REVIEW: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
Dear Ms. Briggs,
Even though I adored “Alpha and Omega” in the anthology On the Prowl, the story which introduced readers to the werewolves Charles and Anna, and also loved the first novel in the series which follows these characters, Cry Wolf, I’m not sure I’m the best person to review Hunting Ground, the latest entry in the Alpha and Omega series. That’s because I have a pattern of tending to lose interest in the second or third book of series which follow the same protagonists, and for this reason, I only rarely read them, and review them even more rarely.
I made an exception for Hunting Ground because when I first read “Alpha and Omega,” I fell in love with Charles and Anna. I felt that I could read about these characters forever and not tire of them. In fact by now I’ve read “Alpha and Omega” around seven times, and Cry Wolf around three.
For readers who are not familiar with them, let me introduce this endearing couple:
Charles is an over two hundred year old, half Native American werewolf. He is dominant enough to be an alpha, but his pack has one werewolf who is even more dominant — Bran, Charles’ father, an alpha of alphas, also known as the Marrok, or leader of all of North America’s werewolves. Because Bran is more dominant than he is, Charles must do as he says. He is his father’s right hand man as well as his executioner. The last is a role he dislikes, one that isolates him from the many who fear him.
Anna, Charles’ mate, is an omega werewolf, which means that she is outside the pack structure. She cannot be commanded by anyone, but she also lacks the alphas’ aggressive tendencies. Instead, her presence has a calming influence on dominant wolves. Anna is a relatively young werewolf, only in her twenties. The pack Anna originally belonged to abused her and assaulted her sexually, and Anna’s recovery from those attacks is an ongoing process.
Anna and Charles’ wolf halves chose them as mates for one another before Charles and Anna had a chance to get to know each other well, and now, a month into their relationship, Charles and Anna are still learning to deal with the new emotions and abilities their bond has given them. Just as Anna struggles to overcome her fear of dominant werewolves other than Charles, Charles must battle his protective and possessive instincts toward her.
Hunting Ground opens at a time when Charles and Bran, his father, are at odds. Bran intends to make the werewolves’ existence public, and before he does so, he wants to meet with all the European alphas and their seconds. But Charles, who possesses some magical abilities due to his mother’s having been a shaman’s daughter, feels intuitively that something very bad will happen if Bran attends the meeting he has scheduled.
With Anna’s help, the conflict between Charles and Bran is defused, and Bran resolves to send Charles and Anna to the werewolf gathering in his place. Charles and Anna arrive at the meeting place, Seattle, even though Charles’ instincts to protect Anna are screaming in protest.
Once in Seattle, Anna and Charles face difficulties and dangers that come from several sources. First, there is Jean Chastel, also known as “The Beast,” a mad, carnivorous werewolf who leads the French contingent. Then there is Dana, a fae and Gray Lord who is a former lover of Charles’, and who will act as moderator of the meeting. Charles likes Dana, but Brother Wolf, his other half, distrusts her, and Anna feels uneasy in her presence. Lastly, there is a group of rogue vampires on a killing spree, bent on capturing Anna.
If that weren’t enough there are also the aforementioned personal issues in Anna and Charles’ relationship. Charles is closing Anna out of their bond much of the time, because he is afraid that as Bran’s killer, he is not someone Anna can truly love if she ever knows all of him. Anna, meanwhile, still finds sex scary when her wolf half isn’t present.
I enjoyed Hunting Ground a lot, but not as much as “Alpha and Omega” or Cry Wolf. I’m not sure how much of that is due to my having already spent a lot of time with these characters before reading this book, when I usually prefer to read about characters I don’t know this well, and how much of it is due to the (mostly minor) problems I had with Hunting Ground.
The first of these is that the first half or so of the book felt episodic to me. Each of the conflicts I described seemed to crop up and then fade away, when I would have preferred for the story to feel more cohesive.
