In an urban fantasy series as long-lived as Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson—which began with Moon Called in 2006, and recently reached its eleventh installment in Storm Cursed—the novels tend to begin alternating between mythology-driven adventures and more discrete forays into the characters and world. At this point it’s simply not possible for one book to touch on every single character we’ve met in the long years since a renegade werewolf first stumbled into Mercy’s mechanic shop and upended the delicate balance of her supernatural life. We have explored a lot with Mercy since then, from her origins as Coyote’s daughter, to her upbringing in the pack of North American uber werewolf the Marrok, to her semi-exile to the Tri-Cities in Washington state, to her courtship with Adam Hauptman.
The previous Mercy Thompson book, Silence Fallen, went heavy on the mythology of Mercy’s world, quite literally depositing her outside of her comfort zone as she was abducted and then escaped captivity in Europe, a tricky feat without a passport, money, or even clothes (her coyote form gave her no cover either, coyotes not being native to Europe). The book gathered together a veritable who’s who of supernatural figures, from the Master Vampire of Prague, to the head of the Tri-Cities werewolf pack, to a Goblin King, several witches, and even (briefly) the Marrok. By contrast, Storm Cursed centers on Mercy’s home turf in the Tri-Cities, and shines a light on a very specific group of people: namely, the witch Elizaveta Arkadyevna Vyshnevetskaya and her family.
Elizaveta has been part of the Mercy-verse from the beginning—a witch on retainer for the Columbia Basin werewolf pack led by Mercy’s husband Adam. The witches are kind of like a law firm, except they clean up supernatural messes rather than legal ones. Adam and Elizaveta have always gotten along—he speaks the Moscow Russian of her youth—but Mercy has always been more circumspect around Elizaveta. There are three kinds of witches in her world: white, gray, and black, with the differentiations shaking out like one would expect. White witches are less powerful and as a result tend toward paranoia and secrecy; black witches earn their power through the torture and death of humans or other supernatural beings; grey witches strike a balance between getting eaten by black witches and doing their own killing. Elizaveta has always been a grey witch, but there’s a lot of grey area between torturing children and… not doing so, and that never sat right with Mercy.
The novel opens with Mercy and a few of her pack members dealing with the supernatural busywork her husband’s pack has taken on since declaring themselves autonomous from the larger North American pack. They must talk a possibly murderous goblin out of a barn; when that goes wrong, they have to bring his head to human law enforcement before they round up a dozen or so zombie goats. Mercy calls Elizaveta for help dealing with the latter problem, but an unknown woman with a Southern accent answers the phone. A coven of black witches has made play for the Tri-Cities, and has either taken Elizavata’s family hostage or already killed them all. Mercy and Elizaveta may not have been overly friendly, but she was a known quantity, and these black witches are bad news.
Over the course of Storm Cursed we learn a lot more about Elizaveta’s family, about witch politics, and about the practice of magic more generally. Though there is some mythology-building going on in the background—Adam and his lieutenants are largely off-screen while they act as security for an upcoming summit between the U.S. government and the fae—the concerns of the novel are more intimate and closer to home. Mercy learns a little bit more about the parameters of her secondary powers. The pack more clearly defines its relationship with both the government and the supernatural world. Mercy and Stefan have a conversation they’ve been avoiding. The villains aren’t figures from legend, but people Mercy has known for years. It doesn’t have the international scope of its predecessor, but in some ways, the stakes are so much higher when the fate of the world isn’t on the line.