Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cry Wolf (book) by Patricia Briggs

I've been looking forward to this book ever since I read Briggs's short story, "Alpha and Omega," which can be found in the anthology On the Prowl. The cover of this book makes me laugh, though. I don't think Anna would ever wear something like that, even if she hadn't spent most of this book trudging through snow. What is it with cover artists trying to turn all of Briggs's female characters into pin-up girls?

Anyway, this book picks up where Briggs's short story left off. Anna travels with Charles back to his home. He considers her his mate, and he believes that, as an Omega wolf (sort of outside the pack hierarchy - she's not compelled to follow anyone's orders but her own, and her mere presence can sooth other werewolves), she should be a valued and protected member of any pack she chooses to be a part of. Anna is attracted to him, but she can't help but feel as though she doesn't really belong.

Before the two of them have much of a chance to get used to each other, Bran, Charles's father and the Marrock (sort of the Alpha of Alphas, and one of the oldest werewolves in the world), learns that a rogue werewolf is out is out in the wild somewhere killing people. The werewolves plan on going public soon, and a killer werewolf would not be good and reassuring publicity. Although Charles is wounded, Bran decides resolve things as quickly as possible and send him after the werewolf. Anna won't let him go alone, so the two of them leave together. Charles hopes that Anna's abilities as an Omega will make it so that he won't have to kill the rogue.

They do discover Walter, a new werewolf who has very little control, and Anna is able to "tame" his beast, but he's not the one who was killing people. The "rogue" is actually a ghostly werewolf controlled by an evil and crazy witch who's bent on finding a werewolf in Charles's pack named Asil. Centuries ago, Asil's mate was tortured to death by that witch. Although Asil was never able to avenge her death, he at least thought his mate was truly dead - unfortunately, part of his mate lives on as the witch's guardian and plaything. Charles, Anna, Asil, and Walter must try to stop the witch before she gets to Bran and, through Bran, gains control of all the werewolves in his pack. Of course, what the witch doesn't realize is that she's not strong enough to fight the Berserker lurking inside Bran. If Charles and Anna don't work quickly, the witch may be the least of their problems.

I have to admit, I was far more interested in Charles and Anna's relationship than the witch storyline. Anna, who was abused physically, emotionally, and sexually by the members of her former pack on her Alpha's orders, has plenty of issues to work through. Although Charles shows no sign of being like anyone in her former pack, it's hard for her to trust him, so there's a lot she doesn't tell him about what she's feeling and thinking. That leaves Charles with very little to go on when interacting with Anna - I kind of liked that he wasn't on solid ground with her. Since he's sexy and comfortable with both his human and wolf self, it'd be a bit much if he were also confident about dealing with Anna. A little insecurity can be a good thing.

The witch storyline wasn't exactly boring, but it didn't really grab me either. If everyone hadn't stumbled into her clutches, would she have been able to do as much damage as she did? I suppose there's the whole "it'd be bad publicity for the werewolves," but somehow that seems kind of weak. The witch seemed very familiar to me, and then I realized it - she could've been related to Shaman King's Tao Ren! After all, she can turn dead things into her guardians. Unfortunately, rather than being even a fraction as exciting as a Shaman King villain, she just sits around, acts like a crazy, evil, spoiled child, and gloats. If she had died sooner (I suppose you could consider that a spoiler, but did you really expect her to survive?), Briggs could have written more about Charles and Anna, darn it.

I did enjoy getting to find out more about the Marrock, and I suppose that couldn't have happened without a witch breaking his control. I knew from the Mercedes Thompson books that Bran is stronger and tougher than he looks, but this book shows, just a little, how scary he could be if he let loose. As bad as he apparently was centuries ago, now that he has a bunch of werewolves tied to him who aren't all that stable to begin with, he could potentially wipe out large chunks of the human population. True, he usually has control of the Berserker part of himself, but Briggs repeatedly says in her books that older werewolves are less stable. Bran may be the oldest werewolf in the world - is it really a good idea for so many old, powerful, dangerous werewolves to have their sanity dependent upon him? I'm not sure what they would do if they didn't have Bran, but, after reading this book, being with Bran seems like being part of a house of cards. Bran may be doing ok now, but even he can't last forever.

