Ever since the whole vampire hype overwhelmed readers everywhere (and subsequently died down after the nightmare that were those Twilight movies), I've been staying away from werewolves and vampires and fantastical creatures in general. The only books that prevented me from a fully clean break were Justin Cronin's "The Passage" and Christopher Moore's "Bloodsucking Fiends" (both of which were pretty stellar, should you want to give them a try). Then, just last week, I succumbed once again and started reading the first book of Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series. It's called Moon Called and I think everyone but me has already read it by now. I don't mind though; the beauty of starting a series later than everybody else is that you don't have to wait for the next book to come out. In this case, I have about six follow-ups that have already been published and are awaiting me. That's a lot to look forward to!
Moon Called is narrated by a woman named Mercy Thompson. She is a car mechanic by trade and a shapeshifter by birth. The shapes she shifts back and forth from are that of a human and a coyote. This means basically two things: one is that she is very sensitive to smells, sights and emotions and generally relies heavily on instinctual cues, and the second is that she leads a rather exciting life. Her supernatural nature also gives her paramount contact with all sorts of supernatural beings, and where vampires, werewolves and witches tread, lots of interesting things tend to happen! In the case of where the story of Moon Called picks up, Mercy's next door neighbor Adam (who doubles as a local werewolf pack Alpha and also a potential love interest) has been attacked by an unknown group of werewolves. Since Mercy is that one that discovers Adam after the attack, she takes it upon herself to find out what caused the attack and who was behind it. To do this, she must recruit help from members of the benevolent pack of werewolves that raised her. But anytime anyone starts meddling with their past, a lot more than what they anticipated tends to surface. Thus, besides having to navigate through werewolf pack politics, Mercy must also face Sam, the 200+ year old werewolf she once loved and then left behind, before she can start solve the mystery of what provoked Adam's attackers.
What's really good about this book is the pull it has on a reader. Mercy's voice has a very attractive quality to it; everything she talks about--no matter how unbelievable and unnatural it may be--is done in a matter-of-fact fashion. She is not star-struck with all the supernatural beings around her but instead manipulates situations in her favor; even though her ranking (as a coyote) is rather low on the supernatural totem pole, she manages to pull her own by using her instincts and her smarts. As far as female heroines go, Mercy is high up there.
Another attractive quality to this book is Briggs's ability to infuse rich character backgrounds. The history of werewolves is explained very effectively here. At times, I forgot I was reading fiction and caught myself thinking how cool it would be if the History Channel did a doc on these werewolves.
Something that may be a little dismaying, but which didn't bother me too much, was how slow-buring the romantic aspect of the story was. Briggs builds up a love triangle between Sam, Adam and Mercy. Unfortunately, not a lot of progress is made in Mercy's decision between the two wolves. The one comfort a reader may have is that some sort of resulution must come about in the six books that follow this one in the series. Personally, I'm not a fan of a lot of back and forth between two characters, so even if Mercy's progress in the relationship department continues to be molasses-slow, I don't think I'll complain.
Overall Grade: 4/5
- Other books you may like to try: The Passage (J. Cronin), Bloodsucking Fiends (C. Moore)
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