I am not an Urban Fantasy reader. My dislike of the genre doesn’t really have a basis so I decided that if I’m going to dislike an entire sub-genre, I might as well read a couple of books first. My prejudices, as it turns out, weren’t completely unfounded, but I do admit I had a lot more fun reading this than expected. And yes, I will try and read more in the genre.
Published by: Ace, 2006
Paperback: 288 pages
Series: Mercy Thompson #1
My rating: 6,5/10
First sentence: I didn’t realize he was a werewolf at first.
Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will. Mercy’s next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a bus for a vampire. This is the world of Mercy Thompson, one that looks a lot like ours but is populated by those things that go bump in the night. And Mercy’s connection to those things is about to get her into some serious hot water…
Here’s to burying prejudices and trying something new. This is one of 15 books on my 2014 TBR challenge and because it’s Urban Fantasy, I thought I’d get it out of the way as quickly as possible. It wasn’t a bad read at all. Sure, I had issues with it, but I also enjoyed myself while reading. I’d call it a beach read or, depening on the season, a book for rainy days spent in bed with a cup of cocoa. Yes, yes… Moon Called wasn’t groundbreaking but still fun.
The beginning slogs along with a lot of info dumping and every time a new character is introduced, there are either more info dumps from Mercy’s narration or in the shape of “As you know, Bob”. It didn’t bother me all that much because of course the world and its particular version of mythology has to be set up. But Patricia Briggs sure could have gone about it in smarter, subtler ways. Even despite all the exposition, I still find the world the author set up rather messy. Werewolves, vampires, fae, gremlins, witches, shape shifters… it didn’t really jibe but rather felt like EVERYTHING needed to be in the book, so in it went, no matter if it works or not. Then some of the fae are out in the open and humans know about them, but werewolves aren’t? I had a hard time believing in the politics and logistics of this.
World building aside, the plot was actually quite fun. There’s a conspiracy, and an investigation involving weres and witches and the obligatory vampires. I would have to lie if I said I wasn’t thrilled and intrigued by the mystery, but for me, it would have worked just as well if it hadn’t involved werewolves. When I read in a subgenre that is ridden with clichés, I always hope for something new. But even with my limited knowledge of urban fantasy, there was nothing I hadn’t seen in movies or on TV a billion times before. So I concentrated on the mystery and the suspense.
Mercy Thompson as a character wasn’t as fleshed out as I had hoped. I put the book on my reading list because I was hoping for diverse characters. The (gorgeous) cover and book blurb led me to believe that Mercy was part Native American. Either I missed it in the book or it was never even mentioned. Apart from her strange (and somewhat misty) past, I didn’t feel I got to know her all that well. There was a messed-up romance invoving the übermanly werewolf Samuel, and she grew up with foster parents, she surrounds herself with wonderful friends, but after reading this first volume of the series, I still don’t know what makes her tick, what her dreams or goals in life are. Maybe I’ll find out in book two?
The one thing that really bothered me is exactly what makes me avoid urban fantasy and most recent YA books in general. Mercy Thompson makes sure to tell us how very special she is, not because she can shape shift into a coyote, but because she is a car mechanic and everybody knows that girls don’t do boy jobs. And god forbid, a fictional heroine behaves like a woman, because girl cooties.
So on the one hand, we have a woman who makes sure to let us know she’s confident and independent and doesn’t want nor need a man’s help. Then a bunch of werewolves come along “claiming her” as their own, or taking the role of her protector and she’s fine with it. Oh, she tells them – a lot – that she’s not part of anyone’s pack, but when they valiantly stand between her and danger, she turns into little lost girl who is grateful that a big strong man is there to save her. I don’t know how I feel about that, especially since she proved that she can take care of herself extremely well, even against a full-grown werewolf.
Like I said, there are issues galore, but maybe I just need to look at books like this from a different perspective. A guilty pleasure, quick read. I won’t jump right into the next book in the series but I probably will pick it up eventually. The writing was competent and I loved the lack of a romantic subplot.
RATING: 6,5/10 – Quite good.