Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia BriggsHunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 286
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Cry Wolf

Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son — and enforcer — of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be either...

Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan — and it seems like someone else might be too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all — or risk losing everything...

Thoughts: How many ways can I say I love Patricia Briggs? No really, give me some suggestions, because I am running out of “I HEART BRIGGS” variations.

Once again, I adored another of Patricia Briggs’ novels. The Mercy Thompson world is such a glorious one, and this second Alpha & Omega book proves that the quality of her spin-off series wasn’t just a one off. Briggs has created something magical with the Alpha & Omega series.

On to the book itself: the first thing that struck me about Hunting Ground was its setting in the universe. It is set around book 3 or 4 of the Mercy Thompson series, and handles an issue mentioned in the Mercy books but not one I had considered requiring its own book. Of course, I was wrong! Because of Charles’ status in his father’s pack, this Alpha & Omega installment gave us a chance to see the wheeling and dealing behind the politics spotted in the Mercy books. I love a good bit of negotiating (especially when it includes bloodshed – see my review of Pride by Rachel Vincent for evidence to that effect).

Anna and Charles’ relationship development was as solid as ever. Considering how little they know each other AND how little we know them (this is only book 2, after all), it’s rather extraordinary how attached they are and how attached I am to them. Of course, this is because Patricia Briggs is excellent at writing real adult relationships, creating complex characters etc. etc. – you’ve heard the pro-Briggs spiel before.

But what truly surprised me about Hunting Ground was the quality of its background characters. Briggs had me in tears over a character I’d met only pages ago. This is horrid, of course, as all of her characters eventually end up going through hell! But still. Her beautiful, wonderful, horrible secondary characters were all deserving of their own spin-off.

Two minor “complaints” that were annoying but did not detract from the quality of the read. These could be considered somewhat spoilery, so tread with caution!:

  • The summary on the back of my edition had major spoilers for the novel. The death it describes takes place more than two-thirds the way through the book. I wrote a whole rant about it here: #PublisherFail Spoiler Summaries
  • I also worked out the identity of the villain rather early on. Since that NEVER happens to me, it must have been rather obvious to other people. That said, the aforementioned summary-from-hell did help rule out some suspects. So… it could have been that?

Bottom line? After reading Hunting Ground, I desperately want to read the next installments in the Mercy and Alpha & Omega series… but I am saving them for my next reading funk. Patricia Briggs can get me out of the most dreadful of reading slumps; she’s that good.

Review: River Marked by Patricia Briggs

Review: River Marked by Patricia BriggsRiver Marked by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson #6
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 326
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Moon Called, Blood Bound

Being a different breed of shapeshifter - a walker - Mercy Thompson can see ghosts, but the spirit of her long-gone father has never visited her. Until now, on her honeymoon with the Alpha werewolf Adam. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-and innocent people are dying. As other walkers make their presence known to Mercy, she must reconnect with her heritage to exorcise the world of the legend known as the river devil...

Thoughts: This book has confirmed what I long thought to be true: Patricia Briggs is incapable of writing books I don’t like.

I was in a real reading slump when I picked up River Marked. Almost every book I picked up left me with a desire to send letter bombs in the mail – and there seemed to be no cure in sight. I thought: “If Briggs can’t get me out of this funk, no one can.” And sure enough, she did.

River Marked was absolutely stellar. It was really different to the previous Mercy books, as Mercy and Adam spent 90% of the time away from home with strangers. I adored this for two reasons: 1) it was a chance for us to see how Mercy and Adam’s relationship would work outside of their comfort zone. 2) it was a completely natural, realistic thing for a couple to do. Too often authors will stick to a particular group of characters or a certain location, because that’s what people want to read. Not Briggs. She’ll take two of your favourite characters, toss them somewhere brand new, and make you love her for it.

That said, though most of the book was spent on the road, Briggs did sneak in a few fan favourites: Bran, Stefan and Jesse all put in some rather solid appearances. Thank God, as I really needed to check in on them after Silver Borne.

So, along with the fantastic exploration of Mercy and Adam’s relationship, River Marked also introduced a bunch of Native American mythology… which I loved. I read stories about Coyote and Raven when I was a girl, so seeing their stories incorporated into River Marked was a dream. Without giving away too many details… I also really liked how Briggs dealt with Mercy’s family history. Maybe other readers will find it a bit iffy, but I thought she handled it all very well.

You can also see the beginnings of a bunch of new plot lines in River Marked; I am positively twitching with impatience with the need to find out what Briggs has planned! I was starting to worry that she was wrapping up the Mercy series, but I can picture at least 5 more books worth of content she can cover after this.

