REVIEW: Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs
Trigger warnings (spoilery):
Dear Patricia Briggs,
Wild Sign, your latest novel, is book six in your Alpha and Omega series. The urban fantasy series centers on a werewolf couple, the quiet, deadly Charles and the gentle but stubborn Anna. I’m always up for reading about them, so I eagerly requested an ARC of the book.
Wild Sign begins with Dr. Sissy Connors’s discovery of a small abandoned settlement in the mountains of Northern California. Sissy’s father was a resident of the tiny town of Wild Sign and he wrote her regularly. She has stopped hearing from him and so she seeks him out. All she finds are empty dwellings; no one else is there.
In the next scene, set some months before the rest of the book, a girls’ night out with two other women has Anna noticing that Leah, her stepmother-in-law, is humming a catchy, unidentifiable, haunting melody. Anna also reflects on the strange, difficult nature of her father-in-law Bran’s marriage to Leah.
The chapter after that sees two FBI agents, Leslie Fisher and Craig Goldstein, make a return appearance. They knock on Charles and Anna’s door to propose a cooperative agreement between the Marrok (the werewolves’ leader) and the FBI. Fisher and Goldstein provide Anna and Charles with the results of their investigation into the disappearance of Wild Sign’s residents since as it turns out the land where Wild Sign is located is owned by Leah.
After the agents leave, Bran tells Charles Leah’s singing disturbs him. She hummed an unsettling melody when they first met and for a little while afterward but later stopped.
Leah and Bran’s first meeting took place two centuries earlier, in the same place now known as Wild Sign. Bran was filled with grief for his deceased mate and not thinking clearly. His friend Sherwood Post had fought and (hopefully) defeated an evil being in those mountains but women and children had died there, including a child of Leah’s. Leah, the only survivor, was at death’s door, and Sherwood too was dying. They were bonded and Bran could not save one without the other. He had to make Leah his mate to save his friend.
But it is now clear that Sherwood never truly defeated the evil that lurked at Wild Sign. He has lost all memories of that time so he can’t provide information about it, either. Even Leah’s memories of it are at best hazy and patchy. Bran wants Charles and Anna to poke around those mountains and see what they can learn.
Anna and Charles bring Tag with them even though his berserker nature is a powder keg; he has some resistance to magic and that may be helpful. The three find mysterious and confusing signs in the abandoned town. All the compost toilets have been emptied and the dogs lovingly put down and placed together, as if the residents of the town prepared for leaving—or for death. But their beloved possessions were left behind, as if the people left in a hurry.
In the area’s natural amphitheater, Anna’s mind is invaded by something evil. She reexperiences her worst, most heartbreaking moment, a night when she was about to be gang raped. Bite marks crop up on her shoulder afterward and she does not recognize Charles. All this scares Charles and Tag. Anna’s memory returns later but all three are on edge when they leave their camp to continue the investigation by interviewing the family members of Wild Sign’s missing residents.
Meanwhile, Leah too is on a journey, one that takes her character from a horrific past into what may be an uncertain future.
Did the residents of Wild Sign survive? What will Charles, Anna and Tag learn when they question the townspeople’s relatives? Will Tag keep control of his berserker wolf? What happened in Leah’s past? What is the evil that stalks the people in the mountains, and how much damage will its fixation on Anna cause her and Charles?
I liked a lot of things in this book. Charles and Anna’s dynamic was good, as always. Anna’s past comes back to haunt them, and I loved the way they handled that together. I love how respectful Charles is of Anna’s boundaries and how hard he works to balance his protective tendencies with the understanding that to overprotect her would be harmful.
I love too that Anna and Charles always have each other’s back. Their partnership is a big part of what makes me prefer the Alpha and Omega books to the Mercy books. I’ve only read the first four of the latter but in them Mercy endures scary, painful, and sometimes even horrific things and while Adam is supportive, his support isn’t always there when she most needs it. There to pick up the pieces later, yes, appreciative and admiring, yes. But he’s not there at her back, keeping an eye out for what might be hurting or troubling her, the way Anna and Charles are for each other.
In addition to making the Alpha and Omega books romantic and showing how important thoughtfulness (not just general consideration, but also putting thought into how best to give the other person feelings of happiness and security) is to a romantic relationship, this togetherness helps the reader weather the external conflicts differently. However much one of them suffers in a given book the reader knows the other is suffering along with them, even if (especially if) they aren’t there physically and can’t immediately help.
It’s a connection that serves as a kind of buffer. If one character is in danger, I know the other will soon pitch in, that he or she is on way to help. I may be spooked and horrified and freaked out (I was all three of these things when I read the book), but I am able to take it because of the way they share their burdens. It doesn’t read like overwrought drama but more like support.
But the thing I loved best in this book wasn’t Charles and Anna, as great as they are, but the Leah and Bran stuff. I have a separate post about it running later today so I don’t want to say too much on that topic in this review. In brief, Leah’s past, which turns out to be quite dark, is revealed here, and the unhealthy aspect of her and Bran’s relationship finally gets interrogated. In the process, Leah’s character is fleshed out.
I *loved* this. It was revelatory yet at the same time consistent with what we’ve read about the two of them and their dysfunctional mating in the past. I have wanted this kind of questioning for so long and it was every bit as satisfying as I had hoped it would be. And now I want more, more, more in future books.
I liked Tag’s interactions with Charles and Anna as well. He’s a character whose presence I enjoyed in a couple of the earlier books and it was great to see him brought closer to the forefront here. I got to know him better and I enjoyed his laughter, his competence, his helpfulness and his loyalty, as well as his dangerous aspect. The protective and kind way he related to Anna and the tension in his interactions with Charles were both engaging.
I also liked the role music played here. Several aspects of it were explored—that it can be eclectic and esoteric, haunting and eerie, defiant and encouraging. Its emotional power was in full force and it added so much to the book.
Did I mention the sasquatch? Yes, there’s a sasquatch in the book and he’s an intriguing character too.
The evil at the center of the plot is unbelievably creepy. The scenes where Anna, Charles and Tag explore the area near their camp and have their first encounter with the villain’s magic are shiver-inducing and terrifying but in a good way. I was so freaked out that it was hard to sleep. The early attack on Anna literally invaded my dreams.