Secondly, it’s my opinion that ongoing series about the same couple face special challenges. If the conflict between the pair is too pronounced in second books, it may seem like the relationship is in a holding pattern, or the couple is lacking in the maturity necessary to surmount their problems. But if the pair resolves all their problems quickly, then the suspense an internal conflict brings to a book can dissipate, and readers’ interest in the couple may also wane.
Hunting Ground shows astute navigation of these waters. Charles and Anna’s relationship has clearly progressed, and they both show maturity, but at the same time, they are both wounded individuals and their scars don’t heal overnight just because they have married. I feel that you struck a great balance between avoiding repetitiveness and not resolving things too fast.
Perhaps it is the romance reader in me, but, even though I recognized how deftly you handled that, I still found myself wanting more focus on Charles and Anna’s personal relationship, especially in the middle portion of the book. I would have loved more in the way of exploring their physical intimacy with one another, too.
Anna and Charles are still wonderful characters, though, and I still cared about them greatly. They are both vulnerable, flawed, but fundamentally good people, inhabiting a dangerous world where only the strong survive.
Eventually, too, my concerns were allayed in what was a fabulous build up to a terrific ending. The various plot lines came together into a cohesive and very satisfying whole. There was a subtle and moving exploration of Anna and Charles’s issues with sex. The ending, in which both Anna and Charles must come to the other’s aid, was as gripping as it was romantic. And I love the way Anna finds her strength growing from book to book.
Although I won’t reread it immediately and obsessively as I did the first two installments in Charles and Anna’s story, I closed the book feeling thoroughly rewarded and looking forward to more of Charles and Anna in the future. B+ for Hunting Ground.
This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers. This book goes on sale on August 25. I hope that the Sony ebook will show up but it’s in the Kindle format for sure.
If you had lived next door to me Janine I would have been ringing your bell at 2am when I finished this book just to see what you thought about this story.
(huge location blessing for you, lol!)
I wasn’t as enamored of the second book in the series as you were, but I LOVED this book. I absolutely put it in my top ten, if not top five, reads of the year so far. That is mostly based on Anna’s emotional progression toward her rightful place in the pack and in their world of wolf shifters, and the love story between Anna and Charles that keeps building and getting stronger.
Okay, and the cover. That wolf is sneering? smiling? Hungry? Sexy? Yes! Love him!
I just wanted to thank you again for your original recommendation of Alpha & Omega because I would have missed this great author and some wonderful writing.
I’m really looking forward to this book. I skimmed the review to get only your overall feeling for it. I want to be completely untainted by discussion when I read it. :)
You’re welcome, Joanne! I’m so glad you are enjoying the series! Hunting Ground, though maybe not in my top ten of the year, will still end up on my best books of 2009 list, I think.
I too am enjoying Anna’s emotional progression and the love story. I wish there had been even more love story, but what there was was terrific.
As I say in the review, I’m not sure how much of the fact that I didn’t adore this one quite as much as the other two is due to the fact that I rarely follow the same main characters after a book or two. I have dropped out of many excellent series (including the J.D. Robb books, P.B. Ryan and C.S. Harris’s historical mysteries, Briggs’ Mercy series, Sookie Stackhouse, and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books) , even though I loved the first book in several cases, simply because familiarity with the main characters tends to dull my reading appetite.
Even though I will be reading the next Anna and Charles book, I think perhaps I will let a different reviewer review it, because someone else might be a better judge.
MaryK, I hope you enjoy it!
I’m absolutely going to lose my mind if this book doesn’t arrive soon. I’ve re-read Cry Wolf so many times now that it looks like it has gone through the washer. If I didn’t have the e-book I’d have to re-buy it. I just can’t read anything else, nobody else compares. I’m re-reading Cry Wolf again to get ready for Hunting Ground, which Amazon says won’t ship until the 31st! I’m absolutely going insane here. And I have to thank you too, Janine, for the recommendation. I never would’ve read either series without your recommendation of Alpha and Omega. Hand’s down the best novella I’ve ever read.
Wasn’t “Alpha and Omega” amazing? I’m so glad you are enjoying the series so much, Roslyn. Having readers tell me they enjoyed books I’ve recommended is one of the most rewarding things about reviewing.
