Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly by Patricia Briggs--A totally new and original story in the Mercy Thompson Series!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     I blame my daughter for my obsession with Mercy Thompson. Although I've always loved books and reading from the time I could turn the pages until now, I became one of the truly obsessed when my daughter introduced me to Mercy Thompson. 

     My daughter was reading Silver Borne, Mercy Thompson, Book 5, when I asked her what her book was about. She launched into a diatribe about Mercy Thompson, seemingly not taking a breath until she had told me everything about the spunky auto mechanic. She insisted that I read the first book, Moon Called, Mercy Thompson, Book one.[2]

This is a temporary cover
used until the final cover
is released.
says that the release date
for Fire Touched is March
8, 2016. I can't wait! [3]
     So, I read Moon Called, then I read, Blood Bound, Book 2, then Iron Kissed, Book 3. These three were immediately followed by Book 4, Bone Crossed, and Silver Borne, Book 5. I read all five books in four days. I was hooked. That was in 2010, shortly after Silver Borne had come out. Currently, I, like many others, await, Fire Touched (book 9) to be released. [2]

     Since I had to wait until 2011 for River Marked, (#6) and until 2013, for Frost Burned, (#7) I became one of those people who constantly checks the calendar and watches for those "releases" by someone about the content of the upcoming book. I got nothing, so it was a long wait until 2014 for Night Broken, (#8).

     In between the publication of one book and another, I read other Patricia Briggs' novels. It helped. I found that I really liked Patricia Briggs' writing and enjoyed other stories from her pen. It comes as no surprise to me, certainly, that I would jump at the chance to read and review a Patricia Briggs' novel.

     Another very great joy, for me, is that I get the opportunity to read this book from NetGalley as an ARC (advance reading copy) in exchange for a fair and honest book review. One beautiful thing about this is that I get to download the digital book to my computer. I literally jumped for joy when I saw that this book (Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly) was available! And, even though I have another one or two surprises to disclose, it must wait until I give all of you the synopsis of this story.

A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF HOPCROSS JILLY, an Original Mercy Thompson Story!

     First, to better understand how Hopcross Jilly fits into the Mercy Thompson Series, we are told that it falls chronologically in between Frost Burned (book 7) and Night Broken (book 8). The book also falls just after events that occurred in the Alpha and Omega Series, Dead Heat (book 4). [2]

     Hopcross Jilly has a complete story arc with a beginning, middle, and end. Although readers of the series will appreciate the nuances of the story better than those who haven't read the series, without a doubt, this book can operate as a stand-alone book.

     Who is Mercy Thompson? She is a native American who is an auto mechanic and a shapeshifting coyote. Break- ing all bounds of the werewolf world, she falls in love with the alpha, Adam Hauptman and is soon an honorary member of his Tri-Cities Werewolf Pack.

This graphic is from a written press re-
lease by Dynamite Entertainment. In
that press release, they announced the
release date for the new Mercy Thompson
, created exclusively for comics.
by Keith Davidson: 07-14-14. [4]
     One evening, out with the pack in their wolf form, Mercy and the pack inadvertently stumble upon bones that appear to have been hidden and partially buried. It isn't long before the wolf pack members turn up more remains. Mercy quickly surmises that they are children because of the size of the bones and whole skeleton--she calls the police.

     With the discovery of the buried bones of the many murdered children, Mercy finds herself knee deep in a dark mystery. A mystery which plunges Mercy into dealings with the powerful and secretive fae.

     Unfortunately, Jesse, Mercy's step-daughter, is drawn by dark forces into the mystery, as well. Once involved, she cannot walk away, and the cost may be her very life. Will her bones be found in a dirt pit, along with the other children?

     OK. I've already divulged my obsession with the Mercy Thompson Series. Now I set all of that aside as I give you an objective opinion about the new book. I hope that by the end of this review you will feel I have been able to accomplish that. Here we go:

This is a quick snapshot I took of
the hardback edition I purchased
for myself. The photo shows part
of one page; setting: high school.
     FIRST, let's address the formal components of the book. Since I have an e-book from NetGalley, I cannot review for you the hardcover edition, only the e-book edition. I mention this because in addition to the e-book edition I received from NetGalley, I purchased for myself the hardcover edition of this title.

