We are living in a golden age of genre storytelling in which the lines between previously-rigid genres are becoming increasingly blurred. This is definitely true in the publishing industry where, following the success of the Twilight series, publishers have been more willing than ever to take a chance on paranormal romance and urban fantasy—and not just for teen girls.
Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega books are one such series. The adult werewolf romance novels began with a novella set in the world of Briggs’ other bestselling urban fantasy series, The Mercy Thompson Series. Called Alpha and Omega, the series follows Anna Latham, a woman who only finds out about the existence of werewolves when she is attacked by them and becomes one. After spending three years being abused by the dominant males of the group, she goes above her Alpha’s head to ask for help when a local young man goes missing.
Enter Charles Cornick. As the 200-year-old son of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles serves as chief enforcer under his father’s rule. When Charles is sent to Chicago to solve a problem, he meets Anna, and recognizes her not only as his mate, but as a rare kind of werewolf: an omega. Omega werewolves have the helpful ability to calm dominant werewolves. In the world Briggs has created, this is basically a superpower, and it’s especially cool to see a superpower story where the protagonist’s chief ability is related not to more traditionally masculine traits like physical strength, but a more traditionally feminine trait like a skill at navigating interpersonal social dynamics. More stories like this, please!
Briggs writes the books in third-person, so we get both Charles and Anna’s perspectives—perspectives that are further, fascinatingly divided into the characters’ human sides and wolf sides, which are sometimes at odds. It’s unique fantasy world-building elements like this that make reading the Alpha and Omega series so fun to read. This series takes place in a fantasy-enhanced version of our world (Anna is a waitress at an Italian restaurant when the series starts), but Briggs chooses to enhance not only the more traditionally supernatural elements, but also the social dynamics of the group. It makes for addicting, character-driven drama that is very much grounded in how woman are socialized to experience and interact with the world. Also, there is some great romance that remains central to the series moving forward.
The fifth book in the series, Burn Bright, just hit shelves (complete with gorgeous cover from The Name of the Wind cover artist Dan Dos Santos), and it continues the romance of Anna and Charles as they work as partners to keep the werewolves of North America safe. Here’s the full, official synopsis from Penguin Random House:
They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.
With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…
While Burn Bright is very much about Charles and Anna’s relationship, it also deepens the richness of this fantasy world in some cool ways. As Charles and Anna set about solving the mystery of why a pair of werewolf wildlings have called them to ask for help, we learn more about the fringes of the North American werewolf population and how they impact Charles and Anna’s pack. With Charles’ father, the grand-Alpha of North America gone, it falls to Charles and Anna to solve the problem that these werewolves have gotten into, which shifts the dynamics of the pack enough to give us more insight into how they work as a family, business, and general social group. The hard-hearted Leah, in particular, who has rarely if ever before been given the sympathy of the reader, is given more dimension in Burn Bright.
While you definitely don’t have to read all of the books in the series to understand what’s going on in Burn Bright (Briggs does a good job catching readers up), the plot and relationships of the book are informed by what has come before, so I would recommend it, beginning with the novella Alpha and Omega. If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy or supernatural romance world to dive into, there are few more addicting than the Alpha and Omega series.