What if I told you Urban Fantasy was my guilty pleasure genre? If you’ve read my post on two of Patricia Briggs’ works (https://thelittlelibrarydotorg.wordpress.com/2022/04/17/alpha-and-omega-a-guilty-pleasure-read-and-why-i-prefer-this-series-to-mercy-thompson/) you might not be surprised. If you haven’t, you jus might. When it comes to what I read, books will typically fall into one of several categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, occasionally Romance and Mystery, Graphic Novels/Comics, Nonfiction, and Autobiographies/Biographies/Memoirs. There may be the occasional exception like the YA books (fiction and nonfiction), classics, and the even less often Western.
Urban Fantasy, which I would consider a subgenre of Fantasy, isn’t a genre I typically read. Maybe it’s the reputation they have (ex. cliché), the genre not appealing to me, or both. Whichever the case may be, Urban Fantasy hasn’t appealed to me.
And while I can’t entirely explain why Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series caught my eye, it did. My curiosity for the series started back in 2018 with the release of the fifth book in the series, Burn Bright, was released. I was working at the library when it was returned, and while the cover art caught my eye, the synopsis pulled me in. But since it was the fifth book (which coincidently happened with I discovered the Seven Sisters series as well), I decided to start from the beginning. That ended up being Cry Wolf, since that is the first book. However, when I realized there was a novella, Alpha and Omega, that kicked off the series, I read it.
Where to Read Alpha and Omega
Because Alpha and Omega is a novella, it doesn’t have it’s own book. Rather, it was included in a couple of compilation book. The first time I read it, I believe it was through On the Prowl which was a collection of short stories and novellas by several authors. However, it’s also in Patricia Briggs’ Shifting Shadows, an omnibus of shorts that collects a good amount of her short stories and novellas for both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series.
Alpha and Omega is also included in the hardcover copy of Cry Wolf, which is what I own. However where you can get a hard cover copy can be tricky sometimes. This is mostly due to the fact that the hardcover copy is no longer published (the same could be said for the rest of the series, at least in bookstores like Barnes and Noble). That said, you may find it on places like Amazon and eBay, among other online sites. Just know that depending on the site and condition, it can get a little pricey. I believe when I bought it off Amazon, it was anywhere between $40-$60, and was much higher prior to me purchasing it. When I checked recently, there are copies being sold for roughly $65-$70 before shipping costs or tax.
However, even if you can’t get the hardcover copy of Cry Wolf, there are alternative options. So if you’d rather get it else where and save a few bucks, I would recommend Shifting Shadows. It has Alpha and Omega as well as other short stories in the Mercy Thompson Universe (the universe that the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series take place in). That way, if you choose to read either or both series, you have the option to read the tie in short stories as you progress.
The only novels that aren’t included are the graphic novels, Homecoming and Hopcross Jilly (Mercy Thompson), Unappreciated Gifts (Both) which can be found in A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories, Asil and the Not Date (Alpha and Omega) which can be found in Fantastic Hope, and Dating Terrors (Alpha and Omega), which can be found in Heroic Hearts.
Though it does not go into heavy detail, this novella does mention, it does cover some sensitive topics. Mostly mentions of one or two types of abuse towards Anna.
Onto the actual review. Alpha and Omega, as previously stated, is the prelude to the series. Or Book 0.5 when/if you’re using Goodreads for series order.
When disappearances have been going on involving the werewolf pack in Chicago, “submissive” Anna puts in a call to Bram Cornick, the head of the North American werewolves, with information. He agrees to send out his son Charles to meet up with her and investigate.
When Charles arrives, he finds out an array of things in regards to Leo’s pack. For instance, Leo has been forcing people to Change (become a werewolf), which goes against the law of consent they have when it comes to werewolves, which is how Anna became one. Charles also finds out that Leo is sending away or getting rid of members who don’t submit to the pack, which includes the werewolf that went missing.
However, what perks his curiosity is Anna. Thought to be a submissive, the lowest member of the pack, she had gone through abuse at the hands of the pack Alpha and that she had been “passed around”. Both of which are egregious on their own, especially with how several members of the pack talk to/about her in his presence, but even more so when Charles Brother Wolf (the term to describe their werewolf half), decides that Anna is who he wants to be with.
This leads to Charles’ mission to become one of correcting Leo and his pack as well as a mission to safely extract Anna from them. Ultimately leading to Anna joining Charles’ pack and becoming his partner. As well as finding out that Anna isn’t a submissive, but actually and Omega, a werewolf known for their soothing nature and abilities.
What I enjoyed about this novella was how it set up the world. Because while it does take place in the Mercy Thompson universe, this story is it’s own thing. This sets up the world enough to give us an idea what to expect with Charles and Anna and where their relationship will go.
It also sets up its universe without feeling too expository. Readers get a general gist of laws, what to do when it comes to Changing non-werewolves, and the dangers of child birth in couples that are both werewolves.
It also doesn’t end with them falling instantly in love like some Urban Fantasies may do. Because while Charles and Anna do end up together, Charles does make his stance clear on wanting to slowly and surely get into a relationship. He did end up revealing that his werewolf side has chosen Anna, but he didn’t want to rush a relationship. And given what she had gone through, I think is a good way to set up how he doesn’t want to treat Anna like her previous pack did and give her respect and space.
Of course, as much as I enjoy this series, that doesn’t mean it is without fault. My critiques with this story have to do with accessibility and cliché.
Though a bit out of it’s control, this novella isn’t the easiest to get your hands on. I have seen comments/reviews saying how they didn’t know about it at first or had to go out of there way to read it. And while I would say it is a necessary read to understand how Anna ended up with Charles, I do admit that this should have been marketed a little more frequently. It could be it’s own short, standalone, novel. Yes, this may only clock in at about seventy or so pages, depending on the print of the collection, but I have seen books marketed for adult audiences with a hundred or so pages, so it wouldn’t be that unheard of. Alternatively, it could have been included in the paperback copies. Because while the Mass Market copy’s dimensions are 4.18 x 0.87 x 6.73 inches (according to Amazon) and might not be able to handle the extra pages, the dimensions could be adjusted to do so.
As far as clichés, there are genre typical clichés that you will find in this series (as well as the Mercy Thompson series). Like Charles kind of being the dark and brooding type and Anna being your average everyday girl before becoming a werewolf. The fact that this series, and the Mercy Thompson series, explores creatures like werewolves, vampires, the fae, and the like could also be seen as a cliché as well as Anna being a sort of damsel in distress. None of these hindered the story enough for me to hate this series, but they are there.
The one thing I think this series does differently than some Urban Fantasies, Mercy Thompson included, is how Anna isn’t seen as this overly tough as nails type of leading lady. She’s more soft spoken and introverted, with her previous pack being a big part of the reason why.
Overall, I would probably give Alpha and Omega a seven out of ten. It does fall into some of the typical Urban Fantasy clichés/tropes that are common in the genre and nay be hard to access, but it does have a good set up for what’s to come.
If you choose to read this novella, I would recommend it. It might not be one hundred percent necessary to understand the plot of Cry Wolf onwards, but it does explain some of what the books don’t really address out of statements and conversations. Mostly in regards to Anna’s past pack and how she came to Charles’.