If you’ve ever visited my blog before, chances are you’ve seen me raving about Patricia Briggs and the detailed, layered, rich world she’s created in her novels. Patricia Briggs is probably best know for her Mercy Thompson series (which I love more than words can say!) — and fortunately for her devoted readers, she’s also given us a wonderful spin-off series, the Alpha & Omega novels.
And… after a wait of three years, we finally have Dead Heat, the 4th book in the series. Worth the wait? You bet. (Thank you, Ms. Briggs!)
In a nutshell, the Alpha & Omega books center around main characters Charles and Anna Cornick. Charles is the 3rd most dominant werwolf in North America, and the only born — not made — werewolf, thanks to his Native American mother’s magical talents. Charles has inherited his werewolf nature and scary strength from his father, the ruler of the wolves, and a gift for magic from his mother. Charles is feared by all, as he’s been given the role of enforcer and assassin, sent by his father to keep the peace and keep werewolves in line.
The Alpha & Omega series is driven by Charles’s relationship with his wife and mate, Anna, a rare Omega werewolf who has the power to soothe anyone she encounters. Over the course of the series, Anna has grown from scared, brutalized victim into a powerful yet gentle presence whose unique talents make her a perfect partner for Charles.
Okay, I’ll just say it: I love these two. Their love story is special, I love their dynamic as a couple, and they bring out the best in each other. Plus, only Anna allows Charles the room to let his gentler, loving side out. He’s strong and terrifying, but he’s also a total sweetie who’s madly in love with his wife.
Charles just stared at her.
“You know that, right?” she said. “Most people stay out of your way, but the defenseless ones, the hurt ones, they just sort of gradually slide into your shadow. Not where you’ll notice them too much — but you keep the bad things away.”
He still didn’t say anything. She buttoned her jeans and then took the two steps to press against him.”We know,” she whispered to him. “We who have been hurt, we know what evil looks like. We know you make us safe.”
He didn’t say anything, but his arms came around her and she knew that she had told him something he didn’t know — and that it mattered.
Each of the Alpha & Omega books revolves around a central mystery which Charles and Anna must help to solve. In Dead Heat, someone has targeted the human family of an Alpha werewolf in Arizona at the same time that Charles and Anna are visiting to purchase a new horse. While protecting the family, they realize that a dangerous fae is involved and is most likely responsible for the disappearances of children from the area over the course of decades. Charles and Anna team up with both FBI and supernatural law enforcement specialists to track down the bad guy (a very, very bad guy) and make sure that no other children become its prey.
I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t go any further in describing the plot. Suffice to say, Dead Heat absolutely lived up to my expectations and had me furiously turning pages (when I wasn’t cursing the fact that I didn’t have the time to just read straight through without stopping). The action and adventure are pulse-pounding, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. There’s tension and drama, yet at the same time, Briggs keeps the banter and love between Charles and Anna at the forefront, so that we still get to savor the little, lovely moments between them that are the heart of these wonderful novels.
Adding a nice touch to the book is the introduction of Charles’s old friend Joseph, a Navajo and son of a werewolf, who is in the process of dying an old man’s death when the book starts. Joseph’s extended family covers generations and brings together some new and interesting angles, adding new depths to what we know of Charles and his past and introducing some great characters. I hope we’ll see more of this group in future books!
My only complaint about this book is that it takes place almost entirely in Arizona, and I missed the Montana setting of earlier books, as well as the Montana pack and its familiar characters. While Charles’s father Bran is always in the background in both series, I would have loved to see a bit more of him in Dead Heat, as he’s one of my very favorite characters. Still, the Arizona storyline gets an A+ as far as I’m concerned, which more than compensates for my minor little complaints.
Actually, I do have one additional complaint: I want more! The book wraps up when the mystery of the fae is resolved, but I wanted more of Charles and Anna! They’re at an interesting point in their relationship (I’m being intentionally vague here), and I want to see what happens next. Plus, the downside of reading these books as soon as they’re released is the excruciatingly long wait (okay, it’s only a year, but it feels longer!) for the next book, either in this series or in the Mercy Thompson series.
I can’t say it often enough: If you enjoy urban fantasy, and require your series to include well-defined characters, compelling story arcs, and an altogether unforgettable, fully-formed world, then you must check out Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series. Go in order, take it slowly, and enjoy. I don’t know anyone who’s started these books who hasn’t become hooked. Quality writing, amazing characters, fantastic plots. What more could you want?
** A word of clarification: While Dead Heat is the 4th Alpha & Omega novel, the story actually starts with a novella called Alpha and Omega, available as a stand-alone e-book or in two different collections, On the Prowl and Shifting Shadows. Be sure to start with the novella or you’ll be missing the crucial beginning to the story. Spoken by one who learned the hard way!**
Title: Dead Heat (Alpha and Omega, #4)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publication date: March 3, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy