Trying a little prompt to help get the ball rolling after about a month off (lack of writing motivation, thy name is writer’s block). This was based on a prompt about five things I’m good at. However, an idea came to me. talk about five things that I’ve noticed about myself when it comes to reading and books in general. Mostly, these are things that I do periodically and one is something I’ve noticed because of how frequently I use the library.
1. Fast Reading
Everyone reads at a different pace. Some people may be fast readers, some read a little slower, and others somewhere in between. For me, I would say that in most cases, I am a fast reader. On average, I am able to get through a two to three hundred page book in a day or two. Especially if I’m really into the book and don’t want to set it down. I may be able to attribute this to the fact I always liked to read and/or how I have always been able to get through a couple manga volumes in a day.
I know it might sound like I may rush through a book but I don’t. I am able to get through a book and understand what is going on at the pace I read at. Sometimes, I do have to go back and read a section, but that won’t always be the case and isn’t something I attribute to just my pace (ex. getting distracted).
That’s not to say that I won’t take my time with certain books. Longer books or books that may have more intricate details are books that I will slow down and take my time with. For instance, Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien is a book that I will take my time with due to the story, characters and concepts being things that would need a slower pace. Another example would be a book I am currently working through The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi. Technically, I started this book a few moths ago, but life happens, I got distracted with other books, and motivation has been on and off. That said, because it is a bigger book and I want to make sure I’m understanding the world, it is a book I wanted to take my time with.
Generally speaking though, I would consider myself a faster reader. And the reason I consider that as something I am good at is because it’s something I’ve grown into. I don’t feel like I am better than others for it, it’s just something I’m good at.
2. Partial Memorization of the Dewey Decimal System
If there is one thing nonfiction sections in libraries are known for, it’s the Dewey Decimal System. This is how the libraries organize where things are located and is primarily used with organizing the nonfiction section. Each section will cover a specific number range (ex. 100-199.999Z, 600-699.99Z, and 900-999.999Z), will cover a specific topic (science, philosophy, languages, etc.), and each topic will have subcategories (animals, poetry, algebra etc.).
The bigger sections that I have memorized are the religion, history and geography, literature, languages, and the general range for science and math (Science has two sections, applied where you’ll find tings like math and astronomy for instance and natural science for things like wildlife). As far as specific topics in these categories, I know what range cooking, pets, mythology, fairytales/folktales, Egyptian history and geology/gemstones fall into.
Of course, I don’t have the whole system memorized, which is were the librarian would be more helpful than me. However, if I am able to help direct someone in the right direction, I will. The fact that I even have some of it memorized is something I feel is good to know. Because if I wanted to find a topic from the ones I remember, or was directing someone to any of those topics, I know where to start looking.
3. Trying Something New Every so Often
While there is nothing wrong with sticking to genres and/or authors you enjoy, I do think trying something new every now and then is a good thing. Like for me, I personally tend to lean towards fantasy, historical fiction, the occasional nonfiction and biography, graphic novels/comics, manga on occasion, and general fiction. Someone else might prefer romance, and the next person might like mysteries and horror. It all depends.
I doubt I am the only one who does, but every now and then I may want to read something new, like a genre I don’t typically read or a single book from a genre that catches my eye. When that happens, I’ll try to find something that interests me, if it hasn’t already crossed my radar. Some I like, some I don’t. For instance, I was never a big fan of westerns, but I ended up watching the 2021 Netflix adaptation of The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage, enjoyed it, and then read the book, which I also enjoyed. Or Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, an urban fantasy series I tried that has since become my guilty pleasure read. An instance of me trying something new and disliking it would probably have to be P.C. Doherty’s Ancient Egypt Mysteries/Amerotke series. It’s not that the series is necessarily bad per say, I’ve just tried picking the series up two or three times and could not being myself to finish it. The farthest I think I got was book four and it’s a seven book long series.
But yeah, trying new books on occasion is something I feel like I’m good at. I know what I like and am at least willing to try other things. I don’t see it as a requirement for reader and I think it’s perfectly fine if someone wants to stick to what they like. Trying something new every now and then is just something I feel good doing, even if I don’t always enjoy it.
4. Trying to Find That One Good Thing About a Book I Dislike or a Flawed Book. Fiction Specifically.
I’m going to try and avoid using “bad books” because while I do believe there are things that can make a book bad objectively (ex. grammar, story telling, and characterization), objectivity and subjectivity of what makes a book bad may get confusing. So for the sake of discussion, I’m approaching this as books that I disliked that either had good or average reviews, or books that I’ve read and disliked that have generally bad review scores. This is also strictly for fiction as a whole. Nonfiction is a different playing field. Especially since things like accuracy and research is crucial with the topic a nonfiction book is discussing, regardless of whether it’s an informative piece or an opinion based one.
