Review: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: July 16 to August 24, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by: friends
Recommended to: people who like PNR that’s heavy on the PN and light on the R

I’m always on the lookout for urban fantasy series that look interesting or might be good, always hopeful that the next series I pick up is The One. In my search for such books, I’ve stumbled on quite a few duds, most of them being formulaic paranormal romances where the heroine is a special magical something who draws the attention of almost every beefy alpha male werewolf, fae, vampire, garden gnome in the vicinity. I’ve read enough of these to know why they’re popular, but they’re not for me because the focus is on romance and so everything else–setting, world building, mythology, magic, actual paranormal things–takes a backseat to the romance. And so, I’ve come to not expect much from urban fantasy or things marketed as “urban fantasy” but are actually romance with some paranormal stuff thrown in.

With that said, Moon Called is mostly UF with quite a few classic PNR features, and it’s also one of the better written first books/intros in UF-PNR. I find it good overall but slow to start and took me a long time to get into. I didn’t get pulled in until near the end, and I almost gave up several times. Glad I pushed on, but it makes me not want to pick up the next book. If it’s anything like this book, I would probably DNF early on.

In spite of not being able to get into it, I did like many parts of this book, and the book as a whole would most definitely be a good read for urban fantasy/paranormal romance romance lovers. The writing is solid: interesting setting (Pacific Northwest), interesting magic and mythology (Native American shapeshifters, European vampires, fae of mysterious origins), strong female lead with an interesting background (she’s a were-coyote), and a ton of paranormal activity (mostly werewolf politics, power struggles, and conspiracies).

I liked much of this book, mostly because it has all the ingredients that appeal to me, or I should say ingredients that should appeal to me, but there’s just no heat, no pull, almost no connection–not referring to the lack of sexy times. I feel no sense of urgency to start the next book. What I do feel is an overwhelming lukewarm feeling. I mean, I appreciate Mercy as a character (auto mechanic with a degree in history) and her struggles as she live among werewolves in their male-dominated world. And then there are the worlds of the fae and vampires which she has to navigate through. We only see glimpses of fae and vampires in this book which I hope to see more of, should I continue the series.

All of this should be very interesting to me, and it is. But again, no chemistry nor urgency. I feel no desire to continue Mercy’s journey.

But in spite of that, there are a few notable moments to break up the slow pacing.

I have a degree in history, which is one of the reasons I’m an auto mechanic.

[…]

MS. THOMPSON, it said in heavy block letters, PLEASE KEEP YOUR FELINE OFF MY PROPERTY. IF I SEE IT AGAIN, I WILL EAT IT.

[…]

“Mine,” he said.

Adam’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t think so. She is mine.”

It would have been flattering, I thought, except that at least one of them was talking about dinner and I wasn’t certain about the other.

[…]

My mother once told me that you had to trust that the first thing out of a person’s mouth was the truth. After they have a chance to think about it, they’ll change what they say to be more socially acceptable, something they think you’ll be happier with, something they think will get the results they want.

*

* *

* * *

* * * * spoilers * * * *

Aside from the slow pacing and not being able to get into this series, I had a few other problems with it.

The mystery

Its development, how it plays out, and how Mercy solves it all by herself is kind of a mess, really. Just because you call it a conspiracy doesn’t mean “go wild” with the mystery and throw things in haphazardly while leaving plot holes behind, hoping people will overlook them because “conspiracy.” What makes it worse is the conspiracy plot gets compounded near the end and doesn’t make much sense unless you’re willing to suspend more disbelief than you already have for most of the book.

Mercy herself

Another thing that still bothers me is Mercy’s Smurfette situation–she’s the only notable female in this male-dominated world and coincidentally the only one they sort of take seriously, meaning they give the impression of hearing her out when she has something to say. It’s really convenient–for the story and for Mercy–that Mercy’s the only notable female and that female werewolves are weaker and prone to die off in droves. Also convenient that they have difficulty reproducing, but a were-coyote like Mercy can, and so female werewolves hate her, usually on sight, because all the dominant males want to get with her. Also convenient is every alpha wanting an heir.

I did say above that this book is one of the better UF-PNR’s out there, right? I might have to take it back. Too many PNR tropes popping up in too many places.

