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.
Fair 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.