Essentially, when I read a book that I don’t end up enjoying, I try to find at least one good thing about that book. Granted, not every book I dislike will have one good thing, but I do try to find something. Whether it be a concept that had potential, a scene, or a character, if I can find one good thing, I’ll mention it. It may not make the book anymore enjoyable for me, and I may be woefully optimistic, especially if it’s a poorly received book, but it’s a way for me to try to see if there is one good thing in an otherwise unenjoyable story.
Two examples of this are Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley and The Draco by Chuck Austen. In the case of Sun Sister, it was my least favorite book from the Seven Sisters series. I think I rated this a (low) three out of five stars. I didn’t dislike it enough to give it anything lower, but I did think it was the weaker book of the series. For this book, the one good thing I gave to it was that the story was there, even if I thought it could have been better. I could see what they were going for and appreciated the character growth for Electra, though the execution felt a little rushed in some areas and could have used something more in others.
For Chuck Austen’s The Draco, it would be Azazel. This story was for all intensive purposes, bad. Characterization was bad with characters feeling poorly written and/or not in character, it had one or two major plot holes like when it came to how Azazel could get out of the Brimstone Dimension, and the story itself wasn’t that well executed. There’s also the art, though I doubt better art would have helped much, and the reception of Azazel was not that great. That said, I do think that Azazel is the only good concept from this story. I know him being a demon (or the mutant equivalent) doesn’t sit well with some people and the initial plan for Mystique and Destiny is what some would have preferred happening. I don’t think they’re wrong in thinking that. I just think that given what they were able to do in 2004 and not being as bothered by the demon bit, that Azazel isn’t necessarily a bad character in practice nor is his concept as Nightcrawler’s father.
If I can, I will try to find one good thing about a story I didn’t enjoy. Not every book I dislike will, and I wouldn’t want to say that is the case. However, if I do find something good, I will note it.
5. Marry-Go-Round of Reading Interests
I’m the type of person who will get interested in a subject or topic for a while. This can include things like a character, a series, a concept, a location, a theme, and an animal, among other topics. For instance, I recently started getting into Marvel, mainly X-Men, and it’s been one of my bigger interests as of late. And every now and then, they will change. Sometimes it is something new entirely, other times it an already existing interest of mine.
This cycle of interests also works it’s way into what I read. In some ways, it’s weeded into what I read. For instance, the aforementioned X-Men interest. Wanted to read up on Nightcrawler and have been reading quite a few comics with him as well as X-Men and Wolverine comics in general. Alternatively, psychology is an interest of mine and recently I’ve been interested in learning about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The reason for it has to do with curiosity and me wanting to learn more/educate myself on it.
That said, not all of my reading interests will align with my other interests. For instance, every now and then I may want to read a specific genre because I’m looking for something new. Sometimes I’ll want to read that genre for the month or throughout the year. An example would be biographies. Most times it’s on someone I know, but every now and then a biography that I might not consider crosses my radar and I decide to read it. This year, I ended up reading five biographies and memoirs in total, with a few on my to read list going into next year.
Those are my five eccentricities I’ve noticed when it comes to reading. Little things that I’ve either noticed I do or have memorized. Do you have any little tricks or habits that you notice when you read? If so, what are they?
I’ve talked a few times now about Patricia Briggs’ two major series, Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega. I’m also slowly, but surely, working on reviewing the main books of the latter (Outside of Alpha and Omega, I don’t really want to review the other short stories. They’re nice, but not stories I want to review at this time), which may lead me to a third read through of the series (second read through for Wild Sign and probably the fourth for Cry Wolf) since, outside of Cry Wolf, which I’ve read the most, my memory is a little foggy in regards to the others.
Anyways, this isn’t about reviews and rereads. This is about the Mercy Thompson series. I’ve previously gone on record, a.k.a. blogged about, how I prefer the Alpha and Omega series over the Mercy Thompson. However, I haven’t really gone in depth into why. I know I’ve stated how I like Anna as a female lead more than Mercy in terms of personality, how I prefer Charles and Anna’s relationship more than Mercy and Adam’s, and that the length of Alpha and Omega (as it currently stands) doesn’t bother me as much as Mercy Thompson’s. Some of those are more of a preference type thing, but there are a few thing that stop me form enjoying Mercy Thompson more. Nowadays especially, which is unfortunate since I do enjoy Mercy Thompson.
In an attempt to discuss the series, I thought I would take the time to breakdown some of the criticisms I have with the series. As well as why I may feel a bit more fatigued with the series. These will include how the series at times feels like it drags, some repetition, and the release dates.
