A review of “Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1), by Patricia Briggs

READ JUNE 2013

ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: “Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will. Mercy’s next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a bus for a vampire. This is the world of Mercy Thompson, one that looks a lot like ours but is populated by those things that go bump in the night. And Mercy’s connection to those things is about to get her into some serious hot water..

MY REVIEW: I’m currently reading Iron Kissed, book 3 in this series, so I thought this would be a good time to post a review of book one.

Ever seen Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the 1979 one with the cast of the original TV series? Like, it takes half the movie to get the damned ship started. Moon Called, the first of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson novels, is a little like that. Yeah, there’s a good action scene early on — in fact, all Briggs’ action scenes are quite good — but most of the first 100 or so pages is backstory, catching up with old acquaintances, etc. It’s pretty fluid writing, though, almost conversational, so there’s no info-dump feel.

I’m not sure why I waited so long to read this one, though I suppose the dreadful cover could have had something to do with it. I accidentally read book 2, Blood Bound, out of sequence a couple years ago. I liked it, but I didn’t exactly kvell over it. Sort of the “Good is the enemy of great” thing. There were plenty of other things to read, so getting back to Mercy Thompson slipped my mind for a while. In any case, I finally got around to it, and I’m very glad I did.

Mercy, a “walker,” a shape shifter who turns in to a coyote, isn’t quite as bad-ass as some UF protagonists, and, after having recently finished Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites, I can only say, “Yes, there is a god!” Not that there’s anything wrong with woman kicking ass; far from it, as a quick glance at books I’ve read will show. It’s just that sometimes it gets to be a little too much. Don’t get me wrong, though, Mercy’s no wimp; early on, she kills two werewolves, and she can hold her own against a master vamp and other assorted baddies.

There’s a certain sameness to most female UF protags, and I’m not quite sure what it is that sets Mercy apart. Partly I think it’s that, pace Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force, a woman’s got to know her limitations. Mercy does, but, when those she cares about are threatened, she doesn’t worry about that; she does what needs to be done. I also like that she has a pretty mundane everyday job (when she’s not out fighting the bad dudes) as an auto mechanic, here too, there’s a slight twist — not just a mechanic, but a VW mechanic. Cool. Likewise, the coyote thing, as opposed to a vamp, or wolf or panther or witch or…You get the idea. Makes her seem more a, you should pardon the expression, underdog, and her accomplishments more impressive. Mercy’s open-mindedness is another likeable quality: she has friends who are were, fae, and vampires, as well as gays.

The plot, while not earth-shaking, was logical and interesting, kept me turning the pages, anyway. The world-building, is pretty standard, but solid and consistent. The actual writing is capable and, for a first novel, Briggs’ (Mercy’s) voice pretty assured. The characters are interesting, and fun to read about, even though macho pissing contests, somewhat inevitable when wolves are involved, abound. I especially liked the description of the hierarchical relationships with wolf communities.
Personally, I appreciated that fact that, while there are slight sparks, Mercy doesn’t get all weak-kneed and googly-eyed at every male she meets. If you’re looking for romance — I wasn’t — this isn’t the book for you, either. Which brings me, sort of, back to the barf-worthy cover. Why the fuck do publishers think they have to use sex to sell a damned book? This one certainly stands extremely well on its own without needing such a skanky come-on. I’m surprised authors put up with this crap. (And, I’m no prude.)

Note: I have absolutely nothing against romance, per se, but I hate it when it overwhelms everything else in the novel. Here, it’s barely hinted at, though I assume it becomes more prominent as the series progresses. The inclusion of werewolves suggests that things could become quite interesting, indeed.

All in all, a fun, more than competently executed novel, and, in this day and age, even competent is unique enough to make it worth your while. Bear in mind, if you’re one of those who want a thrill-a-minute, heart-pounding read, which personally, I find kind of boring, this ain’t it. While it’s slow at times, particulary in the beginning, the pacing doesn’t seem all that problematical, and Briggs makes good use of those less action-filled sections to set up all that follows.

In conclusion, this is an interesting, well-written story with characters (particularly Mercy), you come to care about.

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