Saturday, January 16, 2021

REVIEW: Alpha and Omega (audio novella) by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Holter Graham

Alpha and Omega is urban fantasy with romance aspects. It's technically the first work in Briggs' Alpha & Omega series, although the first full novel is actually Cry Wolf and Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, which is set in the same world, came first.


When Anna spots a particular newspaper article, she realizes that her pack may have murdered someone and should be reported to Bran, the Marrok. Ever since she was turned into a werewolf against her will, Anna's life has been a struggle - her pack abused her, and her pay is barely enough to feed her and cover the money she's required to give to the pack - so she isn't sure the Marrok will listen, but he does, and tells her that Charles, his son and Enforcer, will deal with the problem and protect her. 

I have this in my Audible library, and it's one of the audiobooks I regularly turn to when I need something short, enjoyable (story and narrator), and undemanding (I can zone out when necessary because I've listened to it before).

I liked Briggs' Mercy Thompson series enough to read several books in it, but I don't recall ever rooting for any of Mercy's romance options. In terms of the romance aspects, Briggs' Alpha & Omega series has always worked better for me, and it's one of the reasons why this introductory novella (short story?) is one of my favorites. Charles is one of those tough guy types (he's essentially Bran's hitman) who, with Anna, finds himself in the position of wanting to make himself less scary and more approachable. I particularly liked the scenes with him in wolf form - his wolf accepts Anna even more readily than he does, even in situations where that wouldn't normally have been the case.

That said, the more I've listened to this, the more painfully obvious some of the problematic aspects have become. First, there's the bit where, in order to make Anna feel better about having him stay at her apartment, Charles says it's "doubtless more civilized than the Indian lodge I grew up in." It was weird that he'd talk about his and his mother's people that way. There was an element of Native American exoticizing to the way Charles was sometimes written - I can't remember if it continues throughout the series or if this novella has the worst of it.

Then there's the issue of sex. At one point Anna tells Charles that she doesn't like sex - she was repeatedly raped by other members of the pack when she was first turned into a werewolf, and I think she might also have said something about not being particularly into sex even before that, but I could be wrong. Charles' response is that she'll enjoy sex with him, which irked me. What if she wasn't interested in giving it a shot? Could Charles accept a relationship with his mate that didn't include sex? If I remember right, sex does become an issue in the first full novel and is resolved in a way that will reassure people who can't imagine romance and intimacy without sex, but I wish there had been more recognition that maybe "Charles is good at sex and is willing to demonstrate it however often it takes" wasn't a guaranteed solution.

So yes, this has its issues, but it still makes for a decent short listen when I haven't decided yet which longer audiobook I want to listen to.

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