‘Burn Bright’ – Alpha & Omega #5 by Patricia Briggs

This is my fifth visit with Charles and Anna and it’s the best of the series so far. I started reading this spin-off series as a kind of filler while I waited for the next Mercy Thompson book to come out. By the fourth book ‘Dead Heat’, that had changed. Although the two series share the same world and timeline and have an overlapping cast of characters, the Alpha and Omega series has developed a distinctive voice of its own. They’re not fillers anymore. They’re books I look forward to because I know that I’ll slip into them completely and learn more each time.

The Alpha and Omega books feel quite intimate. They’re very focused on Charles and Anna and how they see the world and each other. The two of them are very different and both of them sit just outside the typical range of werewolf supernatural types. Each book has a threat or challenge that must be overcome. There are always violent confrontations and complicated magic but the plot of each book is also always wrapped around a theme or themes. In ‘Dead Heat’ it was about family and what that means when part of the family is supernatural.

In ‘Burn Bright’ the themes were about betrayal and what it means to be an outlier in a Pack and I thought they were handled with finesse. I enjoyed learning about the Wildings, werewolves too broken by age or trauma to control their wolves enough to live with the pack and too dangerous to be allowed to live with humans. The Wildings could easily have been painted as monsters or could have been softened into like-us-but-misunderstood. Patricia Briggs did something more interesting. She showed them as dangerous, even monstrous but she built more empathy than fear by showing who they had once been, who they struggled not to become and how what has happened to them could happen to any of the strongest in the Pack.

The central mystery in the plot was satisfying. It spoke to betrayal and it established an enemy for the Pack that I’m sure will continue in future books.

As usual, the fight scenes were vivid and compelling and, as usual, what I enjoyed most was getting to know the characters better.

I was particularly impressed with the quality of the writing in ‘Burn Bright’. It was accomplished, polished and confident. It managed to create a sort of fairytale ambience (The Brother’s Grimm type of Fairytale, not the Disney version) while still feeling contemporary. The Alpha and Omega books come out less frequently than the Mercy Thompson books. There was a three-year gap between ‘Hunting Ground’ and ‘Dead Heat’ and another three-year gap before ‘Burn Bright’ came out. It seems to me that the gaps are long enough for me to be able to see Patricia Briggs becoming an even better writer with each book.

Published by Mike Finn

Mike Finn: reading, reviewing and writing fiction

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