     The cover image (the first image, located at the top left of this post), as you can see, is vibrant, even while the artist, Tom Garcia and colorist, Mohan, chose to set the mood with somber colors. Given that there is a giant reaching over the house, the image should convey an image of horror and forbidding. Looking, however, at Mercy in her fighting stance with one fist clenched and leaning forward to meet the evil head on, it seems to evoke more a feeling of "Let's dance!" than of unapproachability.  The light over part of the scene shows hope. So, I think the cover is outstanding in that it leads us to want to know more, and not be afraid to open the book and turn the pages.

     Inside, where dark forces are at play, somber blues, grays, blacks, punctuated with brick reds and reds to warm the image, a bit--just like the cover. The pages dealing with the high school are full of light, colors, and openness. So, Garcia and Mohan did very well with the use of color in setting the scenes and atmosphere. Additionally, the images are just beautiful. To say that I like the graphic images would be an understatement.

You can't really see too much of what is going on, here. I
took this photo of my computer screen with the digital book
opened up to a page where Jesse is at the high school.
I wanted you to see the openness and vibrant
colors and lightness of  the scenes.
     SECOND: Audience: In the early days of comics, the "funnies" were for children, fairly exclusively. Since the growth and popularity of the graphic novel, the line is much harder to draw. (no pun intended). Graphic novels made comics acceptable. They also went from "episodic" publications to full novels with a beginning, middle, and end--told in pictures. So, then given those brief considerations of audience, just who is the audience for Hopcross Jilly? At first blush, most would think it a YA (young adult) novel. This could be true, especially with Jesse as a high schooler who takes center stage in the story.

     But, then we have some really gruesome scenes like the finding of children's bodies on the property in question, and the apparent mass murder of children. And then, in a scene much like Edgar Allen Poe's, Tell Tale Heart, parts of the deceased children were buried under the floorboards--here, finger bones and toe bones were buried like that. In the book, the fae tell the story about one who ate the fingers and toes of bad children.

Here, Hansel and Gretel are locked in
a cage by the wicked witch, so as to
fatten them up before cooking and
eating them. The witch has very poor
vision, so Hansel sticks a bone through
the cage when the witch comes to
check on how plump the children have
gotten; he does this to fool the witch
into thinking the two are still too thin
to eat. "Wildfire" points out that the
bone Hansel sticks out of the cage is a
bone of a previous occupant who
had been killed and eaten. [5]
     So, the sheer gruesomeness of some of the scenes do not seem appropriate for children. But then, again, modernly, many children from middle schools go to see violent movies and read other books focusing on violence; and what child hasn't heard a violent fairy tale [e.g. the witch who ate children in Hansel and Gretel.]?

     THIRD: The Story: I mentioned, above, that the story has a beginning, middle, and end; moreover, given the size of the book, it is large enough to be a graphic novel. But, note, just because it has a complete story arc and is large enough to be a book, doesn't mean it is a graphic novel. Two things are at play, here:
  • First, it was the intention of Patricia Briggs and Dynamite Entertainment to create this book as a "comic," exclusively. [4]
  • Second, the book was originally published in episodes, just like a comic book and later (i.e., now) those episodes have been assembled into the complete story under one cover. These two things are dispositive to the issue of whether or not the book is a comic or a graphic novel.[4]

     Next, let's take a look at Jesse's part in this gruesome story. In the series most of the main characters get to be center stage for a while--along with Mercy--to have their story told. Like many of the books in the series, Jesse gets to have her story told (well, at least part of it). While the story starts out with Mercedes (Mercy), Jesse soon takes center stage in the story.

Many people proudly read YA. Given
that there are readers of YA, it must
be that there are authors of YA, as
well. Tori Centanni tells everyone
why she writes in the YA genre. [6]
     As I mentioned, above, one of the things that makes us all suspect that the audience is for young people is that Jesse, a high school student, is one of the main parts of the story. This fact, alone, makes the story very appealing to young people. And then, of course, the story is told graphically, in the comic format--also appealing. We get to see what is going on with her, what problems she has, and also, how she faces those problems. Moreover, the high school, as a setting, is important for part of the story. We get to see Jesse in a high schooler's environment, high school. I can't tell you more without giving away some important facts relating to the major thrust of the story, so we must leave well enough, alone.  

     FINALLY: Satisfaction: To most of us, we judge whether or not the story gives us satisfaction in the reading. In this case, however, the story is told graphically, in comic book form. Even so, we still might ascertain whether or not the reading and visual parts of the story work as a cohesive whole in providing adequate satisfaction to say that the story was "satisfying," was "worth it," or was "good."

