What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger
A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson and the characters she calls friends
Includes the new stories
Roses in Winter
and fan favorites
Alpha and Omega
The Star of David
In Red, with Pearls
The narration: Each story is introduced by a note from Patricia Briggs (narrated by Lorelei King) and which orient the story in the timeline of the Mercy Thompson world. The novellas are arranged roughly chronologically – something I found helpful. I’m nerd enough to have appreciated the little insights the author gives in introducing each instalment.
I’d read and/or listened to Seeing Eye, Alpha and Omega and In Red, With Pearls before (scroll down to see the various reviews if you click the links). What was interesting to me here is that they were all re-recorded for Shifting Shadows. Phil Gigante narrated the first version of In Red, With Pearls and Alexander Cendese reprises it here. I have to say there’s not a lot between them in terms of narration. I liked both versions just fine. For Seeing Eye, I thought Lorelei King did a waaaay better job of it than Jennifer Van Dyck did in the original recording but I prefer the Holter Graham narration of Alpha and Omega, even though Ms. King’s was very good. No doubt this is partly because Mr. Graham narrates that series and I’m used to his characterisations of Charles and Anna and Ms. King makes me think more of Mercy and Adam. But objectively, I’d say that Holter Graham wins in this race regardless. In fact, I wondered why he wasn’t used for the male narrations because he’s already familiar with the world and it’s characters. Perhaps he wasn’t available. I liked Alexander Cendese’s depictions for the most part (although there were some technical glitches*) but I think Mr. Graham is the better narrator. *Those glitches included a section in Star of David which was obviously recorded later and spliced in because the sound became very different for that particular sentence. I think it’s the sort of thing that happens all the time – but I shouldn’t be able to hear it when I listen – it should be seamless. Plus there were a number of times when the description of the tone of the dialogue occurred after the dialogue itself. For intstance in In Red, With Pearls, there is this:
“He didn’t kill her”, she said. But it was more of a question than a statement.
Except the way the words were performed, the sentence was a defensive assertion which didn’t fit the description in the text at all. Which is why narrators have to read the text beforehand and make good notes (or have an assistant do so).
Lorelei King’s narrations were up to her usual excellent standard. The only comment I’d make is that because she voiced so many different characters in these stories, it became a little more obvious that her “Adam voice” is similar (aka virtually identical) to the way she depicts many other characters. When listening to a single Mercy Thompson book, it is easier to think of Adam’s voice as unique. But that is a small niggle.
Even my complaints about Mr. Cendese’s narrations are fairly minor. I’d happily listen to him again. I thought his female voices were well done and didn’t fall into caricature for the most part and the way he conveyed the various emotions was very good.
The Stories: In terms of the stories themselves, here is a brief rundown of each and a few thoughts.
Silver (narrated by Alexander Cendese)
This is an origin story and is the least happy/uplifting of all of them. It deals with Bran and Samuel and charts how Samuel first met Ariana. Those who have read Silver Borne will know how the story ends and so I didn’t react to the tale as being completely depressing. It was interesting to fill in the blanks about their early relationship.
Fairy Gifts (narrated by Alexander Cendese)
Thomas Hao is a vampire from San Francisco who appeared in Frost Burned. This is a story about him, how he was changed and a debt he owes to a fae girl. There was a little thing at the start of the story I didn’t quite follow but otherwise I liked it – I think it’s very clever the way Briggs can write subtle hints and clues and bring them all together at the end in a neat resolution.
Gray (narrated by Lorelei King)
This is a Valentine’s Day story about a regretful vampire and a ghost. I found the ending slightly ambiguous but I enjoyed its bittersweet romantic vibe.
Star of David (narrated by Alexander Cendese)
David Christenson is a contemporary of Adam’s and a lone wolf. He returned from Vietnam unaware he’d been turned into a werewolf and on the first full moon he killed his wife and her lover. He has never forgiven himself and he is estranged from his daughter as a result. Many years have passed and it is with great surprise and not a little hope that David accepts a call for help from his daughter, Stella, just before Christmas. Right at the end, I’d have liked a little more insight into …something I won’t specify because spoilers but other than that this story was a winner as well.
Alpha and Omega (narrated by Lorelei King)
One of my favourite short stories ever. It’s how Charles and Anna meet.
Roses in Winter (narrated by Alexander Cendese)
Kara Beckworth was a child attacked by a werewolf and who, surprisingly, survived. She appeared briefly in Blood Bound and was mentioned in Bone Crossed as being safe with the Marrok’s pack. This is the story of how she came to be friends with Asil and I freaking loved it.
Seeing Eye (narrated by Lorelei King)
Tom (a werewolf from the Emerald City pack) and Moira (a white witch) appeared in Hunting Ground. There will one day be a full length story about them. (BRING IT!). In the meantime, there’s this little gem about how they met and how Moira came to be blind.
In Red, With Pearls (narrated by Alexander Cendese)
Warren and Kyle are two of my favourite characters from the Mercyverse. Warren has just stared doing PI work for Kyle’s law practice and thwarts a plot to kill his mate. It’s a great story.
Redemption (narrated by Lorelei King)
This is a short story about Ben who is another of my favourite Mercyverse characters (I have many). He’s starting to heal after horrible abuse as a child and as he does, he lets his protective side out. Can we all say “awwww”? Also the end is funny. I expect Ben will feature more prominently in future Mercy books. (Well, a girl can hope.)
Hollow (narrated by Lorelei King)
This is a Mercy story! Yay! *cue streamers* It is also a ghost story with a bit of romance and it happens after the events of Night Broken (and thus contains spoilers for the book).
There are also two “outtakes” from Mercyverse novels (both narrated by Ms. King). The first is a scene from Silver Borne which didn’t fit because it’s from Ariana’s POV and the story is told from Mercy’s. This makes a nice bookend to Silver because it gives us a glimpse of Samuel’s and Ariana’s HEA. The next outtake is from (the end of) Night Broken and as it is from Adam’s POV, it didn’t fit within the structure of the book. I love anything Adam so I was very happy with it. Both outtakes contain spoilers for their relevant books.
Overall: I definitely enjoyed the shorts I had read or listened to before and no doubt they would have been in my favourites list had they been new to me. As it was, I think my picks would be, in no particular order, Roses in Winter, Star of David, Redemption and Hollow (because Mercy!) but all of the stories were very good. It was a wonderfully entertaining anthology with glimpses into other characters who don’t often get centre stage. Recommended.
AUDIBLE BOOK DEPOSITORY