Right off the bat, we get off on the wrong foot in this book. In the very first chapter, Mercy's movie night with her man-girlfriends Warren and Kyle is disrupted when Warren decides to take a time out and guilt trip Mercy. He tells Mercy that it's only a matter of time before Sam and Adam totally LOSE CONTROL and FIGHT TO THE DEATH for Mercy's hand, and that they have 'given her a lot of leeway' in not forcing her to choose already (excuse me, that's allowing her leeway? as opposed to what, just taking her against her will or telling her to fuck off? big loss). So anyway, if she doesn't hurry up and pick one, and they kill each other over her, it will be ALL HER FAULT.
WELL, MERCY, YOU BITCH. GOD FORBID YOU TRY TO DATE, GET TO KNOW SOMEONE BETTER, AND EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS BEFORE DECIDING TO MATE FOR LIFE! This is another good example of the book placing all the blame on Mercy for the decisions other people make. Sam and Adam are grown men who should be capable of controlling their own actions; Mercy shouldn't bear the responsibility for keeping them from losing it, nor should she be pressured into making a decision because of that. This isn't the only guilt trip that Mercy has to endure, but we'll get to that in a second.
As far as Mercy's two suitors go, this book really solidified our dislike for Adam, and there are two big reasons for that. One: the heavy-handedness and liberties he takes on Mercy's behalf (see: security cameras), and two: his behavior in the wake of his daughter Jesse's attack. About a quarter of the way through the book, Jesse is attacked by school mates because her father is a werewolf, which apparently does not discourage morons from picking on his offspring. She is saved by her boyfriend Gabriel, but sustains a few injuries in the process. After hearing about the incident, Adam flips, to the point that he almost loses control of his wolf (like this is anything new). Mercy is called to the scene by Ben, and finds Adam enraged and taking it out on Jesse and her savior, Gabriel. Mercy interferes and defuses the situation, but not before Adam yells at her and punches the wall in an expression of rage.
Adam's behavior is disturbing. It is, of course, understandable to be angry that your child is attacked, but both Jesse and Gabriel are hurt and scared upon their arrival, and he turns the full force of his anger on them when they won't reveal the names of her attackers. Even though Jesse is crying and her injuries haven't been tended to, instead of comforting and cleaning her up, Adam makes the situation worse and leaves Mercy to come pick up the pieces. For us, it's borderline abusive behavior on Adam's part. Way to be a dick to your traumatized daughter, asshole. But we were very proud of the way Mercy handled it. She took care of Jesse, yelled at Adam, and dealt with the situation the way he should have.
Adam's temper, however, is not the only troubling issue we learn about in this particular sequence. While Mercy is caring for Jesse, it occurs to her that the reason Adam flipped so easily was because he had been so 'on edge' lately. Not two seconds later, Honey explains why. She comes to Mercy and tells her that she 'needs to do something' about Adam's situation, and takes it upon herself to explain to Mercy the magical side effects of Adam's having declared her his mate. She explains that Mercy's reluctance to either accept or refuse Adam is having a tangible effect on his ability to control his pack and temper, not to mention putting extra strain on him and making his pack uncomfortable. Essentially, putting him 'on edge'.
This tells us two fucked up things with one revelation. First, Adam blew up because he was on edge, therefore, by Mercy's previously stated logic, it is her fault for not accepting him and thus putting him on edge. LOL I SEE WHAT YOU DID THAR BRIGGS. Second, this is more pressure on Mercy to MAKE A DECISION NOW, because her indecision is affecting the whole pack. What the Hell? Yet again, Briggs is manufacturing reasons for her own character to feel obligated to choose a man. Mercy didn't ask Adam to declare her his mate, and she had no idea that it would affect him or his pack at all. Coupling this with the idea that Sam and Adam could at any moment fight to the death over her, Mercy is totally cornered into deciding right now, or whatever happens will be all her fault. It is totally unfair to put any of this on her, specifically to guilt her into making a decision between Sam and Adam. Apparently Briggs just couldn't bear for a relationship to develop naturally or something (lol, relationship development, who does that anymore, anyway?) and instead engineered this excuse to force one into existence.
She has Mercy make her decision between the two in a similarly forced way; almost totally out of nowhere, Mercy comes to the realization that, although she loves Sam, she doesn't want to be with him as a mate, because - and get this - he would be too
But this is all okay, of course, because, as we so wonderfully discovered last book, she wants to submit to Adam. It's not love without submission! Besides, Sam never really wanted Mercy, anyway (no really, they talk about it and this is the conclusion they come to).
Blah. The attempts at romance in this series make us sad :/
Okay, so here we go. The proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to this particular book.
