Since I’ve talked a few times now about Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, and recently reviewed the prequel novella, it’s time for a review of the first book. Cry Wolf is the first book in the series, excluding the Alpha and Omega novella (which is considered a prequel) and the This is my favorite of the series and is the book I have read the most.
While this story doesn’t go into graphic detail, it does touch on some sensitive subjects. Mainly referenced trauma and violence against Anne while she was in her previous pack.
The story picks up some time after the events of Alpha and Omega. Anne is the mate of Charles, the first and only born were wolf and son of the pack leader Bram, who is trying to get acclimated to the new pack. As she tries to adjust, she and Charles go to a funeral for a pack member, she meets Asil, a downdraught with a drinking habit. Due to Anne being a rare Omega, who’s role is to be a soothing presence in the pack, she .
I think this book set up the world pretty well. Since it does it’s own thing, away from the Mercy Thompson series, this is something it would have to do to keep it as it’s own separate thing. And I think it does it pretty well. It might feel a bit more contained since it does focus a lot on Anna, Charles, their pack, and the few people they do interact with, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I see this series as really focusing on building the relationship between Anna and Charles alongside their relationship with the pack and how they handle situations that they are needed for.
I also think it sets up a number of characters really well. The dynamic between Anna and Charles is a bit different when compared to Mercy and Adam. Which I think is kind of important since they are the couple readers are following in this series. Individually, Charles
I also think that how they set up why two werewolves cannot have kids and the dangers of trying. That might seem like something that feels a bit like a trope, but I don’t think it’s set up in a way that feels bad. Plus, it also helps further explain why Samuel, Charles’ (half) brother, thought having kids with Mercy, a Coyote shifter, would be potentially safer had they gotten together. Basically, it would be very high risk and the mother would die because of it. They mention this in Alpha and Omega, which devastates Anna, who had always wanted kids even prior to her changing. And again here when explaining how Charles’ mother, who Bran changed in order to save her life, had died giving birth to Charles. So it kind of explores why it’s avoided from two different perspectives.
Having read this book as many times that I have, I won’t say it doesn’t have flaws. I’ve narrowed it down to common tropes, some of the characters, and how Asil seems to be the only one with first hand experience with Omegas.
While not always a bad thing, it does have some of the typical tropes you would expect from the genre. Like how urban fantasy a lot of times will focus on vampires, werewolves, witches, and fae. Or how Charles is essentially the enforcer for his father, who is the head, the North American werewolves, which would probably fall into a subcategory of supernatural enforcers. Though, typically, Charles is sent to check in on or handle other werewolf packs as needed as opposed to all of the supernatural creatures. The only time he does is if his father needs him to, but usually it’s to keep the werewolves in line.
I would say this may also hit the Chosen One trope but to a lesser degree. What I mean is that Anna could be considered a “chosen one” type character because she is an Omega, which in universe is a rarity. The only reason I think this is the least offensive of the tropes is because she isn’t made out to be someone that everybody wants because of it. Some members of the pack are interested, but once Charles officially steps up as her one and only, it gets dropped. Plus, the only reason Asil is interested is because his late wife was an Omega as well and Anna reminded him of her.
Now tropes aren’t necessarily bad. I just know that what tropes people are fine with and may find annoying may depend on the person. However, these tropes I don’t think were terrible to the point of being overbearing. Granted, I also don’t read a lot of Urban Fantasy either, so I haven’t really read enough to be that annoyed with it in this series. These are simply tropes that may be common in this genre and I know that can be something that might annoy people.
Going back to Asil for my next criticism, him being the only one with information on Omegas kind of feels odd. On the one hand, from a story perspective, I can get why. He’s a lot more closed off after the death of his wife and is at odds with Charles for a portion of the book. So Charles going to him to make some kind of amends and get help for how to approach Anna makes sense. However, I would like to think that there would have been a record or something about Omegas because he had first hand knowledge. That way, when he dies, there would be some way to access the knowledge he has, should Charles, Bran, or any other werewolf encounter one after he passes. That might not be necessary at this moment, but something I think would be a consideration.
There may be other flaws that I have that I’m not thinking about at the moment. However, these are two that I feel this book has.
I would probably give this book an eight and a half out of ten. Overall, I think this was a solid enough first book in the series. I feel it sets up the world and characters well enough. Though it does fall into some of the tropes Urban Fantasy is known for as well as how they handle Asil and his knowledge on Omegas to some degree. And while not all of the characters or parts of the story land, it’s still a nice little guilty pleasure read for me.
A while back I had created a post discussing one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads, the urban fantasy series Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs. While I may no longer have that blog around, I thought I would revisit this series, why I enjoy it, and why I like it over the author’s longer running and more popular Mercy Thompson series set in the same universe.
Urban Fantasy: a Subsection of Fantasy
I’ll admit, I am not much of a reader of the Urban Fantasy subgenre. Not many really caught my eye with the exception of Patricia Briggs’ two series on-going series. For those of you who may not be familiar with this subgenre, Urban Fantasy can be defined as a type of fantasy taking place in a more modern day and, well, urban setting.