As someone who has read Briggs's Mercedes Thompson books and the short story that introduced Charles and Anna, I have a different perspective of it than someone who hasn't read all those things would have. I'm not sure how well a newbie to this world would do. I think it would probably be fine not to have read any of the Mercedes Thompson books, although that would mean missing out on some of the things going on with Samuel (he makes a brief appearance in this book). I'm not sure if it would be a good idea to miss out on Briggs's short story, though. Even though the main happenings of the story are explained here and there, it's not the same as actually getting the story "firsthand." The story shows Anna's former pack situation, Anna and Charles's first meeting, how Charles was hurt (he spends much of this book suffering from wounds he received in the short story), etc.

Overall, even though the witch storyline didn't excite me, I'm looking forward to the next book with Charles and Anna.

Read-alikes:
  • Tempting Danger (book) by Eileen Wilks - Lily Yu is a cop who's trying to catch the one responsible for some gruesome murders. It looks like werewolves might be involved, and maybe even the prince of the Nokolai clan, Rule Turner. This is especially unfortunate, because Lily and Rule have suddenly discovered that they are mates - the result is a compulsion to be near each other, and it'll look really bad if someone finds out Lily's having sex with the prime suspect. Werewolves have only recently revealed their existence to humankind, and things are still a little tense. Those who'd like another book featuring werewolves and a couple trying to figure out how to make a new relationship work out might want to try this. If you're not up to trying an entire novel by a new author, this series actually grew out of a short story featured in the anthology Lover Beware. Consider the story a different version of how Lily and Rule met and came to terms with each other - Lily is still the same basic character in the story and the novel (a strong, competent woman whose family is important to her), but Rule in the story is a somewhat different man from Rule in the book.
  • Dead Until Dark (book) by Charlaine Harris - This is the first book in Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie is a telepathic barmaid. Most of the people in her small Southern town know about her special abilities, but most people can also forget about it a bit because Sookie makes an effort to either not read people or not show that she's read someone. It's an exhausting life, however. Before the beginning of this book, vampires revealed their existence to the world, and in this book Sookie discovers something she thinks is wonderful - it's very hard, if not impossible, for her to read the thoughts of most vampires. Soon, Sookie is dating a vampire, but, unfortunately, being around him gets her involved in more danger than she's ever experienced before. Those who'd like another book featuring supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves and other shapeshifters, faeries, etc.), the occasional bit of romance, and a likeable female main character with some supernatural aspects of her own might want to try this.
  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - Before American law gave vampires, werewolves, and other beings the same rights as humans, Anita Blake was a vampire hunter. Now she's a vampire executioner, in addition to her full-time job as an animator (raiser of the dead). In this first book, we meet Jean-Claude, a vampire who is one of the many people throughout the series who will be competing for Anita's affection. The various supernatural societies in this world all have their own politics and culture, and the cast of characters is usually fun and interesting. The early books feel a lot like paranormal mysteries with a hint of romance. Be warned, though - at around book 10 or so, the tone of the series changes drastically, Anita becomes darker and harder, and the sex scenes become way more graphic and time-consuming, leaving little room for the mysteries that were part of the early appeal of the series. Those who'd like another book featuring supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, and more), a bit of romance, and a female main character with supernatural skills of her own might want to try this.
  • Bitten (book) by Kelley Armstrong - Elena became a werewolf after the man she loved betrayed her (that's how she sees it, although it's not what he intended) and bit her while in wolf form - she had no idea what he was and never chose to become a werewolf. She leaves her pack as soon as she is able and begins as normal a life as she can in Toronto. Elena agrees to help her former pack members hunt down mutts (non-pack werewolves) who are leaving a conspicuous trail of carnage - humans don't know about werewolves, and they want to keep it that way. Unfortunately, Elena has to deal with her former lover (the werewolf who bit her) and finds herself drawn to him again. Those who'd like another book featuring werewolves, a bit of romantic tension, and a hunt for a dangerous killer might want to try this book.

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