What I Enjoy About the Mercy Thompson
Before I jump in to my criticisms, I thought I would take a moment to discuss what I consider positives of the series. Because, despite the criticisms I have, and the preference for the other series, I do enjoy this series. Maybe not to the same level as Alpha and Omega, but enough to say that I do genuinely enjoy the series.
One thing I enjoy is the relationship between Mercy, Adam, and Jesse, Adam’s daughter. I like the relationship they were able to build over the years and it’s neat to see how well Jesse and Mercy get along. I know that there are a few tropes with stepparents and stepchildren in media. A few examples include, the evil stepmother trope, the stepparent who tries so much to win their stepchildren affection and/or trust, and the child who dislikes the change that comes with a new stepparent which may sometimes include hating the stepparent.
Mercy and Jesse don’t really seem to fit into any of the previously mentioned tropes. More than anything they appear to enjoy each other’s company with Jesse not too bothered by Mercy getting with Adam. The major conflict that they would have comes with Jesse’s mom. But it’s mostly between Mercy and Christy and how the latter treats everyone around them.
Another thing I enjoy is how Mercy isn’t a werewolf. While she was adopted by Bran Cornick, the head of the North American Wolf pack, Mercy herself was not a werewolf. Rather, a coyote Walker (she can turn into a coyote). So while the series may follow a trope of mostly werewolf and vampire characters, the lead is not one, which is neat. It’s a neat way to give it a somewhat different avenue.
With that out of the way, I’m going to get into what issues I have with the series.
When it comes to repetition, it’s not so much that each book feels like the another so much as elements and dialogue. Obviously, each book has it’s own story to tell with it’s own conflicts and resolutions. However, this is an ongoing series with thirteen book as of this post, there are bound to be elements that feel familiar.
For me, aspects that felt repetitive have to do with internal dialogue, perspective, and plot points. Internal dialogue and perspective kind of go hand in hand, but I felt were distinct enough to separate. While some of the world building plot point at times feel repetitive.
In the case of perspective, it has to do with the fact that it is written in the first person (I/we). As such, there may be a limited amount of perspective from the world as far as other characters. That’s not to say that first person is necessarily bad, since I do enjoy first person when don right. However, first person can really go off of what the character knows as opposed to third, which could be a little more flexible in terms of perspective, emotion, and input.
For instance, in book eight, Night Broken, it deals with Adam’s ex-wife, Christy, getting into trouble. She knows that the pack sees Christy differently than she does due to the fact that she was apart of their pack a bit longer (Mercy had left the Bran’s pack as a teen and had been living on her own for years by the time the series started). We also know that she isn’t Christy’s biggest fan in terms of trust and what she did when she was with Adam. Mercy is also aware of how the pack sees her (Mercy) differently. That’s something that does get brought up once or twice in the book. And since we only really get to see her perspective, readers can only get so much as far as what people think about Christy and Mercy. Whereas third person, there would probably be the opportunity to get perspectives from everyone, or a select few characters in a more broader sense. Because of that, Mercy’s perspective may come off as repetitive and limited.
Moving on to internal dialogue, what makes it a bit different from the first person perspective of the series, are things that Mercy herself brings up. Vocally, through her thoughts, and how she experiences the story. One such example is how she refers to Bran and Samuel, Bran’s eldest son. There are a few times where she expresses how and why she that she left his pack, in the broader sense, how she knows certain traits about Bran, and how she perceives Bran. For Samuel, she mentions how they were a couple but separated and reflecting back on it. There are also a few times where she reflects on being on her own, how she felt she was fine not being in a pack prior to joining Adam’s, how she worries about Adam and how she doesn’t always know what he’s thinking. For me, it feels like these topics do come up several times throughout the series, and feels rather repetitive.
My third and final area that feels a bit repetitive is how it reminds the readers about aspects of the world. How vampires don’t really like werewolves, save a few like Stefan, is one such instance. How the fae shouldn’t be taken lightly and always tell the truth is another example. While I get why these aspects are important, it doesn’t need to be as frequently reiterated as it feel like it is.
These aspects to me are what make the series feel repetitive at times. The perspective and internal dialogue reiterate what Mercy knows several times throughout the series. While the reminders of the world and it’s characters is another.
When it comes to the series dragging, I’ve narrowed that down to how long it has been running and the stories not always being as engaging. I know series that have long runs can be good, but that doesn’t mean a long running series can feel like it’s dragging on. For example, Naruto. I still have yet to finish the series (What is motivation, am I right?), but I do have a general idea for how this series ends. The manga runs for seventy two volumes or seven hundred chapters. On the one hand, it probably needed that much to get where it wanted to end, so it running that long theoretically could be fine. However, whether or not it felt like it dragged with certain arcs and/or could have ended sooner is a discussion that can be had.
