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Review: Moon Called

So I dug into the Ginny Box (which is officially its own tag now) and pulled this beauty out. And actually, it’s pretty decent, which I know is a welcome change of pace around here.

Moon Called follows Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson, who despite growing up with werewolves and having one for a neighbor, is in fact not a werewolf. She’s something a little bit different (spoiler: she’s a play on the Native American walker myths, more on this later). But that doesn’t stop her from getting snout-deep in werewolf politics. When a runaway new wolf shows up on her shop’s doorstep, it drags her back to a world she thought she left behind and into a future where werewolves are no longer a secret…like a lot of fairy kind.

I’ll start with the elephant in the room. What the heck is a walker? Well, in Native American myth, it’s someone who has the ability to walk in another skin (usually a coyote or mountain lion). Now, this is the first real issue I have with the book. I don’t think that Natives have first dibs on their own stories, to a certain extent. There are some universal concepts that I think all writers should be allowed to play with. The walkers, for example, are similar enough to werewolves that I honestly feel like that as long as they are treated the same and don’t have ethnic ties, we’re cool. So instead of being “walkers,” with the Native ties, they are all shapeshifters, just some are wolves and some are coyotes and others mountain lions. The other alternative is if the writer his/herself is Native, in which case I back off, since I’m obviously not in a place to argue about Native culture and it’s all on them at that point if they link it to their culture or not.

Not the case here. Not only is Brigg’s a non-Native as far as I can tell (feel free to correct me, folks), but her character is supposedly half Native but ignored by her father’s family and people. That irks me. That beyond irks me. Maybe it’s because I’ve taken enough Native American studies/literature courses to know the boundaries, maybe it’s because I’ve grown up more culturally aware because of where I’m from. I don’t know. I just know that the Native aspects of this story really weren’t given the respect they deserved. If you are GOING to go there, you need to be respectful of the culture and at least attempt to give them some sugar with the bitter…instead of just bitter. At least with the first book. Maybe the rest of the series gets better?

Okay, enough with the pessimism. The good news is that Mercy is awesome. We have several powerful male characters in this book, and not only does Mercy stand up to them, she thumbs her nose at them a couple of times, which I always appreciate seeing. She’s also in an unconventional career, and even before her degree change to history, she was in engineering, which is another (sadly) unconventional choice. In the process, she never lost her femininity or her own integrity as a character, which I value. The only thing that I wish was that there were more like her. Like, we sort of get hints about the vampire lady and one or two of the females being on the same level of Mercy. But most of the attention that isn’t on Mercy is on the boys, so we don’t get to see it.

As far as the plot is concerned, it gets a little tangled up in the middle, which is normally for the first book in a series where the writer is trying to blind side you. There were just too many false trails being placed to figure out what was going on with Mac, made further complicated by the attack on Adam and Mercy going back to the pack that raised her. Add the vampires and it became an absolute monster to keep track of, especially since most of the names are on the forgetful side. Don’t get me wrong, this is much preferable to Lucas making syllables up. But it did make keeping everyone straight in their allegiances…entertaining, to put it mildly. It was full of action, though, and the main character is constantly sticking her nose into things, so you aren’t being told what happened. You’re seeing Mercy figure it out herself or being an active part of it.

This is not the first world where the fae/vampires/werewolves/whathaveyou have come out of the supernatural closet, even for someone like me who doesn’t read much urban fantasy. I do think the approach was interesting, with the set up of fae reservations and the way some fae were forced out while others made the decision for themselves. Again, I feel like this could have been awesome to relate back to Mercy being half-Native and could have been a really cool tie in, but…nothing was done with it. I’m not even sure of its place in this world, other than Briggs thinking it was a logical/cool idea. But the dynamics of the werewolf pack (as misogynistic as it is) were well-thought out, I thought, though obviously females being set as submissive annoyed me.

Overall… Eh. It didn’t completely blow my mind, but I didn’t want to throw it against the wall. It was fairly well written, if a bit troubled in places because of plot, with more zigs and zags than it needed but plenty of action. I liked the main characters fairly well, I just wish we had another strong female on Mercy’s side, rather than lurking in the shadows as existing, just not relevant. And the concept had good legs, it just…wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own. Maybe the second book will be better? We’ll see if it’s in the Ginny Box!


Review: The Dresden Files 11 – Turn Coat

Well, thank God I made a buffer. I had the flu the first week, and then last week I was busy making up for the fact I got the flu. *eyeroll* I got the part of Abbess Guinevere, btw. I’m excited. 😀 On a sadder note, we’ve caught up to my once-a-week schedule, and with fair starting and me being crazy busy for at least a couple of months, I’m going to go back down to once a week blog posts until the new year. I’m very, very hopeful that after the holidays if not sooner, I can start guaranteeing twice-a-week posts permanently, but I need time to finish getting stuff around here beaten into shape.

