Patricia Briggs is a new author for me, up until this most recent novel she has primarily written several 'straight fantasy' novels. Moon Called is a fantastic read, more or less from start to finish the pacing doesn't let up. I haven't been this impressed with a werewolf debut since Kelley Armstrong's 'Bitten.' Stylistically this novel is a pleasing blend of Armstrong in terms of solid characterisation and a strong female lead, but in terms of structure it bears similarities to the early Anita Blake novels, except that Briggs has considerably more technical polish ( no pulses tasting like candy, or the ubiquitous 'spilling' here!)
Mercy Thompson is a damn fine auto-mechanic, but she possesses more unusual traits that could put her at risk. Mercy is a skin walker ( a creature of Native American myth) who can shift into a coyote, but in this alternate world, where otherworldly creatures are just starting to come out and reveal themselves to normal society, Mercy is understandably reluctant to reveal her secret.
Mercy is an unusual female character; her mentor is a gremlin, she repairs a VW bus for one of the local vampires and lives next door to Adam the domineering Alpha of the local pack. Despite her vulnerable position as a supernatural being who has no protection from a pack, Mercy is blessedly no-nonsense and stands on her own two feet. When Mac, a young werewolf, comes to her garage looking for work she takes a chance and hires him, setting off a cause and effect reaction, when the young apprentice's dead body is dumped on her doorstep. She goes to the local werewolf pack for help, but finds the attractive alpha Adam near death and his teenage daughter kidnapped.
Travelling across country to the werewolf pack that fostered her as a teenager we learn more of Mercy's intriguing backstory as she hunts for Adam's daughter and a murderer. When Adam is in turn kidnapped, Mercy must band together with friends and allies to save both him and his daughter.
This is fantastic, gripping and with just the right blend of mystery, action, and a touch of well placed romance; a must buy for Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine, and Jim Butcher fans. There are numerous things to love about this novel for a start the character of Mercy is a wonderful addition to the genre; she is self reliant and tough (as a skinwalker she is not compelled to change at will during the moon phases, and doesn't suffer from the werewolf agonies of changing form.)
The set up of the supernatural societies is well thought out and manages to be original without feeling the need to turn the genre on its head merely for the sake of it. There is also the potential for a romantic triangle, should that be something that twitches your whiskers, as Mercy has both an attraction to Adam her neighbour, and a yearning for her first love Samuel the son of the Marrock, the Main Alpha for the entire United States. As a teenager she fell hard for Samuel who protected her against other pack members who bullied her for not being a true werewolf. Naturally, this didn't work out but returning to the foster home of her childhood she discovers that they both have unresolved issues.
The only fault I can find with this novel is that the mystery plot regarding Mac's killers who seem to be turning normals into werewolves for experiments of their own purpose isn't as coherent as it should be. The double bluff reveal of the mystery antagonist at the end feels very anti-climatic and left me thinking 'huh? Surely there's a better way of working out your issues than this?'
For all of that, Moon Called enthralled me enough that I will be first in the queue when the second novel Blood Bound is released in January 2007. The good news is that Briggs has been obtained to write a further three books in the series with these characters.