Alpha and Omega (Alpha and Omega #.5) by Patricia Briggs
Reading Level: Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy
Release Date: October 20, 2008
Pages: 352 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Twenty-something, Anna Latham, has been 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. It never occurred to her that she could seek outside help to prevent the daily horrors within her pack until, shortly after her alpha allows a young man to be involuntarily turned into a werewolf just as she was, one of the wolves in her pack gives her the phone number of the Marrok, the leader of all werewolves in North America. Based on Anna'a report, the Marrok sends his son Charles Cornick, an intensely alpha werewolf who is the Marrok's enforcer, to act as judge and executioner if Charles discovers that major werewolf laws have been broken.
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. The latter series began with this short story. I read it when it first came out some years ago, and this week I had the great good fortune to experience it for a second time as an audiobook.
I am stunned at the brilliance of the narration by 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 this is definitely not the case for Patricia Briggs. 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 story is a unique take on the genre, even for Ms. Briggs herself. It allows the reader to experience--by the author showing it rather than merely telling it--how two werewolves discover their true mate. I love the take on that connection that Briggs has, that there is a human side and a wolf side to each werewolf, and they are separate enough that the hero, Charles, calls his wolf, "Brother Wolf." The wolf can claim as a mate the wolf side of a fellow werewolf while the human side of that werewolf simultaneously feels a weak or nonexistent attraction to the other werewolf's human side. By the same token, the human side of a werewolf can fall in love with the human side of another werewolf, but their wolf sides may refuse to mate with each other. In either case, attempting to become spouses/mates is a real problem. In the case of Anna and Charles, their wolves are instantly, intensely bonded to each other, and the bonding of their human sides is more complex and takes more time, especially when Anna's self-esteem has bottomed out from years of horrible abuse.
Finally, I love that, as for a traditional romance novel, this book is told from two points of view, both Anna and Charles.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Fantasy World-Building: 5
Action-Adventure Plot: 5
Audio Narration: 5