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Monday, August 8, 2011

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: A Re-Read for Readers and Writers: Chapters 1-3


I bought Moon Called by Patricia Briggs almost two years ago when a Borders employee recommended it.  When I first got around to reading it, I could not get past the first chapter.  The car mechanic stuff threw me, and I didn’t get a good sense of identification with the protagonist, Mercy.

About six months later, I made myself read it anyway.  The first chapter still dragged a little, but by the time I finished the second chapter, I couldn’t stop.  When I finished the last page of Moon Called, Briggs had rocketed herself onto my favorite author’s list and has not since disappointed me.

Tor has been doing re-readings of some top fantasy series: The Wheel of Time, The Kingkiller Chronicles, A Song of Ice and Fire, and so forth.  These are fun and fascinating.  But I’ve noticed there is a disparity in the series offered.  Where are all the female authors?  Not that Tor isn’t doing a great job of providing something entertaining and interesting, but here, I’d like to offer something similar, with my own twists, for a few female authors that I enjoy.

So, I’m including comments for readers and writers on the parts of Moon Called that impacted me. I hope you’ll find them enjoyable and useful. On Monday’s we’ll visit these books and take them a few chapters at a time.


Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Chapter 1

Beginning, in which a strange, homeless werewolf comes into Mercy’s garage.

Reader Comments: Cool, a werewolf.

Writer Comments: Briggs dives straight into the meat of the story, no lengthy descriptions or scene setting. In very few words, she gives a layered picture of what’s going on and give setting details through sensory description.

Mercy tries to be nice to the werewolf by letting him work for her for cash, after he showers and eats first, of course.

Reader Comments: So she’s a nice, strong heroine.  Okay, but still not feeling a good connection with her. (Even re-reading, I felt that distance but could appreciate the cool hints of things I never could have caught initially.)

Writer Comments: Until now, the writing is rich with little snippets of detail that swiftly build a world for us.  She keeps these to a phrase or two sprinkled throughout the action, just as she should to keep a good pacing.

Tony, the undercover cop that Mercy can always recognize, comes in and tells her that the kid (werewolf, but he doesn’t know it) is all right.

Reader Comments: Okay, is he the romantic hero?  (Sorry, it’s a weakness of mine.  I’m always looking for the romance.)

Writer Comments: First flashback, which describes how Mercy met Tony and frustrated him with her ability to recognize him in his best disguises. She still hasn’t told him that it’s because she’s got a super sense of smell from her coyote transforming abilities.  Briggs keeps it short and focuses on the interesting details, enriching our first impression of Tony.

Tony asks Mercy to fix the car of a friend of his, and when she agrees, he says she is aces.

Reader Comments: Huh?  That’s an odd phrase. It sounds old fashioned, like something you’d hear on Happy Days, or am I just out of touch with the appropriate lingo.

Writer Comments: Nice use of dialogue to show Tony’s character.

After Tony leaves, Mercy gets back to work and asks the werewolf what he wants her to call him.

Reader Comments: Like her bluntness and honesty.  She knows he’s unlikely to want his real identity known, so she doesn’t force him into a lie.

Writer Comments: Nice touch to reveal both Mercy and the werewolf with current alias of Mac.

Pleased with Mac’s work, Mercy offers for him to return and heads home where she finds her cat, Medea, locked in a carrier on her porch.

Reader Comments: Love the name Medea for a cat.  I can easily see the woman from Greek myth as a cat.

Writer Comments: This unusual, yet identifiable name for a cat accomplishes two things: It makes Medea memorable and it lets the readers who are familiar with Greek myth grin or groan a little, depending on their preference.

There’s a note on the cat carrier from Mercy’s neighbor, Adam, who informs her that he’ll eat Medea if she gets loose on his property again.

Reader Comments:  He’ll eat her if he sees her again!  Who is this guy, the villain?  What a jerk. (By the way, Adam later becomes one of my favorite characters, and re-reading this is all the more fun because of that fact.)

Writer Comments: Describing the heavy black letters of the note is a nice touch.

Medea smells like Adam as if she spent some time in his lap getting pampered.

Reader Comments: So if she spent time on Adam’s lap, he must have actually been nice to her and the note was partially in jest.  Okay, I’ll try not to judge too quickly.

Writer Comments: The phrasing of the note and description of writing paired with the suggestion that Adam spent time petting Medea before he boxed her up and sent her over is a nice dichotomy and good characterization even though Adam hasn’t appeared on the page yet.

Much of the rest of the chapter is world building and information about how Mercy lives her life and about the fae and werewolves.

Reader Comments: Eh.  It’s kind of interesting information, but I’m not attached to Mercy enough yet to care much.

Writer Comments: The info dumping Briggs does here contains some fascinating details that add depth and breadth to her world.  They show us that this is mostly our typical Earth and how the fantasy elements alter in small and large ways.  Unfortunately, Briggs sacrifices conflict, suspense, and an engaging interaction with her readers.  Sharing all this back story and world building in Mercy’s words helps a little because Mercy has a fun, sardonic sense of humor, but the first chapter certainly doesn’t end with a bang.

Mercy goes to church and the visiting pastor proves very disappointing because of his hateful perspectives toward fae, who have been placed on reservations; though, Mercy believes that’s actually part of the Gray Lords’ (fae leaders) grand plan.

