One of the new releases I was impatiently waiting for this summer was Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs. I enjoyed Ms Briggs writing and love the Alpha & Omega series! Of course, I'm not the only one :) It was actually Renee from Renee's Book Addiction who first contacted me for a buddy review for her blog... and she has kindly let me cross-post the review here.
*** Spoilers ahead!! You have been warned!!***
Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
published by ROC Fantasy in August 2009
Anne Latham didn't know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son--and enforcer--of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn't know how dangerous it could be either...Genre: Urban Fantasy
Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran's controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan--and it seems like someone else might be, too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all--or risk losing everything...
Series: Alpha & Omega, book #3
Nath: I really enjoy Hunting Ground. I love Anna and Charles together. I think they are a very interesting couple and I like how different their dynamics are from Adam-Mercy-Samuel.
Renee: I enjoyed it too, though it definitely was, imo, quite different from Alpha & Omega, especially with regards to Anna and Charles’ relationship. They have definitely moved to the next step, and I loved seeing how they both are now opening up to each other.
Nath: Just to be sure, what do you mean by "quite different from Alpha & Omega"? Are you talking about the atmosphere of the book, the characters, the relationship or everything? Personally, I don't think it's very different... simply, the relationship is progressing and it is reflected in the characters. I find it ironic a little how Anna is growing more confident, but Charles, more confused LOL.
Renee: What I mean is that a lot of the doubt about their relationship is gone. Especially on Anna’s part. There is much less of a, “What am I doing with this guy?” vibe to the story. She’s accepted that they are mates, and is now focusing on making their relationship work.
Nath: I like the timeline that Ms Briggs has chosen. Hunting Ground picks up only a few weeks after Cry Wolf and so readers get to witness every progress in Anna and Charles' relationship. They've moved to the next step, but there are still some hesitations. However, what I like about Anna and Charles is that they work it out, talk it out and are determined to make it. The relationship feels very real in my opinion. It's not just that they're opening up to each other, but there's also a deep sense of acceptance between them that's very endearing.
Renee: I was really struck with how Charles, especially is for the first time in his very long life opening himself up to another person and making himself vulnerable. So much of his life is spent maintaining a wall between himself and others so that his job as Bran’s executioner is never compromised.
Nath: In my opinion, this mating is a bigger step for Charles than it is for Anna. I don't think Charles expected to find a mate ever and then, opening himself and making himself vulnerable... It's hard for him. As for Anna, her problems stem more from the fact that she was changed during an attack and then brutalized. She needs to learn how to trust again... but before her change though, I don't see any reasons why she'd be afraid to get into a relationship. I wonder what would have happened if Anna was still human...
I find it surprising though that Charles had never had anyone during this 200 years... Perhaps his family was enough for him... Although he has walls up, I think it's great to see that there are other people who cares for Charles asides from Anna and Bran. I like Angus testing Anna and being concerned about his choice of mate. It seems to me that although Charles has tried very hard to maintain his distances, he wasn't completely successful :P By the way, Renee, did you ever wonder why Charles was the executioner and not Samuel? I mean, Samuel has been alive so much longer and by Bran's side when he started his campaign to become the Marrock no?
Renee: Very good point, Nath. Really, I think that Samuel, being a healer, doesn’t have the ability to put his emotions in a box the way that Charles has been able to do. They really are very different. Even the issue with having family and a significant other. Samuel has had more than one wife and tried so many time over the years to have a family. I think his need for connection with others would make it impossible to take on the enforcer/executioner role. Charles is much more stoic, and seems to just do what needs to be done, in a way that Samuel doesn’t. Even with regards to Mercy, Sam defied Bran on more than one occasion. I just can’t imagine Charles doing that.
Anna, also grows in this book. She is really discovering her own power as wolf and as Omega. My only regret with Hunting Ground is that more time wasn’t spent with just Anna and Charles. But, maybe that’s just the romance reader in me. ;-)
Nath: I love Anna. She has this vulnerable side that makes her stand out. At the same time, she's growing more confident and assured. I think that we're seeing glimpse of who Anna was or would be if she hadn't been brutalized. I love her protective side for Charles, very endearing.
Renee: Yes! I loved that whole “Mine!” scene with Dana.
Nath: Definitively. So far, she's shown herself to be worthy of Charles, that's for sure. As for the amount of romance, I actually think it was good given this was an urban fantasy novel. But then, that's probably because my curiosity is being fed :) Of course, I wouldn't complain if there's been more.
I'm still not totally satisfied about what an Omega is LOL :) I guess I'm a bit like Anna and Ric... Speaking of Ric, he was funny. LOL, "You make us happy" and "You bring us joy" LMAO!!!