A scary nighttime sequence of scenes that takes place later in the book is also exceptional. The creepy stuff in this book is so, so creepy. The freaky stuff is some of the freakiest I’ve read in Briggs’s oeuvre. This book is as dark as disturbing as any of them.
I often dislike horror so I’ve been impressed more than once with this author’s ability to make me appreciate it; that was the case here too. There is another character, an ally of the Big Bad whom I don’t want to say too much about, who is disquieting and frightening as well.
In the last quarter the villain’s characterization goes a bit over the top. I was sorry to see this happen but even then, the villain’s aura of danger and creepiness remained in place for the most part. The book also becomes heavy around the same time, in regard to Anna and Leah’s pasts especially. Eventually that became an overload for me, particularly as we learn more about the evil being at the center of the book and what it is doing and wants. That aspect was too much for a while—too twisted and icky—and so it came close to overshadowing the terrific relationship stuff. But the satisfying ending brings the relationships back to the foreground.
Some more minor things I noted in my kindle:
1) Why does Anna still not have a job after three years in Aspen Creek? Does she have even a hobby that doesn’t involve Charles? What does she do when Charles is enclosed in the study working on managing the pack’s business holdings? How does she while those hours away?
I get that Anna’s vulnerability and the way Charles has given her so much when she started out with nothing are huge parts of the appeal. But I also think that showing Anna slowly develop a work life or an interest of her own could be a great way to show that she is growing, feeling safer and more secure within the pack, exercising emotional muscles that she never had the chance to use before. There is work that would suit her character—she could be an anonymous composer, for example, in the same way that Wellesley is an anonymous but well-regarded artist, for example.
Right now it seems like Anna’s life revolves around Charles because she has no independent interests. And this book has a coda, that, while exciting in terms of plot, made me worry about the direction in which it could take that aspect of her character in future books.
2) Charles’ old age was mentioned too many times in this book. The big age difference is part of the Anna / Charles dynamic but here his age was pointed out so many times that it stopped balancing well with Anna’s youth.
3) Anna feels protective of a villainous man even after he says things in front of her that show his evil nature. It was obvious he was a villain that her pity for him made no sense.
5) More and more I feel I need to read the Mercy books to be completely in the loop on events and characters from that series that feature or are mentioned in the Alpha and Omega books. I wish the two series were more independent.
I liked this book a lot–more than these five last nitpicks may indicate. A big part of that is Leah / Bran, and I have a whole second post where I geek out on that topic! And since I saved a lot of what I loved for that post, this review may read as lopsided.
Wild Sign got messy and OTT in places, but most of it was effectively scary, exciting, and romantic–with touching loyalty, engaging partnership, sweet friendship, great reframing for added depth, playful kissing, protecting innocents from evil, and an intriguing last scene. I have reread large chunks of it since I finished because those parts were so good. A-.
I enjoyed the book too. I’m a big fan of PB and the two connected series. One thing that really bothered me though at the beginning of the book was when Anna went shopping with Leah, Sage and Rachel(?) and Leah who is supposed to be slim and beautiful tries on something that makes her look fat (on purpose to cheer up Rachel). Then there’s a comment about fat=bad. I just felt really disappointed that fat phobia and diet culture really just permeates everything.
@Shanna: Great point. Fortunately it was just the one line but it still shouldn’t have been there. BTW it was Sage, not Leah, who tried on the dress.
Anna and Charles are building a life together–and the focus of the stories is them as a couple–but she is her own person and we see that.
Anna doesn’t have a job because she doesn’t know what she wants to do. At the end of Burn Bright she realizes she has the time to figure it out–which shows remarkable growth. When she first came to Montana she hadn’t come to terms with being a werewolf and wanted to get a job immediately and now she feels secure enough in her relationship with Charles NOT to work and she’s coming to terms with being a werewolf and recognizing some of the good–like having time to figure it all out.
I get the impression Anna’s days are incredibly full. Throughout, she’s been actively using her omega abilities on the pack and proactively consults with Asil and the Italian omega to learn more. There’s also the college classes she’s signed up for.
For interests, besides the instruments she plays (music is a shared interest but that interest predates Charles) she learned to ride from Charles and has her own horse now. And her social circle is growing. She’s reconnected with her family and at the beginning of Wild Sign we learn she’s been reaching out to some of her old college friends.
Learning more about Leah and Bran was a highlight for me too though–a little squiggly from where/what we were told previously but so much better. :)
I commented more fully on the spoilerific post but I was really troubled by the extreme sexual violence in this book. So many of the female characters in it were violated. It was really disturbing.
And I was also very troubled by the epilogue. I won’t say more about it here because spoilers but IMO it damages an existing HEA.
Agreed, totally loved the book, which isn’t really a surprise since I’ve never read a Patricia Briggs book I didn’t love.
@Honeywell: Maybe I would feel that way more if we saw scenes with Anna working on these interests on her own or with other people on the page. We see Charles interact with others (mainly Samuel and Bran, sometimes Asil) on page for scenes at a time. We see he has made money from his money managing job because he has this beautiful house. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen Anna working on any kind of project. Any of the ones you mention would work—taking language classes, hanging out with relatives on her side of the family, connecting with personal friends, consulting with Asil or the Italian omega—without Charles present. I can think of maybe one or two scenes like that in the entire series, and when weighed against all the scenes of this sort that Charles gets, it doesn’t amount to much. For me to feel that Anna has a rich and full life of her own I need to see that life portrayed. Show me, don’t just tell me, if you want me to believe it.
I havent read the book yet, but I have DEVOURED the other books in the series, and Ive also read all the Mercy Thompson books and I loved what you wrote Janine about the relationship between Charles and Anna. I LOVE Charles I wish he were my real boyfriend:) He is loving and devoted without being smothering and oppressive and he helped rescue Anna, but he didnt leave it at that–he is also working with her patiently to help her survive and flourish after her trauma. I’m eager to read more about them and to see them in action in this latest installment. I do hope Anna finds a ‘purpose’ but I’m so happy she has found love and safety with Charles.
