I'll start by saying I adore Mercy Thompson Hauptmann! She's a true heroine, real with faults but loyal and confident. Her relationship with her husband Adam is more than romantic: it's a partnership with bonds so deep you can feel them. So, yeah, I pretty much love all the Mercy Thompson books, and this is another outstanding addition.
This time around, Mercy faces what may be her strongest foe yet: Adam's ex-wife, Christy, who has slept with a man who is now stalking her big time. Christy is the antithesis of Mercy and it took maybe 1.5 seconds for me to dislike her completely. Mercy does better with the ex than I would have; she reminds herself that this is for Jesse, her stepdaughter, and Adam's need to make Christy safe. That said, it's more than a little hard for Mercy when it becomes obvious that the majority of the pack still loves Christy and Christy's out to use every bit of manipulation available to make herself look like a victim. Trouble is, she IS a victim to some extent because the man she slept with turns out to be a volcano god and he is beyond crazy, killing his way to get to Christy.
Possible spoilers ahead...you've been warned.
The scenes where Mercy engages the volcano god are action filled and top-notch story telling. Briggs writes so that you can feel every blow Mercy gives and receives, and her cunning is sharp and mostly self-reliant. I find myself holding my breath whenever Mercy fights because I know she's going to get hurt but the fact is, she is so determined that I feel as though I am there. The way she faces her demons, both literally and figuratively, is thoroughly believable and entertaining.
The other facet to this story is Mercy being asked by one of the Grey Lords to return the infamous walking stick which she had previously given to Coyote. This side story brings a whole new character into the sphere: Mercy's half-brother, Gary Laughingdog. Their exchanges are typical of siblings in a lot of ways, and their reactions to dealing with their shared father Coyote are often humorous. Definitely going to love seeing where this goes in future books.
This novel takes the pack and Mercy to new levels of understanding and brings some big issues to light. Is everything resolved neatly? Of course not, and that's the beauty of this series. I'm drawn in by Mercy's assertiveness, her relationship with Adam, and her never say die attitude. Highly recommended!