Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mercy: How reincarnation/ body hijacking really is done

Yes, I really did just read this.

Yes, I really, really liked it.

Don't ask me why, because the plot of this book is made up of elements that don't have much in common - a violent kidnapping investigation, paranormal body hijacking, and... whatever you'd call the lovechild between High School Musical and Sister Act II. I mean, maybe, separately, but together...?

Oddly enough, that's exactly what happens, and, yet again, it's because we've got one awesome heroine and an author who knows what she's doing.

Mercy is an angel. Well, they don't go out and say it, but every hint is there, and besides, some of the summaries give it away, even if the story satisfies itself with just shortening the names of prominent angels (Uriel and Lucifer, hey-yo!) Anyway, Mercy has been hijacking bodies for as long as she's lived, and she always has to help fix something for the poor soul she's kicked out. Only in this case, Carmen, her host, is not in need of (much) help, but her foster family... different story. 

I won't get into the actual plot because you should totally read this and enjoy it and long to get your hands on the next installment (as I am.) Instead, let's look at the ol' "reincarnation/ body hijacking" trope which I don't have much experience with, but apparently have plenty to say on.

Those of you who remember my review of Every Day by David Leviathan might recall my annoyance with how the otherwise interesting premise didn't answer some pretty obvious questions about A and how their personality developed. And while Mercy is dealing with a similar set-up, a few details are key for her development.

For one thing, Mercy is very, very bad at remembering. She's been at this for years and years, centuries even, but she's got the memory of a goldfish when it comes to the details of her past lives. While experience and personality development are there (she's got a very distinct voice and character,) any actual memory of living as someone else quickly evaporates, which is a really nice way to explain why she hasn't Figured It Out yet - because, even if she did research on her condition, the knowledge would disappear with the next reincarnation and she'd have to start from scratch.

That's really what makes this narrative work. Reincarnation, hijacking, and other such types of immortality are notoriously difficult to pull off because a protagonist who's seen all, felt all, and done all wears off their welcome pretty damn quick (see: every damn vampire other than Bones.) What, besides soul-crushing angst and ennui, is a reasonable weakness to give your immortal hero/ine?

The memory of a goldfish, as it turns out, is a VERY good one. 

But even then, I don't think I would have liked this half as much had it not been for how... cool Mercy was. And I don't mean cool like... Celaena Sardothien of "Throne of Glass", I mean cool like "I've got my priorities straight and if you waste my time, I will end you." Mercy is weary with her life, but she's confidant about who she is and what she wants. She's not afraid to assert herself, and she doesn't have patience with childish brats wanting to engage her in a pissing contest when she's got better things to do.

Also, she doesn't let anyone - no cute boy, no woman-beating boyfriend, no angel with the power to shift space and time - tell her what to do. She does what she thinks is right, owns up to the consequences, and that, my friends, is a character you can respect.

Here's to hoping the  rest of the quartet is just as good.

Note: Image via Booklikes.

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