Its interesting what you say about the Mercy Thompson books and Mercy and Adam’s relationship–Ive always felt similarly. Since she is the heroine and the central figure and its clear Briggs wants her to not be a damsel in distress, but it was always kind of a loss to thier relationship that she seems to be off adventuring or getting hurt or getting into trouble and Adam is left behind. I mean he comes to her rescue sometimes, and she always turns to him for comfort, but it does feel like there is a more thoughtful partnership–I love that idea!–between Charles and Anna.
@Layla: Yes, the way Charles is with Anna is terrific and I love how Briggs shows that from book to book.
Yes. I also feel like the Mercy series has too much drama. It’s always one thing after another in quick succession. The book where Mercy went to the out-of-town vampire house (with only Stefan for backup, and then what he did to her) took place just one week after she was raped in the previous book. One week! I did not want to see that happen to her so soon afterward. I think that was the reason I took a break there although I do want to get back into the series.
It’s been a week and I’m still trying to digest how I feel about this book.
There were major issues that tied back into the Mercy series, in that things that happened to Anna here felt in some ways parallel to bad things that happened to Mercy.
Especially the use of magic to force an unwilling woman to have sex. I will sometimes skip that entire book on a reread of Mercy’s series, so seeing the same thing almost happen here left me feeling queasy. I mean, Anna has been through a LOT; she really didn’t need further sexual assault. Which makes me wonder why the heck is Anna not in therapy? She clearly had PTSD from the events prior to Cry Wolf. Yes, she and Charles talk, but that’s really not the same.
I generally love the Mercy books and this series, but I could really do without all the sexual assault. :(
I didn’t view what happened to Anna with Xander as nearly as bad as what happened in Anna’s backstory or what happened to Mercy since it didn’t progress beyond a few kisses. I mean, it was awful and creepy, but not on the same level for me. The flashback in the earlier scene disturbing too. But certainly the stuff in Leah’s past was as tough to read about as anything in Iron Kissed.
I thought PTSD meant was an ongoing pattern flashbacks and terror being triggered, but I’ll be glad to be corrected if that’s inaccurate. I don’t see that as Anna’s condition prior to Wild Sign, not post-Cry Wolf. Obviously, there’s trauma there but I don’t know that I’d go as far as to call it PTSD. The flashbacks in this book were triggered by magic and everyone fighting the villain had them, even Charles.
I enjoy Patricia Briggs books.
One thing left me scratching my head though, when the villain left the room a description of what can be heard is provided. My brain vacillated between what’s going on and why is this in the book. Personally I could have done without that particular information, the squick factor was large enough already.
@Variel: Good point. I thought it was there to snap Anna out of her trance and motivate her to leave but In hindsight, I don’t think it was necessary for it to go that far. Maybe also to provide an opportunity to escape?
No, what happened in Wild Sign didn’t reach the level of what happened to Anna in the years prior to Charles but it was heading directly towards what happened to Mercy in Iron Kissed. And thinking the story was headed in that direction is what made me feel so ill.
But Anna (like Mercy after Iron Kissed) clearly showed signs of PTSD. Several books after Cry Wolf it is mentioned that Charles never lies on top of her, for fear of triggering her. That he has to make sure Anna is awake (and it’s not just her wolf) when Anna’s wolf becomes amorous in the middle of the night.
I find is completely unlikely that someone magically taking her will (like the Singer did) to make her do things (especially sexual things) that she didn’t want would not trigger her, no matter how far she has come. Especially since she has never seemingly gotten any kind of therapy despite the fact she thought at one point that Bran’s pack desperately needed a therapist and perhaps she should considering studying that.
I feel about this the same way I did about the very end of Iron Kissed–which was back-pedaled in the start of Bone Crossed. These events are going to cause long-term damage. I think that not having Mercy and Anna get some kind of counseling does disservice to readers who might be struggling with their own pasts.
@Random Michelle: I didn’t think Anna would be raped again and I suppose that helped.
I had forgotten that about Charles being on top but you’re right. I stand corrected. I still don’t recall the bit about Anna’s wolf. I do remember that she used her wolf to give her courage for sex in Cry Wolf and I thought that was a great way to show that she was traumatized.
I agree something like the Singer would definitely trigger her (I look at that as a bit different from being triggered by nightmares, or Charles being on top, since the Singer’s attack is much more powerful than those). I don’t assume that it won’t or that she’s gotten over it. Just because it isn’t shown on the page doesn’t mean it’s not happening. There are things that happen in the gaps between the books. For example in one of the books (Hunting Ground, maybe?) it was stated that Anna didn’t need her wolf to give her the courage to sleep with Charles anymore but we never saw that transformation happen. But clearly it did happen, just off-page.
Yes, therapist could be a good role for her.
And yeah I agree these events should leave long-term marks.
With regard to counseling, my theory is the dilemma for authors (because other authors do this) is that they want to show the characters working through these issues in dramatized events and interactions with others in their lives because it makes for more engaging scenes. And with Bran’s pack in particular, the disturbed stuff and danger are big parts of the pack’s role in the books. I could be wrong.
Did… did the blog just eat my response?
@Random Michelle: I’m sorry, I don’t see it in the spam filter. :-(
@Janine: That’s true. I think I need to get some brain bleach to get the imagery out of my head.
I didn’t actually think Patricia Briggs would go through with actually having Anna be raped–but that didn’t make the whole thing any easier to read for me. Which is perhaps why I’m so unhappy with the story.
I saw the whole Anna doesn’t need her wolf to have sex as just a first step–a big step, but only a first step–to dealing with her past.
And IMO (I do feel kinda strongly about this) she actually had a perfect opportunity to work it into the story, when she met the other Omega in Hunting Ground, who was studying psychology. That’s not the same as a counseling degree, but it’s a damned sight better than anything else that had been available to her.
To be generous, I suppose that Patricia Briggs believes that having a pack would give someone suffering from PTSD the support they need. But for me, that’s not enough for readers who may well see themselves in the characters of Mercy & Anna (insert tirade about the portrayal and treatment of mental health here).
@Random Michelle: If you mean it was the best option for a profession available to Anna, I don’t agree. I actually think that being an anonymous composer (like Wellesley is an anonymous artist) would be better because she loves music so much.
