If you regularly read this blog, you know that I re-read the Alpha & Omega series prior to reading Wild Sign, so I decided to review the previous books in the series as well, now that I have read and reviewed the latest book. I’ll try and keep my reviews brief, and as always, I’ll avoid any spoilers that can reasonably be avoided, commenting on the book in general rather than re-capping the plot.
Due to Anna’s past, there are mentions of sexual assault in this book, but no such assaults take place. There are however, descriptions of abuse and violence. If you prefer to avoid such things, this book (and the whole series) might not be for you.
Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son — and enforcer — of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be either…
Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan — and it seems like someone else might be too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all — or risk losing everything…
I enjoyed this book, and think it holds up well to a re-read. Despite remembering the twist ending partway through the book, there was still plenty of character moments and interesting tension to drive the book, without the added mystery of who was trying to sabotage the summit, and why.
I liked the way Anna and Charles’s relationship and trust had built up before and during this book, and I really enjoyed them exploring Seattle. Anna gets fleshed out quite a bit in Hunting Ground, and I liked seeing her give and take comfort from music, show interest in art-quilts, make friends and show her competitive and fiercely protective side throughout the course of this book. Patricia Briggs writes nuanced characters very well, and I think it is one part of what makes her long-running series so compelling, and allows them to be re-read without losing their charm. The range of interesting and fully formed characters introduced in this book is mind-blowing, and I really hope that Patricia Briggs returns to Seattle in future books.
Moira in particular is a great character, and I’d love to see her and Anna become closer, or just have more opportunities to interact. I liked the way Tom and Moira worked as a unit, but in a different way to the other couples in the book, and I also appreciated the way Anna’s assumption that Moira’s disability made her helpless was challenged. I believe Patricia Briggs has mentioned before that she has written, or hopes to write, a book or series following them. With the recent focus on witchcraft in both the Alpha & Omega and Mercy Thompson series, I think the time is ripe for a Moira spin-off.
I also liked the inclusion of Ric, the omega wolf that came over with the Europeans. I understand that omega wolves are supposed to be very rare, but I think the inclusion of other omega wolves helps Anna not seem quite so much a chosen one because of her abilities. Jean Chastel is also an interesting inclusion, and while it can seem cheesy when authors use historical events in their world-building, I think Patricia Briggs does it well, enhancing the story without trivialising actual events. The contrast between Jean Chastel and Arthur also draws out the nuance of their characters well. I also enjoyed the way Arthur was used to explore the complication of an ageless person married to a mortal. Adding in aspects of a world that are inconvenient or unglamorous helps to avoid straining the willing suspension of disbelief that is so vital for urban fantasy to work.
The world-building done in Hunting Ground is superb, and I really enjoyed the world being expanded beyond America. All too often in urban fantasy the plot and characters revolve around a single city or country, and I enjoy when an author puts in the work to expand the world beyond the country their series is based in. Other than Patricia Briggs, I think this is done well by Seanan McGuire in her InCryptid series; Derek Landy in his Skulduggery Pleasant books; Anne Bishop in her The Others series and even to an extent Laurell K Hamilton in her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter books.
I do have a criticism for Hunting Ground, although it does apply more generally to the Alpha & Omega series as well. I wish Bran and Charles’s abilities were explained a little bit more clearly, as the way they are included can seem narratively convenient at times, and wish the rules and limits were defined a little more clearly. I think this would not only be an interesting facet of their characters and past to explore, but a good way to make their successes seem more hard-fought, and their challenges more urgent. I think this is the only Alpha & Omega book to involve vampires, too, and I don’t know that they work as well in this series without Mercy’s connection to Stefan to help illuminate the motives and politics on the vampires side.
Overall, Hunting Ground was a great book that holds up well on a re-read. I do think you should have read Alpha & Omega (the prequel short story) at least before you read Hunting Ground, so you aren’t missing context, but if you haven’t read the Mercy Thompson books, or don’t care to, they really aren’t necessary to follow the plot of this book. I’d recommend this book to fans of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy or The Edge novels, Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld or Laurell K Hamilton’s early Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels (before they became largely erotica).