Renee: Yes, I’m really looking forward to this series exploring more about the role of the Omega wolf. I also liked that Anna could play a mentor role. It seems like she is always the one with the least amount of knowledge and information, so it was a nice switch.
Nath: What did you think of the plot? I like the political games in this one as well, seeing the werewolves from so different factions was interesting. It was fun to see the power play and all the "conniving" and plotting. I especially liked that it took place in Seattle, so we got to see Tom and Moira, two characters that Ms Briggs introduced in her novella Seeing Eye.
My only complaint though is that I think the relationship and Arthur plot weren't weaved well together... It really took a while before the "action" started and you could feel the separation between the two storylines. Also, I think that Arthur's motive as well as Dana's were kind of weak ^_^; But then again, no doubt that longevity and sanity don't go well together, LOL :)
Renee: The suspense plot was really good, and I loved the inclusion of someone from Charles’ past. I bought Dana’s motive more than Arthur’s, but maybe that’s just because fae are so capricious, that they don’t seem to need much to act violently or vindictively.
Nath: LOL, somehow, it seems that Charles got around no? Isabella in Alpha & Omega and now, Dana :)
I thought that overall, the plot was quite clever. I didn't see it coming... but then again, I didn't get the villains motives LOL. Hmmm, what can I say about Dana? I dislike fae... I don't get them and I think their capricious side is a reason. Also, I'm very unfamiliar with the King Arthur story... so that did not help.
Renee: Yes, there’s definitely something to be said about the detrimental effects of immortality on one’s sanity! :-P
I was a little disappointed to see so little of Bran. I’ve been hoping for more development on him, but since most of the book took place in Seattle, and he wasn’t there, it didn’t really happen. Hopefully, in the next book!
Nath: I definitively want to see more of Bran. He is such a mysterious character!! Perhaps soon. I hope we get to see the werewolves from Seattle again soon. I was actually surprised at Angus. He was nothing like I imagined from Seeing Eye.
Renee: I still haven’t read that story! I really have to get through it, since it seems that Moira and Tom have a really interesting back story. Which anthology was it in? I like the idea of getting more info on the witches. They still seem pretty mysterious to me in this world.
Nath: The anthology is called Strange Brew and came out earlier this summer. I'm not sure how much I like the witches in this series, but I definitively liked Moira... and what she did to get more power took guts.
You know, there's two things that are bothering me. First, the way Charles is written about - he's very capable and strong... but somehow, in both Cry Wolf and Hunting Ground, he was "defeated" easily in my opinion and Anna had to save the day. Although it's well explained and make sense in the plot, it annoys me. Having the heroine saving the capable and accomplished hero is okay, once or twice... but Ms Briggs does it also in the Mercy Thompson... I feel like she's "dumbing" down the heroes to make her heroines look better :(
Renee: Hmm... I’m not sure about thinking Charles was “defeated.” Dana definitely tricked him.
Ok, so I had to really think about this for a bit. I see what you mean, but I think the dynamic of Charles and Anna’s relationship is based on his rescuing her in Chicago. In some ways, Anna being able to save him here feels more like evening things out as well as more of her finding her strength (away from Charles) and abilities.
Also, I love that often Patricia Briggs brings resolutions to her stories that are based on “thinking” solutions rather than using brute strength or firepower. It’s also something that happens with Mercys’ stories, too.
Nath: I get what you're saying and I'm all for the heroine rescuing the hero... but when it happens in all the books by an author, it becomes annoying.
Second, I don't get why the werewolves mate. I mean, no love is required between them - look at Bran and Leah. I'd understand it if the mating was forever or necessary to breed, but it's not. It's like marriage kind of... in which case, why make a big deal out of it? I'm just wondering...
Renee: Yeah, it’s still a bit of a mystery to me, even after so many books in the two series. Again, I think that a nice in-depth look at Bran and his situation with Leah would be in order! ;-)
OK, so the hard part for me will be waiting till August 2010 for the 4th Alpha & Omega book.
Nath: Me too. I'm definitively looking forward to the next book.
What grade are you giving Hunting Ground? Solid A- for me. I love Anna and Charles and enjoyed most of the plot. However, I did have a few complaints about it and so I can't give it an A :( I hope those will be taken care of in the next book :)
Renee: I think I’m with you with an A-. I wasn’t totally blown away by the book, but it was a really strong addition to the series as well as the Mercy Thompson/Alpha & Omega world. I think there was a lot added to the big picture we have of the werewolves, and the relationship of Anna and Charles in particular.