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Friday, March 9, 2012

'Fair Game' Alpha and Omega #3 by Patricia Briggs

From the BLURB:

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind. 

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can't afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father's dirty work is taking a toll on Charles. 

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack's help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer's sights...

A serial killer who has evaded capture for decades has now turned an eye to werewolves and Fae. In Boston there has been a slew of murders; women and children abducted, raped and tortured before being killed. The suspected killer continues to run circles around the FBI, but when a number of werewolves fall victim the Marrok steps in and sends his best to aid the authorities.

Normally Charles Cornick would be the last person to help the FBI in their investigations. The werewolf ‘boogeyman’, Charles is less than hospitable at the best of times … but he has grown worse in recent months, with the ghosts of vengeful werewolves haunting him. Charles is not the best man to finesse this job with the FBI, but his wife is.
Anna snorted and lied like a politician. “Look. Becoming a werewolf doesn’t make you a serial killer – and it doesn’t make you a superhero, either. Whoever you were, that’s who you are. If a bad guy gets Changed, he’s still a bad guy. However, we police our own and we’re pretty good at it. Mostly we’re just ordinary people who turn into a wolf during the full moon and go out and hunt rabbits.”

Anna Cornick, a precious Omega werewolf, knows a thing or two about being a victim. It is her intention to make sure she and Charles aid the FBI in catching this deranged killer, and ensure no more people (werewolf, Fae and human alike) are never again made to be victims of a madman.

‘Fair Game’ is the third book in Patricia Brigg’s ‘Alpha & Omega’ urban fantasy series, a spin-off of her original ‘Mercedes Thompson’ series.

‘Fair Game’ is one of the most anticipated paranormal novels of 2012, but I can safely assume that fans of Patricia Briggs have been counting down to the book’s release for quite a few years. Fans have not read a Charles & Anna book since the 2009 instalment, ‘Hunting Ground’. A new contract for Briggs negotiated that she would have alternate release years between ‘Alpha & Omega’ and ‘Mercedes Thompson’ – so while 2011 gave us ‘River Marked’, we will have to wait until 2013 for a new Mercy instalment. Alternatively, we won’t be revisiting Charles & Anna again until 2014 (if at all?). That makes ‘Fair Game’ about as precious as hen’s teeth, and places a high level of expectation on a novel that has been so long in coming, and will be a while in returning … so it’s lucky then that Briggs delivers, ten-fold!

Readers pick up the story when times for North American werewolves are tough. Since being ‘outed’ to the public, the wolves have had to partake of some serious PR campaigns, to convince humans (and more importantly; law-makers and the media) that they are not the monsters of comic books and horror films. To this end a tough love initiative has been enforced by Bran Cornick, Marrok of the wolves. Any misbehaving wolves that step out of line are not given three strikes or warnings – instead they are dealt with harshly and swiftly, and the deathblow comes from Bran’s son and executioner, Charles Cornick.

Charles has always been the North American werewolf law enforcement – but this public awareness and PR campaign has seen his job increase exponentially. He no longer has his mate, Anna, accompany him on interstate missions that see him enter pack territories and kill misbehaving werewolves (whose actions could lead to explosive news stories on the violence of the species). As a result of an increased kill-load and strict ‘show no mercy’ hard line approach, Charles’s mind is slowly buckling under the pressure. He sees ghosts when he looks in the mirror and has turned away from Anna’s comfort, silencing their mate bond for fearing of infecting her with his darkness.

When the Boston killing spree (which includes the murder of innocent werewolves) is bought to Bran’s attention, he sends Charles along with Anna on her advice – to give Charles a chance to be the ‘good guy’, and remind him who the bad guys really are.

When ‘Fair Game’ begins, a few months have passed since the events of ‘Hunting Ground’. In that second book Anna was only just starting to come into her own, to stand up for herself, learn to fight and move on from the horrors of her past. When ‘Fair Game’ begins Anna is a whole new person, and Charles is the emotionally weaker of the two. The altered dynamics are instantly recognized, and alarming for their switch.

