Moon Called is the first book in the popular Mercedes Thompson urban fantasy series by New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs. This book is followed by Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, and Bone Crossed (which was just released in hardcover last month). When completed, the series will contain at least seven books. Briggs is also writing the Alpha and Omega series set in the same world.
Mechanic Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson is a walker, meaning she can shapeshift into a coyote. This ability was inherited from her Native American father, who died before Mercy was born. Unsure of how to deal with a baby that turns into a coyote pup, Mercy’s mother had a werewolf pack take her in and raise her. Unlike the werewolves, vampires, and various fae that surround her, Mercy is the only one of her kind she knows about. Although walkers have an enhanced sense of smell and can move quickly when in coyote form, they lack the strength and pack mentality of the werewolf.
One day when Mercy is working on a car at her shop, a teenage werewolf comes to her seeking employment. Mercy hires Mac against her better judgment and quickly discovers her instincts were correct when he is attacked by a couple of other werewolves. After Mercy kills one of these wolves, she realizes she is in over her head and calls her neighbor Adam, alpha of the area’s werewolf pack. Mac reveals to Mercy and Mac that he had been used in experiments for a drug created specifically for subduing werewolves, and Adam takes Mac under his protection. Shortly thereafter, Adam’s home is attacked, leaving both him and his teenage daughter in danger. Mercy does her best to help them, putting her right in the middle of a mystery and leading to the necessity of confronting the past she left behind years ago.
This is only the second book I have read of the werewolf/vampire/fae variety that is in vogue at the moment. Although the cover frightened me, I was easily hooked once I started reading and even bought the next one when I was around the halfway point. I actually bought it at the bookstore instead of ordering it in spite of the fact that it had an even more embarrassingly degrading cover that made me feel like the clerk at Borders was probably laughing at me. (The first one is pretty bad, but the second one has Mercy’s bra hanging out and makes her look like a complete harlot, which she is not unless she undergoes some sort of drastic personality transplant in the next few books.)
The world was modern day but populated by various paranormal races, unknown to most humans. I very much enjoyed the development of the werewolves and pack politics, although most of this was conveyed as info dumps through Mercy’s thoughts as the narrator, which seemed rather clumsy since one would not expect someone who knows these facts so well to be explaining them to herself so often. At times, there does seem to be a lot of exposition but it does aid with understanding what is happening.
The various supernatural races are potentially dangerous instead of seeming like humans with unusual abilities. When Mercy visits the vampires, it is done hesitantly and with much trepidation. Even the werewolves, who often seem like nice guys, can be fearful to those they care about under the right circumstances. They’re not evil, but they do have that animal part of them.
I loved reading about Mercy as a character. She is strong and independent but without being mouthy or overly sarcastic. Instead of rushing into perilous situations, she analyzes the situation first and stays out of the way if she realizes she can’t do anything to help. This does not mean she never takes risks, but when she does they tend to be for the sake of helping those she cares about and it never seems like she is being reckless. Mercy is not all powerful and she knows it. Her viewpoint is fun to read (when its not bogged down with fae trivia) and there are some great little details about her, such as the logic that leads her to carry around a lamb necklace instead of a cross.
There is a love triangle with Mercy, her neighbor, and her old flame, but it is not excessive (and there is no sex in spite of what the covers may lead one to believe). I thought Briggs struck just the right balance of having a little bit of romantic tension without overdoing it and making me wish she would get on with the rest of the story. Mercy is very practical and real – of course she has feelings but she does not brood over the men in her life and they are not all she thinks about. She’s practical, straightforward and doesn’t play games, and I liked that about her. There are some werewolf dominance/possession issues she deals with since they have long lives and have become used to a patriarchal society after centuries, but she tends to think they need to learn some enlightenment about a woman’s place in society.
Other than some violent and dark occurrences, this novel is a very clean book. In addition to not containing sex, swearing is minimal and normally only alluded to instead of specified. Even when spelled out, the only swear I remember being specifically used is “damn.” Mercy attends church and is somewhat religious, although she is not a complete prude (she’ll undress in front of men when she needs to change to a coyote without a second thought).
Moon Called is a highly entertaining, quick read with lots of adventure and mystery, a hint of romance, and a great female lead. I’m now hooked and will also have to look into some of Patricia Briggs’s older novels.