Ever since I read Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood I’ve been slowly working my way through Patricia Briggs’ body of work. I’ve finally read everything that’s readily available on the Kindle (the first book in her first series is unfortunately not on Kindle, or anywhere else that I can find), and it’s safe to say that Patricia Briggs is one of my absolutely favorite authors. Here’s why:
- She writes excellent fantasy, every time. There’s lots of really bad fantasy out there. Ever since the runaway success of Harry Potter, publishers have been pouring money into making crappy fantasy look worth buying. Briggs is consistently excellent and sometimes edges into outstanding. I really value an author whose books I can buy without worrying whether I’m in for a disappointment.
- She writes realistic fantasy. Too many authors forget how fragile human bodies are. In Briggs’ novels, villains don’t waste time monologuing; they kill the people they want dead. Injuries matter. Heroes sometimes win simply by surviving long enough for the villain to bleed out. Sure, there’s magic and so forth, but Briggs keeps reality firmly out of Superman-ville where bullets can be shrugged aside and there’s no need to fear for the hero because you know in your gut that they’ll make it through unscathed.
- She writes fun, believable characters and moves beyond stereotypes. Briggs’ characters are quirky, believable, and no one is irredeemably evil or good. She also has a flair for capturing social interactions; her werewolf sub-culture is fascinating and feels utterly realistic (assuming there were a subset of people who could turn into wolves).
- The books in her series are self-contained and always a decent few hundred pages long. I am not impressed by people who write epics, to be perfectly honest. Granted, there are some amazingly good epics out there (I was recently captivated by Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy — Assassin’s Apprentice, etc.) but writing absolutely every detail is lazy in a lot of respects (aside from the challenge of keeping someone’s interest through every little detail). I am much more impressed by authors who can compress a worthwhile story into a digestible chunk without letting themselves go. Briggs does this without fail.
I really can’t recommend Patricia Briggs highly enough. This is definitely the kind of fantasy that I’d like to be able to write myself, and I greatly admire Briggs’ ability to write realistic fantasy that maintains the excitement and fun of more clichéd fantasy. But as much as I like blathering on about how great Briggs is, you probably are more interested in which book to pick up first. Here’s my thoughts on that:
- Moon Called is the first book in the Mercy Thompson series (currently three books long, a fourth on the way). This is urban fantasy of a sort (set in Kennewick, WA), and likely to have the broadest appeal of any of Briggs’ work. Although I love Dragon Bones, I think this might be my favorite group of Briggs books.
- Dragon Bones as I’ve noted before is an excellent book, and my recommendation if you’d like to try some of Briggs’ more traditional fantasy. Raven’s Shadow is her other traditional fantasy duology, but it isn’t as strong as the Hurog books.
- The Hob’s Bargain is a decent standalone traditional fantasy, but not really one to introduce you to Patricia Briggs. Read it after you’ve finished some of the other stuff and need your fix one way or another.
- Cry Wolf is Patricia Briggs’ newest novel set in the same world and with a number of the same characters as the Mercy Thompson novels, but it isn’t a good starting place for two reasons: first, you’ll want to have read at least the first Mercy Thompson book or the world won’t make enough sense to you; second, the book picks up after a novella and the beginning third or so throws you abruptly into a relationship between two people you don’t know all that well (unless you read the novella). Cry Wolf is excellent, of course, but it’s more geared toward people already loving Patricia Briggs.
So go read Briggs. I certainly am glad that I’ve discovered her, and I’m looking forward to her next books.