On my recent Friday Fun Thread about favorite love stories, commenter Shadow Boxer recommended the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs as a fun example of genre fiction that offers a kick-ass heroine and realistic (and loving) romantic relationships. I couldn’t agree more: I’ve been a fan since I discovered the series. Mercy Thompson is a shape-shifter who as a child was fostered by a family of werewolves and now, as an adult, has a penchant for getting into supernatural tangles. Briggs has done a brilliant job of balancing the romantic aspects of the story with the adventure/mystery aspects and also hasn’t lost sight of the rest of her cast of characters — as Mercy’s intimate relationship has solidified, she hasn’t stopped hanging out with her friends and colleagues or caring about life in ways not directly tied to her lover. Points all around.
Which is why I had a moment of intense irritation when the latest installment of the series arrived in the mail yesterday, and I opened it to find this specimen of cover art.
I can’t say I was really expecting anything remarkably different. I mean, the cover art for the series has always had as its focus Mercy’s tattooed body, with her half-Native American heritage highlighted and her physical shape slim, muscular and curvy. She’s a hottie in the tradition of genre cover art and I wasn’t really expecting some radical departure from the rule.
But let’s compare the composition of this cover to the earlier installments in the series (before they became popular enough to be published in hardcover first, instead going straight to mass market paperback):
So we clearly have a breasts-and-bared-flesh theme going here (I won’t deny it), but notice how on the cover of the first book we have a slightly more active posture. In addition, her jeans and mechanic’s shirt, despite the fact it’s been slut-ified, signal a woman who’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Likewise the bandage on her upper arm, which suggest she’s seen some recent action. Clearly this is a woman who’s ready for action.
Blood Bound might have my favorite cover art of the series. I love the pissy and purposeful expression on Mercy’s face, the intentional grip on her wrench, and the clothing that’s a mix of practical and sexy.
It’s the passivity of the latest installment that gets me. And the come-hither boredom in her face. Not to mention the fact that the Mercy in River Marked‘s art has either been recently pregnant or had boob enhancement surgery.
I realize it’s all a matter of degrees, but really people. Make an effort! It can’t be that difficult to combine “sexy” with “active” for the cover art of a series that features one of the more kick-ass urban fantasy heroines we have going for us right now.