Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Review Summary: I am extremely impressed with Briggs’s Moon Called.
I am extremely impressed with Briggs’s Moon Called. Once you get past the somewhat racy cover – I’m not necessarily complaining, just saying that the cover is a little distracting – the novel is nothing short of excellent.
Briggs’s characterization is extremely strong, particularly her main character Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson. Mercy manages to be strong and tough, in a very male-dominated world, without being overbearing, spiteful, shrewish, or in any other way mean-spirited. In fact, Mercy has a number of positive traits – smart, insightful, kind, loyal, fierce, fair, self-aware, along with the aforementioned strength and toughness – which are demonstrated very well throughout the novel, without making the character seem “preachy” or flawless. Almost all of the other characters in the novel are also enacted just as well, each being their own distinct, three-dimensional selves. Characters are described, backgrounds are given, ideas are thought, but all seems to come naturally through the telling of the story, with Briggs’s extraordinarily deft use of the first-person narrative.
The plotting is not extremely strong, but there are no actual flaws in it given that the story is more character than plot-driven. Primarily the characters are reacting to events based on their personalities, and the plot is advanced through the interplay of these personalities, relationships, and circumstances. The “bad guy’s” plot is fairly complex, but almost secondary to the characters’ stories. Had the characterization been any weaker, the sudden realization of the bad guy’s plot at the end would have been a problem, but given the richness of the characters I’m glad it didn’t intrude any further into their development.
The overall theme or setting of the novel is what interested me in the first place (after the cover grabbed my attention, I’ll admit): A woman mechanic who lives and works in the gray area between the supernatural and the ordinary world is caught up into one of the conflicts at the edges. Mercy is supernatural herself, a Native American skinwalker, which of itself makes her an oddity in the primarily Old European supernatural community – but along with being a woman in a still largely male-dominated world (the supernatural world is several hundred years behind in women’s equality and suffrage), Mercy is an outsider on several levels, inhabiting the margins, but not herself marginalized by her position in these worlds.
As an outsider, the narrator is in a particularly advantageous position to make keen and vivid observations on the secretive, power-conscious, sad, and violent lives of those she comes into contact with, again with the unobtrusive commentary allowed only by the author’s mastery of the first-person narrative.