. When she calls the Marrok to report the shady stuff going on, she's instructed to pick up his 'investigator' at the airport. Enter Charles, more alpha than Anna thinks she can deal with. But as his wolf is, in his words, more interested in courting her than showing dominance, they're in for one interesting ride.

I've reviewed this story elsewhere, so I won't go into it all again. I will say that after I got done re-reading this novella, here, I had to struggle to not go immediately into Cry Wolf to get more of Anna and Charles. They are so perfect together, and I love seeing them both grow as their relationship deepens throughout their entire series.

The Star of David: Takes place the Christmas after "most" of the events in Moon Called.

David Christiansen makes a brief, but pivotal, appearance in Moon Called. I didn't get a very good feel for him in that story except to know that his history was tragic and he'd created his own future out of it. Here we get to see him reconnect with a part of his family he thought forever lost to him. David's honorable and carries his guilt with him, always. I liked that he was able to get some forgiveness from those that mean the most to him. I also really loved meeting Devonte. We hear, in the books, about how there are more than just witches, wolves, and vampires in this world....it's interesting to see them make appearance, too. This whole story was incredibly poignant and I loved the sweet, emotional and happy ending.

Roses in Winter: Takes place between Bone Crossed and Silver Borne.

Easily my favorite story in the bunch, "Roses in Winter" is told from Asil's point-of-view and gives us an update on the little girl that Mercy sends to the Marrok in Blood Bound, Kara. I've been wanting an update on Kara ever since she was first mentioned. I hoped, against hope, that she'd not only survive but thrive. Here we get to see the beginning of her struggle to learn a new way.

Asil came to Aspen Creek, and has been waiting thirteen years, for the Marrok to kill him. And despite thinking he doesn't have enough control anymore, we begin to see how wrong he is here. When he takes young Kara under his wing, trying to help her get control of her shifting, he develops a bond he never expected.

I love Asil. I've always thought more of him than he has himself, and I liked seeing this softer side to him - a side that we only occasionally glimpse in the novels. The Moor has got quite a reputation, well deserved and earned, but here we get the side so few people are privy to. Patricia Briggs has been dropping not-so-subtle hints for a while about Asil and another character. I really hope they have a future together, because they're perfect for one another.

It's also always interesting to see beloved characters from a whole new character's point-of-view. Asil has, sometimes laugh-out-loud, funny observances of Bran, Charles and others.

This story is a beautiful mix of humourous, poignant, and exciting. I'm always impressed by how Patricia Briggs manages to make me hurt for characters I've just met. One of the things I've always loved about this series is that the author doesn't shy from showing the darker side of immortality. Sometimes forever is too long, and loss is too much. Though it makes me so incredibly sad, it also makes me appreciate the happiness that does happen exponentially more.

In Red, with Pearls: Takes place between Silver Borne and River Marked.

Werewolf Warren and his boyfriend Kyle have long been favorite characters in Mercy's world. Warren's just gotten his private investigator license and is working - mostly - for Kyle's law firm. While waiting for Kyle to get done with a consult, Warren comes face to face with a missing woman who has been turned into a zombie. One that's apparently after Kyle!

I really enjoyed the twists and turns in this story. There's a good bit of mystery woven throughout, and solid investigative work done by Warren. It shows a different side than we usually get to see through Mercy's eyes. I, also, was pleased to see the depth that was added to Kyle and Warren's relationship.

The story does end a bit quickly, rushing through the resolution of the mystery and denoument, however Warren isn't one to 'play with his prey,' in his words, so it makes sense, too. This is the one short-story I'd previously read (besides "Alpha and Omega" which was sold in e-format individually making it easy and inexpensive to get), and I enjoyed it as much on a re-read as I did the first time.

Redemption: Takes place between Frost Burned and Night Broken.

I was *not* expecting a story from Ben's point-of-view! Ever since he first appeared as the snarky, dangerous, somewhat broken, man, I've loved him - despite Mercy's own misgivings - and wanted to know more. Every time he's appeared since, I grew to love him more.

Here we get to see him becoming the person he is. Ben's had a horrible history, and is ... more than a bit of a misogynst. I know, I know, how can I love a character that's clearly hateful towards women? Well, the truth is that I'm not sure. But it's also that he's never had - prior to being in Adam's pack - any examples of women who weren't the "bitches" he calls them. It makes it hard to hate him. I want him to get healthy and better, and we get to see the small-steps continuation of that here.

When a woman at Ben's work, a woman that he doesn't even like because she's weak and "snivelling," get targeted by the office asshole, Ben isn't sure why he constantly makes moves to intervene. He doesn't do it nicely, in true Ben fashion, but he does it. His confusion, the ensuing discussion with Adam, and his growth here made me nearly cheer. I love this path he's on. It's slow, as most real change and growth is, but it's steady and solid.

There's also some funny moments here when Ben's taken a bet to give up swearing. One character tells him to avoid adjectives while he's attempting this. His speech at the end, and his coworker's thoughts on it, had me grinning like crazy. I can't wait to see more of Ben, and maybe one day for him to get his own HEA.

Hollow: Takes place after Night Broken.

A new Mercy short story! As Patricia Briggs puts it, what would a Mercy world anthology be with a Mercy story? Mercy's always had a knack for getting herself into trouble. Despite taking precautions and being smart about things, her desire to help people that ask it of her always leads to her getting in a bit deeper than she would like to be.

When a woman shows up at Mercy's (demolished) garage asking for help, Mercy knows it's not her mechanicking skills the woman needs. A ghost. Of course. And when the referral came from a trusted friend, Mercy feels the need to go check it out. Taking Zach - and can I say how happy it made me to see him settling in a bit better with the pack?! - she heads a couple of hours out to see what she can do.

This is a short, quick mystery that's pretty easy to see what's going on. But I liked seeing the romance between two new characters, as well as how Mercy deals with this ghost. It's not like normal ghosts, and Mercy's still learning how to control her own gifts. Because Mercy's not afraid to ask for help and rely on friends, we get an update on Gary, as well as Samuel and Arianna.

This story made me more anxious for the next Mercy book just so I can spend more time with her, Adam and everyone else I love so much.

Outtakes: I wasn't expecting to get some deleted/outtake scenes from the Mercy Thompson books, so this was a nice treat when I got to the end of the stories!

From Silver Borne, it takes place near the end of this novel and is from Arianna's point-of-view. Patricia Briggs notes that her husband thought, since she included the beginning of Samuel and Arianna's relationship in "Silver" and that it ends on a rather sad note, she should include something to remind readers that they do get their happily-ever-after. A sweet scene that shows them reconnecting, and gives even more history between them. I loved seeing this, and am really hoping that we'll get more from these two in the future.

From Night Broken, again it takes place near the end when Mercy's recovering and is from Adam's point-of-view. We all know Mercy ends nearly every book recovering from some horrible injury or another, and the same is true in Night Broken. I really loved seeing how Adam thinks of her, and how in love with her he is. They're so perfect together and it's nice - always - to get the calm moments after the storm with the characters I love.

Shifting Shadows is a fabulous collection of short stories and novellas in the Mercy Thompson world. Patricia Briggs writing is so beautiful and pulls me so completely into the world she's sharing that I never want to leave. I know I'll be revisiting this anthology many times in the future, and I can't wait for Dead Heat, the next Alpha and Omega novel with Anna and Charles coming out in Spring 2015!

Grade: A-

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