[ Series Review ] Patricia Briggs and Some More Wolves

We’re wrapping up our Patricia Briggs series with her second werewolf urban fantasy:

Alpha & Omega

After a vicious attack by a werewolf, Anna’s life has been three straight years of abuse at the bottom rung of pack hierarchy. But when Charlie arrives to investigate a series of murders, he realizes that Anna isn’t just a werewolf. She’s an Omega, the rarest of wolves–and his lifemate.

Reading Recommendation: Should be read after Moon Called, the first of the Mercedes Thompson series. Personally, I’d suggest reading it after you finish the entire Mercedes Thompson storyline, with Alpha & Omega as a holdover between then and the next MT publication. Is that a bit harsh? Well, no. For one, A&O starts out with less world-building than MT, and it expects you to have some insider knowledge. More than that, you’ll also appreciate the oblique references to characters and events from its parallel sister series if you start in later rather than earlier.

All that said, it can be easily read as a stand-alone if you’re looking for a lightweight paranormal romance.

On the Prowl: Novella

Of the three, I had actually read this last, not realizing that it was the opening of the series. The first book, Cry Wolf, would have made a lot more sense had I started with On the Prowl. As is, this novella introduces Anna. When Anna phones for help, she knows that whoever comes won’t be any better than the vicious pack she’s known for the last three years, but she’s tired enough to almost not care. So she’s not too surprised when she gets Charlie, assassin and enforcer–and an attempt on her life to silence the weakest link in the pack. But Charlie is more than that, and so is she.

I’d say this was my favorite of the series. We’re introduced to a strong heroine–a tenacious survivor who has a lot more sense than most urban fantasy heroines. In this sense, Anna reminds me of Rachel Caine’s Joanne (Weather Warden series) or Kim Harrison’s Rachel (The Hollows series). Anna’s character and troubles reeled me in, and the quick pacing kept me reading.

Cry Wolf: Book 1 

The happily-ever-after of the prequel has dissolved into uncertainty. Anna is free, but she now has a mate in a man she doesn’t know, a home in far-away-frozen-Montana with this aforementioned man, and a new identity as a pack Omega–whatever that means. But before she has a chance to catch her breath and Charlie has a chance to heal, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a thousand-year-old vendetta. Enter one witch, one broken love story, and one ancient wolf looking to die.

The romance element–and how well it worked–surprised me. Because the characters have only known each other for a few days when the book starts, Briggs uses the age-old trope of the soulmate bond to lock them together in irresistible attraction. This usually creates farce where there should be romance. But here, for once, the two characters are okay with the bond. There’s an attraction, and they both want to make it work and are willing to work at it.

What I didn’t enjoy as much was the action plot that drove the story arc. Everyone was too powerful for my tastes, and the final showdown was such that Anna’s Omega powers were, coincidentally, perfectly suited to saving the day. In that sense, the story was an indulgent paddle down the river, all smooth turns and no twists.

Read it for what it is; a sweet paranormal romance.

Hunting Ground: Book 2

This latest installment takes us out of the mountains of Montana: Charles and Anna are sent to Seattle for a werewolf convention.  Charles needs to pacify the werewolf pack representatives about the plan to come out of the closet to the world, and Anna is struggling to come to grips with the abuse of her past and the terror that rears its head now that’s she’s forced to deal with so many wolves in close quarters.

Once again, I felt that the book struggled to straddle two genres and ended up tottering uneasily between them. On the one hand, there was some adorable relationship building between Charles and Anna. On the other, the fact that Briggs needed to develop Anna into a strong woman who could do her own detective work forced Charles into the background. Indeed, for someone who was supposed to be the wolf in charge of policing all the werewolves in North America, Charles became a bit of a hogtied side-kick.

Plot wise, I had a similar problem with this novel as I had with Moon Called; there was no way for me to piece the clues together for the why of the whodunnit because, well, the villain doesn’t think like you or me.

Again, read this for the relationship between Anna and Charles. It’s adorable.

Upcoming: Fair Game (January 2012)

Tangent in which CanaryTheFirst complains about continuity: I have a lot of trouble swallowing the addition of an ‘Omega’ wolf-class. It’s everything a werewolf is, minus all the major disadvantages. I’d been looking forward to reading a story from the POV of the average werewolf. Anna isn’t average.

Also, how in the world had Mercy Thompson managed to grow up in a werewolf pack–the most powerful one in the country–and yet never hear of this wolf type called an “Omega”?

Overall impressions: I approached this series as less urban fantasy and more as a low-key paranormal romance. The focus is on the relationship, with everything else revolving around that. Indeed, the plot often feels…stretched. Enough that at times, I almost wished Cry Wolf and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Hunting Ground had been written as novellas too, rather than novel-length installments.

The entire series is written in third person, which, if you’re a Mercedes Thompson fan, offers a very different feel. It allows us insight into the minds of several characters, including the ever mysterious and powerful Bran. That’s another reason I’d strongly encourage any Mercy fans to wait until they’ve read up on the MT series. Because insight plays havoc with the mystery-that-we-all-love that is Bran and Charlie.

Paranormal Romance Recommendations:

  • Ava Gray: Skin Games
  • Karen Marie Moning: Darkfever
  • Charlaine Harris: Dead Until Dark
  • Ann Aguirre: Blue Diablo
You can find out what I thought of Patricia Brigg’s fantasy books in Patricia Briggs and the Flying Critters. Read about the Mercedes Thompson series here.