Iron Kissed is the first entry in the Mercy series in which Mercy is totally involved with nearly every aspect of the main plot. She is the one who tracks down the fae killer in the beginning; she's the one who makes it her business to find the real perpetrator of the murder Zee is blamed for, even against the wishes of the Grey Lords (leader of the fae), and Zee himself. And it is Mercy who infiltrates the anti-fae group she believes may have a connection to both crimes. For the first time she leaves very little, if any, legwork to be done by the weres or the vampires, and even rejects their attempts to sideline her, and we appreciated this. It made for an interesting, tense, compelling story, and also lead to the biggest, most disturbing event in the entirety of the series.
In her quest to gather evidence related to the death of the human Zee is accused of killing, Mercy accepts a date with a man named Tim, who may have some key information, in his home. While eating dinner, Tim uses one of the magical fae items (which he has been murdering the fae in order to acquire) to essentially magically drug Mercy, compelling her to do exactly what he wants, and feel the way he wants her to feel. He uses this compulsion to order Mercy to fall in love with him, takes her to her garage, and rapes her.
While the rape is disturbing, it's really what we felt the rape represented that bothered us about this event. When we thought about why Patricia Briggs, or really any author, would have this sort of thing happen to their character, we came up with two reasons: character development and to convey a message.
The character development aspect is both easy to see and extremely troubling. In the process and aftermath of the rape, Mercy's point of view changes a bit, and she comes to some realizations about Adam. As she is antagonizing Tim, her rapist, she wonders why she is intentionally doing things to make him angry (being under the influence of the fairy juice, she understands that this doesn't gel with her orders to act as though she loves him), and flashes back to Adam when he punched the wall after Jesse was attacked. She realizes that she likes making Adam angry, and loves the rage and violence he displays, because she feels that he 'would never turn it on a person he loved'. Then, not long after the rape, Tim's wish for her to 'always be alone' strikes a cord, and she decides that the real reason she has been resisting taking a mate is because she doesn't want to be rejected. She feels alone.
There are so many things wrong with this. First, here it is from the horse's (Briggs') mouth: violent, angry, borderline abusive men are the ideal in this world. The way Mercy sort of idolizes Adam in the moment when he is seething with anger and punching the door frame is proof of that. Second, Mercy is not alone. She has Zee and Warren and Kyle and Gabriel and Stefan and Bran and Sam and a number of people who care about her, but apparently without a mate she is totally alone. Since when does being a single woman with a shitton of friends make you sad and hopelessly alone?
tl;dr Being raped really made her realize she needed a boyfriend.
As to the message, we've mentioned that this is the first book where Mercy has really taken action herself, and been holy crap, useful throughout the entire story. And what happens? She gets raped. And why? Looking at the book as a whole, to us, it felt like Briggs was saying: this is what happens when women try and do shit on their own, without man backup, ignoring the men who tell her to do the safe thing and go back to the kitchen. They get raped. Quite possibly the worst thing that can happen to a woman happened to Mercy when she had the audacity to do something for herself. It feels to us like a cautionary tale, like when people tell you "Oh, don't go walking out in the city after dark, because you're a woman and you'll get raped." Like there is no possible alternative.
Btw, way to have the first instance of sex in the series be rape, Briggs.
At least Mercy killed the bastard in the end though!
We suppose, if you want to take it a step further, you could say that Tim Milanovich could be Briggs' skewed take on non-Alpha-male-type men, who don't seem to be present in her stories except as villains. He is one of the few instances of a man who isn't immediately identified as a controlling, physically powerful, agressive jerk, and he turns out to be a sniveling rapist. But your mileage may vary on that one.
Our final complaint has to do with something Adam says to Mercy, post-rape. As a way of, idk, comforting her or something, he tells her that because she has gone to him twice to save her, she has basically accepted him as a mate, and is now 'his'. Nice to see he's not taking advantage of the situation. Not that it matters much, because being claimed is totally okay with Mercy now.
On the bright side, we did like the way Mercy handled Jesse's attackers. In a moment of bonding and development, she and Ben, in wolf form (we love Ben!), agree to confront and scare them a bit. We liked Ben's willingness to participate for Jesse and for Mercy.
And for all its disturbing content, the rape scene and those that followed were very convincingly written. We liked the kind of disjointed feel they had, and the way Briggs wrote Mercy's impaired and traumatized state of mind. And while we feel that Ben's explanation of Mercy's emotions were a bit too convenient (there's only so much you can chalk up to shared experiences and 'knowing' someone), we understood the need for it (Adam and Mercy would never have done it on their own), and appreciate the development that Ben's character received through it.
You know, we're harsh on these books because they have so much potential, and such good, interesting characters, and yet with the romance and world aspects Briggs shoots herself in the foot. She makes it so difficult to enjoy these books, especially Iron Kissed, when she is slowly breaking her own character down so that she can push a very disturbing relationship and worldview on us. The problems lessen a bit in the following novels, but really only because it seems like Mercy stops fighting.
Anyway, tomorrow, Bone Crossed and Silver Bourne.