I’m not sure why Amazon is taking that long to ship out Hunting Ground to you. Their website says it will be available tomorrow. They’ve also discounted the paperback down to $4.79, which is quite a bargain. But if I had to wait I would go nuts too. This was my most anticipated book of the summer.
P.S. @MaryK & @roslynholcomb, I would love to hear your thoughts on Hunting Ground when you’ve had a chance to read it.
I was hooked on Charles and Anna after reading Alpha and Omega, and this was definitely the book I wanted to read this summer. I love the werewolf world Briggs has developed, and I love reading about them. I enjoyed this book more than Cry Wolf, but I hope that in future books we can get a little less external conflict like vampires, fey, and witches and more Pack conflict. I also hope we get to see the girl that Mercy sent to Brand for help.
i want this book.
i want this book.
i want this book.
i want this book.
i REALLY want this book.
@senetra: Glad you enjoyed the book!
@Shiloh Walker: Did I hear you say you want this book? :) It comes out tomorrow, so you don’t have long to wait. Hope you enjoy it, and please feel welcome to post your thoughts.
I loooove this series. I love the Mercy Thompson books too, but the story of Anna and Charles is my favorite. I was lucky to find this paperback in the book section at my local Walmart, because I didn’t think I could wait any longer to read it.
I agree with you Janine, the way their relationship is progressing is very well handled. Anna has very serious issues with intimacy, due to her abuse at the hands of her former pack (who could blame her?). And Charles is completely out of his element, he doesn’t know how to deal with all the emotions that his love for Anna is bringing to the surface. He was used to being in control all the time, and now his control is tested again and again. But he’s working on it.
My favorite scene is when he offers himself to her, so she can touch him as much as she wants without using her wolf half. For a guy used to intimidate and kill, this is the moment when he truly shows just how much he loves her. Aaaahhh… I’m so jealous.
The pacing of the book felt a bit slow at first, but the ending was brilliant. Thank goodness Patricia Briggs has already announced that another book is on the way. How will I live until then???
Yes, that was a great scene. I also loved the scenes at the end of the book, but I don’t want to give them away. I agree re. the slow beginning and the brilliant ending. And I too prefer Charles and Anna to the Mercy books. They are such great characters and their relationship is so romantic.
Thanks for the great review. Authors benefit greatly from hearing both what they did right, and where they may have stumbled. Of course, one of the problems authors face is finding readers/reviewers they trust. You, Janine, are the best. Your input is solid gold.
well. I’m speechless.
Oh, just kidding and like I could ever shut up.
I’m just the opposite though, I’ll stick with a series as long as the writing maintains it’s original flavor or gets even better and the stories are solid.
Robbs’ Eve Dallas is going into book 35 and I can’t wait for it to be published.
Can’t Wait For This Book!!
Loved the first two – Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite authors – her Hurog series (of only two books, sigh) are two of my all time favorite books – highly recommend them.
Thanks for the great review, am really looking forward to it now.
I’m counting down the hours this will be available on Sony (no reason it shouldn’t, since they have all of her books). Only a little while to go – Sony posts Tuesday released Monday night (usually around 9 or 10 EST).
@Mike Briggs: Wow, thanks!!!
@joanne: Yeah, I know I’m weird that way. I think it’s just that getting to know characters for the first time can be so thrilling, if those characters are mutli-dimensional and interesting. A lot of the pleasure of reading for me is in slipping into someone else’s mindset. When that person is unfamiliar, getting to know the nooks and crannies of their minds, what they think and feel, how they rationalize their actions or surprise themselves, is hugely enjoyable. Once I know them well, they have to be pretty exceptional characters for me to enjoy reading more about them. Which I do feel is true of Anna and Charles.
I have enjoyed some of Nora Roberts’ books a lot, but TBH, I could not imagine enjoying the 35th book about the same characters, no matter who wrote it or how well written it was.
@Joanna: You’re welcome! Let me know how you like it.
