REVIEW x 2: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs
PLEASE NOTE: Comments on this post are open to spoilers.
Dear Ms. Briggs,
Although I’ve only read the first book in your Mercy Thompson series, I’m a big fan of the spinoff series about Charles and Anna. When I first read the novella Alpha and Omega, I fell in love with Anna and Charles, the dynamic between them, and the world they inhabit. I’ve read that novella about ten times, and I have looked forward to each of the books that followed.
Burn Bright, the sixth book in the series if you count that novella, opens this way:
Once upon a time, there was a small spring that, touched by the earth’s spirit, bore a scattering of magic in its cold, pure water. It was only a little magic, but it brought good things into the world—tiny bits of goodness born of the tiny bits of magic.
There is a certain sort of evil that cannot abide happiness, even such humble joys as lived in that spring.
Thus begins a vivid, haunting prologue about an ongoing battle between good and evil. Chapter one then follows and we meet Jonesy, racing to contact Bran as his mate has instructed him to do, rather than defending her, if she is ever attacked.
But as it happens, Bran, leader of North America’s werewolves, is away, on a trip to Africa, and he has left his son Charles in charge of the Aspen Creek pack and of the wildlings, the unstable, powerful werewolves that live in the surrounding wilderness. Jonesy is not a wildling, but a dangerous fey. And although he is not a werewolf, he is mated to one, Hester—and Hester is in trouble.
Charles receives the call during an argument between his father’s mate, Leah, and Anna, his own wife. Jonesy’s message is cryptic and brief; he tells Charles that he is needed and there has been an incident, but doesn’t identify himself. Leah, however, is able to identify his phone number, and Charles and Anna head out at a leisurely pace, not realizing just how urgent the situation is.
I don’t want to reveal what happens after they reach Jonesy, but I will say that some violent struggles are involved and not everyone survives. Anna and Charles learn that the mountainside is being watched, strangers are turning up with strange weapons, the wildlings have been questioned for some unknown purpose, and, given that Jonesy and Hester’s location was discovered, odds are that there is a traitor in the pack’s midst.
Not only that, but powerful fey artifacts in the vicinity pose an additional danger.
Anna discovers that one of the dead attackers is someone she saw in Chicago, and this brings up some of her past trauma. Charles calls Boyd, the Chicago alpha, to identify the dead man, and Boyd reveals that before Bran left on his trip to Africa, he requested some notes from Boyd on the Chicago pack’s business dealings under Leo, the previous alpha. But Bran has said nothing of this to Charles, and when Charles tries to contact Bran to find out why, his father cannot be reached.
The concerns of the pack must be assuaged, and it’s decided that the other wildlings must be warned. To that end, three teams are formed, and Charles is paired with Sage, Anna with Asil, and Leah with Juste. But they are heading into danger, since anyone affiliated with the pack might be the traitor.
Burn Bright is a strong book with compelling characters and an eerie world. Magic in particular is so interesting in this world, and there’s a lot of it in this book. Charles and Anna’s relationship has progressed enough that there aren’t many issues left to resolve between them, making them a little less fascinating than they were early on, but I still love each of them and find some of their interactions very romantic.
There’s a lot of action in Burn Bright but also a couple of slower sections. It might have just been my distracted state of mind, or maybe it is because I don’t read the Mercy books but I found one of these slower sections, which dealt with Mercy’s backstory, unengaging, and I felt similarly about the pack’s gathering mid-book.
I felt tremendous suspense to know who the traitor was and what was going on the mountainside, so these two slower sections with little new information were frustrating (though thankfully, not long). At the midpoint, I put the book down to read Alpha and Omega again, and the first 20% of Cry Wolf. In doing so, I also found a couple of inconsistencies–Anna is thought or said to be pretty in the earlier books (not just by Charles but also by Hank) but average-looking here; Charles hates cars and drives differently in Alpha and Omega than he does here.
When I went back to Burn Bright the action picked up considerably–the second half was riveting. I couldn’t put the book down from that point on. From Asil and Anna’s confrontation of a dangerous wildling, to Charles and Sage’s encounter with menacing opponents, to the ultimate showdown with the traitor, and the greater power behind that person, the second half was wonderful.
We also get some of Bran’s POV in the book. When no one could reach him, I started wondering whether something bad had happened to Bran and didn’t understand why none of the characters seemed worried about this.
Spoiler (spoiler): Show
Much of what’s great in this book falls into spoiler territory, and that spoilery stuff more than makes up for the issues I had. So I will just say this—if you are a fan of this series, read this book! You will not regret it. B+.