What kind of Clichés Might Urban Fantasy be Guilty of?
Like any kind of genre or subgenre, Urban Fantasy does fall victim to tropes/clichés.
Heavy reliance on romance
How the romance is developed
Usually focusing more on vampires and werewolves
Leads who readers can’t help but wonder how they stay together
Why I consider it my guilty pleasure genre
I consider this a guilty pleasure because, while I enjoy fantasy, this is a subgenre that I mostly avoid. And while I’m sure there are plenty of good Urban Fantasy series, I feel like it is a niche subgenre. Meaning, it’s a subgenre that, feels like it has a set target audience. At least that’s how I see it, as I don’t see Urban Fantasy being a genre everyone will whip out.
Alpha and Omega: Why I Like it. Flaws?
The Alpha and Omega series is a series that branched off of the Mecy Thompson series. Both take place in the same universe (the Mercyverse as it has been dubbed), but rather than focusing on Mercy, her romance, and the creatures around her, Alpha and Omega focuses on Anna and Charles (the son of the North American Alpha and adopted father of Mercy). Anna was saved from her abusive pack by Charles and it is soon discovered that she is a rare breed of werewolf: An Omega, who are known for their calming presence and being able to soothe the pack.
Along the way, she alongside Charles, who is her partner/husband, go on various adventures usually with Charles tasked to keep an eye on or handle issues his father needs enforcing. Like Mercy Thompson, this series explores various fantasy staples with Anna learning more about herself, love, and overcoming her traumas from her previous pack. As of right now, this series currently has five books and a prequel novella that can be found in collections like Shifting Shadows as well as the hardcover copy of the first book, Cry Wolf.
What are the Flaws?
I would say that it’s biggest flaw may come in the form of it fitting into a savior complex trope and some scenes either feeling odd or unneeded. While maybe not an overemphasized trope, one could see Charles as being this savior to Anna. Saving her from her previous pack was important for the story and her character, however, readers could find some aspects of their relationship fitting into this trope. I don’t interpret it that way, but I do feel like it could be interpreted that way.
When it comes to odd scenes, I can think of one from the fifth book, Burn Bright. This scene is actually one that seems to be generally critiqued when it comes to what reviewers didn’t like about the book. Basically, the scene in question has to do with a comment made between Anna and Charles about Bran and his relationship with Mercy. Specifically how Bran might have developed something more than just a parental feeling towards her. I agree with this critique as it does feel weird and out of place.
Those are my main critiques. While some people might find the clichés annoying, they don’t bug me enough to turn me away. It doesn’t feel like it goes too overboard, for me anyways, and I would know when it does. That scene in Burn Bright, however, I can see why it would turn readers away. It hasn’t turned me away, though it does hinder my enjoyment of the fifth book.
Why Do I Like Alpha and Omega More Than Mercy Thompson?
While Mercy Thompson has the longer run and appears to be the more popular of the two, you may be wondering why I enjoy the Alpha and Omega series more. It took me a minute, but I’ve narrowed it down to three main reasons.
Reading Alpha and Omega First
The Alpha and Omega series was the first of the two I picked up. I believe I decided to give it a try after I saw Burn Bright when it was first released back in 2018. And since it was the fifth book, I ended up reading the entire series. Then again when I was reading the Mercy Thompson series, since the two intertwine without really interacting with the other series. Cry Wolf, the first book in the series excluding the prequel novella, is my favorite. It’s also the book I’ve read the most. Because while it might not be perfect, I think it was a great first book to the series. It set everything up in a neat way.
Had I read the Mercy Thompson series first, I may have liked that one more. However, when I was introduced to both series isn’t the only reason I like the Alpha and Omega series.
Length of the Series
So long as the series is good, how long it runs might not matter. Shows like PBS’ Arthur and Doctor Who are examples of longer shows having typically positive responses. One Piece and Boxcar Children would be examples for longer running book series that are enjoyed.
That said, longevity can either make or break a series. If there is enough material to last without feeling repetitive or stale as well as having a foreseeable end goal, that’s great. But not all series have that grace. For example, Once Upon a Time, the ABC original series. While seven series might not sound like too terrible of a run, there were times where it could have ended. While some people might say it started going downhill earlier, I personally think that it could have ended on season six. Yes, the stories were formulaic and maybe a but predictable, but the sixth season felt like a great place for the series to end in my opinion.
Looping back around to Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega, the former has a bigger, and still ongoing run as of this post. Alpha and Omega has six books, a prequel novella, and a handful of vignettes. It’s not a long series, and outside of maybe the prequel novella, Alphas and Omega, readers can stick to the main story. Mercy Thompson, on the other hand, twelve books, five vignettes, and a thirteenth book expected to be released in August of this year.
