Tuesday, 20 May 2008

‘Moon Called’ – Patricia Briggs (Orbit Books)

I haven’t read a great deal of urban fantasy but I’ve read enough to work out that if there was a party held for ‘urban fantasy lead characters’ then Harry Dresden and Felix Castor would probably be the only guys who turned up. While they were propping up the bar, the rest of the place would be full of feisty women (in their twenties or maybe early thirties) all talking about how hard they found it fitting into the local paranormal scene and the romantic tension between them and various ‘alpha’ werewolves, head vampires and other fey creatures. If ‘Moon Called’ is anything to go by then Mercedes Thompson would be one of these ladies, she’d certainly have plenty in common with them. Mercedes is a shape shifter (coyote) in an America where fey creatures are just starting to make themselves known to the general public. She’s a mechanic (working on a van belonging to a vampire) and her neighbour is the leader of the local werewolf pack. It’s hardly an ideal situation but it could be a lot worse. Things get a lot worse… Mercedes takes in a young werewolf stray which starts a series of events ending with a dead body on her doorstep and the alpha werewolf’s daughter being kidnapped. Mercedes generally manages to stay out of trouble but this time she has no choice but to face it head on…
On the face of things, ‘Moon Called’ is very much like most of the other urban fantasies that I’ve seen on the shelves, a strong female lead trying to get along in a male dominated world and having to deal with all the ‘tension’ that arises from her dealings with the local alpha werewolf. As a guy, I’m starting to feel a little under represented here! :o) Are there any urban fantasy series (other than the ‘Dresden Files’ and ‘Felix Castor’ books) where the main character is male? I’m starting to feel like I’ve heard all this before… Where Patricia Briggs wins through for me is that although it feels like she is rehashing a generic urban fantasy setting I loved the way she concentrated on the werewolves and really fleshed out the whole ‘pack thing’ (issues of domination in the pack and becoming a werewolf). Detail such as the vegetarian vet who became a werewolf (and then had to deal with craving for meat as well as having to quit his job) shows how much thought the author had put into her subject matter and felt like a really different take on stuff I’d read before.
The plot itself was interesting enough to make me want to keep reading and all questions were answered by the end of the book. However, the book is very obviously the first in a series in that there is a lot of introducing characters and scene setting. I felt that the balance sometimes went too far in favour of the scene setting etc and this got in the way of the actual story. Having said that though, at least I’ll know who everyone is when I read the next book! And that’s the thing, despite all my niggles I’ll still be reading ‘Blood Bound’ (the sequel) when it’s released, ‘Moon Called’ is an entertaining read and I’m interested to see what happens next to Mercedes. Another fast paced and fun read for the commute to work!

Seven out of Ten

Edited to Add: I forgot about Charlie Huston's 'Joe Pitt' books but even so...


Tia Nevitt said...

I know of two:

STAKED by J. F. Lewis
DEAD TO ME by Anton Strout

These are both debuts, too!

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth ... but I haven't sent that to you yet! ;) Soon...

Neil Gaiman, I suppose, could be classed as urban fantasy. Just not very many vampires and stuff (except in his latest book).


PS: Good review. I might pick these up soon.

lasoti said...

For a guilty trashy pleasure, Mercedes Lackey's co-authored urban fantasy books (Born to Run, Chrome Circle, Spirits White as Lightning etc) feature mainly male leads. Although they are either elves (therefore girly-men) or bards (er, see under 'elves').

And does Christopher Moore count? Bloodsucking Fiends has a shared male-female POV, if I recall correctly.

kendall said...

John Levitt's Dog Days (which I believe is also a debut).

SQT said...

Briggs is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Her and Charlaine Harris.

Entropy said...

Unshapely Things and Unquiet Dreams by Mark Del Franco as well.

Hunter's Moon by C. T. Adams, but it seems to be awful.

Blood Engines by TA Pratt has a female main character, but isn't first person and the secondary main character is male.

Jeremy F. Lewis said...

The Nightside series by Simon R. Green

The Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman

Fat White Vampire Blue by Andrew Fox

And as Tia pointed out... you could always try Staked by that J F Lewis guy. :)

Graeme Flory said...

Cheers guys! Now I don't feel like I'm alone in a sea of female lead urban fantasy... ;o)

Lasoti - I haven't read much by Christoper Moore (although I loved 'The Stupidest Angel') but I'm happy to count him in!

Entropy - I read C.T. Adams' 'Twilight Moon' and that was enough for me! ;o)

Jeremy - J.F.Lewis eh....? I may just have to read his book ;o)