In the case of the Mercy Thompson series, I am not sure how exactly it’s overall story is meant to end, if there is a planned ending at all at this time. It’s still ongoing either way, but if you asked me, “What is the end goal for the series” I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’ll be with Mercy and Adam settling down and having a child (since a walker and a werewolf having a kid wouldn’t be as fatal as a werewolves having a kid with another werewolf like it was with Charles’ mother). Or maybe it’ll end with Mercy, Adam and Jesse leaving the North American pack. But that’s just speculation on my part.
What makes the series drag for me does have to do with the later books. For me, the later books don’t seem as engaging. I think I started feeling this around book nine or ten. That won’t stop me from reading the series, since I am on, and own, book thirteen. However, I’d be lying if I said that the last few books haven’t been as engaging for me.
If I had to give it a set reason, it probably has to do with the stories themselves. Since it doesn’t have an endgame at this time, it feels like the series is rolling with conflict after conflict in a way that feels like there isn’t much direction overall. That might be just me, but may be why it feels like it drags on.
For my final, and more so external, critique with the series is how frequently the series has been released. Something I have come to realize is just how frequent Mercy Thompson is updated when compared to Alpha and Omega. This is probably a slightly personal one for me, but I do feel it’s one worth mentioning.
Because I am keeping tabs on release dates for both Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega, mostly for the latter, I’ve come to realize a pattern with their release dates. I initially noticed this book five of Alpha and Omega, Burn Bright (though technically since book two, Hunting Grounds, but I realized this when I was waiting for book six, Wild Sign to be released) and really picked up on this trend recently.
I’ve noticed that every three years an Alpha and Omega book will be released and in between those released, two Mercy Thompson books will be released. With short stories sprinkled in as Patricia Briggs chooses. An example of this is when books five and six of Alpha and Omega were released. Burn Bright was released in 2018 and Wild Cards was released in 2021. In between these two books, the Mercy Thompson series saw the release of books eleven and twelve: Storm Cursed in 2019 and Smoke Bitten in 2020.
According to the page on released books on Patricia Briggs’ website (https://www.patriciabriggs.com/books/), there is a timeline for the seventh book of Alpha and Omega and the fourteenth book for the Mercy Thompson series, both of which are untitled at this time. The fourteenth book of Mercy Thompson series, is set to be released sometime next year (2023) and the seventh book of the Alpha and Omega series is set to be released some time in 2024.
Because of how consistently the Mercy Thompson series is released, I do feel that this could be a contribution to why I’m feeling a bit more tired with the series. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a series having a set release date between books, but getting a book almost yearly feels a little over the top (I’m not even sure how to refer to it’s release cycle to be honestly whereas Alpha and Omega come out with a book triannually). At least for me anyways.
While the Mercy Thompson series is one that I enjoy, I’ve come to notice a few reasons why I’m not as fond of it as I am with the Alpha and Omega series. Some repetition, release dates, and some stories feeling like they were dragging have hindered some of my enjoyment. Regardless, I am still going to continue on with the series, with the thirteenth in my possession currently.
Have you read the Mercy Thompson series? What are your thoughts on it? Are there any critiques you have with the series?
When The Missing Sister came out back in 2021, I initially thought this would be the last book in the series. Since each book focused on a sister and the seventh being based on the one that went missing, it would make sense. However, checking Goodreads, like I do, I found out that there will be an eighth book. From my understanding this was in the works prior to her passing and announced not long after The Missing Sister’s release.
And while she did pass away a few months after the release of The Missing Sister, that doesn’t mean it will go unfinished. Since she already had passages and key notes on the story in the works, her eldest son Harry Whittaker, will continue, and finish, the story. According to Goodreads, the book has an expected release of January 2023, however, her website states that it has an expected release in Spring of 2023 (https://lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series/atlas-the-story-of-pa-salt/).
With that said, I thought I would take a moment to discuss some hopes I have for this book. As well as some things I am expecting. I suppose both are interchangeable, but I do feel some topics might fit more as expectations while others fit more so as thing I hope they include.
Honoring Lucinda Riley’s Memory
With this being not only the last book in the series, but the last book by Lucinda Riley, I feel like this book could be a ceremonial way to say farewell to the author. Whether that be in the form of an “in memory of” section” or some form of tribute to the author in the acknowledgements or notes at the end, I think there should be some form of way that the author is remembered. I’m sure there will be, and that’s not to say that Harry Whittaker shouldn’t get credit for his part, just that this book could be a way to honor Lucinda Riley’s memory.
Exploring Pa Salt’s Character
This is titles Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt, so it’s pretty much a given that it will be about Pa Salt. He had a presence throughout the series, but readers never really got to know the character on a personal level. Only how each sister remembers him.