I’ve got another question. Did anyone else think that it was yucky that Anna’s dad (in the flashback) watched even five minutes of that porn movie with her and her friend?
@Janine: No no! The other omega she met was a psychology student (PhD level IIRC). That would have been a perfect introduction to the idea of counseling.
Also, I don’t remember Anna having an interesting in composing–I thought her love was of playing.
The scene in Hunting Ground in the restaurant where she sits down to play the piano and the old man sings with her is one of my favorites of anything. It’s almost a throw-away scene, but it’s one of my favorites.
@Random Michelle: I see.
@Random Michelle: Yes but it would have been easy to give her an interest in it or say (even a few books into the series) that she’d always had one. It meshes well.
I’m not sure counselor would be such a good position for her in terms of what the books are trying to do with the characters. A character with that kind of profession or training would probably be unable to keep from psychoanalyzing the people around them and I don’t know how well that would work for the books.
@Janine: I did but only after I got over why she brought up the memory in the first place. It was certainly less shocking than everything else going on in contrast but still weird.
I am reading this post now; I hadn’t wanted to read it prior to reading the book which I just finished. I definitely enjoyed the book, but I was also left with questions.
Who was the remaining Singer offspring to whom Coyote referred?
It was the garden itself.
@Janine, interesting! I’d have to do some rereading to determine if I can see that.
Oh yes, they said in the scene where they visited the garden that the garden had its own creepy personality and was paying attention. And then later when Coyote thinks this one offspring survived and says he’d like to talk, it says the garden listened.
@Janine, I do remember that now. Thank you!
Am I the only one wondering which of singer of woods child survived??
see answer here:
The part you have under the last spoiler hide is explained circumspectly by what part Leah plays in end of the fight scene. It is understood that the white witches didn’t want children, but for the solution a child was needed…I don’t want to say more as I don’t want to spoil for others.
Are you saying that she thought if they all died, including their kids, the Singer would too?
@Janine Ballard: SPOILER
Possibly killing themselves, but I think it was the children because they were a direct link to the Singer.
Interesting theory. I had assumed that the Wild Sign children were not from there but had arrived with their parents. Your theory makes the book even darker an creepier than it already was for me. However, from their positions in the caves (prayer, meditation circle, etc.), it doesn’t appear that the residents killed themselves. I am fuzzy on the book but I thought the Singer used its powers to lure them to the caves and sort of / not entirely killed them because it had to abide by the deal not to impregnate them and wanted to punish them for that. I could be misremembering, though.
Yes, the children of the white witches came with them into the town. The deal they had with the Singer was that they would provide Walkers (read: children) in exchange for safety from the black witches. What she figured out was that to get rid of the Singer, she’d have to allow a pregnancy then use the new Walker to destroy the Singer. That’s why, I think, she was questioning whether she’d have the strength to do it–Whether she would have the strength to use what amounts to black magic to save them when they got themselves caught in an effort to keep the black away in the first place.
The Singer trapped them in the cave and was using their magic to fuel the black witches, who he had made a subsequent bargain with when he realized that the white witches were preventing the pregnancies that would give him walkers.
What I’m hanging up on is how she though that could work. Even if she had a baby and killed it, she would still have to kill Xander too. And she would have needed Jonesy’s sword to do it with. And then Coyote. Etc. Even something like Leah’s advice about singing Queen might have been needed.
Wondering if someone can clear up the Sage storyline for me? She was the traitor at the end of Burn Bright, but she is shopping with the other women at the beginning of Wild Sign? Did I miss something? Thanks for any insight!
@Shanna: and isn’t Sage supposed to be dead? She was the traitor in the previous book. That has me really confused….
@Rionach Sage is indeed dead, the part with the girls shopping at the start of this book happens before the end of the previous book.
@Rionach: As Variel says, the chapter in which the four women go on a shopping trip and dine at a restaurant takes place earlier than Burn Bright. The following chapter takes place months later (that time gash is indicated at the beginning of that chapter), after the events of Burn Bright and Sage’s death, as does the rest of Wild Sign).
@Variel: Ok, thanks, I’ll go back and reread.
@Janine: Thank you so much, I’m going to go back and reread the chapter.
I wanted to comment on your Leah and Bran post but the comment section was closed.
1- I know there have been objections to the rape trope and there are alot of tropes that annoy me in the Mercyverse so i can understand the irritation but i didn’t feel like it was too excessive or out of place or that it didn’t add anything to the story. I agree with what @Lianne said regarding rape as a plot device. I always felt like Mercy’s rape never really added anything to her character progression. Looking back now when i first read Iron Kissed i wasn’t really moved or anything like that (not that rape doesn’t illicit strong feelings but the use of it for the MC was predictable) . With Anna’s abuse it felt important to her character. With Leah’s unveiling of her past my heart hurt for her and alot of things clicked together for me . I always speculated that there was something more in Leah’s past and i’m glad my feeling were correct.
2-I have always loved Leah and am so glad that Briggs has started to develop Bran and Leah because i have to be honest if it wasn’t for these two, Wild Sign would be a very average story.
I have always found it interesting that despite Bran and Leah being very minor characters and despite Leah being hated by the majority of the fans they always seem to generate heated discussions .
I have never understood how alot of readers easily love Zee(who spent most of his life as a villain), Wulfe(has done morally questionable things), Ben(morally questionable things),Samuel, Bran etc but get outraged at Leah wanting to kill Mercy. I mean she is a werewolf and werewolves in this universe are violent killers so if you can accept one you can accept the other. Personally it never bothered me and have always felt like fans made a big deal over that.
(Something non of the other commentators touched upon is that the reason Leah wanted to kill Mercy as a baby was because she was a Walker. Leah was forced to carry two Walkers and associated them with evil. She didn’t have the memories but her instincts drove her to protect the pack. All of this was confirmed by Patricia Briggs on her Facebook page.)
3-I think Pre-Burn Bright everybody had this idea that Leah was this person who couldn’t get along with anybody and only caused problems within the pack but then we see her be a competent and no nonsense leader , the complete opposite of how she was portrayed. Even when she was confronting Charles in the beginning of Burn Bright i thought that their exchange was very civilized considering that they have a mutual dislike for each other. With the picture that was painted of her you would think that she was some raving bitch always in peoples faces. And the scene where she shut down Asil and Tags threats, even though she’s afraid of Asil shows us that she can step up and be selfless when it really matters.