@Jessica G.: I would love to hear your thoughts on the book too.
I hope this book arrives soon!
I pre-ordered it and now i wish I would have waited and downloaded it immediately on my ipod touch so I could start reading immediately. Patricia Briggs is one of my top 5 fave authors and she consistently writes great books. I just went back and started reading her early stuff and that was great too (but can’t get my hands on Masques ).
You probably saw this already, but in the comment section on Jan’s review of Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood, Emily posted that a reissue of Masques is forthcoming. It’s mentioned in comment #8.
Hope you enjoy Hunting Ground. Please feel welcome to come back and share your thoughts!
I’ve been waiting for this book in between re-reading Mercy’s books. I can’t wait until I get my greedy little hands on it! :)
Hope you like it, Biki.
I’ve had this on Pre-order for a month or so at Fictionwise. Should be able to download it tonight, if all goes well. Mwahahaha.
I only recently read Alpha & Omega and Cry Wolf. I did really enjoy the books but I wanted to see more of Anna and Charles’ relationship developing – more of the romance side of things. I will be getting this book as it seems that there is more romance in this one. The worldbuilding and the style were excellent and I’ve recommended the series to a friend recently.
I am a devotee of JD Robb’s In Death series too and the thing I like about it (well, one of the manyt things I like about it) is the development of Eve’s character – how she learns to open herself up after suffering terribly as a child.
Anna, too, has a long journey to overcome the trauma of her time in the first pack (not to mention the fact that the Change was forced upon her) and I am looking forward to how this will occur. Watching Charles and Anna opening themselves to one another is the best part of the journey for me – if I get a vote, I’d like to see lots more of that.
I’m fighting off a cold and CANNOT stay up late enough to buy, download, and devour the e-book. But oh my freaking god, I want to.
Patricia Briggs is one of the few authors whose new releases I get excited about and can’t wait for and WANT WANT WANT like I wanted Christmas when I was little.
Argh! I have a meeting tomorrow night! Argh! I’ll be up until 5 in the morning reading the flipping book! Damn you, people who schedule book releases for Tuesdays!
which is why I’m not going too batty…or rather, more batty than normal. :-D
Miki, I hope you enjoy it.
Kaetrin, I’m not sure I would say there is more romance in this one than in the others. For me, the most romantic of the three was the “Alpha and Omega” novella, but they are all three quite romantic IMO. What’s different in this one is that Charles and Anna are in a somewhat more secure place in their relationship.
Just to clarify, I have only read the first Eve Dallas book and can’t comment on the others. My comment was just a general one, not meant to be about the In Death series but rather made to illustrate the fact that as a reader, new characters can make a big difference to my enjoyment. I felt it was important to make that point in the review, because I know many people feel differently and wanted readers to be able to take that into account when assessing my review.
I hope you like Hunting Ground. Please comment when you read it, if you feel like it.
Suze, I know what you mean. I was very excited about this book and about Cry Wolf as well. Hope you have a good time reading Hunting Ground, even if it prevents a good night of sleep.
Shiloh — LOL! Hope you enjoy the book and feel welcome to share your thoughts.
Thanks for your thoughtful review, Janine. I’m a huge Briggs fan and find Anna and Charles’ story very sweet. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it grows in this installment.
@Angie: I agree, there is a sweetness about the characters and their relationship that I find really touching. As I said to others, I hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your thoughts!
Another great review from you, Janine. I’m looking forward to this one – as you know I only started the series on your recommendation, since I only liked the one Mercy Thompson book I read okay. I really like Charles and especially Anna and am looking forward to reading about her emotional growth.
I see that BooksonBoard is offering 18% off the list price on all Patricia Briggs titles this week (with a promo code) to celebrate the release of Hunting Ground.
Thanks for the review, Janine. I can’t wait to buy this book. *drool*
Downloaded it this morning, and went in to work 30 minutes late because I didn’t want to put it down. I was nervous to look at the grade for this review because I wonder how Ms. Briggs can keep up this string of great books, but I’m glad to know this one is high-quality as well.
