Posted on November 11, 2008 by spikexan
Patricia Briggs takes a break from the Mercy Thompson series and gives readers a more detailed look at the Marrok’s world in Cry Wolf: An Alpha and Omega Novel. In this novel, the lead female is Anna Latham, a former Chicagoan who, with the help of the Marrok’s pack, is able to escape an abusive upbringing and to redefine her life. The cover art by Daniel Dos Santos is a solid depiction of the character Briggs brings to life throughout the course of the novel.
I picked up this novel because of the Mercy Thompson series. I am not a huge fan of werewolf fiction; however, the urban fantasy environment Briggs created in the before mentioned Thompson series continues to develop interestingly as new facets of the reality are revealed. That said, I am a fan of this novel. The chief reason for my conversion rests in Brigg’s ability to write convincing characters. In the long line of badass supernatural chicks like Buffy Summers, Cassie Hack, and Elena Michaels, the character of Anna Latham provides a welcome change. She begins the story a broken woman who has an interesting trait that could keep her that way permanently.
Unlike the females mentioned earlier, Anna doesn’t throw out witty quips. She looks at her feet. At first.
That said, Anna’s magnetism comes from the fact that she is not a moping character like Twilight’s Isabella Swan. Her story is suspenseful and not written like a teenager’s diary. There are familiar characters in the novel, which tie it to Briggs’ other series. Bran Cornick, the Marrok (Alpha of Alphas), is a key figure in the novel, however, it is his son, Charles Cornick, the underappreciated enforcer, who shines more in Cry Wolf than in previous novels.
Charles is to be Anna’s mate, but her horrid background casts doubts for both that such a mating can ever be fulfilled. He works as a minor antagonist through the novel’s subplot (the novel actually feels like it has rival main plots, but I won’t pick hairs). The novel also brings new werewolves and other menaces to Briggs’ setting. The major antagonist of the piece is Mariposa, a witch who has developed a nasty, nasty trick. Without running the risk of throwing in spoilers, I will explain why I like Mariposa as an antagonist. One, she has a plan, a darn good plan. Two, you hate her because she’s written well and you are supposed to want her head on a pike.
Cry Wolf’s setting almost acts as a third antagonist, but honestly works more as an intense obstacle. The bulk of the storyline is set in an unforgiving mountain range during one of the coldest parts of the year. Anna and Charles are better equipped to deal with the environment, but not impervious to its inherent dangers. Briggs plays with the reader quite a bit with the temperature and terrain alone. Much of the novel’s suspense comes from the isolation this setting creates, a true cornerstone of the horror dynamic.
Without giving away what an Omega can do, the concept is critical to the story. Briggs jumps on a devilishly simple concept and makes it work. Werewolf packs have Alphas, a concept that instantly brings connotations to mind. Anna Latham is an Omega, which is a rare creature in this mythos. She comes to find that an Omega’s powers are a potent force all their own and why a pack should consider itself lucky to possess one in its ranks. Briggs may not be the first author to tie the concept of Alpha and Omega to the myth of the werewolf, but she does it with style.
Despite my raving of the characters, Cry Wolf reads as if Briggs didn’t have a great deal of faith in her lead character. In a market full of first or second person narratives, Briggs actually takes a card from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The story is told through the perspective of several characters, never holding to one view. This is initially jarring, although Briggs writes her characters well enough that it becomes simple to distinguish between them.
Later in the novel, towards the plot twist (which is really, really fun), the distinctions blur quite a bit and I found myself rereading sections just so I could establish the chronology and perspective. This technique works well in the novel despite this glitch midstream. I hope later novels get away from this style, but Briggs puts it to good use here.
Ah, the story. This story brings several genres–romance, action, and suspense–into play and each really tell a fantastic story on their own. When combined by the author, they generate a fast-paced story. Keep in mind that when I say romance, for example, that I really mean werewolf romance. Werewolf goes in front of all of these genres. The action during combat is brutal, the romance is feral, and the novel’s man-versus-nature suspense hits at a primal level as well.
Briggs’ werewolves are not slathering, mindless creatures. They are people who give in to their instincts, but still retain most of their intellect and cunning. The novel offers good insight into how this works in the setting as part of the plot deals with a werewolf who isn’t so competent at maintaining their reason during the change. When the story starts throwing literal and figurative blood all around, its werewolf characters begin acting accordingly. I found the romance between two fairly insecure werewolves to be a rich undercurrent to the horror and action of the novel.
All in all, I found Cry Wolf to be an enjoyable read. In a market that is getting a bit crowded, this book holds steady. The writer continues to bring new quirks to the genre. As a horror novel, I can only give it a score of 7 out of 10. It gets this low score because it isn’t scary.
You won’t be biting your nails or flinching at the author’s descriptions (though she gives some goosebumps with Mariposa). As an novel of urban fantasy, I give it a score of 9 out of 10.
Review by Todd Cash