And while there are books in the Mercy Thompson series that I enjoy, I do feel like it has kind of dragged on. After a while, for me once the series got to book ten, it didn’t feel as engaging as it used to. It started to feel repetitive, running in a cycle of, Mercy getting into trouble, Mercy feeling like she has to take on whatever it is her own way, feeling distant from Adam and noting her relationship with Bran’s pack, everything coming out fine. Rinse and repeat. Could Alpha and Omega have a similar issue? Maybe, but it isn’t one I’ve noticed as glaringly so as I have with the Mercy Thompson. Of course, I’ll still read the thirteenth book when it comes out since I’ve been keeping up, but I feel like I would be lying if I said I was wholeheartedly excited.
With Alpha and Omega being the shorter series with books being released every one to three years, it at least feels like it isn’t cycling through similar stories. The creatures and people may feel the same, but not the atmosphere.
Both series have enjoyable characters, be it the main and/or secondary characters. Mercy Thompson had some neat side characters and for a time I enjoyed Mercy. However, I like the overall cast in the Alpha and Omega series more.
I feel more drawn to Anna and Charles than I do with Mercy and Adam. In my opinion, Charles and Anna feel like they have a more natural. I don’t know if I would say they feel more developed since technically Mercy and Adam had more time to develop, but there does feel like there is some form of development there that Mercy and Adam may be lacking for me. There’s also the fact that there isn’t any conflict with a third party like there is with Adam and Mercy. While the ex-wife plotline can be enjoyable when done right, I wasn’t sold on it in the Mercy Thompson series. I didn’t particularly care for Christy, Adam’s ex-wife, and she ended up being at the center of one of the book’s main conflict. Overall, Charles and Anna’s relationship feels a bit more natural, simpler maybe, and it’s the one that feels more likeable.
Looking at the leading ladies, both Mercy and Anna have some similarities like having their own trauma and being with their packs’ alpha, but their personalities. Mercy has a more independent and headstrong personality while Anna is more calm and introverted. And while I wouldn’t say the “strong, independent woman” angle is bad, something about Mercy specifically doesn’t feel well done in some instances. Maybe it’s the fact that the Mercy Thompson series has been going on for as long as it has, but Mercy whole demeanor feels stale after a while. Some of her inner monologues feel very repetitive too. First person is a perspective that can be enjoyed, but I think after a while, Mercy stating how she always finds herself in trouble, her relationships with Bran and Samuel, and how she feels different because she is a coyote skin walker feels repetitive after a while. I won’t say that Anna is without flaws, as her submissive demeanor and maybe letting others doing more of the fighting (which partially has to do with how omegas are more so support/comfort than fighters), but it doesn’t feel as blatantly repetitive as it does with Mercy. Which may fall on perspective as much as portrayal.
When it comes to Charles and Adam, both are enjoyable. Adam is a good father and husband as well as a solid pack leader. Readers can tell that he cares about family and is reliable. And he knows when to let Mercy do what he needs to. Charles is also very supportive and caring of Anna. While Anna might not be a brawler, Charles understands why Anna needs to be involved with situations. They have good communication and with how the series treats Charles and his werewolf side (it’s set up as his human side and wolf side share a body but have their own thoughts) connects with Anna well. He also understands the abuse that Anna went through in her previous pack, and doesn’t go overboard with protecting her and knows what she’s been through. Of course, Charles does feel a need to keep her safe, but it’s not an overly possessive kind of desire. Between the two, however, I like Charles more. This could be a constraint of first person, but Charles feels a bit more developed. Adam does have development, but since the Mercy Thompson series is told from Mercy’s perspective, it’s a little harder to see from a perception perspective. With third person, like in Alpha and Omega’s case, it’s able to build both Charles and Anna up in a way that feels easier to pick up on. It also gives readers the chance to understand Charles’ history and character from a way that doesn’t feel one-sided.
As for background and secondary characters, both series have enjoyable characters. Stefan, Mercy’s vampire ally, Zee, a fae and Mercy’s former boss, and Warren, a werewolf and close friend to Mercy, are interesting characters. Jesse, Adam and Christy’s daughter is also a neat character, who works well with Mercy. There’s also Samuel and Bran, who appear in both series, who bring their own stories with them, with the former at one point having romantic feelings towards Mercy. As for the Alpha and Omega series, it has its fair share of enjoyable side characters too. Asil, who’s deceased wife was an omega, has knowledge about omegas and has given Charles advice. He is also shown going through grief of losing his wife, feeling a similar presence in Anna in the first book. Leah Cornick, Bran’s current wife, though usually cold, goes through some development and learns to warm up to Anna. There are plenty of side characters in both that readers might connect with.
Even if the Alpha and Omega series isn’t a masterpiece, there is a lot that I enjoy about it. When I started it and the length helped as well as an enjoyable story and characters. It may have its flaws, like scenes that feel odd, clichés, and/or some repetitive things, it has qualities that I found likeable. It’s a guilty pleasure series of mine and it is a fun read more than anything.
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