Moon Called (Mercy Thompson) by Patricia Briggs

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Moon Called (Mercy Thompson) by Patricia Briggs

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A woman gets caught up in a battle between warring werewolves, with other supernatural creatures involved – not to mention her own shapeshifting ability. A lovely and gently powerful genre read, which we recommend.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841496832

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Mercedes the car mechanic (tee-hee) has employed a werewolf as assistant. Not only that, he is a fresh young werewolf, barely in his mid-teens, and changed mere months ago. Therefore, he has learnt nothing of the were-life, nothing of controlling his changes with the full moons, nothing of the societies werewolves live in, with packs controlled by Alpha males, and so on.

Still, Mercedes, or Mercy, can hold her own, as she was born with supernatural abilities – and can shapeshift much more easily than can werewolves, and turn into and 'walk' as a coyote at will. She was indeed brought up by a pack of werewolves, integrated into human society in the rural US.

Over a couple of action-packed nights and days Mercy finds out more about Mac, the novice werewolf, and he talks of unlikely medical experiments being forced on him, cages, and being traded between controlling elements (they could have been were or otherwise, his senses of smell etc not being trained enough to have that instantly come to him). It's only when Mercy tries to get him to the tutelage of Adam, her neighbouring Alpha, that things start to go completely wrong.

This remains a much more gentle entry into the werewolf fantasy genre, and certainly does not go very far towards horror. I could talk about it being a feminised version of the mythology, especially when the grittier thriller elements, of speeding-away SUVs and mysterious people leaving corpses behind as messages, give way to much more gentle and rustic matters for Mercy and her 'family'. The way the fae have been outed in exposition and forcibly put into a few reservations, leaving some supernatural beings free in the real world known only to themselves, allows for enough genre writing but also shows a more humanistic approach to having the other walking among us.

I wouldn't want anyone to think the book appeals to only one gender, however – it strongly appealed to me. There was more than enough mystery for Mercy when things started to get out of control, and it tied in with enough narrative sensibilities when the plot was more concerned with her personal back-story and background. There is never a sense of this being just constructed to fill in a perceived gap in the marketplace – werewolf fantasy for the ladies – but of this being a story the author clearly wanted to tell.

And tell it rather well she does, on the whole. There are a couple of minor tics that I can call errors – a tranq dart appears for the first time forty pages after it was allegedly discovered, for one, and I didn't really find the comically disguised swearing endearing. However the descriptions of the natural world, the car garage, and the communities of werefolk are all very well done. It's not too long before Mercy is in the lion's den, to use an incorrect animal metaphor, and the genre plotting is nice and strong, with thriller and PG-gore elements. It all wraps up nicely in a solid read, and one I can commend.

This appears to be the first of her works to be published in the UK, and the slow-burning increase in sales her career has been noted for has culminated with great success for the later books in this series, which I am promised are all completely self-contained. As a result Orbit have leapt on a bandwagon, and before the fourth is ready are publishing these in monthly intervals over the summer of 2008.

And I wish Orbit every success for them. The book is a gentler form of genre fiction and none the worse for it – it never pulls its punches as it wins without a fight in the first place. The writing is a good standard, and the mix of the unreal with the common very nicely controlled, realistic and at the same time allowing for authoritative writing about the supernatural and were. Oh, and the covers are infinitely better than the American ones.

All told, this is a series well worth looking out for. I would not be at all averse at looking at more of them when available – but I mustn't get too greedy. I'll thank instead Orbit for sending this as a review copy, and send it on its way with a strong Bookbag star rating, and a good recommendation for those who like a more than competent 'urban fantasy' read.

More hunky Alpha werewolves are to be found in No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong.

Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson Series in Chronological Order

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