My hope is that this book will give some closure with Pa Salt as a character. Since his character has been dead since the very beginning, I would hope that this goes over who he was as a person, exploring why he adopted each sister, and the lead up to his passing. Let his story be told in a way that works with the story and wraps it up with the sisters learning more about their father.
The Past and Present Storytelling
This might sound odd, but I would hope that it keeps up the tradition of it being told in the present as well as the past. Not only because the series is known for it, but because I feel that it has to. Again, with Pa Salt being deceased, readers won’t exactly be able to get a first hand account of the character. Rather, the sisters learning more about the man who brought them all together. That would be the present bit.
As for the past portion, it would focus on Pa Salt’s life. Here, readers would get to learn about who he was as a person, where he came from, how he became the man he was, and how he found each sister. And much like the other stories, it should go through a big part of his life. It can start with him as a child or young adult (preferably the latter) and go all the way up to his death.
As far as perspective, I could see this taking a slightly different approach. Normally, each book would be told in the first person for each sister and third for the person from the past. I believe The Missing Sister was the only book that told it from the third person perspective for both. Here, I can see it using solely the third person for both perspectives since it would be his story and D’Aplièse getting answers and learning more about Pa Salt. Alternatively, it could be written from third person for the present part and the first person for Pa Salt’s. That would be a nice change of pace while also utilizing something that the series was known for. There is also the chance that the present could shift a first person perspective for each sister, but I feel like that would be unnecessary and could get confusing.
Ending the Series on a High Note
Since this will be the conclusion to the series, I feel like it should end on something of a high note. That would include wrapping up the loose ends it didn’t get to in The Missing Sister, ending with each sister having learned something, show where each sister ends up, and ending the series on a good conclusive note. While I’m not expecting perfection, I do think that it should resolve what it needs to and feels gratifying. Not rushed. Nor do I think it should end on a happily ever after. It would be nice to see it ending on a happier note, but I’m not looking for a happily ever after necessarily. If one or more of the sisters feel like they have to reevaluate their life or how they viewed Pa Salt, that’s okay. But at the same time, they did get a sort of happily ever after at the end of each of their story, and I don’t think that has to be tossed.
These are just a few things I hope for when Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt is released. If you’ve read the series, what are your expectations for it? Is there anything you hope gets addressed? Are you excited for it?
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’.
Friendships are wonderful little things. Anyone can form friendships with anybody. Maybe they have similar interests and/or backgrounds. Maybe they have some similarities and differences and those differences do not hinder a healthy friendship.
Friendships can be found anywhere. School. Work. At the park and so on. Even online. So long as people can interact with each other, friendships can be made. You’ll even find friendships in media, be it shows like Degrassi, movies like The Outsiders, or books like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
The point is, friendships can be found anywhere and everywhere. They are a significant relationship in everyday life, and can be with anyone.
Now, there are a lot of friendships in media that people will know of and/or enjoy. A few examples include, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson from Sherlock Holmes, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck and Peregrin “Pippin” Took from Lord of the Rings, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee and Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings, Han Solo and Chewbacca from Star Wars, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Flash (Barry Allen), and Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.
If there’s one friendship that might not get as talked about, especially outside of the X-Men sphere, it’s the friendship between Logan (Wolverine) and Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler). Compared to the likes of the Scott, Jean, and Logan trifecta, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver), Mystique, Rogue, and Destiny, Mystique and Kurt, and the Erik and Charles friendship, this might not be a relationship people think about when someone says “X-Men relationships”.
So I thought I would take the time to discuss what I believe one of the best friendships in comics. These two have such a close friendship and is one that should be appreciated for what it is. Because even with how different these
Isn’t that just a passionate quote? And it really says a lot about how people view Logan and just how different Kurt was in that regard. This quote also says a lot about being human, something both characters have an odd relationship with.
But what does it mean to be human? That’s something that can cause confusion or understanding depending on how you approach the question.
There’s the physical/biological side, where one would be able to identify the differences between say a human and a panda for instance. Or in the case of Science Fiction and comics, the differences between human and alien. Some aliens look human, but have superhuman abilities (Superman) and those that don’t (Martian Manhunter) and have different abilities and anatomy.
In a metaphorical sense, ‘being human’ can refer to imperfections or emotions. As the old saying goes, ‘nobody’s perfect’ and that seems to be synonymous with being human. And the emotional side of it refers to how, as human, people are supposed to have emotions. People are not robots and emotions are a key factor into that.
For X-Men, and more specifically Logan and Kurt, being human seems to refer to how good/kind hearted/pure a person is. And despite mutants being, well mutants, they are as human as anyone else. And considering X-Men was inspired by and originally an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement, being released on ’63, its safe to say that a feeling of being human is prevalent for this series.
