In Mercy Thompson’s tenth adventure, Silence Fallen, out this week, Mercy finds herself far away from her Washington home, kidnapped by the master vampire of Europe, Jacob Bonarata, for reasons unknown. As a coyote shifter, her unintended visit to Italy puts her at a greater disadvantage than is otherwise obvious: neither her magic nor her animal form are exactly native to the Old World. Her husband Adam and a variety of her allies travel across the pond to treat with Bonarata and get her back. Mercy, meanwhile, spreads chaos wherever she goes, per usual. Silence Fallen travels all around Europe, from Italy to Czech Republic, meeting new characters, and deepening our understanding of some we think we already know.
Which means that now is the time to catch up on the complex supernatural world of the Tri-Cities area of Washington and beyond. There are a lot of reasons to fall into the complex mythology, high-stakes action, and (for lack of a better word) court politics of this series. For the purposes of this list, I’m going to focus on the characters that make the books so grand. Not every one of them in in every installment—because Briggs is a wise enough storyteller to only use the characters necessary to the action—but each makes their mark on Mercy’s life. Let me introduce you to 10 wonderful characters from the world of Mercy Thompson (some spoilers follow).
Mercy Thompson herself!
When we first meet Mercy, back in the very first novel, Moon Called, she’s parked underneath a Jetta, installing its rebuilt engine. Mercy is a Volkswagen mechanic, history major, and walker—she can transform into a coyote, and has a grab bag of other seemingly minor gifts. This isn’t the Navajo skinwalker of legend (those are evil people who wear the skins of others). Her shape-changing is more the inexplicable heritage of her late father. She’s alone in the first novel, the only one of her kind, despite knowing a broad variety of supernatural creatures such as werewolves, vampires, and fae. Throughout the course of the series, Mercy turns out to be an indispensable centerpiece in the complex world she inhabits. This is not because she’s the toughest thing out there, but because she’s really, really good at screwing up other people’s plans—and at making messy hail Mary plays that somehow work out okay (mostly).
At the beginning of the series, Mercy’s small property abuts Adam’s. Adam is a security consultant, a military veteran and, coincidentally, the alpha of the local werewolf pack. He is also a serious man who values order. Mercy delights in twisting his tail whenever she can, despite the inherent danger of messing with alpha werewolves. (Mercy’s constant assault on the order of things will become a theme; she really can’t help herself.) Mercy and Adam engage in a long courtship—though neither of them will admit that’s what it is for ages—finally culminating in their marriage. Like real couples, this doesn’t mean that things go smoothly from there on out; crises abound, from the pack vying for Adam’s attention in Silver Borne, to a surprise visit by Adam’s ex-wife in Night Broken.
Even before Mercy and Adam started dating, she and Adam’s daughter Jesse always got on. In the world of Mercy Thompson, loupism isn’t something that you are born with (with one exception); it’s something contracted, usually after an attack that nearly results in death. So Jesse Hauptman isn’t a werewolf, but a normal teenage girl with a werewolf for a father. Because Adam is the alpha, his house plays host to a large number of werewolves at any given time, which means that Jesse is more or less surrounded by terrifying monsters whenever she’s at her dad’s. This is normal for her, and she generally doesn’t sweat it. Mercy gets what it’s like to be an underpowered, fragile creature in the midst of others fatally stronger than you, and acts as Jesse’s advocate at times, even though Jesse totally doesn’t need that, puh lease. Adam is a good father, but sometimes it takes Mercy’s intervention for him to see Jesse receives the safety and security she needs. Jesse and Mercy’s relationship is very sweet.
Warren is a longtime friend of Mercy’s; they met at a Stop and Rob back in the day. Warren is also a member of Adam’s pack—his third in command. It’s strongly hinted that he would be Adam’s second, but Warren is gay, and the culture of the werewolves is pretty freaking regressive. It’s notable that Warren has survived as long as he has—a testimony to his resourcefulness, and that Adam is chill enough to accept Warren as he is. (Werewolf packs are also sexist as hell, as female werewolves almost always derive their status from their werewolf mates. ) Warren’s longtime boyfriend is Kyle, a fully human lawyer, who doesn’t know about Warren’s werewolf status for an uncomfortably long time. Kyle rules.
