REVIEW: Winter Lost by Patricia Briggs

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Image of a Native American woman wearing a dark tank top and holding a lyre covered in frost. The lyre has a wolf or dog's head at either end at the top and the bottom bit has a woman's face in the middle to decorate. The background is a snowy night sky.Advice to Readers: Do yourself a favour and re-read at least the last 30-40 pages (if not the whole book) of Soul Taken before diving in to Winter Lost. You’ll thank me. Also, for more Easter egg enjoyment, I recommend reading/re-reading Grey from the Shifting Shadows anthology before this one as well.

Spoiler Alert: Spoilers for the previous book in the Mercyverse, Soul Taken, follow.

Dear Patricia Briggs,

I hadn’t realised it’s been more than a year since Soul Taken came out. Turns out, it was released in August 2022 and I read an early copy. That probably explains why  my memory of the plot was a bit vague.  After I started Winter Lost I realised I needed to back up the truck and refresh myself on what happened in the previous book – key plot points of it are pivotal in the new book. By the time I realised that however, I was too invested in Winter Lost to re-read all of Soul Taken. I found the Wiki entry plus the last few chapters of the book were enough. (I did listen to Soul Taken in full after I finished this book though.)

Winter Lost takes place only about a month after the events of Soul Taken. In fact, I’ve realised the timeline of the last few Mercy books is pretty compact – since Mercy claimed the territory and the Columbia Basin Pack split from the Marrok, it’s only been a year or so. As this book begins, Mercy is being tormented by Bonarata via phone calls and messages. If she doesn’t listen to him, he takes it out on innocents. He’s harming innocents anyway, but there are degrees of harm. Mercy is terrified but also trying to hide it from Adam as there’s pretty much nothing they can do about it. And, Mercy is still suffering from magic and soul damage caused to her by the Soul Taker. Adam is worried about what will happen to her if they can’t find a way to fix her. Zee is worried. Mercy is worried. She’s had a headache – waxing and waning in intensity since the Soul Taker got a piece of her and it feels like things are getting worse.

As the book begins, the pack has a lot going on. Something is upsetting Jessie and she’s in conflict with Tad over it. One of Adam’s staff in New Mexico was killed on a security assignment and he’s planning a visit there to find out what happened and sort it out. Tensions are high within the pack, especially between Darryl, Warren and Sherwood, who are all very dominant wolves. In the previous book Sherwood and Adam found a way to keep the status quo but all of the wolves are required and need to be able to work effectively together if the pack are to safeguard their territory.

When Gary Laughingdog, Mercy’s brother, turns up affected by a spell of some kind, Mercy is determined to fix him.

The structure of Winter Lost is a little different to other books in the series. There are chapters, largely (but not solely) from either Mercy or Adam’s perspective, and in between there are “interludes” which jump around in time as the story is revealed. Exactly who some of these characters are and whether they are big bads or something else (my early speculation was largely off the mark) is kept hidden. It’s effective and builds mood and tension.

I had thought, given Adam’s plans to travel to New Mexico, that Mercy would be largely alone (or at least, Adam-less) for the main part of the plot. But, no. Adam changes his plans, much to Mercy’s annoyance and they head to Montana in a blizzard together for reasons which are explained in the book, in order to save Gary.

“Third, and most important, Mercy.” He held up three fingers, then touched them to his lips. “I could live if I lost the pack. I could live if my business folds. If a bunch of people I don’t know die in New Mexico when I might have been able to save them, I could live with that, too. None of those things would make me happy—but I have a lot worse things on my conscience.”

She was staring at him.

“I could not live with losing you,” he told her, his throat tight. “There are times when I have had to let you go out into danger without me. More times when I haven’t known about threats to your life until they were long past. But this time . . . this time I have the privilege of being backup while you head out to see if we can rescue your brother.”

Most of Mercy’s annoyance is to cover her fear. Adam knows it.

“Okay,” she said after a few miles. “But it was easier to be mad at you instead of scared for my brother. Could you do something to make me mad, please?”

“I need inspiration,” he apologized. “Maybe if you could say something stupid or offer to risk your life for people I don’t care about?”

It’s not just about Gary of course. There’s far more to it than that. If Mercy and Adam don’t succeed in their quest, it could mean the end of the world.

There’s Norse mythology intertwined with Native American magic, and, far too many spiders for my liking. (What is it with spiders in fantasy – urban or otherwise? This arachnophobe respectfully requests it to stop.)

I was engrossed in the story as I was reading, finding every excuse to read and staying up too late to finish. Definitely the sign of a good book. But, once I finished, I realised that there were story threads that didn’t really go anywhere (Jessie/Tad). Perhaps they will in future books. Others were wrapped up in a couple of paragraphs which had me questioning why they were in the book at all (New Mexico). The dominance issue between Darryl/Warren and Sherwood was only lightly canvassed.  I had thought there might be some links between some of these things to bring the whole thing together but there were not. It left me feeling a bit like things were unfinished. Perhaps that was deliberate. There will be (I hope!) more Mercy books in the future. But it did feel a little “bitty” to me in places.

I’ve made my peace with Adam and his politics. (In that I  pretty much put my metaphorical fingers in my metaphorical ears and sing “la la la”.) I think there maybe was a bit of remediation attempted in Winter Lost. I’m not sure it was entirely successful. Given the polarisation in US politics I wonder whether some things in the book will bother both sides. Personally I appreciated a trans character appearing in the story (I have a trans daughter myself and representation matters) but it felt a little like the trans character was only in the book to show that Adam is not transphobic. It’s a thing I appreciated about him but for story purposes, I think it would have worked better had the character been more intrinsic to the plot. The thing is, because Adam is fictional, I can hand-wave his politics to sufficient degree to love him regardless in a way I could not if he were a real person. Even so, I’d rather not think about his politics at all and keep the Mercyverse to the various supernatural factions. (These factors did not affect my grade for Winter Lost.)

Other than his politics, Adam is one of my favourite heroes. I love the way he loves Mercy. I love the way she loves him. I love them as a team. I love that the last few books have had Adam and Mercy working together a lot. Mercy still gets to do things Adam can’t do and be the centre of the story. But over time, Adam has become a more central character and I (mostly) enjoy his POV sections.

As much as I enjoyed Winter Lost as I was reading, when I thought about it later, the lack of cohesion in some of the story parts bothered me and kept the book from being an A read. It’s not the absolute best book in the series but it is regardless, a very good book and a solid entry to the Mercyverse.

Grade: B/B+

Regards,

Kaetrin

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Kaetrin

Kaetrin started reading romance as a teen and then took a long break, detouring into fantasy and thrillers. She returned to romance in 2008 and has been blogging since 2010. She reads contemporary, historical, a little paranormal, urban fantasy and romantic suspense, as well as erotic romance and more recently, new adult. She loves angsty books, funny books, long books and short books. The only thing mandatory is the HEA. Favourite authors include Mary Balogh, Susanna Kearsley, Joanna Bourne, Tammara Webber, Kristen Ashley, Shannon Stacey, Sarah Mayberry, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, KA Mitchell, Marie Sexton, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, just to name a few. You can find her on Twitter: @kaetrin67.

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