And in the case of Logan and Kurt, being human has a double meaning. Both characters are known for being human (pure/integral or in appearance) in one sense and monsters in others (appearance and actions).
Logan: Human in Appearance, Animalistic in Nature
Starting with Logan, one would say he looks generally human. Barring the adamantium skeleton and claws. He could pass for human more so than Kurt, not even needing an image inducer to do so. When it comes to looking human, Logan certainly passes the appearance portion, much like a great number of other mutants. It’s only when the claws are drawn when he doesn’t.
But on the inside , he would be considered a monster. A man with a violent streak, who isn’t afraid to kill and with a berserk mean streak, it easy to see why people would be more scared of him and see him as a monster. And Logan knows it. He also has a more cynical world view. And while not inherently bad, it may make approaching him that much harder.
Kurt: Demonic in Appearance, Saintly at Heart
For Kurt, it’s the exact opposite. Being labeled as a monster and a demon were things that he grew up with. He was drugged by the circus, abandoned as a baby, even chased by a mob when they thought he killed some kids despite only killing his adopted brother in self-defense and a promise (if his adopted brother ever went insane, he promised to do whatever it took to stop him).
Yet, Kurt is the most pure hearted mutant out there. Logan even went as far as to say Kurt was the closest thing to a saint there is. While maybe not perfect, he is a wonderful human being. And that’s even more apparent when you consider who his parents are. He represents never judging people based on their appearances.
Time and time again, they show that there is good in them. Even if Logan is harsher in his methods, he does have a kinder side. And Kurt, despite looking like he would hunt someone down and kill them, has a heart of gold.
For them, being human is less of a feeling of normalcy, but something that shows how good they are as people. That while having faults and at times making not great choices, they are no less human than the average person and deserve respect.
Seeing their humanity is something that makes their friendship worthwhile. In a world where people’s humanity can be forgotten at times, friendships like these can help humanize people. That’s not to say that everything that criminals have done should be sympathized with, and that certain actions are inexcusable. Merely that the average person is human and should be understood, and sometimes it can be easy to forget a person’s humanity in the heat of a moment. And that’s what this friendship can symbolize.
This ties in with the previous point, but in regards to how well both characters understand each other and respect their humanity. Humanity and psychology is something that’s noted when it comes to Logan and Kurt, but it’s not always understood. Not every X-Men will have as deep of an understanding as these two do as friends. Even less so for the average non-mutant. There are a few people who have a general understanding of the two and why they are the way they are.
One example would be Storm. When Kurt died, she understood that Logan was grieving despite disapproving that his anger was getting the better of him with some of the students. Yes, he shouldn’t have been on the offensive when they were just trying to light some candles, but she knew he was grieving and that he thought they were taking Kurt’s belongings. She also understood Logan wishing he had killed more people if it meant Kurt lived. Even if it meant this moment would have been their last. She also understood where Kurt was coming from when dealing with a case with a child and demons. He was taking his time, but understood why he was.
Out of the two, Kurt would probably be considered the morally pure of them. Not just because he’s Catholic and that somehow gives him higher morality (people can be kind hearted whether they are religious or not), but because his character has always been presented as forgiving, kind hearted, and wanting to understand. Him being Catholic may be part of the reason, but not the only reason.
That doesn’t mean he is without flaws. Like everyone else, he’s not perfect. He has flaws and has made mistakes.
His biggest personal struggle comes in the form of his trauma growing up and showing his true colors. Because the mob was so intent on killing him, and the circus treating him as less than human, being self conscious about his appearance is reasonable.
Logan, meanwhile, is the more pragmatic of the two. Having lived for more than a century, it should be no surprise that he views the world more coldly. He experienced wars starting with the Civil War, was experimented on, suffered losses, and was used as a government tool.
That’s not to say that he isn’t a good person in some ways. He may choose to kill, but his motive is not one of malicious intent or animalistic desires (anymore).
Like Kurt he has his own internal struggles. His memory being one. Being treated as an animal and experimented on is another. The world he was exposed to makes him a lot more cynical and the horrors he’s seen traumatic. Yet, it’s being treated and perceived as an animal that really strikes a nerve. Logan knows he’s done a lot of things in his life, some that can be more rationalized than others. And while part of him may be used to the reactions he gets, he seems to have this drive to prove he’s not some animal that kills for nothing.
Some people may be able to understand their plight, however, the people who seem to understand the most about Kurt and Logan is Logan and Kurt. There’s at least one instance for each that stand out (though there are more). Wolverine (2003) #6 and Classic X-Men #4 The Big Dare.
Wolverine #6 (2003) by Greg Rucka
In Wolverine #6 (2003), when discussing how Logan killed twenty seven men to rescue hostages of a cult, Kurt tries to understand the reasoning behind it. He wasn’t looking for an excuse, but to better understand of Logan’s situation. He argues that had Logan acted in malice by killing innocent people, Logan would become the very thing he hated, and Kurt would try to stop him.
