Novella Review: Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs
Genre: Shifters, Paranormal Romance, Novella
Series: Alpha & Omega #0.5
Publisher: Berkeley Books (August 7, 2007)
Tiara’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
I decided to (finally) start Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega series on a whim when I’d finished all the books I’d planned to read for March much earlier than expected. So, I plucked the hardcover for Cry Wolf, which includes this novella, from my shelf and read the introduction by Briggs that mentioned that this series is a spin-off from her Mercy Thompson series. She also explained how this novella was written at the request of her editor. It was supposed to be a standalone for On The Prowl, but she and her editor enjoyed the story so much that it expanded it into a series. She mentions that this novella is somewhat necessary to start the first book, but she felt it would’ve been a disservice to rehash it to start Cry Wolf since some readers would be paying twice for part of the story. It looks like the decision was eventually made to include the novella with the first book after it was done and on shelves. I haven’t started Cry Wolf yet (but I will be as soon as I finish writing this review), so I can’t say whether I agree 100% with her recommendation or not for new readers. However, I can certainly understand why she would recommend reading this novella. I’m not a big fan of novella stories being necessary to a main storyline. In this Briggs’ defense, though, she didn’t expect to make this story a series, but the story decided it wanted to be something more than a novella.
Alpha & Omega starts with Anna, a Chicagoan who’s been living as a werewolf for the past three years, calling the Marrok (not much to go on, but assumingly, he’s over all the wolves in a certain area) in Montana to inform him that her pack leader is responsible for the abduction of a human boy that’s appearing in the local news. Her pack made the boy into a werewolf, but sold him off, which is taboo. In response to Anna’s call, the Marrok sends his son, Charles, to investigate the matter. It’s something like love at first sight between Anna and Charles. Normally, insta-love between two characters can turn me off to a story a little bit, but I think I overlook it more often than not in stories involving shifters, especially since I really did like Anna and Charles together. Anna learns that her pack isn’t exactly doing things by the book when Charles explains to her that she should’ve had a choice in her change. Information and rules were withheld for her and all the newer wolves in her pack. In fact, Charles learns that many things are out of place in Anna’s pack including her role as a submissive wolf. Anna believes herself to be a submissive wolf after dealing with abuse both sexually and physically for the last three years. However, Charles tells her that, while she’s not exactly a dominant wolf, she’s not a submissive wolf either. She doesn’t adhere to the hierarchy as an Omega. She’s a type of wolf that can calm others, a wolf who has some natural ability to make things go smoother in the pack.
If I’m to go by this novella, the Alpha & Omega series will be much more romance focused than Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. There’s romance in that series, as well, but it’s more of a secondary part of the story. This novella is set solidly in romance and attraction from the first page, especially with Anna dealing with so much hurt. As I mentioned, I really liked Anna and Charles together. I did worry that Anna might turn out to be a bit too timid for my tastes, even though she would have a very good reason to be after withstanding abuse, but I was pleasantly surprised when her character did start breaking out of her shell more as this story progressed. We’ll see where Cry Wolf takes her character. Now, I can see where a series like this and Mercy Thompson with Native American leads who became a shifter much differently than everyone else, at least in Charles’ case (yes, it was based in Native American magic), might be a little problematic with the talk of medicine men and all that. I haven’t read Mercy Thompson in some time, and don’t really remember it being too bad with its handling. However, I am much older now and much more aware of how representation is handled. On one hand, I understand wanting to capture that mysticism, but on the other hand, I also understand why it can be seen as offensive rather than reverent. (See the latest controversy with Rowling trying to write Native Americans.) However, I’ll see how I ultimately feel once I’ve read a full novel.
I wish this story had been a full novel. There were so many things that I feel could’ve been explored in more detail in this story, but maybe some of those things are elements that I’ll find when I start reading Cry Wolf since this story jumpstarts that one. It was definitely an intriguing story that was tinged with some heartbreak due to Anna’s abuse. We’ll see if the first book can keep me hanging on with this series.