I adore Mercy Thompson. She's what I want in a heroine--she's loyal, she's vocal, she's determined, she's tough yet loving. She doesn't take crap from anyone, which is, of course, one of the reasons Alpha werewolf Adam Hauptman has fallen in love with her. In short, there's very little not to love in such a fierce, demanding, emotional character; yet it is to Ms. Briggs's talent that the other people inhabiting Mercy's world can often be just as compelling. With that in mind, I have to admit that I was exceedingly happy to see Stefan back in action early on, as well as the fact that I got to visit with Warren and Kyle and Jesse. Just wish I'd seen more of them as the novel progressed.
River Marked is different than the other books in the series in that almost 90% of it takes place away from familiar settings and among people we haven't previously known. Mercy and Adam have finally tied the knot (love the surprise wedding!) and have embarked on a perfect honeymoon camping in the woods not too far from home. But this being Mercy, things are of course complicated, and it doesn't take long for Mercy and Adam to realize that the loan of a camper and the offer of a free stay at the campground might have come with a hidden price. The problem? Seems there's a humongous river monster living in the local river, devouring pretty much everyone it comes in contact with. Its minions include some fierce fey known as otterkins, and once it gets a taste of Mercy, it knows high quality when it sees it. Mercy, a walker who can shift into a coyote at will, soon finds out that she is needed to fulfill an ancient Indian tale of a coyote defeating the river devil, something neither she nor Adam are happy about. Oh, and did I mention Mercy's father makes an appearance?
Like many other reviewers, I am so enamored of Mercy and her world that I still loved River Marked despite the fact that it isolated Mercy and Adam and introduced a slew of unknown characters about whom I frankly could not get excited. In a series filled with fey and otherworldliness, the river devil aspect sort of left me cold; I mean, would a town really not mark an area off bounds when families and individuals seem to be disappearing at a rather alarming rate? And while I loved Coyote and the whole mystery surrounding Mercy's birth, I found myself missing my good buddies Zee, Jesse, and even Stefan (though I'm very glad I got to spend a bit of time with him). The story itself is well done but I hope Ms. Briggs keeps things in the arena we've come to know and love in the future; there's a reason she has so many loyal fans, and she needs to have mercy on those of us who have developed such a strong relationship with her characters.
Still, I can't really say anything bad about the storyline, and Mercy is naturally her usual kick butt self. I love the relationship between she and Adam, and his exasperation with her is greatly tempered by the deep bond they share. The author can certainly use the power of words to make us understand the horror of the monster causing harm to small children, and the fact that the monster is virtually unseen until late in the story adds a creepiness factor. I can still recommend this installment and look forward to more time spent with Mercy in the future.