Wild Sign gave us a glimpse of how Leah’s mind works. She obviously hides alot of herself from Bran to protect herself and conceals The Truth with a layer of a truth.
”Maybe she could convince him that she wanted things to stay as they were because she was ambitious. Any role she held after being the Marrok’s mate would be lowering her position. Both of those things were true. She did not want to tell him the real reason she wanted things to stay as they were. She had loved, really loved, three people in her adult life. One of them had died before he had a chance to live. One of them had grown up into a monster that Leah had killed. The third was standing in her bedroom, and she was fairly sure he’d spent nearly two centuries hating her because she was not Blue Jay Woman.”
Briggs has showed us multiple times that the wolf can know and understand things that the human counterpart doesn’t like Charles, Samuel, Sherwood , Adam. I think Bran’s wolf understood/ saw something in Leah and Bran the human doesn’t want to know.
I felt like when Bran was re-telling Charles the story of how he mated Leah that he was holding back some details.
”He paused, his eyes on the map in front of him but his mind obviously on that long-ago day. His voice carried a note of wonder Charles was fairly certain his da didn’t know was there.
His voice a bare whisper, Bran murmured, “Of all of those people, she was the last survivor, Charles. When I bound her to my pack, the first of all that pack, I understood why. Her spirit . . . so strong.” He half closed his eyes and breathed in as if he were still in that desperate moment. Under the lowered eyelids, Charles could see the glimmer of gold. “Such determination, so much fight in her.” He let out a breath and smoothed a fold in the map with a flattened palm.”
“As soon as the mate bond fell into place . . .” Bran hesitated only a bare moment and continued, “Sherwood’s magic fell away and I was able to pull her all the way into the Change. They both survived.”
My theory based on the information we got so far is that Bran’s human counterpart chose to mate with BJW and the wolf followed along. Bran’s wolf counterpart chose to mate with Leah and the human eventually followed. After ten years of mourning and nearly loosing control of his wolf he got was shocked when the wolf so easily mated with a dying young woman. Bran resented and hated his wolf for this because he felt like he was betraying BJW memory. However Bran also realized that this gave him a chance at living without going berserker and thus his son didn’t have to be killed. Then overtime that hate turned to love but Bran never noticed because a) he keeps those feelings in a tightly sealed box and never looks but unbeknownst to him they grew with or without his approval. b) the mate bond has always been shut and that’s a really big deal if we go by every other couple in this universe.
“Leah won’t make it today,” Bran said. “I know she’s still in wolf form—it changes the shape of our bond.” He growled, and there was a crack as something wooden broke. In a velvet-soft voice he said, “I did not notice because it is my habit to leave our bonds closed. Has always been my habit.”
4-I really want read Sherwoods take on all of this.
@Josefine, I enjoyed reading your thoughtful interpretation. Thank you.
@Josefine: I apologize for the closed thread—sometimes we have to close the comments section because it’s been hijacked by online marketers.
Ooh, great comment! I love what you say about Leah wanting to kill Mercy because Mercy was a walker. That fits really well and makes a lot of sense. I think it could have maybe been hinted at a little bit more, but I’ve only read the Mercy books up to book four. I want to catch up now to have the full context for these characters but the Mercy books have a little too much drama for me. I like that the A&O books have a quieter feel but are no less powerful for that.
(I would say more!)
Re Bran—yes, and he says in Cry Wolf that it was his wolf who insisted that he mate again. I agree, too, sometimes the wolves know better than their humans. Brother Wolf (my favorite wolf!) wanted Charles to take Anna as his mate within minutes of when they met her.
Slightly off-topic: I loved loved loved the scene near the end of Burn Bright where Leah tells Charles that she’s never liked him and why.
I agree on all the rape and near-rape in this book. It worked in the context of the book as well as in providing context for Leah as a character. I don’t think the people who say it’s excessive necessarily mean that it was gratuitous or not needed for the book to work, though. I think many are saying it was too much in the sense of being either OTT or re-traumatizing. Those responses are just as valid as ours when we say that the rape was necessary to fully understanding Leah; these things are not incompatible.
I agree—the rape was needed much more so than in the Mercy series (I won’t say in Iron Kissed per se because there would be no book without it, but that storyline wasn’t crucial to the series the same way IMO). Of all the books I have read in this series (twelve if you count the A&O novella, I think) this one was the freakiest, except maybe for Cry Wolf. But I loved it. I have read several books that I categorized in the A or near-A range this year in terms of the grade and this one is up there.
Wow thank you for the quick response!
That’s a shame about the other thread. It was an interesting back and forth discussion.
1-Expanding on my comment about the rape topic i think Anna’s near rape thing in the caves didn’t scare me because i knew the author wasn’t going to allow Anna to get raped again. I generally have good instincts when it comes to plot lines (Not to boast lol). That plot direction was predicable and she could have gone with a different route like Anna willingly going with Zander. Not necessarily going all the way with sex but being tempted. That could have been interesting future plotline causing Anna and Charles tension in their relationship. I wouldn’t have minded that. A criticism of Wild Sign would be that Leah’s issues/story was explored in a very surface/shallow way. I would have loved a deeper exploration but then again the A&O series are Charles and Anna books. A Leah and Bran book would be a good direction for Briggs to explore them further.
I do sympathize with other commentators/reviewers criticism of women and rape/violence. I have a whole list of criticisms about women in Urban Fantasy/PNR/Romance.
2- It seemed that alot of people missed the Leah/Walker issue. It wasn’t explicitly stated in the book so Briggs made a comment confirming that.
This is her response from her Facebook fan page;
”No because she disliked Charles because he was a child (and thus associated with the deaths of her own children only weeks earlier). And disliked Mercy because she was god-touched like the children she lost. Something Leah sensed because of her exposure to the Singer, without rationalization or recognition of that fact. Because Leah locked away her memories (and had them locked away for her) Leah didn’t understand why she reacted that way. Leah spent the last two hundred years not remembering, not dealing with her pain–because her current life was bearable and her memories were not.”