The love interests

Mercy’s milkshakes bring all the weres to the yard. And they’re like, “We don’t want you here. You’re not one of us.” Yet, they flock to her while trying to shut her out of pack business. Such temperamental weres, these guys. They shut her out because she’s not pack and will not be again because she’s her own person and can’t stand living under an alpha’s rule. But they want her because she’s the only were who can bare their children. But this is a world were alpha wolves run the pack, so the more involved she is with the alpha, the more she becomes property, perhaps only a step above other females in the pack. When I say it like that, I doubt my own taste in UF because I called this is one of the better written ones.

Not Kate

Which is an unfair expectation, but I try as I might, I can’t help comparing this book to the Kate Daniels series. The similarities are too obvious to ignore: lone woman with strange magical powers caught in the middle of a bunch of paranormal politics and posturing. I was mostly lukewarm toward Kate’s first book too, but I really liked Kate herself, Derek, Jim, and even Curran. Plus, the Pack’s and the People’s power struggle was really intriguing. Their frequent clashes with Kate caught in the middle made me want to read on, and read on it I did. I blew through the series until I reached the last book published at the time (Magic Rises, #6), and I read them again this summer just for fun, but I can’t see myself continuing Mercy’s books.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs

  1. thebookgator August 26, 2015 / 2:53 pm

    Very interesting and insightful review… when you say it like that. 😉 I agree, there is a lot of Mercy stuff that is trope/problematic, but I did enjoy how this story was told. You are right, she is a Smurfette (which I think is excused by her isolation as a coyote). I would have preferred Briggs have a more gender-balanced world–she really bought into the “male/animal/military” dichotomy one hundred percent. Which, if I’m paying attention to the gender dynamics, normally bugs the bejeesus out of me because true wolf-packs are actually much more sex-balanced. In general, the world-building worked for me once I turned that part of my brain off. It’s definitely on the popcorn side of the UF world, though.

    I did pretty much quit the series with River, which felt very PNR. The last one, Frost Burned, seems like a nuh-uh for me based on setting up a rival battle between her and Adam’s ex.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi August 27, 2015 / 1:40 pm

      Right, real wolf packs are more balanced–communal, for lack of a better word. So it was hard for me to go along with Briggs’ version of the werewolf pecking order, even though I’ve seen this trope a million times before.

      I don’t normally judge PNR-leaning UF that harshly and just read it for fun. But with this book though, it feels like Briggs missed out on an opportunity to make it really great. She’s got all the ingredients and the writing chops, but the book as a whole feels thin to me, like it could have been a lot better.

      I was going to give it some time before picking up the second book, but since both you and Milda had similar experiences with later books, I thought it best to skip over this series. Besides, I still have Written in Red waiting for me somewhere in the tbr stack.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. thebookgator August 27, 2015 / 2:57 pm

    Calling it off is probably a good idea. So many books, so little time. Written in Red is crack.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi August 28, 2015 / 7:27 am

      Before I give up on Mercy completely, can you tell me what’s gonna happen between her and Adam later on in the series? Does she become Beast Lady like Kate (or whatever the werewolf equivalent of that is)?

      Like

  3. thebookgator August 28, 2015 / 1:05 pm

    It’s really a straight-forward romance, not too much back-and-forth like so many PNR (Chole Neill?). I think the relationship is a focus of a book or two, but in a couple of them it’s a little more back burner. There’s one with more fae–Iron Kissed–that I liked better, except the ending which falls into rape-trope. The River one (#6) felt more PNR–its on their honeymoon–and the current one has no appeal. It is basically, Kate-lite, although Mercy is more a scrapper than Kate’s full-frontal approach and is prone to a lot of self-abuse that Kate doesn’t indulge in. Adam has a ton of similarities to Curran and Mercy tends to avoid confrontation. It makes sense in terms of her personality but given the overwhelming militaristic male-thing in the wolf-pack, it gets tiring. Honestly, I like Briggs a lot, but I don’t think she’s capable of thinking outside a 50s hetro-norm box.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi August 28, 2015 / 3:49 pm

      Thanks! That helps a lot. You’ve reaffirmed my decision to leave Mercy behind and move on to greener UF pastures. Currently I’m in the mood for an addictive, attention-grabbing series, and Written in Red sounds like just the thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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