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REVIEW: Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

Dear Ms Briggs,

I’m not just an avid reader of your Mercy Thompson series and your Alpha & Omega series, I’m the sort of fan who counts off the days until your next book like a kid counting the days until Christmas. But the problem with Christmas is that the wait can make even good gifts seem like something of a let down. Though I genuinely enjoyed your new novel, Fair Game, there were aspects of the story that disappointed me, too, and I think I might have been more forgiving if I hadn’t expected quite so much.


Patricia Briggs Fair GameFair Game
, takes the Alpha & Omega series’s werewolf protagonists, Charles and Anna, to Boston to help the FBI search for the kidnapped victim of a serial killer. At the same time, Charles, who acts as an enforcer, is haunted by the ghosts of out-of-control wolves he has put down at the order of his father, Bran, the leader of the werewolves.

One of my favorite aspects of this series is Charles and Anna’s relationship. I would have loved to see them confront Charles’s problem together, but that isn’t what happens. Instead, he keeps his problem secret out of fear that the ghosts will hurt Anna and/or she will leave him. This issue persists through much of the book, with Anna feeling miserable that Charles won’t talk to her, and Charles fearing that Anna will stop loving him if she is exposed to the terrible things he has done.

The lack of communication is so bad, that it actually gets to the point where this happens:

He’d intended to talk with her, he remembered, to tell her … But neither of them was in shape for talk.

That passage made me want to scream at the book the way sports fans scream at the TV when their team fumbles a play. It’s frustrating when the lack of one timely, honest, five minute conversation between the hero and heroine creates major complications — especially when characters know they should communicate, but don’t.

The other thing that frustrated me about this story was the villain. I am not a fan of serial killers as villains because I think they’re simplistic and overused. I also dislike the horrific oneupmanship of how every new fictional serial killer seems to have killed more people more horrifically than the last. I can set aside my dislike in cases where the story offers a twist on the formula, but this serial killer offered nothing new. I pegged the killer from the killer’s first scene, and then had to spend most of the novel waiting for Anna and Charles to figure it out.

In any other book, I think my frustration with the above-mentioned plot elements would have made me dislike the book as a whole, but that is not the case with Fair Game. Even when the plot bothered me, the wonderful world-building and well-drawn characters kept me engaged and enjoying the story.

I love how you used the Alpha & Omega series’ third-person point of view to give the reader insight into the thoughts and lives of secondary characters, and to show how Charles and Anna are perceived by the people around them. Particularly striking is difference between the way other characters see Charles, the way Anna sees him, and the way Charles sees himself. The narration from Anna’s and Charles’s point of view shows that he’s kind and thoughtful.   The scenes from other characters points of view show that even the characters who know him best don’t fully understand the toll his duties take on him. But Anna sees and understands, and her efforts to help and protect Charles even as he pushes her away show how their relationship has grown, and how Anna has grown.

When you introduced Anna in the novella, Alpha and Omega, she had been horribly abused. In subsequent books, we’ve seen her struggle to overcome the emotional effects of her abuse, and, with effort, succeed. In Fair Game, she’s smart, resourceful, and strong, but what makes her strength worth mentioning in a sub-genre filled with strong heroines is that Anna’s strength is a choice. When she’s in a tough situation, we see her consciously making that choice. In a sub-genre where the heroines and heroes are often stronger than human and larger than life, Anna’s vulnerability and honesty make her one of my favorite characters in recent years.

One of my favorite new characters is FBI agent Leslie Fisher, whom we meet for the first (but hopefully not the last) time in Fair Game. Her story gave me a glimpse of what life is like for ordinary people in Charles and Anna’s world. And what a world it is–deep and detailed, filled with black and white, and so many shades of gray.  Be they mortal or monster, everyone in this world does what they feel they need to do in order to survive, but even the scariest characters like the witches and the fae have their sympathetic moments. I love how it is ultimately those sympathetic, human qualities that shape the story for good and ill.

Overall, Fair Game wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, but it did deliver all the things I love most about the Mercy and Alpha & Omega books: easygoing-yet-immersive writing style, well-drawn characters, and excellent world-building. It passed my three R’s test—Readability, Recommendation and Rereading. I read the bulk of it in one sitting, I’ve already recommended it to another Briggs fan, and I know I’ll end up rereading it while I’m waiting for your next book to come out.

