‘Soul Taken’ – Mercy Thompson #13 by Patricia Briggs – this is one for the Mercy and Adam fans.

When the vampire Wulfe, Mercy’s deadly, possibly insane stalker goes missing, the Tri-Cities pack is blamed and the loose alliance between the local vampires and werewolves will end unless Mercy produces Wulfe to prove their innocence.

Mercy soon discovers more than just Wulfe have disappeared. Someone is taking supernatural beings from locked rooms, from the aisles of stores and even from crowded parties. Until Wulfe vanished, all of them were powerless loners, many of whom quietly moved to the Tri-Cities in the hope of being protected by the Tri-Cities pack.

Who is taking them? As Mercy investigates, she learns of the legend of the Harvester, who travels by less-trodden paths and reaps the souls that are ripe with a great black scythe…

Sometimes, books are a form of magic. They cast a spell that goes beyond playing a movie in the theatre of your imagination and shapes your mood without your conscious consent.

The combination of Patricia Briggs’ writing and Lorelei King’s narration cast that kind of spell on me. How else do I account for the feeling of gentle calm that suffused me when I was reading a book in which people get cut apart by a scythe, abducted, tortured and maimed, the two main characters are constantly under threat of death, perhaps even from within their own household and are being stalked by an enemy who exalts in causing pain and who has unleashed an ancient and powerful weapon that feeds upon it?

This should have been a scary thriller. All the elements are there: threatening monsters, secrets and deception, fights with blades and guns and dark, dangerous magic. But those are just the lyrics. It’s the music that casts the calming spell. Mercy’s relationship with Adam determines the key of the song. It’s fundamental to how she sees the world. She lives a life in which she and Adam are constantly at risk. Her ability to live in the here and now, to lose herself in the depths of the commitment that they have to each other, is what lets her face fatal threats with a fatalistic calm that contains no despair.

The surprise is that the music Mercy is making is a melody best suited to a love song. She and Adam are the Happy Ever After some romance novels aspire to. The only difference is that it’s a violent Happy Every After that could be ended by a fatal attack at any time.

That said, Mercy is impulsive and can never resist standing between others and those who want to harm them. She causes chaos and she relishes doing so. It’s as if she suddenly adds a jazz riff or a hard-hitting rap chorus to the love song.

I enjoyed the book in the way that I’d enjoy a song from a favourite artist that is instantly recognisable as hers and reminds me of all the songs of hers that I’ve loved but which I know doesn’t stand out as one of the songs she’ll be remembered for.

If you’re looking for an intense Urban Fantasy thriller, ‘Soul Taken’ isn’t it. It’s a cosy Happy Ever After romance with regular interludes of violence and mayhem. I found it very calming to step inside the bubble that Mercy and Adam have created for themselves but I’m sure it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

‘Soul Taken’ does have some solid strengths as an Urban Fantasy. Patricia Briggs is talented at building intricate magic systems and making them feel tangible. The Mercy Thompson series has a large ensemble cast and ‘Soul Taken’ develops a number of them by sharing more of their backstories and or by putting them through significant trauma.

What’s missing is any real sense of urgency. This was always a puzzle Mercy had to solve. It would always depend on unearthing truths, calling upon allies and facing death when needed. It never felt time urgent and I never doubted that Mercy would prevail.

One piece that didn’t work for me was the involvement of the Goblin King. His arrival was timely and dramatic. His involvement was essential. Then, as we reached the denouement, he just wasn’t there anymore. That felt clumsy to me.

The only times when real excitement rather than stoic survival was in the air was at the points where ‘Soul Taken’ crossed over with the ‘Alpha and Omega’ storyline. I’d really like to know why Samuel needs Charles’ help and why he doesn’t want to tell Mercy what’s going on but I’m sure that will be another book.

I suspect that, without Laurelei King’s narration and the benefit of the distinct voices she has created for the characters, I might not have fallen under the spell of this book but her voice was enough to bring me inside Mercy’s world and to make it a restful place to be. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample to hear what I mean.

I read ‘Soul Taken’ for ‘The Carpathians’ Halloween Bingo Square.

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