Mercy has two other elements in her story which I'm looking forward to seeing explored. First, she has at least one other person who is quite powerful, and who loves her romantically — but who knows she does not return his feelings. So far he seems fine with this, but it will be quite interesting to see how that develops in the future!

Secondly, Mercy's newly chosen mate is the alpha of the local werewolf pack. This is interesting because she's mentioned before how much she dislikes the unpleasant and male-oriented hierarchical structuring of werewolf packs — especially in regards to dominating the female wolves — and how, were she a pack member, she'd fight that strongly. So… she's going to have her chance now. Will she simply settle quietly into her privileged position as mate to the alpha? Or will she bring her delightfully mischievous humor to play on the issue, and do her best to change things for the better for the female werewolves?

In summation, this category leads me to some interesting speculations regarding the Heroine's Journey. Classically (as we know from the beginning of this ever-so-long Firestarter) the Hero's Journey concludes with the return to, and/or the "winning" of, the woman. After that the storytelling is over. Oh, we assume there's some "happy ever after," but we don't really want to hear about that — it's the adventurous uncertainty, the sexual tension, the potential danger that we really enjoy. Our society pretty much assumes that once the marriage has occurred, adventure is over. Anyone who watched the TV series "Moonlighting" or "Remington Steele" or "Wings" or any of a myriad other shows knows the shows started going downhill once the female and male protagonists "got together."

Admittedly, this seems a bit unfair to me, but I can certainly understand it — I react that way myself, as my notes on Kitty show above. As a single alternative example, I don't expect my single male heroine, Harry, will ever find a woman he's happy with — not because of any failing on the part of his author, but because that's a staple of the noir genre. I have to ask, though: if there were a really fantastic (script)writer telling the story, would the adventure and excitement continue even after marriage? Or is it simply that the sexual tension really is the main interest of all these on-going stories — the TV shows included — and everything else that happened was simply a sort of subplot to the over-arching plot-line of the protagonists' growing interest in each other? I don't know for sure, and that's why I'm very curious to see what happens with the female heroines I'm following with such great interest.

And speaking (belatedly) of humor…

Humor

This element of my proposed Heroine's Journey crept up on me, in a way — I wasn't aware how important it was to me until I thought later about which stories I enjoyed the most. My immediate favorite was Mercy's dryly wicked humor, such as the broken-down VW used for parts she deliberately parked behind her trailer home — where it could be seen only by Adam, the wealthy Alpha of the local werewolf pack, from his bedroom window in his expensive house. Every time she felt pushed by him, she'd pull another part off the car, "ruining" his otherwise beautiful view.

That his young teen daughter was gleefully helping Mercy cannibalize it so it looked even worse made me giggle. However, what I laughed aloud at was Cassandra Palmer's travails — some of her exasperated dialogue while under fire was simply hilarious, while occasional scenes contained amazing and intricately intertwining spoofs that reminded me of the Marx Brothers at their best.

The attempt to make one's protagonist speak with humorous bravado — especially in the face of dire peril — is relatively common, of course. It's a curiously fine line to walk, though, and when an author gets it wrong — is too rude or unrealistic — it can disastrously shatter belief in the power or dangerousness of the villains. There were a few protagonists who, instead of being clever and witty with their come-backs, simply came across to me as rude and smart-mouthed to people who were incomprehensibly patient with such ill-mannered childishness. In at least one instance Harry Dresden made me actually feel sorry for the person he was apparently bullying in this fashion — and Dresden is supposed to be the heroine.

In other cases poorly done attempts at humor can really make the reader lose empathy with the protagonist. For example, in Andrews' "Magic" series, more than once I found myself rolling my eyes in exasperation at how much unfunny crap people put up with from her, and I ended up not really liking her. I found myself wondering: were we actually supposed to admire this arrogantly self-righteous braggart? Part of my decision to read no more of the Zodiac series or Frost's series was due to this issue as well: due to their dialogue, at some point the characters were simply neither funny nor appealing any more, and I just didn't care what happened next to them.

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