This book might not be the best place for new readers to start, but it is a recommended read for fans and series followers. I didn’t love Fair Game, but I did like it. The ending left me excited to read future installments in both series. I’ve already marked my calendar for spring, 2013, when the next book hits the shelves.

B

~Josephine

 

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Josephine

Josephine is a professional bibliophile whose hobbies include reading and writing. She enjoys genre fiction in general, and romance in particular. She is especially fond of romances with Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy elements. Her list of favorite authors changes with her mood but she's always eager to read the next good book.

28 Comments

  1. Helen
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 08:17:22

    I love, love love this series. I just wish she would write one in each of the series per year rather than skipping years. It is agony to wait 2 years for the next one in this series (which I love just a smidge more than the Mercy series)

  2. LG
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 08:52:58

    Must get! I love Charles and Anna, so it makes me sad that they have frustrating communication issues in this book, but that doesn’t stop me from looking forward to this. Like Helen, I think I love the Alpha & Omega books more than the Mercy Thompson books.

  3. Alaina
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 09:07:53

    I wanted to like this book so much but ultimately is was more “meh” than “yay”. It was just so predictable, and not in a way that allowed me to enjoy the ride. I’m looking forward, though, to how some of the developments in this book will reverberate throughout both series.

  4. Mandi
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 09:50:01

    Even though there is that lack of communication – and in most books, that quote would drive me up the wall -for some reason I wasn’t frustrated with Charles keeping his secret for most of the book. It felt valid that he would not tell Anna about the ghosts, since he feared admitting it would give them power, which could then be turned against Anna. He is number one a protector.

    I love Leslie too – and the ending. Wow. So excited to see how that will play out

  5. Gennita Low
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 09:56:01

    At first glance, without looking at author name, the title and the cover made me think romantic suspense. Then I noticed the wolf, the moon and the cape thing before checking book author. Browsing quickly at the aisle, I wouldn’t have thought this was paranormal romance/UF if I didn’t read Patricia Briggs.

    Charles is one of my favorite Briggs characters, so I’m looking forward to the new installment!

  6. Interview with Patricia Briggs
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 10:01:06

    [...] Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite authors, and today I get to interview her on topics including her forthcoming novel, her best-selling series, and her scary, scary fairies. You can read my review here. [...]

  7. Isobel Carr
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 10:01:16

    I wonder why the cover I got is totally different? Mine is red, with a close-up of a woman’s head and a wolf.

  8. Christine M.
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 10:09:46

    @Isobel Carr:

    You got the De Santos cover (US hardback). The one pictured on the post is, I think, the UK paperback cover.

  9. Josephine
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 11:08:51

    @LG: Go for it. Even though I didn’t like aspects of the plot, this is a good book because Briggs is an excellent writer. Also, as other commenters have noted, the ending makes things interesting for future books in both series, so if you’re a fan, you won’t want to miss this one.

    @Mandi: Mandi, I can’t argue with Charles’s motivation, or that it wasn’t in keeping with his protective nature, because it was. Initially, I thought Charles and Anna would be past that sort of thing, but while writing this review, I reread the series and found that Charles’s behavior was consistent. Unfortunately, that still wasn’t enough to quell my annoyance with that particular part of the plot.

  10. willaful
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 11:35:35

    Hmmm, your complaint makes me hopeful I will like this more than the last one, which I thought had way too much communication. ;-)

  11. Janine
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 13:36:52

    I really enjoyed this book and would grade it higher, a B+/A- I think. I liked it even better than Hunting Ground, which I also liked a lot, but not quite as much as Alpha and Omega and Cry Wolf which I loved loved loved.

    I was afraid I might not enjoy Fair Game as much as I did because I often lose interest the same protagonists after multiple books, but I needn’t have worried — I was smiling from ear to ear most of the time I read this one.

    I guessed the killer’s identity early on, but the lack of communication worked for me since it was in keeping with Charles’ personality. Moreover, I just loved the way Anna bloomed and came into her own in this book. And now I can’t wait for the next one.

  12. Estara
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:00:11

    @Gennita Low: The US cover is much more in keeping with the description, believe me. But living in Germany I was able to buy the UK edition, whose cover is shown here, not the US one ^^ as ebook.

