Dead Heat: An Alpha and Omega novel by Patricia Briggs
|Dead Heat: An Alpha and Omega novel by Patricia Briggs|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: From this stalwart mistress of urban fantasy comes a big misstep, as we get too many horses and nothing like enough drama in her mystical, mythical revenge plot.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 336||Date: March 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Just because you're werewolves, you still can find love, like Charles and Anna. Even with your new nature (although in his case, new is a couple of hundred years) you can still have joint hobbies. A little lycanthropy doesn't stop you wanting a fabulous horse to go riding through the mountains on. So Charles and Anna are holidaying on an Arabian stud farm to check out the stock and meet up with his old friends, when something nasty happens. One of the young women in the host Pack of werewolves suddenly turns nasty, and has to put herself through a serious ordeal just to stop herself from stabbing her young children. Such is the torment that Charles has to take the life-changing – but life-saving – decision to turn her. The problem is, the very magical strength to push the situation to such an end is definitely a mighty one – and things and people turning into nasty entities are going to be a recurring theme in the days ahead…
Belying those who sniff at fantasy, this volume of the urban kind of that genre is about a lot more than one mythological species up against another. It's about maternity, and love – Anna starts the book insisting she and Charles can still go right against the grain of their species and successfully have a baby together. A nasty element comes from a Kindergarten, and of course there is the initial danger that alerts us at the end of chapter one that all is not bread and roses. All that's well and good – but the problem is that it's only when it is one creature type versus another that this book comes at all to life.
Having read practically every page Patricia Briggs has published, I'm ashamed to say I found myself skipping some here. There was too much that was 'character-defining' waffle spent on the stud. I know this author well, I thought, and I've never seen her fail to define character, interaction and nature through the action, and her books' lore – where we see the different species (vampire, werewolf, witch, fae and a lot more) live in amongst humans in a fully recognisable modern America, is normally sterling stuff. So it is here, when things allow her to discuss the maternal nature of Anna, the connection she has with one of the mightiest werewolves in the States, and the way they investigate magical goings-on together. But for some reason there is a far too mediocre family Pack for the heroes to live amongst, an awful lot of pauses in the action that are filled with blandness, and yet another flipping horse for the characters to go meet.
This is most evident when Briggs' plot gives us a lame false ending with far too many pages to go. If this were a film and we'd been removed of all time-pieces to check how much is left we might have fallen for it, but in a book, no. I was already aware that the time-scale of this drama was smaller than in previous books, that the plot didn't really have the same urgent threat as prior volumes, and that the book was seeming like a routine investigation – with added gee-gees – as opposed to the much more wondrous of before. In fact, an early clue was the aforementioned danger in chapter one – it only just sneaks its way in at the end, meaning most of the chapter is perfectly disposable.
Heinous words, and those from the mouth of a fan. When Briggs works she works – the darkness of the attic discovery here, underplayed with help from her usual visual acuity; the way we constantly learn the richness of her world without Basil Exposition being called on; the very drama of what her characters let themselves in for by their nature of being un-human. Some of all that is evident here, meaning this book is not utterly dismissable, but it is worrying. Her main series, of Mercy books – big cousin to this cycle – has had one major blip before now, and here's another. Let's hope these Alpha and Omega books can get back into their stride before long, for this one barely broke into a canter.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Our world has not been fully rocked by fantasy for some time now, on the whole, so we would suggest reading around the subject, with the absorbing What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading The Classics Of Science Fiction And Fantasy by Jo Walton ideal for genre-heads.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Heat: An Alpha and Omega novel by Patricia Briggs at Amazon.com.
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