Book Review: Patricia Briggs – Cry Wolf
I first came across Patricia Briggs on a now defunct science fiction and fantasy site. Her name and her books were listed under “recommended”, but other than that, there were no reviews or summaries. Then, I had plenty of spare time on my hands, so I hunted down When Demons Walk (review) at the local library. I really enjoyed it, but it was almost a year later when I ventured to try another of her works–Moon Called. By that time, I was pretty jaded with the “new” urban fantasy tropes of first person kickass heroines who seriously need attitude adjustments. (As opposed to the “old” urban fantasy where the “urban” actually reigned supreme–such as Charles deLint, Emma Bull, et al.) Thus, it would have to be really good for me to even get past the first chapter. Again, I enjoyed Briggs’ writing. But there was a love triangle in the plot. Love triangles are one of my major pet peeves. The wishy-washiness of such a situation–no matter how well written–really drives me nuts. (I’ve seen them in action in real life and without an exception, everyone acts like idiots.) Anyways, that stopped me from continuing that series.
Recently, I decided to try Briggs again. She is definitely not a mediocre author, and I figured I’d give her another chance with a different story. The Alpha and Omega series takes place in the same universe as Moon Called and begins with the same titled novella in the On the Prowl anthology (note: I have not read any of the other stories in the anthology so cannot say anything of their quality) and continues with the novel Cry Wolf. While the two could be read as stand alones, I wouldn’t recommend it. A significant amount of background character development occurs in Alpha and Omega which helps inform the reader of character motivation in Cry Wolf. I read the novella and novel back-to-back in one sitting–and I think that made my impression of the stories all the more stronger.
After surviving a werewolf attack, and becoming one herself, Anna lives at the bottom of the local pack–abused, cowed, and left ignorant of the usual werewolf customs. It is only after reading the news about a missing kid that she thinks her pack is responsible for kidnapping that she decides to contact the leader of the North American werewolves–who sends his son and enforcer Charles to investigate. The confrontation with Anna’s alpha and his mate, along with revelations about Anna’s identity gouges the local pack of a festering cancer within–resulting in some major restructuring. As a result, Anna returns with Charles to his pack as her former pack struggles to rebuild.
Anna is an Omega wolf, particularly rare and prized because such a wolf is ordinarily outside of pack structure and possesses unique abilities such as calming down other werewolves by merely being present. However, even as Anna tries to come to terms with her elevated status and her issues with becoming Charles’ mate–a bigger problem looms, threatening the well-being of the pack and possibly even the rest of the werewolves on the continent. A rogue werewolf has been spotted at the edge of their territory making kills, but as Anna and Charles track it, it becomes apparent that the rogue is just part of a larger and more insidious danger.
On the surface, there are quite a few tropes that ordinarily would have me shaking my head. First of all, there is the problem of the crowded universe. Aside from wolves, there are mentions of vampires, angels, witches, and others. Native American magic coexists with other traditional magics. The hodge-podge makes little sense (although one could argue, if it’s magic, maybe there shouldn’t be any sense), but Briggs manages to mostly sidestep the issue by concentrating on the werewolves. There’s also the notion of soul mates that many other authors using as emotional shorthand. However, I think this, at least Briggs’ twist on the theme, is where the strength in the novel lies. While the characters themselves don’t seem to have much doubt in who The One is, the path to accepting a mate is not so straightforward. Briggs considers a more realistic outcome due to Anna’s traumatized past. Anna’s wolf half accepts the mating to Charles without question, but it takes longer for her human half. And while she is internally struggling with this, Charles seems cognizant enough to not push.
While the external plot point of the rogue werewolf and the actual villain was interesting, it was not surprising or even the centerpiece of the story. Anna’s help in defeating the villain was more of a showcase of how much her character had grown from being the downtrodden to the determined. What I really liked about this story was that Anna was a strong heroine without being kickass, foul-mouthed, and cranky. Strength comes in many different forms, and I think Briggs was able to show this without resorting to easy characterizations.
Overall, I really liked Cry Wolf. There’s a heroine who is able to transcend and deal with her past. There’s a hero who views his heroine with respect and isn’t an overbearing brute. There are intriguing secondary characters and pack dynamics which would be interesting to see as they develop under Anna’s influence. It is a measure of an author’s skill to wrap up a book satisfactorily and still make me feel like I have to read the next one right now. It’s a good thing that I don’t have long to wait, cause Hunting Ground will be coming out in a little over a month.