Bottom line? A stellar – albeit, very different – installment in the Mercy series. If you are looking for a UF series that can hold up six books in, look no further.

Cover Note: I’ve used the US cover for this post as I absolutely loathe the new UK covers. The covers are actually what kept me from reading this book for so long – I just couldn’t stand the idea of buying the UK version! Only reason I bought it in the end was because I spotted it at Oxfam. Will need to get the US cover on bookdepository one of these days…

Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells

Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye WellsSilver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #4
Published by Orbit on January 5th 2012
Pages: 405
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, The Mage in Black, Green-Eyed Demon

Spoilers for the first 3 books! 

Life is looking up for Sabina Kane. Now that her scheming grandmother is dead, the threat of war has passed and the rulers of the dark races are about to sign a treaty to ensure ongoing peace. Her relationship with sexy mage Adam Lazarus is strong and all her friends are around her. Even her magic training is progressing further than she ever expected. The only two dark spots in her otherwise settled life are her guilt over her sister Maisie's fragile mental state and Sabina's own sinking sense that she's got unfinished business with Cain, the mysterious cult leader she let get away months earlier.

When a string of murders rock the New York dark races community and threatens to stall the peace negotiations, Sabina finds herself helping to find the killer. Her investigation leads her down troubling paths that have her questioning everything - and everyone - she knows. And the closer she gets to the murderer, the more Sabina realises this is one foe she may not able to kill.

Thoughts: Silver-Tongued Devil was brilliant. I expected great things from Jaye Wells, but truth is that Green-Eyed Demon left me wondering where she could go with the series. Everything had ended so happily that I couldn’t really work out why Wells needed two more books.

The reason? Because there is no such thing as a happy ending, not even in fiction! In real life, people don’t just go from being a ruthless assassin for 50 years to being a warm-hearted softie overnight. And in real life, love and friendship aren’t the only ingredients to lasting relationships. So while Sabina might want to ride into the sunset, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. And to honest, I am so very grateful for that!

Let’s start with Sabina. She’s one of my favourite characters in fiction, she is a take-no-prisoners woman who has a panache for violence. It’s fabulous and depressing at the same time. But in the third book in the series, it felt like she was trying to be someone she wasn’t. Luckily, that attempt is dealt with head-on in Silver-Tongued Devil. Not only did she deal with her own demons, she dealt with the way people around her were treating her too. *cough* Adam. *cough*

And while all the inter-character relationships were fantastically done, it was the gargantuan plot twists that made this book stand out. Jaye Wells is not afraid to “go there”. She made some pretty big revaluations in this book and made her characters suffer through pretty horrific consequences because of them. What was especially gratifying was the way the plot built on existing scenes – Wells has been laying the groundwork for the events of Silver-Tongued Devil over the entire series. Now that? That’s a real writer.

While the first half of the book was good, the second half was fantastic. The pace and the plot just grew more and more intriguing with each page – I found myself thinking about the book whenever I’d put it down. This book made going about my day a very frustrating venture, as all I wanted to do was read!! The only reason it isn’t getting 5 stars? Well, it’s not quite as funny as its predecessors. Other than that, it was perfection.

Bottom line? Silver-Tongued Devil was everything I didn’t even know I wanted. It was a gripping installment to an already brilliant series. Go forth and read it!

Review: Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Review: Cry Wolf by Patricia BriggsCry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #1
Published by Orbit
Pages: 320
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Hunting Ground

Anna never knew werewolves existed until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she'd learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But Anna is that rarest kind of werewolf: an Omega. And one of the most powerful werewolves in the country will recognize her value as a pack member—and as his mate.

Thoughts: In case you haven’t heard, Patricia Briggs is a brilliant author. I tend to forget her whenever I list my favourite authors, but I really really shouldn’t. Every one of her books is a joy to read, and Cry Wolf is no exception. If you’ve never read her work… get to it!

So, Cry Wolf. First off, you should know that Anna and Charles’ story begins with another tale: Alpha and Omega. It’s a novella published in the On the Prowl anthology (I gave it a glowing review here), and it is well worth reading before you start Cry Wolf. That said, you can jump straight into the novel without reading the prequel – that’s actually what I started off doing before I remembered Alpha and Omega. But I found that reading about Anna’s back story and how she met Charles really did enhance Cry Wolf, so… it’s up to you.

