Review of audiobook
Reading Level: Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy
Release Date: January 15, 2009
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Listening Length: 10 hours and 6 minutes
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
This book begins immediately after the end of the short story, Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs, from which this series gets its name. It is not absolutely necessary to read that story first to keep from getting lost in this book’s narrative, but I highly recommend reading that story.
Anna Latham is in her early 20’s and was physically and sexually abused by her werewolf pack for most of the past three years, ever since she was, against her will, turned into a werewolf via a vicious attack by a rabid werewolf. She did not find out until she was rescued by Charles Cornick, a 200-year-old werewolf, that she is a rare omega wolf. She is neither an alpha, a powerful, aggressive werewolf whose drive is to seek dominance over other alphas and defend weaker members of his/her pack, nor a submissive, a wolf who has zero drive to dominate and is strongly protected by alphas. Instead, the omega cannot be dominated mentally by even the most powerful alpha werewolves on the planet, but has no desire to dominate others his/herself. Instead, the omega has a mentally and emotionally calming effect on the anger, aggression or any other negative emotion such as despair of werewolves around him/her. All alphas are driven to protect and defend omegas, and they are rare treasures that any werewolf pack would feel blessed to have.
It is obvious to Anna and Charles that the werewolf side of their natures instantly chose each other as mates, and Charles knows that his human side wants Anna’s human side desperately, as well. But Anna is intensely struggling with self-esteem issues after her brutal experience, and she feels unworthy of Charles on multiple levels, including the fact that the gorgeous home he takes her to in the small town in Montana where he lives is miles above her social and financial status.
Charles is the son of Bran Cornick, the Marrok, an ancient werewolf who rules all werewolves in North America. In order to help his son cement his relationship with Anna, Bran offers what he assumes is a routine assignment to Charles, which Bran feels is quite safe enough for Charles to bring Anna along. They are to hike into the snowy, wintery, mountainous, wilderness terrain of Montana and seek out and destroy a lone, rabid werewolf who has killed several people. Unfortunately, nothing is as it seems with this werewolf, and Anna and Charles soon find themselves pitted against an extraordinarily dangerous foe who has magical abilities which endanger not only Anna and Charles, but potentially every werewolf in America.
I am a huge fan of Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series, and I am equally in love with the Alpha & Omega spinoff series set in the same urban-fantasy universe. I read the Alpha and Omega series, book by book, when they first came out, but I recently had the great good fortune to experience them for a second time as audiobook recordings. All of the Alpha and Omega books, including this one, are narrated by a brilliant voice talent, actor Holter Graham. His ability to provide distinct, character-appropriate voices for multiple, very different characters in this story is superb. He is, in fact, one of the best voice talents I’ve ever encountered.
A crucial issue that arises for me as a jaded reader when experiencing a novel as an audiobook is this: Most of us can read silently about three to five times as fast as an actor can narrate, and that slowness allows every tiny flaw in a given author’s writing to become glaringly obvious. Sadly, many novels do not stand up well under this kind of spotlight, but that is definitely not the case for Patricia Briggs’s books. She is such a highly skilled writer that hearing this story read aloud allows the happy reader to savor every well-conceived word more fully.
If you enjoy urban fantasy, this series is a unique take on the genre, even for Ms. Briggs herself. It is set in the same urban-fantasy world as Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series, and as for the Mercy books, there is a murder mystery to solve, and tons of action scenes in the pursuit of the killer. But in contrast to the Mercy books, where there is a lone protagonist fighting the good fight mostly on her own, in this series there are two protagonists, Anna and Charles, who work as a team. Since this couple is growing their relationship as humans in the midst of a type of “marriage of convenience” foisted on them by their werewolf side, this series, including this book, has a very strong romance plot. The initial short story and each of the books in this series are told from the dual point of view of Anna and Charles, which is a common feature in the paranormal romance genre and which is almost never found in urban fantasy, including the Mercy books. It adds a delightful depth to this series to be allowed to immerse in the inner life of both a male and female werewolf, as well as experiencing the unfolding of their mating bond as it blossoms into a rare and moving romantic relationship.
I love Briggs’s version of werewolves in that there is a human side and a wolf side to each werewolf. Charles is unusual among the werewolves of this particular urban-fantasy world in that he is the only living werewolf who was born, not made. His maternal grandfather was a Native American shaman, and his paternal grandmother was a witch, causing mystical abilities to run very strongly in Charles. Rather than his wolf and human sides being enmeshed, they are distinct beings within Charles such that he has named his wolf side, “Brother Wolf.” Even more fascinating, Charles’s wolf can communicate telepathically with Anna.
I rate this book as follows:
Fantasy World-Building: 5
Romance Plot: 5
Action-Adventure Plot: 5
Audio Narration: 5