Anna is an abused werewolf, changed against her will and subjected to hideous abuse and assault by her former pack. Charles is the son of and executioner for the Marrok, the werewolf who is alpha over all the the packs in North America. When Charles was sent to clean up the mess of Anna’s pack, his arrival set off a series of small explosions in their private world. Charles’ wolf chose Anna as his mate. Anna learned she was an Omega wolf, not a submissive worthless wolf as she’d been told. Anna chose to accompany Charles back to Montana, where he was healing from the battle with her former pack Alpha, and where another adversary is attacking people without much finesse in the Cabinet mountains.
Cry Wolf opens with Anna relentlessly trying to be strong when she’s been told for so long that she is worthless and weak and not worth protecting. Suddenly she’s valuable and everything she knew and learned on her own as a werewolf is only partly true. Charles is as mystified by Anna as she is by him – and both welcomes and fears the out-of-control feeling she creates in him, after centuries as a relatively stable werewolf.
Hunting Ground continues Anna and Charles’ story a few months after the events in Cry Wolf. The Marrok maintains his conviction that he should take the werewolves’ existence public as many other fae have, and a summit is held so that other packs from other countries can address their concerns with his plan. When Charles convinces his father that he and Anna should go instead, they enter a delicate political nightmare that requires more balance and deftness than he and Anna can handle.
Now, I don’t as a rule follow series books, and I am loathe to start a series especially when there’s no finite ending. But the manner in which Briggs reveals the conflicts between Charles and Anna and the individual challenges facing them in each book is more than enough to keep me reading. But beyond the individual books themselves are the themes and redefining of archetype that I cannot get enough of. What I love about these books is that they reexamine the concept of Alpha, both wolf and hero. How difficult must it be to be angry and dominate others all the time, all pounding and chest thumpy all day long. The alpha hero doesn’t get a break – and that instinct-level dominance must be exhausting.
Enter the Omega, who provides balance and harmony, a solution and a way in which to examine the power and limitations of the alpha, both the alpha in the mythology, and in the tradition archetype in romance.
The relationship between Charles and Anna is one thing, and it’s an amazing thing. Theirs is an instant-attachment between strangers. His wolf chose hers. Her wolf is down with that. He is unquestionably drawn to her, and loves her. She is horrified that she needs someone she doesn’t know very well, and is terrified of needing someone who can hurt her. Their story is about love and strength and recovery from trauma and hurt – and it’s a powerful thing to grow slowly over time. It echoes that which draws readers to Eve and Roarke: a continued growth of two wounded, isolated people who find they have one other person so very much like them, so alluring they can’t let go. It turns the instalove on its head, and recasts it as a source of conflict. Their wolves are mated. They have chosen one another in a limited fashion. What next, as they must be together now? How to resolve everything else, both internal and external?
Stroke of goddam genius, I tell you.
The relationship between the Alpha and the Omega gives known wolf mythology a quarter-turn so it looks entirely different, and demands reexamination of traditional gender roles as well, as the Omega is, though not always, a female. Charles is a 200+ year old Native American werewolf with more than ordinary powers and a necessary isolation from everyone else. He can’t make friends. He may have to kill them. Anna was isolated deliberately and abused until she was nearly broken, and now isn’t sure what instincts she should trust: those born out of terror and fear or those that come with her werewolf personality – or should she ignore both sets and try to remember what it was to be human?
The balance of harmony is cast into characters with instinctive and pre-determined roles – Alphas and Omegas are born the way they are, even as humans prior to being changed in to werewolves – and the world built around that concept creates a new set of questions about why and how effective romance relationships work, and how enduring couples through a continuing series maintain their attraction for readers.
I’m so glad I was introduced to this series, though I’ve had to stop myself from rereading more than once. Now, on to the allure of Mercy Thompson.