    I thought the dynamics between Anna and Charles consistent to their characters and I loved how much Charles depended on Anna to be self-assured as a wolf. I also wasn’t happy with the serial killer thing, and loved the implications of the ending plot twist (not cliffhanger) for the whole world.

    My biggest hang-up (but that goes for Batman in US comics, too) is the implicit approval for vigilante justice, if the court system doesn’t work. Not being USian I do NOT want people, whether werewolves nor people with guns, to think they know better – I can wave it away when it concerns the paranormal races among themselves, but not when humans are touched. I can see that in a country which fights for the right to bear arms this would not be a major concern.

  13. Angela
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:34:53

    @Estara: Interesting connection between the “implicit approval of vigilante justice” and the fight for the right to bear arms.

    I personally don’t see the correlation, but mostly that’s because I, very firmly, believe in the right to bear arms, and definitely do not approve of vigilante justice – in real life at the very least.

    In books I can suspend that a bit because it’s usually presented as the only option, and it’s absoultely clear who the villains are.

    P.S. Haven’t finished the book yet, but this comment just really struck me.

  14. Isobel Carr
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:56:38

    I can tell you that readers sure do like vigilante justice! I got a LOT of negative emails about my last book because instead of killing the villain, the hero helps capture him and turns him over to the law (and since he’d murdered a peer’s son, he was going to be hanged, so it’s not like he got off lightly). I’ve never received so much feed back on one aspect of a book before, and to be honest, I’m not sure that I’ll ever let the villain live past the end of the book or die off page again.

  15. Diane
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 19:12:18

    I’ve tried the series but may have missed something; maybe I’ll give it another try.

  16. Bzangl
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 19:57:54

    I wasn’t as annoyed with Charles not talking about the ghosts, but the problem that I had with that section, was that after saying that they were in no shape for that conversation, they went and had sex for most of the night. If they can do that, they could talk for a few minutes.

    However, overall, I really enjoyed the book!

  17. Josephine
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 22:14:18

    @Janine: I can understand why you would grade it higher, there’s a lot to love in this book. I had a really hard time writing this review because it was tough to reconcile my absolute frustration with the major plot threads, and my abject adoration for the prose, characters, and world-building.

    @Estara: That is an interesting point about vigilante justice. Though I don’t approve of it and am kind of sick of it as a plot device, I do understand the appeal. I think U.S. popular culture’s fascination with vigilantism has less to do with the availability of guns and more to do with a legal system that is skewed in favor of money and privilege.

  18. Estara
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 09:29:32

    @Angela: *nod* That’s where I see my divide coming in. You can get behind the right to bear arms at least and in your eyes it doesn’t connect in any way to the possibility for vigilante justice – if I understood you correctly.

    I can’t see a separation of the two when non-officially registered citizens can own arms (as in: I think the police and the army should bear arms these days). I’ve simply grown up with a very different belief system regarding that. So this is totally my personal impression as a non-USian, non-native English speaker who enjoys reading books in English.

  19. Angela
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 12:06:23

    @Estara: Yep, you got what I was saying :)

    Your comment has actually made me think a lot more about how people outside the US see the right to bear arms in general, and why they think a lot of us fight so hard for that right – which is probably a discussion for a different place.

    I think I would put the fantasy of vigilante justice (in books of course) more where Josephine said. When the legal system is skewed, and the absolute guilt of the party is known of a heinous crime, I like seeing the bad guy get some recompense. Of course, that’s me ;)

    I finished Fair Game last night. I wasn’t as bothered as you, Josephine, with the lack of communication. It worked for me, for the most part. I, like Bzangl, was momentarily annoyed by the ‘we’re too tired to talk, let’s have sex all night’, but then I wasn’t. They needed that, too.

    The big change at the end kind of blew my mind, and I’m anxious to see how it affects the world overall.

  20. Roslyn Holcomb
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 14:40:43

    The lack of communication didn’t bother me. Especially since that’s been an issue with them from the beginning. I really like seeing how being the wolfkiller impacts Charles. It’s what drew me into this series in the first place. In Janine’s review of A&O she mentioned that Charles was affected after killing Leo. I love that. It’s always bothered me that we have heroes that are unfazed when they have to kill.

    I like the two black characters in this story. They felt organic, not like they were just plopped in to fulfill a “diversity” requirement. And I must say, this is the first fae focused Briggs story that I’ve really liked. I don’t like the fae for some reason, and I can’t even explain why. But I like them in this story.