There was a lot of sadness in Cry Wolf. Maybe I am a sucker for sad stories, but my heart leapt for so many of the characters in this book: Bran and Sam, in particular. Bran – the alpha of alphas – was one of my favourite characters in the Mercy Series. Getting to see things from his POV was a real thrill. And finding out his origin story? The most beautifully depressing thing I have ever read. And Sam… oh, Sam. I loved seeing him through the eyes of all new characters – he’s still as charismatic as ever, but boy is that boy ever filled with angst.There was a beautiful romantic tension between Anna and Charles – who are busy coming to terms with their new-but-intense relationship. It’s a rather unique relationship; their wolves are in love, but their human counterparts are struggling to accept the bond. Instant-bonds are one of my favourite tropes, but they can very quickly turn ridiculous. Cry Wolf manages to deal with the theme seriously – it’s brilliant.

Writing this review has made me want to reread Cry Wolf. Seriously, there is a reason everyone and their mother loves Patricia Briggs. Go forth and read!

Bottom line? Cry Wolf is a stunning novel. It has atmosphere, heartbreak, monsters, and a lovely romance. In short, it has everything I could possibly want from a novel.

Review: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Review: Bitten by Kelley ArmstrongBitten by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Women of the Otherworld #1
Published by Orbit
Pages: 448
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:

Elena Michaels is your regular twenty-first-century girl: self-assured, smart and fighting fit. She also just happens to be the only female werewolf in the world...

It has some good points. When she walks down a dark alleyway, she's the scary one. But now her Pack - the one she abandoned so that she could live a normal life - are in trouble, and they need her help. Is she willing to risk her life to help the ex-lover who betrayed her by turning her into a werewolf in the first place? And, more to the point, does she have a choice?

Thoughts: I’ve had Bitten on my shelves for a couple of years now and, despite my ardent love for Kelley Armstrong, I had trouble picking it up. This was partly because I had heard so many good things about the book but – if I’m completely honest – it had more to do with the book itself. Because for all the great reviews out there, there were also a number of reviews that were highly critical of Clay, one of the central characters. And after reading the summary of Bitten, I couldn’t blame them. This man chose to infect the love-of-his-life against her will… how could I ever like him?

So that was my main worry going into Bitten… but in the end, my read trouble was with Elena. While I could readily accept her leaving Clay after what he had done – she never really did. Instead she kinda strung him along… and that’s just not nice. The only thing that made me forgive her was the fact that she is monstrously screwed up. She was orphaned at a young age, sexually and emotionally abused growing up, and then turned into a werewolf against her will. These aren’t the sorts of experiences that leave you unscarred. But still, given that Bitten takes place 10 years after she was bitten, I think Elena had been given enough time to get her act sorted out.

Clay, on the other hand, was fantastic. I mean, I wouldn’t actually want to meet the man out of fear for my life, but I still adored him. I had heard him described as an older version of Derek (from her Darkest Powers series) – and that’d be correct with one amendment: Clay has no “human” conscience. He doesn’t do things because they are the right thing to do, instead he’ll do whatever he must in order to protect his pack. That includes the disemboweling of innocents (no, that doesn’t happen in Bitten, but I would never put it past him).

As you might have imagined, there is an insane amount of violence in this book. Usually, I’m all on board with blood and guts in my UF, but there was one scene of needless violence that really bothered me. I get that they are werewolves and that, in their wolf form, they’ll kill pretty much anything if it threatens them. But when Elena killed a dog while she was human, and neither she nor Clay felt the slightest bit of remorse? I was so so so not ok with that. Killing out of necessity I understand, but when they killed the dog out of convenience it just seemed… out of character.

And despite my issues with Elena and her somewhat-homicidal habits (Derek and Chloe need to stay far far away from the pack if they are still like this), I still enjoyed Bitten. It kept me up well past my bedtime; I was thinking about these characters while I wasn’t reading. And I think Stolen will be much better… Bitten was written as a stand-alone novel, and I truly believe it would have been a different (more enjoyable) book if Kelley Armstrong had written it knowing there’d be a sequel.

Bottom line? Kelley Armstrong is a fantastic author and her Otherworld verse is one I can’t wait to read more about. But is this her best book? Well… she can do better.

Favourite Quote:

The glowing ember shot into the sky, arced, then came tumbling down, end over end like a falling star. I glanced down at Clay. He was watching the sparkler and grinning with as much childlike joy as I´d felt, dancing around the grove with my fairy wand. I looked back up at the light, closed my eyes, and made my wish.

I wished I knew what I wanted.

Page 1 of 212