3- Leah and Charles are interesting to me. I wouldn’t use the word hate to describe what they feel about each other. I don’t believe they dislike each other as much as they say they do. All in all they are very civilized when interacting in my opinion.
I have a feeling that Leah and Samuel clash more often even though we haven’t really seen them together. I put that down to them being opposites in temperament and Leah and Charles both being cold.
4- Regarding Bran and his decision to mate, in Cry Wolf he says that he was looking for a mate but Wild Sign debunked that. I think he slipped that little lie to his sons so that wouldn’t have to revel the real truth that he wasn’t looking for a mate but he was summoned by Sherwood , saw Leah for the first time, mated her right there. Maybe he felt like it would call to question his mating with BJW?
Wild Sign also makes us question the story that was given to us about Bran and BJW (mostly by people other than Bran).
Thank you. I love a good analysis.
@Josefine: Yeah, those online marketers are awful. We delete their comments but they keep coming back to post more.
1. Same here, I wasn’t scared, just felt that creepiness. I knew Anna would never be raped again (but I think some readers didn’t want to see her subjected to even that much trauma). Like you (I’m guessing), I sometimes spoil books for myself with foreknowledge. I am glad Anna didn’t go with Xander, though. Even if she experienced an emotion *like* willingness, it wouldn’t have been true willingness. And if Charles didn’t understand that I could never forgive him. It would ruin their romance for me.
Oddly, that section of Anna and Xander’s journey to the caves in the car was one of my favorite parts of the book. I loved the way Anna kept remembering and forgetting over and over. Briggs does chilling, creepy, and eerie so well. I don’t generally enjoy the horror genre but I love those sections of her books. Also, the way she brings the mythical and symbolic into it. It feels like she taps into two parts of my brain at the same time. Not just the primitive part that experiences fear viscerally but also the more thinking part that loves complexity. All books do this to an extent, of course, but some of the A&O books do it superbly. She employs language well; her sentences are so simple and easy to grasp that it’s organic to enter the story and yet it also makes for a layered reading experience.
In those scenes with Anna and Xander in the car I saw the scene from multiple angles. What Anna was thinking, what she was feeling (how the instincts that undergirded her thoughts contravened what she thought a lot of the time), what Xander was doing when he put her hand on his knee or asked her questions (that was done so well that it was almost a third POV), what he was pretending to be doing instead, the eerieness on the outside (the car driving through the fog at night, passing the lake, making for the dark of the forest, even its headlights when their light touched Leah), the tension inside the car between Anna and Xander. And Briggs does that so well, with clear, simple sentences; every image serves the story and nothing distracts. It was masterly.
That’s a fair criticism re. the portrayal of Leah’s past. I wouldn’t quite say surface/shallow—there were patches where it was deep, such as when she killed Xander or when she examined herself in the mirror. That last scene with Bran, too. But it could have gone deeper. It read very much like the beginning of a journey.
Maybe there will be a Leah/Bran book but (at this point and time) I don’t want a lot of that. Much of Bran’s power as a character comes because of all we don’t know about him. That he’s not clearly visible to us is part of what draws in readers. Just how bad is he? Just how bad was his past (particularly with his mother and Samuel, and in fact, who is Samuel’s mother, has it been said in the Mercy books?) How far would he go, how dangerous is he to the humans?
I’m sure we will learn some of that, but the fact that we don’t know that much is part of what makes these things feel bottomless. And also him—it feels like we can’t get to the bottom of him. That gives him power over us. The less you know about someone who can see through you (and don’t we sometimes feel like he would, if he met us?), the more power they have over you, over others. I don’t want that mysteriousness to dissipate, not too much. Getting answers in bits and trickles keeps me very engaged.
2. Re. Leah and what Patricia Briggs said about her, that could be just as much or more about emotional self-defense as about protecting the pack.
3. I love the Charles and Leah dynamics. They are getting a whole lot more interesting. Whatever else they feel, I think there’s wariness on both sides and at this point, also reluctant respect. And I loved the scene in Burn Bright where Leah came to Charles’ rescue.
Interesting thought about Charles being cold. I don’t see him in terms of cold or warm, but it’s interesting.
4. Bran and BJW are interesting. As I said in one of the earlier comments on the other thread (or maybe this one, there was talk about their relationship in both), it’s always seemed odd to me that there was such deep love there even though they couldn’t speak each other’s language. I think some of that was genuine and that’s why Bran didn’t want to face his feelings for Leah—he didn’t want to experience that kind of heartbreak again. But also he has fought them because falling in love again would endanger the pack and even the humans. If what happened to him when BJW died happened again. This makes me all the more convinced that he has feelings for Leah and possibly those feelings are a factor in why he shut down the mate bond.
As for BJW, she wouldn’t have risked her life by carrying Charles to term if she didn’t have strong feelings for Bran. I wonder if some of the attraction between them was based in their shared commonality of having unusual magics. Being witchborn and shaman’s child would have shaped both of their characters, too. And maybe they were able to use their magical abilities to communicate mind-to-mind without words. Almost certainly, now that I think about it.
@Janine, I suggest that you read Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs. One of the stories reveals information about a younger Bran and Samuel.
1- I think the Anna and Zander scene was done well. Very atmospheric and the tension was really thick. I think that scene was important because it was showing us through Anna what it is like to be under the thrall of the Singer. Like this is what happened to Leah.
For me Wild Sign was her best written book no doubt because the stakes were really high and the villains were meaningful. The antagonists had a personal connection to the protagonists. The Singer, Zander, the Witches. Everybody came out changed by the end of Wild Sign and i don’t think i’ve really felt that with the rest of PB books.
I think it emphasizes that a good story can’t just have a good protagonist. You need an interesting antagonist alongside that the readers can feel a connection to. Charles and Anna are nice but writing a long series with them fighting random villain’s is not sustainable. Dead Heat for example was a dud for me. Apart from Joseph, i didn’t feel a connection to any of the new characters or the villain. It was mystery of the day and then they went home.
I’m also biased where Wild Sign is concerned because Leah and Bran are my favorite character’s and have been dying for PB to give them more page time. A reason perhaps why i said i felt like Leah issues were mentioned briefly then they moved on to the next scene. I wanted more Zander and Leah page time because that felt important to me. I was shocked when it was reveled that Zander was Leah’s son.