However, if the men needed to be punished for their evils, they got what they got what they deserved. Considering what Logan witnessed, justified would be pretty accurate. Kurt then uses a wolf allegory, asking if a wolf is evil for culling the sickness out of a heard. Said allegory can be interpreted as wolves not being evil for plucking off the weakest link. Or in the case of Logan, how killing the sicknesses (evils) of the world he is not evil for doing so. Probably a little bit of both.
After having time to think it over, Logan states how he’s not an animal, to which Kurt affirms that he isn’t. Because while Kurt’s allegory was metaphorical, one of Logan’s struggles is being seen as an animal. Something he has issue with in the past. Kurt knows this and has never once seen Logan as an animal (confirmed by Logan at Kurt’s funeral).
This shows how understanding, in this case Kurt, can be. Having an understanding of people is something worth having. Especially in friendships. Even if agreement isn’t always in sight, understanding and respecting friends is something worth knowing. And while there are lines, it never hurts to better understand another person.
The Big Dare (Classic X-Men #4, 1986)
One notable way that Logan accepts Kurt’s humanity comes in the form of The Big Dare. While he would later go on to say that Kurt is the closest thing to a saint there is, it’s this issue that cements their friendship while also trying to help Kurt get more comfortable walking around as his true self. Blue fur, tail, and all.
So Logan dares Kurt to walk around a town they were in without his image inducer. Note that he did not inherit Mystique’s shapeshifting, so he uses an image inducer to blend in. Logan wasn’t being malicious in doing so. He is well aware of how people treated Kurt in his past and doesn’t berate Kurt for hiding because of it. Logan just wants Kurt to be confident in his own skin, and to do so, needs to get comfortable being around people without hiding his appearance. Which is also gets brought up in the previously cited Wolverine issue.
Kurt agrees, and is surprised when most people seem unbothered by his appearance. Compared to the mob who attacked him, most people were either unfazed or curious about Kurt’s appearance, not malicious in either case. The only exception was with a gentleman who, upon realizing Kurt wasn’t wearing a costume, was going to attack Kurt. Logan retaliates by tackling the guy and going on the offensive, to the point Kurt has to separate the two.
Even though there was a bump in the trial, Kurt appreciated what Logan did for him and Logan replies with, ‘what are friends for?’ So not only does this issue confirm their friendship, but shows how having Kurt walk around as himself helped Kurt gain some confidence with it back.
Logan does this to help Kurt accept the part of himself he’s had to hide. He questions how Kurt expects to be accepted when even he won’t accept himself. There are things in life and relationships that will have to be accepted. Why that’s important in a friendship is because, whether it be a boundary, a limit, or what have you , being able to accept who you are is important. And sometimes it’s a friend that can helps you see it.
Both characters have died. Both have been revived. The reason I bring up death in regards to their friend is how they approached the others’ deaths. It was never brushed aside, even with how meaningless death can be in comics at time, they grieved, and they never forgot how impactful they were.
Now Logan has died a few more times than Kurt has, with the whole soul shenanigans that rendered Kurt nigh-immortal. But that’s not to say Kurt never grieved over the loss of Logan. While I may not have read every Logan death, one that sticks out as far as Kurt grieving is in Nightcrawler #7 (2014). This series picks up after Kurt’s revival at the beginning of 2013’s Amazing X-Men.
About half way through this short lived series (issue #7 from what I recall), readers get to see Kurt processing the death of Kurt. And though we do not get to see Kurt shedding any tears, we do get to see how he processes the loss via an internal conversation. In a similar way to Logan, he wonders what he could have done differently to prevent his death, but with the added acceptance/hindsight to know that there was nothing he could do.
Using Jean as a comparison, readers get to see how Logan’s death hurt him. He’s a good friend to Jean, and did miss and grieve for her, but the fact that he admits that losing Logan in the present, hurt so much more. That alone, goes to show how much he cares about Logan. And though expressed more than shown, it doesn’t need to paint a picture to know how good of friends they are. The last few decades already helped establish it. Though we would get little things here and there that references parts of their friendship. Like when he gives Old Man Logan a framed picture of himself, much like Logan had decades prior.
And then there’s Logan. When Kurt died while protecting Hope Summers, loss only begins to describe how much Kurt’s death effected him. He nearly attacked a student, thinking they were going to take stuff from his room when they were only going to leave a candle. He regrets not killing more people, feeling like if he had Kurt would be alive. He bitterly hopes that his sacrifice was worth it.