  21. Josephine
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 15:29:29

    @Roslyn Holcomb: I’m glad so many people who liked or didn’t mind the lack of communication have chimed in. The tough thing about writing reviews, I’m learning, is that they are so dependent on my personal preferences. I can’t like something that bothers me, the only thing I can do is try to be specific about what I liked and didn’t like, and why, and hope that it will be enough to help readers make an informed decision, or to spark a good discussion in the comments, which is what is happening here. when I buy books based on reviews, often the comments are as helpful–or more helpful–than the actual review.

  22. KFlowers
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 20:23:11

    @Estara: While I agree with you concerning the vigilante justice. I actually didn’t look at the ending that way. I looked at it as a nation fumbling into war with another nation and two nationalistic law enforcement agencies dealing with a case that concerned and contained both parties (wolves not fae). Situations that seem small like this have had harsh repercussions, history has shown. The fact that humans believed that the way they treat each other would be tolerated by beings who are not human and are a small nation made up of “greater” beings who are ultimately tied by the word-bonds that they make and who expect the same of others, is ridiculous.

  23. Estara
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 04:11:47

    @KFlowers: That is an interesting aspect – but then

    *SPOILEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER*

    Beauclaire (who is the one I’m calling the vigilante, not the wolves by the way – they were policing themselves) never let on that he was the head of state. Not to mention that his daughter was human without magic and therefore is a subject as a US citizen of the US justice system (I am relieved we don’t have jury court over here, myself) – I didn’t want the perpetrator to go free, I wanted a more subtle way of dealing with him than execution.

    *SPOILEEEEEEEEEEEER end*

    I’ll have to reread the book with your idea in mind, it would certainly make me feel better about my enjoyment of the book.

  24. Roslyn Holcomb
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 10:26:42

    I don’t think of it as vigilante justice either, for the same reasons KFlowers gave. We humans don’t have a great record when we encounter “others” which is actually my argument against the space program. The treatment of the fae, locking them up on reservations, etc… Is an obvious simile to the way indigenous persons have been treated around the world. As for revealing he’s a head of state, or that the fae, or the wolves, for that matter, have leader(s) that would be incredibly dumb. We have an ugly habit of killing the leaders of any “others” we encounter. As for the girl’s US citizenship, she certainly wasn’t treated as a US citizen. All they saw was her fae blood, and she immediately became less in their eyes. A second class citizen, and the 13th/14th Amendments didn’t apply. (Hell, forblots if Americans they don’t apply if you’re born in Hawaii. -lol) The “one-drop rule” is manifest in this situation. That wasn’t vigilante justice, it was pure justice and the only kind the fae, like most minorities wll receive when pitted against the wealthy and powerful.

  25. Janine
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 11:48:06

    @Roslyn Holcomb: Yeah, I love that Charles is affected by killing. It is a wonderful aspect of his character. I wish though that

    SPOILER
    SPOILER
    SPOILER

    in this book, his problem with the ghosts hadn’t been resolved with a simple “They deserved killing.” That is exactly the way most of the unfazed-by-killing heroes in popular fiction justify their killing, so I wanted/expected/hoped for something more complex and fresh from Patricia Briggs.

    END OF SPOILER
    END OF SPOILER
    END OF SPOILER

    I enjoyed the book greatly though and even though I frequently despise vigilante justice in books, in this case, I saw Beauclaire’s actions in the same light you did.

  26. Roslyn Holcomb
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 13:33:02

    Now that’s true Janine. I’m really not sure how else it could’ve been resolved, though.

  27. Janine
    Mar 11, 2012 @ 00:31:20

    @Roslyn Holcomb: Yeah, I’m not sure either. It was still slightly disappointing though, especially since it was stated outright in Cry Wolf that Charles had, in the past (before he met Anna), had to kill witnesses who had done nothing to deserve killing in order to keep the existence of the werewolves a secret.

  28. Suburbanbanshee
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:20:15

    “….beings who are ultimately tied by the word-bonds that they make and who expect the same of others….”

    Contracts and the consent of the governed are both “word-bonds” between beings. Absent a belief in natural law, and a Creator as ultimate source of equal individual rights and authority, words and power are all the law we’d have, too.

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