For years I have seen the front covers and read the back covers to Patricia Biggs books and was extremely intrigued. But I could also tell that once I started on a series of hers, I would get hooked. Unfortunately, I’ve so many series that I read now, that I didn’t want to get hooked onto another. Plus, even though the book covers intrigued me they show a lot of midriff. I’m not opposed to midriff, but it usually is an indicator that the plot will be heavier on steamyness and less on good plot lines. However, I was bored one week (i.e. I didn’t want to tackle my tbr pile and wanted to listen to a book instead) and found several of her books available through my libraries eaudio service and decided to give them a try.
Overall, she builds a great world, interesting characters who have distinct voices, and she tells captivating stories. I flew through several of them via eaudio and then started getting them in paperback when the eaudio version was not available. The first one I listened to was Cry Wolf, read by Holter Graham. I found out later it was written after one of her novellas in an anthology became popular, so I kind of missed out on the beginning part of the story. However, it was action packed from the get go, I figured out what I had missed without trouble, and I was entranced with the story.
In Briggs alternate universe, Vampires, Werewolves, and all manner of Fae exist. The Werewolves, in America, are governed by the Marrok, Bran, who lives in Montana. Bran has two sons, and all three men make an appearance in each of in Briggs’ series. In Briggs’ universe Werewolves are ranked by dominance, but a dominant male is not necessarily an alpha of a pack. Submissives also play a role, they are the ones with no expectations of rising in the ranks, and instead rely on the alphas to take care of them. The exchanges between Dominants and Submissives is well written and true to my experience with animals. (If you recall, that is quite a bit of experience. With farm animals, anyway.) Anna, is a different kind of Werewolf altogether, she is an Omega. She has dominant characteristics, but she doesn’t need to show her dominance through aggression. Rather, she uses submissive techniques to get what she wants.
Anna was turned into a Werewolf, against her will, three years prior while working as a waitress in the Chicagoland area. (I’m sorry, but the suburbs are not Chicago proper people.) Anna knows she is different, but not exactly how. Her pack leader makes sure she remains ignorant of her unique talents. He constantly abuses her and lets the other dominant Werewolves do the same thing. Until Charles, the Murrok’s son, rescues her by killing her alpha, and replacing him with someone else.
Anna moves to Montana with Charles, fleeing her awful life, and hoping that, as Charles claims, her Omega abilities will be a help to the Werewolf population. Her inner wolf already brings calm to Charles’ inner wolf, Brother Wolf. And for a man that has been around centuries, taming his beast isn’t easy. Anna hopes that by bringing peace into Charles’ life, she will find a measure of peace and stability herself. But of course, right after she moves to Montana, the Murrok has a job for them. Charles needs to figure out who the rogue Werewolf is that is killing humans in the area. Whenever a Werewolf goes rogue, or the wolf side of a person goes bad, Charles acts as the Pack’s Enforcer, putting down those who are a danger to themselves and others. Anna insists on helping Charles, and together the two of them track the rogue. Thus begins their journey to get to know each other, which is a struggle because of their poor communication, issues that haunt them from the past, and the danger in the present.
What I found interesting about this series were the relationships. Brother Wolf claims Anna’s wolf, who eagerly responds in kind, as his mate the two wolves bond (marry) even though the human side of Anna and Charles are not even sure how attracted they are to each other. Charles explains that normally, it is the man and woman who meet, court each other, and fall in love – then their wolves do the same. But Brother Wolf didn’t follow protocol. So Charles asks, half insists, Anna move to Montana with him as their wolves are now mated and he will court her there. Anna agrees because her life in Chicagoland was a poor life and she feels safe with Charles.
Because of the abuse, Anna’s two sides war with each other. Her inner wolf recognizes safety and care from Brother Wolf and is happy to be in Montana with Charles. But Ann herself is still dealing with the intense feelings that come from finally being free of her abusers, and she doesn’t really know Charles at all. I’m not sure how realistic it is to assume just because someone walks away from their abuser that a couple of months of understanding will help them deal with the trauma of their previous life. I would, personally, like to see Anna get some counseling instead of relying on the animal side of her to forget things and move forward in life.