     So, here's what I can tell you without giving away important aspects of the story:

  • The formal components of the book worked very well. That is to say, I really loved the artwork, the colorists concepts and execution in setting the tone of the various scenes. Very well done! The cover and story pages were just simply beautiful to see and read. 
  • Whether or not the book is called a comic book or a graphic novel makes "no nevermind to me." All I mean, is that I believe a story will rise or fall regardless of what it is labeled. So, I won't enjoy it more as a graphic novel than I will a comic. The content is more important to me, so I do not knock down a story "simply because it is a comic."
  • It was very gratifying to see Jesse get her day in the sun. Moreover, that Briggs was able to do that without lessening Mercy Thompson's appearances was hugely satisfying. To those of us that love Mercy, we want to see her, and that Briggs accomplished this without losing the story of the high school girl, Jesse, was really great.
  • In the reading of the book, I sat down to read and read straight through to the end of the book. I would not, I could not, put the book down (so to speak). The story was very entertaining and had me from the beginning pages.
  • What I didn't like about the book. Well, I would like to have seen more of Adam's pack and a bit more interaction with them. Also, I would love to have seen a little bit more involvement from one or two people from the community. A teacher, perhaps, or one of the police officers who hasn't been able to rest since the first child disappearances. Perhaps, even a concerned citizen watch member who has been researching and tracking the disappearances for years, but no one would listen to him or her. The story, if anything, is lacking more involvement with the community. I mean, if the high schoolers are so upset by this, where are the parents--do they not care? Where are the marches and the community searches for the more than twenty missing children? Where is the community outrage? We see it everyday on our televisions when one child is murdered or has gone missing. So, this part of the story just didn't seem true to the theme of missing children. IT LACKS THREE DIMENSIONALITY! And, also, while some might object to the minor amount of cursing in the book, I found it was not offensive to me. 

    Overall, with everything considered. I enjoyed the story
    and feel my money was well spent on my hardback
    edition of the Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly, book. [9]
  • Overall, I enjoyed the story, beautiful art- work, and the courage to put the gruesome story out in publica- tion. I am sure young people will enjoy it. I certainly did. Perfect? No, the story is not perfect. But, it did pro- vide an overall satisfac- tion in the reading.
     Given all of my, above, considerations regarding the book, Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly, including the formal components, including the graphics and use of color, of the audience, the story, and the overall satisfaction I felt, balancing the positive against the things I didn't like, I give this book a rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we were privileged to look at the new Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly book by Patricia Briggs. A big thank you to Ms. Briggs and Dynamite Publishing, and, of course, to NetGalley who makes all of this possible. Thank you, to all my readers for taking time to read and consider my review, today. 

     Please join me again, next week as I will bring you something new, and I hope, interesting. You never know what might jump out of the hat. My love to you all. And remember, show a little kindness every day to someone who may need a hand or just some support. You don't know what others are thinking, feeling, or problems they are facing. A kind word from you might make the difference in their day. God bless you all.

Until next time...
This flower is a white with red center Rose of Sharon. [11]

...many happy pages of reading.







[1] "Hopcross Jilly: Mercy Thompson Series."  [patricia briggs] Retrieved 07-27-15.
[2] "Mercy Thompson Series > Books." [images from Wikipedia only--no source material] Retrieved 07-28-15.
[3] "Fire Touched: Mercy Thompson Series." [patricia briggs] Retrieved 07-28-15.
[4] "Dynamite Announces Release Date for Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson Series, Created Exclusively for Comics and in-continuity with New York Times Bestselling Novels." [Keith Davidson] Retrieved 07-28-15.
[5] "Too Dark for Disney: The Dark Stories Behind Some of Your Favourite Fairy Tales." [06-26-14] [Illustration by Arthur Rackham, Article by Wildfire] Retrieved 07-29-15.
[6] "Why I Write YA." [tori centanni - 05-19-14] Retrieved 07-29-15.
[7] "Comics & Graphic Novels." Retrieved 07-29-15.
[8] "Don't Like." Retrieved 07-29-15.
[9] "What I Thought." [melissa Kantor] Retrieved 07-29-15.
[10] "Conflicting Webs: Reviews." Retrieved 07-29-15.
[11] "White Rose of Sharon." Retrieved 07-29-15.