I loved the beginning scene with Anna and Charles in the plane; it was such a nice moment between them. Can’t wait to continue reading!
Can’t wait to get it today – I took off this afternoon so that I could devour it while lounging by the pool with no interruptions.
@Jennie: Anna is a great character. I’m not sure who I like better, her or Charles.
@hapalochlaena: You’re welcome!
@Cathy: It is impressive that Patricia Briggs keeps putting out one good book after another. That was a nice moment on the plane.
@Diane V: Wow, that is great that you have the afternoon off to read.
@Jennie, @hapalochlaena, @Cathy, and Diane V — I’m looking forward to hearing what you think, and hope you enjoy the book!
Okay, Amazon said it shipped today. I checked and it’s in Lexington KY. That’s less than 300 miles from here. Now assuming that they load it on the plane tonight it could conceivably be here tomorrow. More realistically though, I’ll probably not receive it until this weekend. That’s actually a good thing because I’ve been forcing myself to work on my WIP with Hunting Ground as a reward for my hard work. Just remember postal workers, I’ve always said great things about you. I wonder if they respond well to baked goodies? I make an awesome triple threat cookie.
@roslynholcomb: LOL. I hope it arrives at exactly the right time.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hunting Ground. Like a few others, as much as I love Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, I prefer Anna and Charles. I love seeing how their relationship is growing and how the dynamics of their relationship is slowly changing as Anna grows more comfortable with Charles and Charles becomes less remote because of Anna’s warmth.
Finished HG last night, and really enjoyed it. I like that Anna and Charles both still have issues, and though they’re trying to work through them, it’ll clearly be a long time before they’re fully settled with themselves and each other. It’s much better than the “You love me? Then I’m cured!” moments I’ve run across in other books. I agree with the review that I would have liked more moments of just Anna and Charles together, but since I know there will be (at least) one more book in the series, that’s not a big issue.
I thought the story around The Bad Guy was really well done (I’m trying to avoid spoilers), and at no point did roll my eyes in disbelief. Ms. Briggs blends history into her stories very, very well.
My only minor annoyance was that there were a few repeated phrases/expressions from Cry Wolf that turned up again here that took me out of the story a bit. There were repeated references to Anna’s height or her being shorter-than-average that quickly got redundant. She’s petite, I get it. However, I thought the rest was very well written, and I really enjoyed the book. A- from me.
I loved Hunting Ground and the way Briggs is developing the relationship between Anna and Charles. With her history of abuse and his job as his father’s assassin, it is interesting to watch how they try to deal with each other and their emotions. I loved the opening when Anna pounces on Charles in her wolf form and he plays with her as a human so he doesn’t scare her.
My favorite scene was when Anna blew Charles a kiss from across the room at the Alpha meeting and he caught it and put his hand to his heart. Priceless!
Janine – as always a wonderful, thorough review.
I finished Hunting Ground last night (with one of my daughters calling me periodically to see if I had finished yet so she could come pick it up!) and would give it an A-. I actually liked it more than Cry Wolf, but agree with much of your review, Janine, although I found the amount of focus on the Charles/Anna relationship just right. I think any more more have shifted the balance of the story in a negative way. The interesting thing to me about all of Briggs’ books is that although she is not writing Romance, the strong emotional connections between her characters is more moving, to me, than some books that are marketed in Romance. And, I also love that she doesn’t violate the reader’s trust in those relationships by randomly introducing other romantic interests partway through the series–which a happens in a lot of paranormals.
@ShellBell: Glad you enjoyed the book. I love the Charles and Anna relationship too.
Yes, that was very well done.
You have a point but it didn’t bother me much.
You are so right that their histories and roles are a big part of what makes Charles and Anna’s relationship so riveting. The opening was very nice. I’m glad both Hunting Ground and the review worked for you!
Interesting. I recall that some readers preferred the scond half of Cry Wolf to the first, because it was more actiony, but the first half which had more relationship focus was soooo romantic to me.