I know what you mean about Bran needing that mysteriousness. I don’t think she would really write book about him. She could do a short story with Leah POV. I just love the Bran/Leah storyline.
2- My interpretation is; Walker= Danger to Leah and the pack. As she grew older the reasons grew, but i think at the core of it is the Walker issue.
3- I love the development of Leah and Chalres. I have always seen Leah and Charles as having similar personalities. Not the exact same but they have similarities. Both have very hard exteriors protecting a complicated interior and even though they live in the same town and family, they don’t really know each other. Not really.
4- Regarding Bran and his first mate, there’s not alot information about her or them. Chalres info about her is second hand so is Samuels. Mercy is retelling a story that she heard from Samuel probably. Bran barely talks about the past and when he does talk about her its very brief. So I’m going with the story everyone tells is an embellishment of the real one.
I do think that there was love between them, or maybe the love at first sight was lust or infatuation at first sight. I think BJW being his first mate it was all new to him so the bond was always wide open.
Isn’t it interesting that Bran didn’t mate even though he was nearly 2000 years old?
I think they used the open mate bond to communicate not through words but in pictures like Chalres in the beginning with Anna. But you can’t really fully communicate with someone only through the bond. It wouldn’t be enough long term and they weren’t together for long.
I don’t think Bran knew she had magic when they first met. Bran in one of the books says to Chalres that he wouldn’t have mated her if he knew of her magical heritage. Something along those lines. Or maybe he is lying and he did? We don’t know unless Bran tells us but i’m going with he didn’t know.
So i think that’s one of the reasons why he kept the bond closed with Leah. His experience with it the first time was too intense and it scared him. I have a theory that he has loved Leah for a long time and he’s scared of opening the bond in fear of rejection from her. They are both frozen so it goes nowhere and they just lived with the fear of revealing too much.
I’m not discounting the Beserker in him but there a multiple reasons not just one. That’s how i see it.
@Josefine: I enjoyed your take on things. It gave me a new lens to look through.
It’s interesting what the author said on her FB page but tbh that makes me a little grumpy. I’m not sure I’ll express this well so please bear with me. It’s something about the book being able to stand alone rather than the reader needing an author explanation. I mean, I love the extras on websites etc (I’m a contrarian if nothing else) and I’m a big fan of Briggs herself but I also think that important things should be made explicit (or at least better hinted at) in the book. I probably didn’t say that well. Something about the text being able to speak for itself and paratexts etc etc.
As to the Zander/Anna road trip it was too much like Tim/Mercy for me. Like Anna, Mercy had no control over what she was doing. It bothered me more in this book because I had Mercy’s experience in the back of my mind to add menace. Maybe that was intentional but I really hated it.
I’ve always had time for Leah and the more I learn about Bran the less I like him. I think I liked him from the start because Mercy saw him as a benevolent father figure but my eyes have been opened over the series. Bran has not lied when he described himself as a monster.
It’s been such a long time since I read the book so my memory of some of the details is fuzzy but I do love a good book discussion so thank you for reviving it!
1. I agree with you that high stakes are an important part of what makes a book strong and that the more characters or at least their situations are altered, the better. I don’t think Charles changed, but his situation certainly did when Samuel showed up at the end of the book.
Wild Sign is one of my favorite books in the series but I don’t think it would stand up to the novella “Alpha and Omega”—I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve read that a dozen times. I don’t feel the urge to do that with this book. But we can agree to disagree.
Dead Heat was possibly the weakest in the series for me (I’m also not as much a fan of Hunting Ground) but even a weaker A&O book is better than most because Charles is such a great character, Anna so easy to like, and their relationship is one of my favorite relationships to read about.
4. I agree that Bran was probably afraid for personal reasons. Do any of the books tell us anything about Samuel’s mother?
@Kaetrin: My first response was very much like yours. I have a strong preference that books speak for themselves and I don’t like being given an interpretation that contradicts my own by the author. However, on further thought, I don’t see how Briggs could have done that here since Leah didn’t remember the connection and Bran didn’t know. How else could we have been given that information? For Leah to focus on that near the end would have robbed from her focus on Bran and their relationship, which gave the ending so much power, and when she was focused on her son and rescuing Anna it would have been even more intrusive and distracting. Maybe Bran could have had a glimmer of a clue near the very end? But I think even that would have intruded. What I’m hoping now is that Patricia Briggs hints at it in a later book.
It is interesting to me that so many readers bought Mercy’s interpretation of Bran over Charles and Anna’s. It’s probably because I’ve read more of the Alpha and Omega books that this isn’t true of me. I always felt that Charles’ view of Bran was more multidimensional and interesting, and that since he had known Bran a lot longer it was probably more accurate as well. And I never forgot that Bran made Charles his enforcer and sent him to kill innocent humans who had discovered the existence of werewolves even when those people pleaded with Charles and begged him not to, and despite the fact that it was killing Charles to do that. So even before the true nature of Bran’s feelings for Mercy was revealed, I saw Bran as ruthless and dangerous first of all, and kindly surrogate father to Mercy a lot further down the list.
1- No you explained yourself well. I know exactly what you mean and i agree with 100%. If an author can’t convey his or her ideas in the book then they have kind of failed. If it confuses the readers then its not a good idea. One thing i hate is when i have a book discussion and everyone is confused about a particular detail or story line. Everyone has a theory and no one is right. Nobody reads a book the same way. Some people can read between the lines easily and some people can’t but important details need to be clear.
2- Many people said the same thing about the Zander/ Anna plot line and i can understand the objections even though it didn’t bother me personally. I will have to say Zander and Tim were nothing alike in my head (even though they raped). Controversial opinion but i loved Zander’s character even though he was an antagonist. He was tragic and complex and if PB wrote a short story about him i would read it. I dislike one dimensional villains. Look at Roland from the Kate Daniels series. Without him the series would have been a regular series about a typical bad ass heroine that i have read millions of times. Nothing special but an antagonist that can make me feel a lot of things elevates the story.
