Soul Taken is the thirteenth book in the Mercy Thompson series and the nineteenth book in the Mercyverse. There’s some really intensive world-building here, and the stories should only be read in order. My review will not just contain oodles of spoilers for the previous books but may well sound like gibberish to those unfamiliar with this fictional universe.
When Vampire Queen Marsilia appears in the fireplace, dressed like a goth witch and with smoke swirling around her like some monster in a B movie, Adam and Mercy aren’t pleased. They had been trying to have a quiet conversation with Sherwood Post at Uncle Mike’s, and Marsilia’s intrusion is most assuredly not welcome. What she has to say is even less so – Wulfe is missing. Since everybody knows he has been stalking Mercy and that Adam has been less than pleased by that, Adam’s Columbia Basin Werewolf Pack will be held responsible for the disappearance and war will break out between the wolves and vampires unless Wulfe is found/returned.
Since they know no one in the pack has touched Wulfe, Adam and Mercy head to the home of the only friend they have in the vampire seethe, Stefan, for information. Only when they get there, it’s not the guy known as The Soldier waiting for them but a fae monster and its creepy handler. Fortunately, Goblin King Larry shows up to help them defeat this enemy. Unfortunately, he wants to hold a war council. Right then. Fresh off a battle and when neither Adam nor Mercy has had a chance to tend their wounds or get any rest for the last twenty-four hours.
After a bit of conversation, it’s determined that Larry wants the goblins of the Tri-Cities to have a closer relationship with the Pack than the tentative alliance they have now. Hurray! Goblins excel at surveillance and this is typically the point in the conversation where he would provide needed clues as to where Wulfe is, only he doesn’t have any information. It seems that among Wulfe’s supernatural abilities is the power to evade any unwanted observation; given all his other gifts, this is not good news. Even worse is the fact that Wulfe and the now also missing Stefan are so strong that very few people could hold them against their wills. Exactly what fresh new hell have Mercy and Adam found themselves in?
As always, Briggs’ world building is phenomenal and the universe she has created is detailed, original and complex. She’s done a fabulous job of constructing a believable environment where modern technology and magical beings exist side by side. Because I love the environ and its denizens, I found this a quick, easy and mildly enjoyable read.
The ‘mildly’ is because I would call this less a well-balanced narrative than an exceptionally well-written work of groupie fiction. Mercy, whose desirability to every man within the Tri-Cities area seems to grow with each novel, is at the heart of the tale. Her relationship with Adam is as strong, warm and sweet as ever but she also has emotional ties to Stefan and now Wulfe, whose strange obsession with her is the catalyst for her current dilemma. The novel is, of course, filled with other familiar characters like Sherwood, Zee, Tad, Warren, Larry, Uncle Mike and Mary Jo, who seems to be replacing Honey as Mercy’s best frenemy in the Pack. Underhill, in its guise as a creeptacular young girl, makes an appearance, and by the end of the novel it looks like there will be a complication in the relationship the Hauptmans have with that entity. Which is not good since she essentially lives in their backyard.
The Mercyverse currently feels over-populated and as a result it’s almost impossible for beloved figures to do more than make cameos. I’m not sure what the fix would be (a spin-off pulling some of these characters away for their own series? Spending less time on action and more on the people?) but it can sometimes be frustrating trying to recall who is who and what happened to them the last time we saw them. And it can be equally annoying when things don’t go quite as we expect them to – part of the mystery of who Sherwood is resolves here and I was more irritated than pleased with where the author took that. It just seemed to add to the Mary Sue-ness the series has begun to take on.
Like most of the books in this series, Soul Taken is an action-oriented story full of magical fights and multi-player battles. When Mercy claimed the Tri-Cities as Columbia Basin’s territory she essentially promised the Pack’s protection to all its magical denizens. That means that when lesser Fey and helpless white witches go missing, as they do here, the Pack has to run to their aid. Since this particular FUBAR is targeting the vampire seethe the Pack has a treaty with, it makes it even more urgent that Mercy, Adam and company deal with the situation as quickly as possible. While Marsilia’s message makes it sound like she’s holding the Pack responsible for Wulfe’s disappearance, once they meet the monster in Stefan’s house they realize she is actually making them responsible for his rescue. Of course that means we are treated to a substantial, magical new enemy in The Harvester, a scarecrow-type figure who uses a sickle (or a scythe, there are some conversations around the proper name) to collect souls. We also meet the evil figure behind him, an old enemy with a new agenda. Since Mercy and Adam abound in enemies, I’m not sure we needed this guy brought back.
Fans of the series will want to read Soul Taken. Those of us who have made it this far into the series will finish it just to stay abreast of what is going on. I enjoyed it but didn’t love it; if you are taking a break from the series, this one isn’t strong enough to reinvigorate your adoration of the Mercyverse but otherwise, it’s about what one would expect from a new addition to this near twenty book saga.
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