Reader Comments: Thank you, Briggs. I always appreciate an author who isn’t afraid to bring touches of faith into a book.  I also like how Briggs doesn’t sugarcoat religion nor damn it.  She gives it flaws and merits in very real proportions.

Writer Comments: This section was a little better in that it happens in real time, but much of it is told rather than shown.  However, it gives some good insights into Mercy’s personal philosophies.

Chapter 2

Mac the werewolf makes a curious long distant call and claims that he didn’t kill her. Mercy naturally overhears the entirety of his side of the conversation.

Reader Comments: *Sits forward* And now we get to the juicy stuff.  Before I was only passingly interesting in Mac, mainly because he’s a werewolf and was clearly hiding something.  Now, the plot thickens, and I’m eager to read on. I suspect Mercy will have to get more involved than she originally intended.

Writer Comments: Briggs does a good job of showing this first big clue and giving Mercy’s reactions along the way in real time.  The tension has finally starting to rise.

Mercy starts actively helping Mac by trying to make sure he has a place to sleep and a warm blanket.

Reader Comments: I like her now.  She tough, smart, and with a heart of gold. Briggs is proving herself clever and creative.  Mercy won’t give Mac one of her blankets because her scent would hit his predatory instincts; instead, she plans to buy him a brand new one.

Writer Comments: Mercy is starting to become more active, and the action is becoming a noticeably greater part than the info dumps.  Hence, the story is more engaging.

Stefan, the vampire with the Mystery Machine bus is introduced when Mercy calls him to ask permission to let Mac sleep in his bus.

Reader Comments:  Cool. I like Scooby too, and what an interesting twist to a vampire.

Writer Comments: Nice way for Briggs to characterize Stefan and make him unique.  Not only does he love Scooby more than tried and true black, but he’s nice enough to allow a stranger to camp out in his property because he trusts Mercy.

Mercy realizes that she left her purse at work and returns to fetch it.  While retrieving it, suspicious men, an ex-soldier and another werewolf, come to return Mac to his cage. Mercy turns to coyote and fights for Mac. She accidentally kills the werewolf.

Reader Comments: Ah, here’s where it really gets fun.  Mysterious bad guys, a chase, Mercy in coyote form killing a werewolf, and we’re only in chapter two!

Writer Comments: Lots of clues are dropped in this section that thickens the mystery even as the action picks up.  Mercy proves even more capable and intelligent through her actions.  Lots of good showing.

After Mercy saves Mac’s life, he confides the horrendous details of his recent past. While they talk, a strange car arrives.

Reader Comments: This is getting cooler and cooler.  I love how well thought out Briggs’s werewolves are, and Mac’s earlier mauling, kidnapping, and being tested on like a lab rat suggests even more interesting things will be revealed in this book.

Writer Comments: A much stronger chapter. (As I said, this one hooked me when I first read Moon Called.)  Briggs gives a reaction scene after the action scene to clear up some mystery and introduce more.  She also ends the chapter on a foreboding cliffhanger that tempted me to keep reading instead of pausing to write these notes for you good folks.

Chapter 3

The car turns out to belong to Elizaveta, witch extraordinaire, aka, the cleanup crew. After all, they can’t leave a dead werewolf in the middle of the street for humans to find.

Reader/Writer Comments: Briggs paint some fun and creative characters and gives them unique traits.  Elizaveta has a clipped British aristocracy accent when angry and speaks only Russian when furious. She starts off angry at Mercy.

While Elizaveta “cleans up,” Mercy gives Mac a crash course in werewolf etiquette. Alone in the garage with the villainous werewolf’s dead body, Mac struggles not to eat it. And after Mercy calls Adam, the local Alpha, and tells him she killed a werewolf then hangs up on him, said Alpha shows up, furious.

Reader Comments: Not sure how I feel about Adam.  Mercy clearly trusts him and has little qualms about goading him and reprimanding him on his bad manners, but he’s kind of rude.  Then again, maybe that just goes with the dominant werewolf thing.  I kind of like it, but I’m also not certain if I like him either.

Writer Comments: Briggs spends a lot of time on Adam’s description, more than she has on anyone else, so this is a clue that Adam is an important character.

Mercy proves she has no trouble standing up to werewolves, Mac almost eats her, and Adam proves his dominance in getting Mac not to dine upon anyone.

Reader Comments: The dynamics, especially the social werewolf ones, are nicely fresh and fun.  I like Mercy’s little defiance of Adam’s authority. The part where Mac starts to lose control while wrapped around Mercy and decides she smells really good is wonderfully tense.

Writer Comments: Briggs does an awesome job of reveal the social dynamics of werewolves and the power struggles between males. By this point, we’re thick into the plot and characters with just the right amount of mystery, unresolved plot points, and interesting characters that it makes putting down the book difficult.

I hope you enjoyed this new exercise.  Next Monday, we’ll do the next three or four chapters.

Are there any books you guys would like to see me do this with?  For those of you who have read Moon Called, what were you impressions of the first three chapters?

1 comment:

  1. I liked seeing how you analyzed the first chapters as a writer and how things struck you as a reader. I might just pick up this series. It sounds interesting.