Iron Kissed is the third book in The Mercedes Thompson Series. The undercurrent emotionally for this one is that Mercy is at a crossroads with the men in her life. She needs to choose, but she feels trapped because picking Adam will mean losing Samuel and picking Samuel will mean losing Adam. However, if she doesn’t give Adam an answer one way or the other she is weakening his pack and causing all sorts of problems for him and her friends.
The other emotional subplot is family of choice. The major plot of book is really about Zee, Mercy’s former boss at the garage and one of her surrogate fathers, and the Fae who want to set him up as a scapegoat for unsolved murders on the Fae reservation (a.k.a. Fairyland). Mercy is brought into the investigation in order to repay the Fae for something that happened in the last book.
Mercy’s investigation leads to oceans, forests, and a particular walking staff that follows her around like a lost puppy. This book is where we start to really get an understanding of who the Gray Lords (the rulers of the Fae) are and Mercy starts to get into and out of trouble with them because at one point she has a price on her head.
She goes to a meeting of anti-Fae kids, meets a Fae who was there in disguise and gets hunted down until she shows up at Adam’s place for help. From there, more madness breaks out as she starts to figure out who the Big Bad is in this installment and ends up going to his house in order to protect a friend.
For those worried about the rape scene being a triggering thing, while you know what’s going on, it’s all done through implication and not graphic violence. Some people have said that they had to go back and read it again to make sure. What I appreciated was that Briggs didn’t focus on the act itself, though that is horrible and Mercy is drugged into compliance via magic, but on Mercy’s feeling of unreality during it and the fallout afterwards.
Mercy’s reactions ring true to me, no matter that she stays in coyote form. Her conflicted feelings about whether she took part in it or not because she did what she was told. Her question of whether this means that she has been unfaithful to the man she chose is something that most who comply with a rapist while in a relationship deal with. Guilt, shame, horror, nightmares, flashbacks, a loss of confidence are all things rape victims deal with. The fact that Ben begins letting go of his anger when he explains to Adam, who thinks that Mercy is afraid of him and doesn’t understand what’s going on, what happens in the mind of someone who is abused is one of the most touching a powerful scenes in the series and the only one to make me tear up. Briggs deals with the fallout of rape and abuse masterfully, both on the side of the abused and the struggle of those who care for the survivors.
This book, while it deals with a very tough subject is my favourite of the series so far because of the emotional impact of it. The storytelling is well done. The characters, some of whom I have wanted background on, are really filled out. While the vampires are conspicuously absent, you can tell that they’re missing because they’re up to something, so that didn’t bother me at all. The werewolves really show in this one how they take care of their own, even though Mercy often feels like an outsider with them.