There is something about Mercy... something I can't quite put my finger on. Because I really, really like her, even though she is not the kind of protagonist I like.
In fact, she is the kind of protagonist I used to rile against the most in the far-gone year of... 2010, when I started blogging about YA. (4 years next September. I feel so old!) It wasn't as obvious in the first book, because she was more on the "not sure what's going on here, just gonna find my footing... again" side, and we discovered the world right alongside her. In "Exile," though... whew.
So after saving the day in Paradise (the American city, not the celestial one) Mercy finds herself on the other end of the globe, in the body of Lela, a girl who quit university to look after her dying mother, who doesn't look after herself enough and who is keeping a lot of sadness and resentment bottled up. And you'd think "Aww, a nice slice-of-life to counterbalance all the dark stuff in the first book," and then the book goes: Nope. Sorry. No.
Because Luc, Mercy's "beloved" orders her to find Ryan, the boy she had a maybe-sorta thing in the previous book, so that he, (Luc) can find her and... whatever. And since Mercy does pretty much everything Luc asks of her, finding Ryan takes precedence over nearly everything, which, in turn, impacts her host's life in a pretty major way.
And here's the thing: I should have hated that. Mercy, an otherwise strong and resourceful person, becomes the absolute worst of herself around Luc - selfish, ruthless, even cruel. Everything and everyone is a means to an end to her - her host, her sociopath stalker, even Ryan, whom she purports to love. She tries to justify it as a sacrifice on the altar of true love and righting the wrongs done to her, but it is not. It really is not.
And herein lies the reason why I liked this book: It's not supposed to be justified.
Look, Luc is bad news - I knew that as early as the first book. Mercy does too - she's aware of her own fear of Luc, even if she doesn't seem to put the dots together to realize she's in an abusive relationship. Long before the book's final reveal, you know that he's bad, bad news and you want to shake Mercy for actually falling for his act.
Yet... even with my frustration, I couldn't hate this book. I still want to read the rest - not out of some misplaced competitive streak or a weird so-bad-it's-good impulse, but because I honestly think this series is going to validate my feelings towards:
- bad boys
- codependent relationships
- selfish heroines
- angel books in general
And other things, because I have feeling the next two books will have conflict that I'd look forward to. If "Mercy" was an angel book that actually had a plot and interesting twists and engaging characters, "Exile" has proven that this series can raise its stakes and keep its characters evolving. So often it feels like a series is tied together by the bares threads of an overarching plot - here, Mercy's quest for identity is front and center and so. Very. Good.
What I mean is... I can't wait for Muse.
Note: Image via BookLikes.