Mercy Thompson is a Changer or Shapeshifter, a Coyote. Even though she lives among Werewolves, Vampires and Fae, she isn't really one of them, because unlike the Werewolves, she doesn't have to shift shape at the full moon, and when she does, it doesn't hurt her, like it takes the werewolves, nor does it take as long for her to change.
Mercy's friend Samuel is now living with her, and bids her farewell as she goes off for a date with Adsm. Adam has been making Mercy guess where he's taking her, and she has been bribing his daughter, Jesse, to find out. Jesse says her father said he was taking her bowling, but some intuition makes her dress dressy rather than Jeans and a clean T-shirt.
Which is a good intuition, because he takes her to a fairly classy restaurant before he takes her bowling. But something interferes with the pack bonds between her and Adam during her date, which tend to be a bit iffy anyway, so much that even after a big steak dinner, Mercy shifts to Coyote form to go hunting. She's so hungry that she's even forced to eat quail, something she hates to do, because quail look cute and funny. She resolves to get revenge on who pulled energy from her during the date- pack members can use each other's energy, and she is tied to Adam and his pack.
As soon as she gets back from her run and additional meal, she is distracted by a call about Samuel. Apparently, he tried to kill himself while she and Adam were out on their date. The other Weres managed to stop him from killing himself, but his wolf has taken him over to keep his human self from killing them. Mercy realizes that Samuel's farewell was because he was going to kill himself.
Samuel's father Bran, also known as the Marrok, the leader of the Werewolves of North America, knows that something is wrong with his son, and warns Mercy that if she cannot find something to bring Samuel out of his depression, that he will eventually go into a decline and end his life in a frenzy and attack everything and everyone he can reach- very dangerous because Samuel is a very old and powerful Werewolf and would need either Bran or Adam to stop- by killing Samuel. But Mercy assures Bran that Samuel is in good hands- and tells Adam she needs time so that she can try to help and cure Sam on her own.
Mercy doesn't want to lose Samuel, so she hopes that with Sam, his wolf, in charge, she can find something to keep his interest enough to keep him alive. She takes him home with her and the next morning, she feeds him a huge breakfast in his wolf form, and takes him to work with her.
She forgot that her employee Gabriel was bringing his sisters by to clean. One of the younger ones sees Sam and says, "Pony!" and starts climbing all over him. Mercy is apprehensive, because Sam is a wolf, but he's pretty tolerant, and doesn't seem to mind. She lets Gabriel's mother, Sylvia, know it is okay, but hides the fact that Sam is actually a werewolf from her.
She moves into the garage area to help Gabe and Zee, her former boss (actually the Fae Siebold Adelbertsmiter) work on Sylvia's car, which had been giving her and Gabe problems the previous day. Mercy hopes that between her and Zee, they can fix the thing, but Zee doesn't hold out much hope- it would be better to buy a new car, but neither Gabe nor Sylvia can afford to do so.
Then, one of Gabe's sisters comes in screaming about a man with a gun, and Mercy finds the famous bounty hunter Kelly Heart on her doorstep, pointing a gun at Sam. Mercy smacks the gun from his hand with a broom handle, then, when he grabs the Broom when she pokes at him with it, lets it go and kicks him down the front steps, knocking him on his assistant.
The police are called, and Kelly basically tells her that someone told his producer that there was a dangerous werewolf with a bounty on him, Adam Hauptman, in the area, and that the police asked for his help in taking him down. They told her that Adam could be found with Mercy. When Heart saw Sam, he assumed that he was Adam, which was why he pulled the gun.
The police, when they arrive, confirm that Adam is neither a wanted man, nor that they contacted Kelly Heart's Producer to ask for his help. But to make someone believe that something like that is possible, it would take someone with strong magic... like the fae. And Adam's wolves scent someone else was hiding with a gun- someone who smells strongly of magic, like the fae.
Then she gets a call from Zee's son, Tad, who is in college, saying he got a call from Phin, and he mentioned Mercy and a book. He's afraid for Phin, who he now can't seem to reach at all
Mercy holds something that belongs to the Fae, a book of "Faery Tales", but told from the Perspective of the Fae. She borrowed it from Phin, a part-fae who owns a bookstore. There is also a special silver-sheathed staff that has attatched itself to her, but since the fae have only started bothering her recently, she assumes that it is the book they are after.
