Saturday, August 18, 2007

Moon Called and Blood Bound

I've now officially added another author to my small stable of favorite paranormal writers.

Someone recommended recently that I read Patricia Briggs' Moon Called. I read the first five pages on and decided I liked the author's voice. The recommendation came at precisely the right time. I was looking for something to order to bump my total to $25 so I'd get free shipping on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

One of the reasons the book appealed to me was that it was a new twist on the rapidly-becoming-tiresome werewolf/vampire plotline. The protagonist of Moon Called is Mercy Thompson, a thirty-something skinwalker living in the Pacific Northwest.

A skinwalker is the Native American version of a shapeshifter. Mercy's mother had a brief fling with an itinerant Native American, who died in a car accident before Mercy was born. When Mom reached into the crib to pick up her baby and found a coyote pup instead, she knew she had a problem. Fortunately, a relative was able to direct her to the leader of the werewolf nation so Mercy was dropped off to be raised among shifters. Only the head werewolf's dominance prevented the wolves from killing the coyote, their natural enemy.

In Moon Called, the only paranormal creatures who have made themselves known to humans are the fae although the werewolves are considering going public. The vampires have too large a PR problem with image to even entertain the idea.

Mercy ran away from the werewolves at sixteen, became a mechanic and now operates her own small automotive repair shop in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state. Because skinwalkers were mostly eradicated by the vampires when they came to America, she has no clan of her own. She tries to keep a low profile, but it's sometimes difficult. Her next door neighbor is the local werewolf Alpha, one of her customers is a vampire and the guy who sold the shop to her is a gremlin. There's also a witch working for the vamps.

The story starts when a hungry, dirty teenager comes to Mercy's garage looking for work. Her preternatural senses tell her this is a new werewolf, and he doesn't belong to her neighbor's clan. Although she knows it's a very bad idea, the kid's desperation leads her to feeding him and giving him a job.

The next day, an ugly trinity of men and werewolf come looking for the kid, and Mercy leaps in to help him, embroiling herself in murder, kidnapping, and a supernatural political nightmare.

The book worked for me. Mercy is full of attitude and tough without going over the top. She reminds me of the young Anita Blake (pre-erotica). Mercy's sense of aloneness and her understanding/acceptance of the werewolf culture are skillfully written. There's also humor and action (two things I can never resist).

When I finished Moon Called, I went looking for another Mercy Thompson book. Turns out, there is only one: Blood Bound, which I finished last night. The third in the series will be released in January, but a short story using characters from the books (although not Mercy herself) is on the market now.

If anything, I liked Blood Bound better. Briggs has already established her world and her characters and, in this outing, concentrates on the action. There's a demon loose in the Tri-Cities and--to make it worse--he's in a vampire body.

Despite how powerful the vampires and werewolves are in comparison to Mercy, it turns out her version of supernatural makes her the only candidate to go after this monster who quickly racks up an impressive number of kills. You see, Mercy is largely immune to vamp magic (which is why the vampires killed off the skinwalkers).

My only quibble is that Briggs seems a little too leery of romance--or maybe it's sex. She skirts around the subject with all the main male characters in love with Mercy, but with her running from them all. This will get tiresome really fast if Briggs doesn't commit soon. Mercy's over thirty, for heaven's sake. By now, she's living with one werewolf on a platonic basis (despite the fact that they were lovers when she was sixteen. And I am so not buying into their being "platonic" now), and is living next door to another werewolf AND, by the end of the book, has an unexpected love interest.

If you like urban fantasies, I can recommend this series to you.

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