From the moment we met him in Mercy’s first book, ‘Moon Called’, Charles has been the stoic warrior. He has always done what needs to be done, his father’s right-hand-man. Charles is executioner to Bran’s judge and jury. So to read his altered mind-set in ‘Fair Game’ is disarming, and illustrates just how far the fracture goes. He has locked down his mate bond with Anna, he doesn’t sing anymore and is seriously thinking that his time as a sane werewolf is at an end. And, really, his love for Anna is all that is keeping Charles afloat in his dark days… he sees it as a selfish love, knowing that his soul is deteriorating, but he holds on to Anna because she is the only peace he has ever known, and he loves her too much to let her go.
To try to encase his Anna in bubble wrap would be to kill the woman who protected him with her grandmother’s marble rolling pin. She was the woman he fell in love with.

Anna, meanwhile, has transformed into a fierce and feisty young woman. She does not bend before Bran’s stubbornness, and while Charles’s dark outlook has been sending other people scurrying, Anna meets his despair with unwavering loyalty and the steadfast belief in her ability to help him. Anna is such a wonderful character – and with ‘Fair Game’ Briggs is illustrating her character arc and transformation. From Anna’s beaten and terrified introduction in ‘On the Prowl’, to this sweet and tough mate in ‘Fair Game’. I have always thought that Anna and her character path was sort of running in the opposite direction to Mercedes. Anna started out beaten and downtrodden, and over the course of her series she is learning to rebuild and not be fearful… Mercedes, meanwhile, was bought up a coyote amongst wolves and learned to hold her own against bigger predators. For a long time, Mercedes was a little cocky … until the events of  ‘Iron Kissed’ saw her confidence shattered and her soul wounded. It’s only now, with Anna in ‘Fair Game’ and Mercedes in ‘River Marked’, that both women are feeling whole again; ready to face down the demons of their past and rebuild. I’m interested to know what happens next – when the internal conflicts are (mostly) overcome, what will be the next hurdle that these characters have to overcome…

And, on that note, there is a hint, in ‘Fair Game’, of a possible direction that Anna & Charles’s story could go in the near future… Anna is thinking about the werewolf cause, now that her kind is out in the open, and what benefits werewolves will reap from being in the public domain. No werewolf female can reproduce – the change is too harsh on the foetus and remaining wolf for nine months is too risky on one’s psyche. So what about adoption rights for werewolves? Surrogacy? These are all very interesting topics that Briggs is bringing up, and I do hope that even though it’s a passing thought in ‘Fair Game’, that it’s a hint of things to come…

I will warn that a lot of ‘Fair Game’ is police procedural. Charles and Anna are involved in an FBI investigation, so a lot of ‘Fair Game’ is concentrated on catching the killer, looking for clues. Each Briggs book is a ‘whodunit’ in some sense, but ‘Fair Game’ more than most feels crime-heavy, with Charles’s emotional state the real focus of the book. That being said, ‘Alpha & Omega’ is very much a romance, and there is plenty of Charles & Anna sweetness in ‘Fair Game’, reminding me why these two are one of my all-time favourite couples in urban fantasy!

The end of ‘Fair Game’ is a game-changer for the series… which will also impact the ‘Mercedes Thompson’ world. I refuse to give anything away because the shocking finale is too draw-droppingly good to spoil. The end also has me salivating for the next Mercy book (hurry up 2013!) and crossing my fingers for at least one more Charles & Anna book (2014? Pretty please?).

Patricia Briggs is one of the best urban fantasy writers around at the moment. Both her ‘Mercedes Thompson’ and ‘Alpha & Omega’ series are sublimely sensational spins on the old werewolf folklore, and ‘Fair Game’ is a highly anticipated instalment in a much-missed spin-off series. Charles & Anna’s relationship is as complex and epically romantic as always, and the character transformations in this novel are incredible and unsettling. There is upheaval in Briggs’s werewolf world, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

5/5

2 comments:

  1. It took me longer to get pulled into this series. With Mercy it was immediate but with Charles and Anna it took a little longer. Now, love this series but how I wish we got a book a year of each series. I'm greedy when it comes to Briggs. :)

    Great review!

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  2. I have only read the first book in this series and really liked it.I Loved Charles :)
    Looking forward to catching up.Great review.

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