3- Bran and Leah are my favorites and Bran is both a hero and a villain which makes him so compelling. PB hit the jackpot when she created Bran and he definitely elevates the series. I’m happy this blog is here because people know how to debate and discuss. Twitter is choppy and difficult for me and Facebook is good but there s always people getting banned because they don’t know how to debate politely and it ruins threads. Reddit is good but its mostly popular books being discussed so there’s not really an A&O book discussion.
1-You know it’s interesting that you are not up to date with the Mercy books. I am but i don’t read it for Mercy. I read them for the world building and the side characters. I started reading both the Mercy books and the A&O books when i was a teen and now i’m in my late 20’s so ive changed as a person a great deal and so have my tastes. I have completely outgrown Mercy as a character so i’m not invested in her story line. I can go on an on bout this subject lol.
I was lukewarm with the A&O books even though i followed each release. I didn’t dislike them but it took me a while to really invest in Charles and Anna. I do like Chalres currently and i see things in him that other people might disagree with. Arrogance for example. I see more changes in him throughout the books than Anna. At the end of Wild Sign for example, he felt protective of Leah for the first time. Why is that? Becuase he was privy to what was going on under her cold surface for the first time. I’m sure before that he felt confident that he knew her well but people are complex and your family more so. That’s just one example. I’m glad i can see that in him otherwise i would be bored with the strong silent Alpha mate that is typical.
A point you made about Bran being interpreted better in the A&O books. I feel that way too and i think it’s meant to be that way. Charles certainly knows Bran the best although i would say Samuel would be number 1. But even Charles isn’t always right regarding his father. Bran is elusive that’s something i always remember when he appears.
As for Anna she doesn’t annoy me as much as she used to. She has her moments when she’s a know it all and can be a Mary-sue at times but she’s grown on me. Plus shes in her early 20’s and i remember feeling like i knew it all when i was that age. I prefer her to Mercy.
2- I would describe the A&O books as more free flowing. The multiple POV for example gives me a multidimensional view of the world and the characters. The sprinkle of Bran and Leah POVs for example i gobble up. PB has such a rich cast in the A&O books and she utilizes them better.
The Mercy books feel claustrophobic to me. I would hate if the A&O books were exclusively Anna and Charles POVs always in their heads.
3- Regarding the Leah and Walker issue. Bran didn’t know why Leah wanted to kill Mercy as a baby. Never question it. It wasn’t until this part in Wild Sign did he understand and connect the dots. That’s when i understood the reason.
”…What does the term ‘walker in the world’ mean to you?”
“It wanted some of the witches to go out and act and spy for it,” said Tag.
“Walker,” said Charles, with a little more emphasis.
“Like Mercy?” Anna said.
“I think so,” said Charles.
His foster sister’s father was Coyote, one of the primordial powers. Such descendants, though most of them were not first-generation, were called walkers. Charles now wondered if the original name had not been “walker in the world,” which gave a different slant to the original purpose of such couplings. Certainly, Coyote had been making use of Mercy.
“Safety in return for progeny who would go out into the world and do its bidding, be its eyes,” said Da. “It wanted the witches to carry its children.” In his voice was the horror that Charles felt—and not for the missing occupants of Wild Sign, who were, after all was said and done, strangers.
They did not know for sure what had happened to Leah up in these mountains. But one of the babies his da had helped Sherwood bury had been Leah’s.”
By the way you are not wrong in feeling annoyed at it not being made clear. It bothered me too because many people were still confused. That’s the author job or the editor.
@Josefine: Thank you so much for your kind comments. We appreciate thoughtful and thought-provoking ideas about the books just as much.
I’ve been going through our site back end to consolidate some tags today and it has taken me to older posts and discussions (some as many as fifteen years old) so I’m feeling nostalgic. I don’t know if you are old enough to remember them, but I miss the heydays of message boards and later blogs. Because the forums were smaller, they had a sense of community and each had its own vibe. You could find ones that suited your temperament and stay away from ones that didn’t.
We had quite a few heated discussions here in the 2000s but we rarely had to moderate them. People might attack each other’s opinions of the books but not each other personally. Sometimes posters passionately loved or hated a book or took a strong stance on a topic (we had op-ed’s back then), but they usually backed it up with arguments and engaged with other people’s counterarguments in a thoughtful way. We discussed things like themes and motifs that hardly ever get a mention in book discussions now. Most critical opinions on a book were based on the poster having read it, rather than just looked at the concept or cover or heard about it from a friend (not to say that there wasn’t some of that then too). That wasn’t the case just here but at other blogs and sites as well.
Sadly, two things caused the number of smaller book communities to dwindle. One was the proliferation of the media. In a Venn diagram of people’s recent reading, the overlapping number of people who have read a given book is smaller. One of the reasons we were able to have such a thorough discussion of Wild Sign is that the Mercyworld books have a lot of readers and so there is a bigger pool of people who might be interested in participating (another of course is that the books offer rich discussion material—there’s a lot to think about and engage with there). The second contributing factor was the advent of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s natural for people to go where there are more participants.
It is inevitable, of course, for progress to come and things to change! I miss those days but there are always new good things around the corner, so ignore the wistful ramblings of this old fogy.
More later in response to your newest comment.
1. For me the change in Charles’ attitude toward Leah isn’t the same as Charles changing. It’s the beginning of a change in their relationship, though, that’s sure.
“Bran is elusive” — one of his best qualities as a character IMO.
I like Anna a lot. Her vulnerability is compelling.
2. I agree that the A&O books are more free-flowing and that they have a multidimensional view of the world. That gives it more depth and texture. The same is true with the characters sometimes. Each person’s view of Charles is different. Asil for example sees him very differently than Anna. The multiple angles give Charles depth.
I am not a fan of how Adam treats Mercy or of Samuel. Mercy is always being put through some trauma. Bone Crossed for example takes place a week after Iron Kissed. She’d been raped a week earlier and I did not want to see her coerced and traumatized again so soon.
Also: Why did you leave her to Stefan’s tender mercies so soon, Adam? And why the f- did Mercy not tell Adam she’d decided to stay in Spokane? Their relationship is messed up and there’s always some drama in Mercy’s life. Very little relaxation and comfort.
Don’t get me started on Samuel who wanted Mercy for her womb when she was only sixteen.
3. That is interesting and now that you point it out, yes, I agree.