I recently posted my reviews for the first two books in this spin-off series HERE. And though I loved those books, these two installments were just phenomenal! All of them are spoiler-free, but you can read my reviews for the Mercy Thompson Series HERE if you'd like.
Title: Hunting Ground (A&O, #2)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Rating: 4 Stars
For me, what makes this spin-off series so special is Anna and Charles. Although secondary characters don't receive the type of limelight they manage to snatch in the MT Series, I find that this spin-off batch doesn't need them to carry the plot forward. With MT, Briggs strikes a delicate balance between secondary characters, carefully timed clues, and character development - all which works perfectly for Mercy and Adam, keeps us riveted to the page, and ends off with a bang. With Alpha & Omega, however, the majority of the novel is focused on Anna and Charles with a surge of action solving the mystery at hand towards the end. Although my main issues from this series still happen to stem from the drawn-out plot threads which all seem to focus on the last quarter of these novels, Hunting Ground was much better balanced than Cry Wolf was. Granted, I still wished for a slightly quicker resolution, not to mention a better explanation than a list of details running through Charles's mind, all very sloppily thrown on the page, but these are excuses I can forgive in light of the rest of this novel.
Hunting Ground focuses on a diplomatic meeting between the wolves of America and Europe as they plan to finally come out to the world, but against this backdrop of werewolf politics, vampires and fae lurk. And where vampires and fae reside, there's bound to be murder. Briggs definitely had a stronger hold on me with the plot in this installment and, even better, she had me with her characters too. While Anna and Charles always steal the show, I enjoyed the cast of secondary characters in this, particularly the European werewolves. Yet, what makes Hunting Ground such a large success for me is the understanding reached between Anna and Charles. Anna has proven that she is no timid rabbit but can, in fact, take care of herself. Thus, the leeway Charles gives her in this novel is a relief to his rather irritating dominance in the previous book. What makes Charles Charles is still very much present in this book, but his understanding and appreciation for Anna is greater, which strikes a more equal footing between them.
Moreover, I feel like I finally understand both Charles and Anna. In Cry Wolf, I had a difficult time sympathizing with Charles's insecurities, but his feelings of being perceived as nothing more than a killer was obvious and pulled on my heartstrings. Additionally, the mating bond between Anna and Charles is explored in greater detail, which just went to make me fall even harder for this couple. Anna and Charles's relationship is so different from that of Adam and Mercy's, mostly because Charles is not the Alpha of a pack and, as such, has fewer responsibilities than Adam. As newly-weds, though, Anna and Charles were simply adorable and the comfort to be garnered, even from reading about their time together, is unforgettable.
All in all, it is evident that Briggs just keeps amping up the stakes and the depth to her characters. Although Charles is the dominant in his relationship, it is Anna who somehow manages to steal the show with her quick wit, inner strength, and ultimate goodness. My hands are simply itching to latch onto Fair Game and skip the next two MT novels, but I have more control than that. I think. Either way, from what I've heard, Fair Game is about to be the best installment yet.
Title: Fair Game (A&O, #3)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Rating: 5 Stars
There isn’t much I can say about Fair Game that can’t be summoned up in one word: PERFECT. Charles and Anna have both come such a long way from when we first met them, both mentally and physically. While Hunting Ground finally saw the physical fruit of their relationship – their joyous honeymoon season, filled with understanding and happiness - Fair Game sees the harsh reality of a marriage that isn’t quite as perfect as it seems. With its first chapter itself, Fair Game crushed my heart, shattering it into a billion pieces. Needless to say, the most recent Alpha & Omega novel is both emotional and action-packed, upping the stakes in every possible way and delivering even more successfully.
Fair Game finally gives us the heart-wrenching rift between Charles and Anna that we’ve all been waiting for, without even realizing it. After years of being his father’s Wolfkiller, Charles is tired, alone, and guilty. At this point in his life, all Charles can do is shut out everyone around him – including Anna. Unable to reach her husband, despite being an Omega wolf, Anna seeks the help of the Marrok – only to come away empty handed. Bran refuses to see the extent of his son’s wounds, the ghosts that haunt him, but does give him a break, sending him to Boston to help the FBI on a serial killer case in which three werewolves have also been murdered. For the first time, though, Anna and Charles may truly be in danger – not only from the serial killer, but also from each other.
What makes Fair Game such a huge leap for this series is the mere fact that its characters have embedded themselves into our flesh. At this point in the series, I know Anna and Charles just as well as I do Mercy and Adam, despite having spent half as much time with them. While Mercy and Adam’s story is a slow build-up of simmering heat and internal issues, Anna and Charles’s story is more of the loud crash-and-burn journey afterwards, which, frankly speaking, I like a lot more. Anna, especially, is for me a much more realized character than Mercy is, perhaps because I find her voice so much easier to relate to. I admire her quiet and cool demeanor, all while respecting the fierce strength that hides beneath that façade.
And in Fair Game, Anna really comes into her own. What I love about this series is that I use that statement with every novel – and it’s true, every time. With every journey Anna undertakes, she grows and changes and proves herself over and over again and still we know it will never be enough for she, as all humans, will still have so much more to change. In this installment especially, Anna finally takes charge, doing her best to help Charles who is so far into himself that it seems as if he cannot be helped. With her persistent nature, though, Anna never gives up on Charles and the manner in which her relationship with him is interwoven into a dark tale of murder and torture is seamlessly done. Neither aspects of the story overtake, allowing Anna and Charles’ relationship to bloom into something deeper just as they delve closer to the heart of the crime at hand. In Fair Game, more than any other novel, we can see just how far Patricia Briggs has come as a writer – and it is spectacular.
Not to be outdone, though, Charles is just as prominent in this tale as Anna. Although I’ve often felt as if he’s been overshadowed by the memory of Adam, lingering in the dark recess of our brain (or not-so-dark if you’re like me and just think ADAM HAUPTMAN during random moments during the day), or simply by his role in these books as the protector, in Fair Game, Patricia Briggs finally made me fall head-over-heels for Charles. I always liked him, sure, but I may have swooned a couple of times in this one. I, for some reason, find a man infinitely more attractive when we can see the vulnerabilities that make him who he is and seeing the role reversals in this novel, as Anna tried so hard to be the protector from her husband’s guilt and fear, was nothing short of beautiful. Granted, the mystery in this book is easily the best of all the novels Briggs has written and there are huge repercussions by the end of this installment for the entire Mercyverse, but more than anything else, it is the relationship between these two incredibly real and well-fleshed leads that keeps me coming back for more. If nothing else, Fair Game has made me seriously reconsider whether shirtless Adam is the best Patricia Briggs can offer because after this installment, I just want MOAR. (Not shirtless Adam, although hell knows I wouldn’t complain about that, but I meant more books like this. WANT WANT WANT.)