Jane, a shapeshifting vampire-hunter-for-hire, crosses paths with a stranger who has arrived in New Orleans, enlisted to hunt vampires who have gone insane-or so he says…Series: Jane Yellowrock #3
Published by Penguin on 2011-01-04
Genres: Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy
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The excitement, fast-paced plot and character development of Skinwalker returns in the third Jane Yellowrock book, Mercy Blade. This is not to say I didn’t like Blood Cross, I did, but this one brings us back to a lot of questions we were introduced to in the first installment, tightening the story and its characters. At the end of the last book, Jane has finally crossed the line into Something More with Rick LaFleur, NOPD undercover cop. The other vying her for her affections, George Dumas (called “Brusier”) was put aside because his loyalties to his boss, Leo Pellissier (now Master of the City of only four clans instead of eight after the events of Blood Cross) would always come before anyone else. Well, Rick’s job comes first this time around, and the issues this brings up with Jane are a facet of her characterization I expected but enjoyed.
As the personal assassin (of a sort) to Leo Pellissier (who has not forgiven her, but speaks to her now if only in cold, clipped tones – nothing of the familiarity they had begun to build before she killed the creature masquerading as his son), Jane has left behind her life in Appalachia to become a semi-permanent resident of New Orleans. (And man, do I want to go back – all that talk of beignets, po’boys and chicory coffee!) Living with her is Molly’s sister Evangeline, a witch who is in negotiations with the vampires to work towards a cooperative peace; a witch who doesn’t like Jane but is living there as Jane’s favor to best friend Molly. When Rick goes undercover (again) and Jane is sent to meet someone and “strongly discourage” this someone from remaining in town, she ends up in a fight with werewolves and gets accidentally involved in a centuries-old feud between “weres” and vampires. Meanwhile, were-cats have made themselves quite visible to the media, and seek to repair at least their own relationship with the vampires.
Jane is set to security detail, and a great deal of the book focuses on a diplomatic soiree, while the rest follows the immediate repercussions of the events of the soiree. While the plot moves fast, it was certain aspects of Jane’s development that made this book so fantastic to me, and made me regret reading it so fast because there won’t be another this year. We’ve known all along that Jane’s skinwalker powers are pretty unique – in that she has only met one other with her abilities, and that one was an insane killer who murdered Leo’s son and wore his face. Finally we see Jane begin to recall her past – and we have never had such a deep draught of that past before now. We’ve had vague memories of her father and the thought of being a hunter, but otherwise the years before she wandered into the orphanage at age 12 were unknown to us or to Jane. Now Jane possesses a vivid memory of her childhood – of seeing her father dead and her mother being actively raped by white men, and using her father’s blood to mark her face in a vow of revenge. Descriptions of this scene pretty much destroy my theory that Jane’s family could have been something like characters in William Golding’s The Inheritors; previous descriptions of isolation and non-verbal communication led me to believe that Jane was older than she appeared and that she was a member of a family that had bloodlines older than the Cherokee people – and were perhaps ostracized and forced to live apart from any tribal community. However, whatever the history of Jane’s people is, we also discover that while she may be in the dark, Leo Pellissier is not. At the very least, he has theories he hasn’t been sharing, and it makes me VERY curious as to what he’s been hiding and what he thinks he knows.
Which brings us to Bruiser. I have always liked Bruiser. Hunter describes him (and his accent) as old-world Brit meets deep South ol’ boy. Loyalty puts Leo is first in his life, but he has never made any secret of his affection for Jane. I was rooting hard for him in Blood Cross – and not just because I liked him better than Rick; I liked him better for Jane. Rick may be hip to the supernatural, but Jane still keeps the secret of Beast from him – and I think Bruiser would take it a lot better and be better equipped to deal with that facet of her in a relationship. Of course, I would prefer someone that put Jane first period but since there doesn’t seem to be a lot of sane, male skinwalkers about (much less those without previous, overriding loyalties), I can’t hold my breath for that. Bruiser moves the game forward a little this time around, but Jane is principled enough to stay true, even when she has her doubts about Rick’s own fidelity. I still harbor doubts about Rick, and I am still rooting for Bruiser, but I want someone for Jane who really fits – someone she doesn’t have to keep secrets from. (Considering what Leo might know, I’m still not putting aside the possibility that person is Leo. Have I mentioned I really like Leo?)
The events that follow make Jane sure that she no longer belongs in New Orleans, and I was ready for her to spend the next book hiding in Appalachia looking for whatever might remain of her family, or taking revenge. However, true to form, Hunter throws a monkey wrench in Jane’s escape from everything going wrong all at once at the last minute, and honestly I do not know where Jane goes from here. I’d like to see her addressing her past a bit more in-depth in the next book, perhaps making some more visits to Aggie OneFeather. Repercussions of this book are going to be a lot more prevalent in the next book, and I think Hunter is moving away from permitting new readers to just pick up in the middle, the more complicated the “previously on…” gets. I have never felt like Hunter skimps on either characterization or plot – I think she balances them well, satisfying my urge for character development without making me feel like nothing actually happens. Clearly in the interim while I wait for more, I’m going to have to look at her other series, but I want more Jane ASAP; the way she writes a whirlwind ending, she’s making me impatient.