I agree. I have found it true of some of my favorite romantic books though, that they are about more than just the romance. I think sometimes having the characters forced to focus on larger concerns than just their relationship can actually highlight the relationship.
It’s hard for me to articulate this, but it’s a conclusion I came to once after analyzing the romance in one of my favorite fantasy books, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, and I think of it’s encapuslated by Bogart’s line in Casablanca that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans. When the characters have problems that are bigger than themselves, it can throw the relationship into relief and distill the emotions that they feel. I think that’s true with this series too– Charles and Anna are often forced to put their relationship on hold for the werewolf society’s greater good and it’s quite romantic becasue it shows their selflessness as well as their love for one another.
Glad you liked the book, Aoife.
Now that I’ve had a chance to read it – Loved the book!
This is a little late but no one mentioned Patricia’s short story “Seeing Eye” in the recent anthology “Strange Brew”. A wonderful story that surprised me with the intensity of emotion she packed into it. The two main characters from that story – Tom and Moira – a werewolf and a witch respectively, make an appearance in “Hunting Ground.” It’s well worth checking out for those who like the Charles and Anna stories.
@ Joanna – Thanks for the tip about “Strange Brew” I’m definitely going to check it out now.
For those who are not in the U.S. Hunting Ground is only available to US residents via the Sony store :( I bought mine at Books on Board.
I prefer the Alpha and Omega series to the Mercy Thompson series because I think that A and O have much more romantic elements in it. I view them as romantic urban fantasy whereas Mercy Thompson has been mostly urban fantasy with romantic elements.
My favourite tropes are the Alpha male with a strong, independent woman and this used to great effect in the series. I prefer Hunting Ground to Cry Wolf mostly based on the plotline. I enjoyed the seeing the fae, European werewolves, and vampires more than a story about a black witch. The romantic elements in both books were fairly equal and I love how both Anna and Charles are continuing to develop as characters.
I can’t wait to read more of both series.
@Joanna: I had no idea that Tom and Moira had appeared in another story. Thanks for the heads up, I will check it out! And glad you loved the book!
It pays to have a Sony if you live outside the U.S., then. It is good to hear that you liked the book!
I quite enjoyed this book, too, although not as much as the two first istallments of the series. Still, it was very good. I particularly liked a detail most people probably missed – Anna meets another Omega in the book, and first he is said to be German, and people wonder why he joined the Italian werewolves. Well, it turns out he is Austrian and all Anna thinks is “That makes sense!” and it does. I am Austrian myself, and this little scene, totally not important, rang so true – cudoes to Ms Briggs for her research and her ability to work it into the book!
Okay, I confess, I bought the book at Wal-Mart, couldn’t wait another moment. And yes, I devoured it in two days. Just started the re-read. Absolutely phenomenal. I agree with everyone who said that all the outside forces makes their romance even more intense. Roberta Gellis said something similar about her books and that publishers gave her grief about the lack of ‘romance.’ She pointed out that with all the tumult going on in the world at that time it would be absurd for the characters to be swooning all over one another. That’s not what makes a romance anyway. Briggs packs such an emotional punch that transcends all the ‘romancey’ scenes any other author could ever write. They are so absolutely romantic, Charles just makes me swoon. I love the way Anna got a chance to kick a little butt. I can’t believe there’s another anthology that I missed. I think I’m going to have to get a google alert on Briggs. Off to find Strange Brew now.
Read it last night. Loved it. Want more. Desperately want more.
@LizA: I remember that detail! Good to know it is accurate.
@roslynholcomb & @Shiloh Walker as well as LizA:
Glad you guys enjoyed the book so much.
Love the Anna & Charles stories, I actually do prefer those books over the Mercy Thompson series.
I think it is much to seldom that you see a author explore the mechanics of a romantic ralationship beyond the intial attraction and the whole harboring a crush. And we get both Anna’s and Charles’s view of things.
Last but not least I find it very easy to relate to Anna’s vunerable side, that part of her character is described in quite a realistic way.