Friday, November 1, 2019

Romance in Fantasy Fiction: True Triangles in Patricia Briggs' "Moon Called" (Mercy Thompson #1)


Intro: #RIFF #YOR

I don't feel I can have a Year of Romance (#YOR) and Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF) post series, certainly not here on Supernatural Underground without checking out a for-real paranormal urban fantasy. Plus there just has to be a triangle at some stage — and today's the day! 

And since this post series is all about my personal favorites, today's feature is a paranormal urban fantasy I really heart, i.e. Patricia Briggs' Moon Called, in which we first meet the awesome that is Mercy Thompson: car mechanic, coyote shape-shifter (deriving from her Native American heritage), aka Native American 'skinwalker' (as this is part of Mercy's heritage) *(See *Note below post), and all around feisty urban-fantasy heroine. 

And although a paranormal urban fantasy doesn't have to involve a triangle to be the real deal, triangles are part of the tradition — and I like the way the one in Moon Called rolls.


Patricia Briggs' Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) & True Triangles — Mercy, Adam, and Samuel

I may've subtitled this "True Triangles", but Mercy Thompson is also the quintessential gal-next-door — in this case, literally right next door to Adam, leader of the local (Tri-Cities) werewolf pack. Adam is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but he's also definitely an "order" and "chain-of-command" kinda guy, which is probably not that surprising considering he's the alpha-in-chief of all those werewolves. 

Now, coyotes may be tricksters with plenty of smarts, but when it comes to a wolf vs coyote contest of strength, the wolf is definitely apex predator. So Mercy knows a smart coyote shapeshifter will show plenty of respect around the local werewolf leader. Instead, she likes to give her powerful neighbor sass, albeit from the relative safe distance of her own back yard, chiefly by 'taunting' him with a dead car body in full view of his own imposing residence. 

You might think this is setting readers up for a bog-standard "we-love-to-hate-each-other-and-wallow-in-misunderstandings" romantic engagement, but when we first meet Adam properly he's actually pretty civil, given the circumstances, and although he's laying down the law to a certain extent, it's actually to very sound purpose. So despite rusting car bodies and more serious divergences of view on a number of topics, Mercy and Adam's fundamental relationship is one of genuine attraction but also a bedrock of mutual respect. 

In addition to romance, adventure and mystery are integral to the Moon Called story and the action soon kicks in. In the Mercy Thompson, Tri-Cities world, any action is going to involve supernatural forces, with fae and vampires, as well as werewolves, all part of the mix along with mainstream human society. So there's plenty for any lover of paranormal urban fantasy to enjoy.

Yep, it's a graphic novel, too.
In terms of the action, escalating violence sees Adam seriously injured defending his home. Not knowing who to trust, Mercy flees with him to her childhood home, the remote rural stronghold of the Marrok, the leader of all werewolves in North America. Enter Samuel, the Marrok's son, another alpha werewolf and the third corner of Moon Called's romantic triangle. 

Samuel, needless to say, is also drop-dead gorgeous. :-) He's also a lone wolf, as opposed to Adam's pack leader, and Mercy's childhood sweetheart. Uh-oh, you may think, and you're not wrong — but here's the thing I really like about Moon Called and the way the triangle plays out: 

Yes, there's plenty of simmering sexual tension and smoldering alpha werewolf standoffs, but ultimately everyone in this story is an adult. So Mercy actively tries to resolve the standoff rather than adding fuel to the flames, and Adam, despite being wounded and confronted by Samuel's taunting, manages to defuse the sexual and alpha-primacy competition. 

Chiefly, this works by everyone realizing that there are More Important Things at stake in the unfolding story, like many lives and the security of North American werewolf-dom. 

So although Moon Called ends with the Mercy-Adam-Samuel triangle essentially unresolved (there are more books to come, after all ;-) ) the lines that have been established are essentially those based on mutual respect and establishing some adult, albeit alpha, ground rules — all without lessening the romantic tension and payoff in the story.

And yep, that rusting car body ends exactly where it started...

*Note: As two commenters have pointed out, I said in the intro that Mercy is a coyote shapeshifter, which is correct, but then implied that equated with a Native American "skinwalker." Although I believe this is implied by other characters in the book, I also believe the commenters are correct: Mercy herself refutes being a skinwalker. -- HL

List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone – "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed – "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven – "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail"
July: Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell (Deverry series) – "Love At First Meeting"
August: Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys – "Friends and Lovers"
September: Julian May's Saga of the Exiles Katlinel & Sugoll aka "Beauty and the Beast"
October: Teresa Frohock's Where Oblivion Lives (Los Nefilim) – "Endless Love"

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry;she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013.Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter:@helenl0we.


Anonymous said...

Mercy is NOT a skinwalker. She calls herself a walker but mentions that a skinwalker takes their shape from skinning their victims, which she has never done.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. It is mentioned multiple times throughout the series that Mercy isn't a skinwalker.

Helen Lowe said...

Dear Commenters,

Ah, I was recalling that Mercy was *called* a skinwalker by the vampires but now that you've prodded my memory banks I believe your correction is quite right. I shall amend the post *forthwith* -- & thanks for setting me on the straight and narrow. :)

Best, HelenL

Kim Falconer said...

Great post, Helen.

I loved this series!

I think it's interesting that Mercy doesn't really know what she is. Not a skinwalker, as the comments point out, as that's a whole different kind of medicine, done for a different purpose. And not a were as her shapeshifting isn't anything like their process, or controlled by the moon.

Briggs may have purposefully left this part of her world-building vague. I know in the first novels Mercy calls herself a walker, then in the latter books, she's a 'dead walker'...

I do remember in one of the books she meets her father, Old Coyote Joe. He seems divine in nature having descended from the Great Spirit Coyote himself. They share the body of Joe, sometimes human, sometimes coyote... It's complicated!

But I do love the nature of the Adam/Samuel triangle and for the reason you state, Helen. There ARE more crucial things in play than the heartthrob, but the passion is there as well. #bestofbothworlds

Stefan enters the triangle too, in early books, but the reality of his nature limits their intimate connection and moves them into the friend's zone.

So glad you posted on this book. One of my fav urban fantasies!

Thank you!

Helen Lowe said...

Hi Kim,

I love Mercy & the whole Mercy 'verse but one thing I realized when writing this post is that I'm way behind on the reading for the series, last checking in on Silver Borne!

The up side of this is that there is reading moar goodness ahead.

At any rate, I've definitely read about the wily Coyote angle in its inception but I'm guessing not the 'full unfolding' of that storyline -- but the heart of the series is Mercy, who is *possibly* my favorite urban fantasy heroine. Although there will also be a soft spot in my heart for Sookie, Aislinn, & your own Ava Sykes...:)