Stefan is a vampire, and a very good friend of Mercy’s despite that. (Vampires typically don’t get along with anyone, up to and including other vampires.) He and Mercy bonded over fixing up a Volkswagen van to look like the Mystery Machine; Stefan has a pretty serious thing for Scooby Doo. Stefan isn’t technically a member of the local vampire seethe (which is such a perfect name for a group of vampires), but he is one of the original Old World vamps who established themselves in the New World. He was banished from Italy, something we learn much more about in Silence Fallen. Stefan and Mercy have an almost wistful relationship—close in many ways, damaged and dangerous in others. They have each other’s backs, despite the occasional weirdness.
Seibold Adelbertsmiter, aka Zee
At the beginning of the series, Zee is Mercy’s former boss at her mechanic shop, having sold it to her after a long mentorship. Zee is also a member of the fae: he calls himself a gremlin, one of the few fae who can handle iron, but predates the term. When we first meet him, he presents as a grouchy old dude, heading towards retirement and pretending not to meddle in the life of his son, Tad. But with Zee, as with most fae, appearances are not to be believed. He was a pretty stupendous badass back in the day, and even the Grey Lords (I’ll get to them next) think twice before crossing him.
The Grey Lords
This is a bit of a cheat; sue me. About 20 years prior to the events of the first Mercy novel, the fae revealed their existence to average humans. Humans responded the way they often do, by freaking out and creating a semi-fascist bureaucracy called Cantrip to deal with them. (The events of Iron Kissed—in which Mercy investigates a series of murders on the fae reservation—show off Cantrip’s less than awesome qualities.) On the one hand, us regular folk have a legitimate reason to fear the fae: many of them literally eat children. On the other, the Grey Lords, who act as the terrifying semi-ruling body of the fae, are terrifying. I guess what I’m saying is, the fae are pretty scary. Possibly the worst thing about them is that, despite the Grey Lords acting as an internal enforcing power, they themselves are impossible to direct or control; when an edict comes down, there’s no way to know if any given fae subject will follow it.
Bran Cornick, the Marrok
Before Mercy was born, her father, a Blackfeet Indian and walker himself, was killed in an accident. Thus, when Mercy first turned into a coyote in her crib, Mercy’s white mother understandably felt well and truly in over her head. She contacted a friend of the family, Bran Cornick, who also happened to be the Marrok, the alpha of all the werewolf packs in North America. All packs report to him in one way or another. He found Mercy a foster family, a pack that tended to house the broken and the damaged. Mercy and Bran have had a complex relationship: in many ways, she’s his surrogate daughter, but he’s also abandoned her at points, which feels doubly hurtful to a child left by her mother with werewolves. She fell in love with his son Samuel (a devotion he seemed to return) when she was only 16—which was definitely not ok—and to resolve the issue, he sent Mercy away. But the Marrok has been fiercely protective of Mercy all along, and serves as her ace in the hole when she inevitably gets herself into trouble.
Charles and Anna Cornick
Charles, like Samuel, is a son of the Marrok, and a pretty stupendous badass in his own right. He possibly the only werewolf born a werewolf, the son of Bran and a medicine woman. Charles also acts as the Marrok’s enforcer, a job that often weighs heavy upon him. While Charles doesn’t show up so much, he is one of the principles of the Mercy Thompson adjacent series, Alpha and Omega, which starts with Cry Wolf. His wife is Anna, a rare omega werewolf who alters the pack hierarchy by her very nature. Charles was vital part of Mercy’s upbringing, a brother-figure who was an ally in Bran’s often fractious pack. She ends up relying on his teachings often. One day, I’d love to see the two series intersect.
It wasn’t until Mercy went on her honeymoon in River Marked—and got embroiled in a magical murder mystery, naturally—that she met other walkers. All of the walkers, the people who can change into the spirits of the New World, can trace their lineage back to a Native avatar. Mercy is no different. Her father was and was not Old Coyote, the trickster of American myth. Old Coyote is an agent of chaos, and Mercy is his daughter in so many ways. Because the Mercy Thompson novels are narrated by Mercy herself, and she favors deadpan delivery, I think sometimes we miss, as readers, how much havoc she truly wreaks. (She just doesn’t see it herself.) Old Coyote is so much worse, and Mercy is often agog at his hair-brained plans, the kind of things that would sound like a good idea to Wile E. Coyote. The fingerprints of Coyote’s meddling are all over Mercy’s most recent adventure in the best possible way.