Cry Wolf is the first book in the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs, which is set in the same universe as her Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series. It features a different set of main characters, the werewolf Anna and her mate Charles (Bran’s son and assassin), but Mercy is mentioned on occasion, Samuel makes a brief appearance, and Bran himself is present throughout a large portion of the book. The second book in the series, Hunting Ground, will be released on August 25, 2009. Technically, the first installment in the series is a novella about how Charles and Anna met called “Alpha and Omega” in the On the Prowl anthology. The beginning of Cry Wolf is a little confusing without knowing what happened in this story; however, once you get further along, the previous events from the novella are explained.
Cry Wolf does seem to throw you into the story without all the details since it continues the story begun in the “Alpha and Omega” novella. Charles has been badly injured from a fight with Anna’s pack leader and must stay in wolf form to heal himself. While Charles is lying low, Bran helps Anna pack up her meager belongings from her apartment so she can move to Montana with Charles. Soon after landing in Montana, Bran hears rumors about a monster in the Cabinet Wilderness and suspects it may be a rogue werewolf. With Charles injured, Bran is hesitant to pursue the matter but when a man from Search and Rescue is attacked by a werewolf in the same area, it is up to Charles and Anna to put a stop to it.
Perhaps it was just because I did find I didn’t know all the details of what was happening in the beginning, but I had a very hard time relating to Charles and Anna. As the story progressed, it did make more sense, but I still didn’t come to care very much about either main protagonist. Although both were likable enough, I didn’t find either to be particularly interesting. Charles had some promise with his conflicted nature – he was his father’s assassin but he also valued life and preferred not to take it unless absolutely necessary. This was not explored to the extent I would have liked since much of the story was devoted to the growing relationship between Anna and Charles, but perhaps it will be expanded in future novels, especially since this book did seem to be introducing the characters and their histories. Anna was very sweet and compassionate but she was one of those characters who is a little too good for my taste, although I did enjoy learning about what it meant for her to be an Omega wolf. She had insecurities and a history of abuse by her former pack leader, but she did not seem to have any real personality flaws. That may have been fine, but I couldn’t help comparing her to Mercy from the parallel series by Briggs. Mercy is also generally very good, but she’s also a very vividly written character with a bright personality and a very appealing sense of humor. Anna was far more serious, and Mercy just felt more real and alive to me. This is not necessarily a flaw since there are some reserved people in the world (really, I’m one of them), but Mercy and her friends were far more compelling reading.
Even though Anna and Charles were not particularly compelling to me, I did find some of the more minor characters very engaging to read about, particularly Bran. The Marrok (werewolf leader of the entire U.S.) is mentioned, but he played a more major role in this novel than in the Mercy Thompson books. Some of his abilities and the reason behind his marrying that bitch (literally and figuratively) Leah were explained. A new character I did find intriguing was Asil, one of the oldest werewolves. His mate had been an Omega wolf until she was tortured to death and he was still haunted by dreams to the extent where he wanted Bran to kill him. Samuel’s brief appearance did make me long for the Mercy Thompson series since he also had more personality and charisma than either Anna or Charles.
A lot of this novel was focused on the relationship problems of Charles and Anna, whose wolf sides had immediately connected while their human sides were having more difficulty with the new relationship. Many of their insecurities and issues would have been easily resolved if they had just communicated with one another, which I found very annoying. On occasion I enjoy reading about romance and misunderstandings between couples but they have to hit just the right nerve with me and have enough other plot elements interspersed with it to keep me from getting bored with it (all of the summer Shakespeare plays you’ve taken me to would disagree – Ed.). For the first half of this book, I found the romance tedious in that regard and just wanted Anna and Charles to move on and quit being so introspective.
Toward the end of this book, I did find it to be more engaging as it delved more into the actual plot instead of the emotional woes of Charles and Anna. Because of this and the fact that this did feel like a novel that was still introducing the series and main characters, I will give the next book a chance even though I wasn’t entirely convinced this one was worth my time. It was still was not up to the caliber of the Mercy Thompson series for me, but I have found each of those books to be better than the previous one so I will give this one the benefit of the doubt, particularly since I did enjoy some of the minor characters and learning more about the werewolves.
While the Mercy Thompson series centers on several different mythical creatures with individual books dedicated to werewolves, vampires, and fae, this one concentrated on the werewolves. This mythology was one of the strengths of the novel since I found reading more about the abilities of the pack and how the werewolves function one of its more engaging aspects. It did include information about the pack that has not been mentioned in at least the first three Mercy Thompson novels, which makes perfect sense since Mercy herself is not a werewolf but a skinwalker. Like the Mercy Thompson novels, this one includes a definite Native American influence since Charles’s mother was one and he has some abilities based on this heritage. I do like that these books are not just limited to European mythology even though that is where most of the paranormal races included come from.
Cry Wolf shows glimmers of promise but pales in comparison to its parallel series about Mercy Thompson. The main protagonists failed to be compelling, but some of the other characters were very engaging. In addition, there were enough interesting tidbits of information about the Marrok and the werewolves to keep me reading. Once the book delved into the actual plot toward the end, I found it much more readable, but until that point, it was too focused on the relationship of two characters I did not particularly care about. However, the second half of the book was stronger than the first. Because of that and my love for the first series set in this universe, I will most likely read Hunting Ground sometime after it comes out next month.