But most of all, the connection they made is significant to Logan. Not many people have been close to Logan, whether it be out of fear of him or Logan generally being a loner. Logan has a hard time making connections with people, so when he loses one of the few people he has, it only makes sense that he’d be broken up about it.
While showing emotion between friends is always a good thing, how the characters express them is one thing. And while they might not always express their emotions to each other, they know them well enough to recognize it.
Logan is typically known for exhibiting one of three kinds of expressions. Hardened realist, gruff loner, and angry. He’s not one for expressing emotions a lot. Love seen in a few instances, and sadness even less. The usual picture viewers get to see is a stoic or angry character hardened by his life experiences.
That’s not to say that Logan is without any “softer” emotions. After all, he has had a few loves, almost marrying Mariko at one point. I can also think of emotions surrounding Kurt’s death that he exhibited. Guilt that he couldn’t prevent it. Sadness and anger as he tried to cope. The one tear shed when he was reunited with Kurt before they fought Azazel and Kurt was revived. He can be a little more open with Kurt, be it with his philosophy, thoughts or feelings.
Kurt, meanwhile, isn’t as closed off emotionally. He will get angry, flirty, and sad. And if there was one way he reacts that’s notable is his self-consciousness as a result of trauma. Usually, he tries to appear happy and friendly, but does experience negative emotions and dower moments.
So when he appears withdrawn and depressed, like after he was resurrected in Amazing X-Men or when he was unusually quiet in Nation X #1, it’s something Logan is able to pick up on. Not only that, but try to get to the bottom of what’s eating away at him.
They are able to read each other better than others might. Both know the other’s quirks and demeanor well enough to know when something is wrong. They also aren’t afraid to be open with each other.
It’s also worth noting that they aren’t afraid of things like contact. While Kurt is certainly much more approach able, scenes like the one pictured here show that they aren’t afraid to show how much they care. Or at the very least the writer’s and artists, aren’t afraid to express how deep of a friendship they have.
While not trying to overgeneralize male friendships as a whole, in media, I don’t think it’s wrong to say that it isn’t common for two guy friends to express certain emotions or ‘hug it out’. Unless it was played for comedic effect or the media allows it because of the content (like a drama or something). Of course, entertainment has evolved in a lot of ways, but typically, it’s more likely that viewers will see girl friends hugging than guys (with other gestures like fist bumps or something as an alternative).
So little moments like Wolverine and Nightcrawler hugging in purgatory upon being reunited, while not groundbreaking, are moments that can be appreciated.
I conclude with a discussion on why the friendship between Wolverine and Nightcrawler is important. I’ve gone over a few reasons why/how it works, so I will only recap those briefly, while also adding a few more comments.
In summary, the fact that these two characters are complete opposites, can understand their quirks, and do have genuine emotional reactions with each other, especially when the other dies, Logan and Kurt make for an iconic duo. They might not always agree or share the same beliefs, but they respect/understand them.
With that said allow me to close out with one last question…
What Makes Their Friendship so Important?
One thing that has been consistent about X-Men is it’s message of acceptance. Being created during the Civil Right’s Movement, it’s easy to see why it would be. And when compared to DC, some people may consider Marvel a bit more relatable (though that’s not to say DC doesn’t have relatability whatsoever). Of course, given the nature of comics and superheroes as a genre, they aren’t as relatable on a technical level, but readers may be able to relate to Peter Parker as an everyday Joey was compared to billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
Circling back to X-Men, it’s safe to say that acceptance is it’s biggest symbol/theme. Not only that, but it is a theme that is timeless and will always be relatable. That’s something that make X-Men as timeless as it is. Because beneath the adamantium claws, teleporting, and psionic prowess, are characters who fight for acceptance and equality.
Acceptance is also a big factor in Wolverine and Kurt’s friendship. Both characters have the hardest time being accepted by others. A big factor of that comes down to perception and how people could fear someone as violent and cold as Logan or as demonic looking as Kurt. Both deal with their fair share of grief and panic from the masses.
Yet, somehow, when these two are put on a team, they almost instantly connect. Logan quickly comes up with a nickname for Kurt (Elf) and Kurt isn’t immediately discourage by Logan’s gruff nature. Both characters are considered monsters by their peers, the average person, yet somehow found each other and connected. Kurt was the first to learn Logan’s name, and Logan the first to push Kurt towards self-acceptance.
The weight of the world’s perceived disdain with them creates a sense of loneliness. Yet, that distance created a relatability and spark between them. Both characters needed someone who could understand them. Someone who wasn’t afraid of them. Someone who cared about who they were as people. And that is exactly what they got when they met each other.
That’s what gives this friendship such an impact. When the rest of the world was against them, they found each other, saw the best in each other, and proved that neither were as monstrous as people made them out to be. They saw them as the people they were and accepted each other for who they were.
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