She tries returning the book to Phin, but it seems he's not in his shop. There is a woman there, an older woman, who claims to be Phin's grandmother, but Mercy doesn't trust her- she senses something off about the woman, and being that she is Fae, she could be anyone. She goes to Phin's apartment, and he's not there, either, but a nosy Fae naighbor is, and again, Mercy isn't about to trust him. But where can she hide the book? It can't be with Adam- the Fae would think to look there. Instead, Mercy turns to the lover of her gay packmate Warren, hiding it in their house, wrapped in a towel, disguised to look like just another towel in a linen closet.
She waits a day and goes back to Phin's shop with Sam to try and figure out where Phin could be. The shop is trashed, the shelves pushed over and the books scattered, some ripped to shreds. Down in the basement is Phin's office, and it, too, is gone through. But while Mercy and Sam are sniffing out what really happened, a Fae comes in and attacks him. He knocks Mercy out, and when she comes around, Sam is eating part of the Fae, who he has killed, and snarls at Mercy, clearly not recognizing her and wanting to defend his kill.
Mercy's heart sinks- has Sam finally gone past the point of no return that Bran warned her of, and has to be killed? But no, Sam finally remembers her, and Mery is able to take him home... to find her house burnt to ashes. Adam's pack tells her he is in the hospital- he thought Mercy was in her home, and when he saw it on fire, he tried to save her. He's badly burned. Mercy rushes to the hospital and guilts Samuel into coming out to save Adam from his burns. But Samuel is still suicidal, and something must be done.
And she has to confess to Adam that she lied to him, and Sam was the reason why. One of the members of Adam's pack confesses that the Fae were the ones who burned down Mercy's home, and this same pack member has a grudge against Mercy- they wouldn't shed tears if Mercy were to die, because this person wants Adam to mate with a werewolf, not a lowly skinchanger. But this person didn't do it on their own- someone told them to, and there was definitely someone else set to watch over her, because Adam always assigns his people in pairs- one to watch, and one to watch the first person.
And Mercy knows she is right. Then, this person challenges Adam for the position of Alpha, and Mercy can only stand by him as he has to fight for his life. And the Fae still want the book- or something called the Silver Borne. And Samuel still wants to kill himself, thinking he has nothing to live for. Can Mercy make peace with the Fae or manage to deny them what they want, and survive at the same time? And while doing so can she save Adam and Samuel from their problems? And what will she do with her home gone? Can she rebuild again? And what is this thing the Fae want?
I brought this book home from the library and read it in only a few hours. It was amazingly good, and I loved reading about the Fae. Mercy believes that the Fae are scarier than Werewolves or Vampires, even though she fought a really bad vampire foe in her last book. And here I have to agree with her- Werewolves, Vampires, you pretty much know what drives them- and though they are individuals or blood lines, they are more alike than not.
Fae, though, are an entire group of peoples, each different, with different powers and wanting different things. And each kind of Fae is extremely different, with different attitudes to humanity and the others like Mercy. When you are facing a Fae, even if you know what kind of Fae they are (and that's difficult, because they are masters at changing face and form through the use of glamour), you can't necessarily know what they want or what motivates them, and many are so changeable that even their wants aren't always the same. Unpredictability is horrible in a foe or someone who wants you dead.
One of the things that is a little disconcerting about this book is how the separate plot threads don't always seem well-connected. But even if it is a storytelling sin to have such disparate plots, I found it a lot more lifelike to have lots of problems come on the protagonists at once- problems that aren't always related to each other, but which are problems nonetheless. I do think that the "answer" to the problems besetting Sam seemed to be imposed by authorial fiat in this book, but at the same time I do trust Patricia Briggs to take the high road and include more of those characters later, in another book- maybe another Mercy Thompson book, perhaps in a book series of their own, ala Charles and Anna of Alpha and Omega. It's not like they don't have a month in which Mercy was prisoner in the Fae Elphame to play with, and I do want to see the fallout that this instant romance had on Mercy- even if she's in love with Adam, this whole thing with Sam has to dig at her a little.
I enjoyed this book greatly. Yes, there were a few things that niggled at me, but I trust Patrica Briggs enough to fix those niggles in the right way in the next Mercy Thompson book or in another book that involves Sam and his new love. With what Patricia Briggs has done so far with her Fae characters, I'd like to see one as a protagonist. It would be an interesting viewpoint, to see the way that one Fae views the world. Highly recommended.