Patricia Briggs,
Alpha & Omega
(Subterranean Press, 2009)

Mercy Thompson's world has just expanded.

Mercy, who is the central character in the popular lycanthropic series by Patricia Briggs, doesn't appear in Alpha & Omega. But this brief novel -- actually, a long short story, first published in the anthology On the Prowl -- builds on that world in an intriguing way, introducing new characters and concepts that flow in an entirely new direction.

Most werewolf stories focus on the alpha, or the tough newcomer who brings the alpha down. But Anna is a submissive character, an unwilling convert who has been raped and beaten by members of her pack in the four years since she was changed. She also turns out to be an omega, a much more passive -- but in some ways, just as powerful -- member of the pack hierarchy.

When Anna discovers unsavory things going on in her Chicago pack, she makes a call -- and summons the son (and enforcer) of the most powerful werewolf in North America. Charles immediately recognizes Anna's abilities, and his wolf half is quickly drawn to her -- but there's a mystery to solve first, involving either a rogue wolf or possibly an entire rogue pack.

This story, at just under 100 pages, packs a lot of development into a little space. It certainly wouldn't have hurt to be a little longer, but Briggs' fans will be thrilled to learn it has spun off into a new ongoing series. Cry Wolf and Hunting Ground have already been released and more are on the way.

Meanwhile, this short introduction is surprisingly sweet for a werewolf tale; Anna's harsh past and vulnerable present makes this an unusual, and unusually touching, entry into the genre.

As for this edition....

I'm a big fan of Subterranean Press, but sometimes I worry they are pricing themselves out of the reach of their most devoted fans. Their deluxe hardcover edition of Alpha & Omega will cost readers $35; a paperback of On the Prowl, with additional stories by Karen Chance, Sunny and Eileen Wilks, retails for $7.99. Do the math and make your own decision.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

19 September 2009

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