Comparing books can be challenging at times. Readers often compare and contrast books’ writing styles, varying time periods or differing character personalities. It can be like comparing apples and oranges at times. Or in my tastier version- like comparing croissants and quiche.
At other times it can be surprisingly easy. I read Ilona Andrews’ “Kate Daniels” series- starting with Magic Bites. Kate Daniels is a mercenary who lives in an alternate-reality Atlanta where magic and technology coincide. She’s a skilled fighter who possesses magic of her own and doesn’t need a man to defend herself or cause her more trouble than she already has. Most of the series deals with Kate’s various encounters with a werewolf pack- and most frequently with its leader and “Alpha,” Curran.
This week I’ve started reading Patricia Briggs’ “Mercy Thompson” series -starting with Moon Called. (Please forgive these covers, yeesh!) I couldn’t help noticing some subtle and not-so-subtle similarities. Briggs’ introduces reader’s to Mercy Thompson- a shapeshifter and VW mechanic. She’s a tough fighter who can defend herself and doesn’t need a man….hmmm. Deja vu, anyone? Mercy lives in today’w world with a twist- the public at large is just finding out about fae beings- including the ever-popular werewolves and vampires. Mercy lives across the street from a werewolf herself, and- you guessed it- its the local, grumpy Alpha. Working on cars for a living and being able to shift into a coyote grant Mercy the ability to hold her own with the aggressive, dominant were’s that have suddenly reappeared in her life.
At first I was struck by the similarity of these novels: tough heroines with mysteries to solve and butts to kick. But, after reading one and a half books in the Mercy Thompson series, I realized that not all urban fantasies are created equal.
1Mercy is a very likable heroine. She’s smart and witty and makes you want to be her friend. She’s got commitment issues and is afraid to open her heart, yet she’s a softy and is compassionate and fiercely protective of others. Kate is constantly trying to prove herself, it seems. She is very aggressive and straightforward but fails to have many endearing qualities. Throughout the books, Kate’s edges seem to become sharper instead of softer. Plus, most of the humor in the novels is Kate talking to herself…and answering, which only shows how isolated of a character she is.
2Kate is a trained killer and alternates between working freelance jobs and putting in 9 to 5 for a government agency that resembles a special ops unit. All of her missions seem to have a violent conclusion, where somebody or some creature dies. And, these deaths are described very, very graphically. I don’t need to know about exposed bones and gushing blood. I always ended up skipping over these completely gratuitous descriptions and prayed there were no more in store. Brigg’s novels leave the few gory parts to the imagination. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to killing a vampire or seeing a werewolf change shape under a full moon, I’m fine with own mildly imaginative brain filling in the details.
3To put in simply, the Mercy Thompson books are actually good literature. There is a seamless flow of events, descriptions and plot development. I don’t have to skip over unsavory parts or merely read through the books just to find out how the series ends. I am fully enjoying reading about Mercy, her fae friends and the picturesque Washington landscape. I cannot wait to get home and dig into these books! While Andrews’ books were good reads, the were by no means great literature or even novels I would be willing to re-read a second time. They were a good, temporary fix for a fantasy craving.
Two great series, but there can only be one winner. And that’s Mercy and her Gang of Werewolves. It also doesn’t hurt that the vampires in Brigg’s novels look like average humans and not the bald, Gollum-like creatures in the Kate Daniels’ books.
Let the vampires sparkle on!!