Alpha and Omega

by Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha and Omega #1
Publisher: Berkley
Copyright: 2007
ISBN: 1-101-41379-4
Format: Kindle
Pages: 112

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Alpha and Omega is a novella set in Briggs's Mercy Thompson universe, an urban fantasy world that started with Moon Called. There's a limited edition hardcover version which is, at this point, ridiculously expensive, but it's available relatively inexpensively on the Kindle. (The page count in the sidebar may be high, since that's from the hardcover version; the Kindle version doesn't have page numbers.) It's the prequel novella to the novel Cry Wolf. You don't have to have read any of the Mercy Thompson novels to follow the story; it stands alone fairly well.

I actually read Cry Wolf first, but (as I was warned) that proved to be a mistake, so I'm publishing my reviews in the "correct" reading order. Unusually for a niche novella leading into a regular series, Cry Wolf leans heavily on Alpha and Omega and works best if you've read it first.

Anna is a werewolf, but not a very happy one. She's been a werewolf for three years, cutting herself off from everything before at the insistance of her pack, and she's at the bottom of the pecking order: abused, mistreated, and ordered about (although some of the abuse has gotten mildly better). That makes it startling that, when she sees a photograph in the paper of a missing teenager that she recognizes, she's willing to call the Marrok, the ruler of all wolves in North America, to report her pack's possible involvement.

The Marrok sends his enforcer, Charles, to investigate. As soon as he arrives, he can tell that far more is wrong than anyone had realized. Anna's pack is completely dysfunctional, and Anna herself... well, that's the point of the story.

Alpha and Omega has one of the more appealing qualities of novellas: a clear narrative drive that goes from point A to point B without many sidetracks or digressions. It's told in alternating tight third person perspectives, a traditional choice for this sort of story. Very little here will surprise an urban fantasy reader. It's the hurt/comfort story that one expects from the early going, but it's one that moves right along and hits most of the right notes.

The biggest drawback for me was that I'm not horribly fond of Briggs's werewolf mythology. There are some parts that I like, such as Anna herself and the role that she discovers, but there's rather a lot of characters wrestling with their instinctive reactions or finding pack hierarchy enforced via means that appear to be magic. Given that the sort of absolute dominance hierarchy portrayed here is now considered dubious or refuted even in wild wolves, and given that I have a knee-jerk dislike of simplified, absolute structures, that part of Briggs's world-building makes my teeth itch.

But, if you can get past that, and if you're not looking for any complex plotting (it is just a novella, after all), this isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon. It's comfort reading: things go roughly as you would expect them to go, and you can have the emotional satisfaction of seeing Anna's growth with very little risk.

Followed by Cry Wolf.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2012-12-22

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21