Turn Coat brings back an old friend…sorta. More like enemy, but when someone is begging to be hidden, it’s really hard to quibble over the details. While Morgan has been around, now he’s turning to Harry for help. Ironic, no? But things are never as easy as they appear. Morgan is being accused of killing one of the Senior Council members. To make matters worse, trouble is brewing in the direction of the White Court, and something truly horrendous has been summoned straight out of Native American folklore (errr, I’ll get to this). Add to the fact that Harry can’t seem to leave any of his house guests alone for longer than a few minutes, not counting Mouse who tries to keep things calm, and well, is it all that surprising that everything goes straight to Hell?

So, what went right in this book? To begin with, the naaglosshii was actually scary. It was honestly a villain I dreaded seeing, and not just because Butcher did something sexist and fed into rape culture. It was terrifying before he made it intelligent, that was really just the icing on the cake. I can say the same really about Demon Reach. Maybe that’s just because both sort of tagged on nightmares I had as a kid that have stuck with me as an adult. Either way, job really well done on this book with the horror/monster characterizations and descriptions. Even some of the previously flat characters who we are supposed to just completely hate got some fleshing out that didn’t necessarily make me hate them less, but it made them more real so I could enjoy hating them more. (Such a weird thing to type.)

I also have to give him some props. I didn’t peg the traitor as the traitor, I didn’t see Morgan’s confession at the end coming, and while I think the explanation of Anastasia makes complete sense and I saw bits and pieces of that stacking up in hindsight, it was also a welcome little shock-not-shock as well. (Translation: Becca wasn’t extremely surprised by the Stacia part, but didn’t at least completely see it coming.) Butcher is finally getting a handle on the mystery part of the series, so while we get bits and pieces of the whole thing, we aren’t so completely behind Dresden that we are annoyed and we aren’t so far ahead of him that we get impatient.

And believe it or not dear readers, I am not going to give him crap about what happened with Anastasia. Because this time, it was written in a way that I actually felt like was closer to trying to push a friendship into a relationship at the advice of somebody else…and then realizing that that somebody else was an idiot and trying to return back to the friendship. That advice was probably really, really strong, but there was a certain level of choice to it that I felt was missing in the earlier book between Murphy and Lord Raith (and really, more than a couple members of the White Court). I doubt she got pushed to sleep with Harry, for instance. And in some ways, she was still very much herself in some of it. So congrats, Jim. I am not going to rip into you over this.

But speaking of the White Court… THOMAS! My baby! I can’t talk about it, it’s too spoilery. But… THOMAS!

When it comes to the world building and monsters part of it though… I gotta admit, I’ve got some issues with the way that Butcher is portraying the Natives and their legends. I’ve taken some Native studies-themed courses, and while I am far from an expert, I’ve gotten to where I can tell when someone is relying too heavily on stereotypes in movies. And Butcher is walking that line far too much. I would honestly be surprised if one of my old professors reads the Dresden Files because of Injun Joe and the way he and his culture have been showcased in the book. Maybe I am wrong and Butcher consulted with some Native writers before he added that element, and if so and he actually listened to them, I withdraw my complaints. But as it stands now…I repeat, I doubt it. I really, really doubt it.

There were some really weird character inconsistencies with Molly in this book. I don’t understand why she went mind probing, not after all the trouble we went through in the last book establishing that she finally learned the boundaries. I mean, I understand that some serious time has passed since then. But it still seemed really out of left field for her to go down that road. Was it setup for later in the series? If so, it’s contradictory to the previous way she’s been shown, so why bother trying to redeem her in the earlier books? Was it to help soften up Morgan there at the end? No, because now we’ve given this idea to her that it’s okay to break the rules as long as you aren’t caught. Which again, is so radically contradictory to everything we’ve spent a couple of books establishing now, that I got a little frustrated.

The ending did not help matters. Not at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He wraps up all his necessary threads, has the series ones still going, a few small steps taken in resolving them… But there is no high note. And while in a mid-series book, you can have mostly downward spirals on your characters’ lives, in my opinion, any ending is just completely unsatisfying if there isn’t a high note of happiness somewhere. But all I saw at every turn in this one was more sadness, more future trouble being hinted at, more relationships coming to an end, more threats looming over the horizon. As a result, the book didn’t really feel finished to me.

Rather than press on to Changes, however, I’m going to take a slight break and review an anime I mentioned in an earlier review. I think I need to refresh my brain a little, since I need to be looking at the books as both a series and as a whole, and I’ve been forewarned that that starts to get tricky from here on out. So see you next Thursday!