Mercy Thompson is an anomaly: a female automobile mechanic who owns her own shop, half Native American, and ― in a world with werewolves, vampires, fae and other supernatural beings ― she is one of a very few “walkers,” or skinwalkers, able to easily shapeshift into a coyote at will, without regard to phases of the moon. When Mercy surprised her human mother by turning into a coyote pup when she was three months old, her mother, not knowing what else to do, turned her over to be raised by a werewolf pack. Mercy left the pack as a teenager, but still is watched over by the werewolves, particularly Adam Hauptman, the alpha werewolf who shares her back fence line and with whom she has a sometimes uneasy alliance. Their relationship is a confusing mix of attraction and, on Mercy’s side, bravado tinged with fear that the alpha werewolf will override her free will and autonomy.
When a starving teenage boy shows up at Mercy’s garage asking for food and work, her acute sense of smell tells her that he’s a werewolf. She realizes that the boy, who calls himself Mac, understands nothing about werewolf society and rules and needs Adam’s help to survive and thrive. The problem of Mac becomes more acute when two strange men show up and try to recapture Mac to take him back to their enclave. Mercy overhears them arguing about cages and drugs, and she determinedly intervenes to rescue Mac from the threatening strangers, but the situation turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined. Mercy soon needs to return to her original werewolf pack for help ― even though it means that she will need to face Samuel, the werewolf that she loved and left as a sixteen year old.
The plot of this first book in the MERCY THOMPSON series revolves around a mystery: who is creating new werewolves in such an uncontrolled and dangerous manner, and why? I found this mystery to be the weakest element in the book, with a resolution that didn’t entirely hold water. Also unfortunately, the overused love triangle trope is part of the plot of Moon Called, but at least it’s got a decent rationale and isn’t oversold. Like John (see his review below), I appreciated that this book is not sexually explicit, which is a refreshing change of pace in the urban fantasy genre.
It’s been interesting taking on Patricia Briggs’ MERCY THOMPSON series after reading several books in Ilona Andrews’ KATE DANIELS series. Although both series feature entertaining, well-developed urban fantasy worlds and with strong women protagonists, Mercy is more vulnerable and unsure of herself than Kate Daniels, as John also notes with approval in his review. Kate is great fun with her enormous kickass abilities, but Mercy is ultimately the more believable character. As Rob says (below), her intelligent, no-nonsense narration is one of the strengths of Moon Called. I admire the tremendous scope of imagination the Ilona Andrews team has shown in creating Kate’s world, but I also appreciate the more realistic (if one can say that of an urban fantasy), down-to-earth world of Mercy Thompson.
I sure hope that Mercedes Thompson will turn into a longer series because Patricia Briggs started off just right. The characters are believable and the way that Ms. Briggs handles the various supernatural groups (fae, vampires, lycanthropes) is something that you can actually see happening. The situation just feels real.
My favorite part is the main character. Mercedes Thompson is a tough kid with a bad attitude who knows her limitations. Unlike Anita Blake, Mercy actually has limits and vulnerabilities that are real. She gets herself hurt like a normal person would and she’s not able to just kill the bad guy despite it all. She’s smart, she’s talented, and she is realistic. The rest of the supporting cast fits in well around her and each is well developed.
Last thing: NO PORN! Patricia Briggs delivers the sexual tension without having to fall into the trap that Laurell K Hamilton fell into and has not extricated herself from. I hope that Briggs can keep the tension without having to get into unnecessary detail… just leave it to our imagination and most of us will be fine!
Great book, great start!
For a woman raised by wolves — OK, werewolves — Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson has turned out all right. Though Mercy’s half-Native-American heritage allows her to shapeshift into a coyote, instead of a wolf, she’s taken care of herself by working as a mechanic and keeping her nose out of supernatural matters. But her eastern Washington town has too many such matters: her former boss is one of the fae; her neighbor is the local werewolf Alpha; and her client with the Scooby-Doo-inspired van is a vampire. Moreover, times are changing, as the fae have made themselves known to humanity, which isn’t accepting their existence with perfect grace. And though Mercy has found her niche between the natural and supernatural worlds, their slow collision threatens to crush her.
My quick synopsis fails to do justice to the fast-paced, complex plotting in each book (and thought-out imagining of the structures and tendencies of werewolf, vampire, and fae societies). Each is told from Mercy’s smart, no-nonsense perspective, and it’s to the author’s credit that, even though I usually like first-person narrators with above-average eloquence, I never tired of her voice. True, I have my quibbles (e.g. the first-person viewpoint is limited in its ability to present information, which is tough in novels that rely heavily on mystery; and also, there are a few long passages of deduction or conversation that seemed to go a bit too perfectly to get to the right outcome) — but overall, the writing is solid and keeps things moving. It’s also mostly free of sex and profanity (though with regard to the latter, there are a few too many instances of someone starting to curse and stopping short).
Although these books lack that superior element of style, enlightenment, or brilliant plotting that would warrant a fifth star, they’re solid modern fantasy/action/mystery entertainment.
Recommended as paperback purchases or library loans for fans of this genre who are at least of high school age.