In the end, while the mystery of finding out who the rogue is was a lovely plot line structure, I found the relationships and interpersonal drama far more interesting. The story was well paced and well written. Briggs does an excellent job of creating fascinating people who have characteristics of an untamed wolf which drives their psychology. The why which motivates people will always be more interesting to me than their actions.
Holter Graham has a really nice voice. It is deep and he reads the narration with nice inflection. I’ve found with some audio books that some people’s voices get shrill when I have to up the volume to hear it over the sound of the train, but this does not happen with Graham, making it pleasant to listen to as I went to and fro from work. He doesn’t really do different voices, some are more growly than others, but that is about it. His pacing is excellent, and I don’t need a narrator to do voices, even if that is kind of fun to listen to sometimes. He speaks clearly and has great diction, that is all I needed from an audiobook.
I do have a two issues with both of Briggs’ series overall and they apply to this book, the first more than the second. The first issue I have is that, while her books have strong female characters, there is a lot of abuse verbally, emotionally, and sexually that happens to them. I understand wanting to give a reason for a character to be strong, but I think falling back on abuse can be a cop-out. I also understand some authors use what happens to characters to talk about important issues in a less threatening manner. However, in neither of Briggs’ series (that I’ve read) has either woman undertaken any kind of trauma counseling to help her understand her issues. Instead, a shining knight appears, she decides she is a strong woman, and BAM! it’s mostly forgotten. I feel that is a distinct lack of discussing a serious issue. I feel it leans more toward using abuse as an excuse for behavior.
I’m purposely being vague here, because I don’t want to spoil what I think is overall two really great series.
I recently read Maggie Stiefvater’s post about literary rape because of a posting by Stephanie, and I think it encapsulates what makes me uncomfortable with having sexually abused women in books who don’t receive any other kind of help, but a shining knight on a white horse. In Cry Wolf, the abuse has already happened so it isn’t explicitly shown and the couple deal with the after effects of such trauma. But I’m not sure that the way they deal with it is the most healthy, nor a great example. It’s all fine and dandy for Anna’s she-wolf to help her be calm, but real women who have been through abuse, don’t get that crutch. I think it would be awesome if the character in the future perhaps gets some kind of professional help so the reader gets to experience that journey as well.
The other issue I have, which is not as prevalent in this series as in the Mercy Thompson series, are Briggs’ definite Christian themes. There are some Mercy Thompson books where I am surprised it’s not filed in the Christian Fiction section. I’ll get into this a little more when I review that series, because in this book, it is more of a spiritual side to the werewolves than a definite Christian religion bias. Charles is part Native American and he communes with the spirits, who are in some way connected to an overall God/Being of the Universe. They guide him and affect his gut feelings about situations. It is not a major theme to the Alpha and Omega series, but I wish I had known that was the bent of Briggs’ work..
In spite of a few minor flaws, that could possibly be rectified as the series progresses, the series was an enjoyable read. I like Anna, she’s strong in a way not many female characters are written. She doesn’t walk all over people, or beat them up with her ideas. Yet, she doesn’t let other people walk all over her either. She uses her understanding of situations and the people to make her plays behind the scenes, to move people in the direction they need to be going in such a way they can’t balk at her. She doesn’t get into headlong fights with people, she just asks them really smart questions until they come around to her point of view. She calms people down and she gets them to think. She trusts her instincts. She spends her time trying to get to know a man that will probably be her life mate, and in spite of a really awful past three years she tries to move forward with her life to better things. I like Anna a lot.
Charles is a great character also, he has an even harder time opening up to Anna than she does to him. There is a lot of assuming that goes on in this book, which is frustrating, mostly because I know what that feels like from the other end. But he tries, he’s patient, and he improves his communication with Anna even as quickly as the next book. I recommend Cry Wolf to people who want to sink their wolf like teeth into a book instead of their grandma, especially if they are interested in reading about different relationship dynamics.
You can read another great review at Awesome Sauce Book Club and a review by Scooper Speaks who talks a little bit about the anthology.