My Thoughts: The conference with the European wolves happens parallel to the Mercy Thompson series (I think between MT books 2 and 3?), but I don’t think you really need to have read Mercy Thompson to enjoy Anna and Charles. I would say that you DO have to read this series in order, probably starting with the short story, Alpha and Omega in the anthology On the Prowl, and then book one, Cry Wolf.
I think that when I started reading this book I had a couple of expectations. I expected to see some growth in Anna, development in her relationship with Charles, and I was expecting to find out some back story on the exposure of werewolves to the world. Let me try to go over my main points of interest:
- Anna – Anna’s growth and emergence of a backbone delighted me and was the highlight of the book. When I was first reading this I was struck by the first couple of chapters because Anna seemed very comfortable with Bran and Charles, and in teasing and playing with them. I was a little surprised after her timidness in Cry Wolf. Then when she goes to Seattle, the old, scared Anna seems to come back in the presence of all the alpha wolves. This made sense to me. Anna is getting used to being an Omega wolf and she is still recovering from what happened to her in her old pack. There’s a few things that happen over the course of the story which allow Anna to work through some of her hangups in a satisfying way.
- Anna and Charles’ relationship – This is still developing and it’s not easy. Charles finds himself very protective of Anna, and it’s hard to reign in his wolf sometimes. Anna on the other hand isn’t past her abuse by her previous pack. The Alpha and Omega series is different from the Mercy Thompson in that it is more of a paranormal romance, with more emphasis on the relationship, than an urban fantasy. There was a scene I liked in particular between Anna and Charles, which is actually illustrated on the cover of the book, but as to the rest of the book, I mostly felt that there was something missing between the two of them. There seemed to be a lack of spark, and it was hard to really buy into their relationship. This is a big problem because the relationship is such a huge part of the series. Everything between Anna and Charles felt a little awkward, which wasn’t a problem I remember having while I was reading the earlier book. Those moments that happen between couples where you can tell there is something deep between them – I just couldn’t see it. I hope that this is a problem only in this book and not in the continuations.
- And out come the wolves – This is something mentioned in the Mercy Thompson novels – that Bran, the Alpha of the werewolves in North America had planned to have the world know about the existence of werewolves. I was really interested in the specifics of this, which we get and I was mostly happy with it, but once we get the gist it moves behind a closed door, and I wish more focus was put on it’s ramifications and the dealings between werewolf packs. What ended up happening is that the focus went to Anna and the problems surrounding her by virtue of being an Omega and Charles’ mate. She becomes the target of an abduction and the book focuses on that mystery and inserted action is about this. In the end I enjoyed Anna’s part in bringing the bad guys to justice (again – I liked Anna in this book!), but the rest of it had an abrupt feel, so the execution for the most part underwhelmed me.
So I think basically, while I do get some of the things I expected in this book, it feels like the focus is fractured. Something just didn’t flow as well as what I’m used to seeing in a Briggs novel. Things niggled at me, as I described above. I also noted unnecessary repetition that bothered me, such as almost every female joking with Anna on how to deal with Charles, or where someone calls Anna timid and irritates Anna for doing so. It didn’t feel as tight as past books.
Overall: This is a really hard review to write because although I’m a big fan of Briggs, throughout the book I kept having this feeling that things were off. I put the book down for a few days and picked it up again when I was in a better frame of mind, but I still had this feeling which I’m having a hard time putting my finger on. I would say that it is still a good read, but it fell below my high expectations of Patricia Briggs. The story wasn’t as cohesive and for me, the biggest issue I had was the lack of spark between the hero and heroine. I’m still not sure if I’m just not seeing it while other readers are. I plan to continue reading this series and hope that this is just a one-off.
Other reviews (mostly good, one not so good):
Angieville (found it stronger than it’s predecessor)
The Book Smugglers – 8 out of 10, excellent
Dear Author – gave it a B+ but noted some things I had problems with
calico reaction – rated it “Give it away” – liked it less than I did I think.
Smexy Books – 8 out of 10