In Wild Sign, the sixth book in the Alpha and Omega series about mated werewolves Charles and Anna Cornick and eighteenth novel in the general Mercyverse, Patricia Briggs delivers a story about witches, wolves, and gods that is pure devotee-centric entertainment. Because this series is deeply interconnected you won’t want to read this book (or this review) without at least reading the first five novels in the Alpha and Omega set.
When the FBI shows up on their doorstep offering a deal, Charles and Anna are simultaneously upset and intrigued. Upset because while the two people at their dining room table happen to be folks they are friendly with, having the Feds knock on your door when your address is meant to be a highly guarded secret is never good. However, Charles and Anna are intrigued by what Leslie and Goldstein have come to tell them: A group of squatters built a town on private property owned by Charles’ stepmom Leah. And then they vanished – the buildings are still there but the residents are all gone, and they left behind all their possessions. A local forest ranger reported the event to law enforcement, but the FBI and local police don’t have jurisdiction on private property. Since these two agents have worked with Anna and Charles before and know them to be talented sleuths, they’ve decided to dump the problem in their laps. It’s a win-win situation – Anna and Charles are known to be tenacious investigators who will close the case, and by probing the problem themselves, the wolves will keep any magical mayhem safely away from the governments prying, overly curious eyes. Yes, of course, there will be magical mayhem – this is a Mercyverse novel!
Filled with familiar characters, fascinating new background information and loads of adventure, Wild Sign is everything fans of the long running series expect from this author.
AAR staffers Maggie and Rachel sat down to share their thoughts on this intriguing, enchanting novel.
Maggie: I’m a big fan of the Mercyverse and Charles and Anna are two of my very favorite characters in it. I know I’ve read every book and I’m pretty sure I’ve read all the short stories, too. These are definitely character driven narratives, which I love, but they are also outstanding paranormal novels with incredible world building. What drew/continues to draw you to the series?
Rachel: I love the Mercyverse books but I really appreciate how the romance takes a front seat in Alpha and Omega, that’s what really keeps me coming back for more. I love the lore, and the world-building too, but Charles and Anna are such deep, compelling characters, and their emotional connection and history is at the core of every book.
Maggie: I agree; the Alpha and Omega books really do have a strong emotional core. By the time this book takes place, their relationship has already been built up over numerous volumes, which means we don’t get to see Charles and Anna fall in love but we do watch as they continue to navigate their way through a loving marriage. What did you think of their connection in this book?
Rachel: I think we’ve really seen Anna grow more confident in Charles’ love for her and in their marriage in the last few books. Particularly in Wild Sign, we see their solid relationship translate into great teamwork. I think what’s really great about them as a couple is that the tension is entirely external to their marriage; all of the forces they face are enemies they tackle together. I also love how Charles is simultaneously protective of Anna and confident in her ability to take care of herself.
Maggie: I agree, it’s nice to see them not only be a couple but a team. Our secondary characters this time around are Leah, Bran and Tag. While I thought it was fun to spend additional time with the volatile Tag I didn’t feel I really got to know him any better. In a similar vein, we learn a few things about Leah and Bran’s past but I’m not sure I understand either of them more as a result either. What are your feelings about the secondary characters and their story lines?
Rachel: I agree on Tag, I enjoy him as a character but I don’t feel we saw any significant growth from him. He makes a great companion and definitely is a wildcard, but I don’t think he lived up to his full potential. I also enjoyed spending more time with Leah, because she’s so unsympathetic normally and I love to see characters in multiple dimensions. I actually think I like Leah a lot more now, and find her more compelling as a character. I would really like to see more of her in the future, maybe even a whole book about her. As for Bran, he kind of has to be inscrutable because of his role in the stories, but I think I got enough from him to be satisfied.
Maggie: We are introduced to some new villains as well as meeting one new group of magical beings and a new branch of our ongoing enemy, the Hardesty witches. As always, Briggs’ world-building is phenomenal and the universe she has created is detailed, original and complex. She’s done a fabulous job of constructing a believable environment where modern technology and magical beings exist side by side. What are your thoughts on the world building and on the baddies in Wild Sign?
Rachel: I love witches as the bad guys, mostly because they’re so delightfully evil. They really can be relied upon to do the most horrible things, and I think the author did a great job in this book of showcasing their evil intentions. I think one of the great strengths of the universe Briggs’ has built is that a lot of evil simply must be allowed to exist, because our heroes can’t reasonably deal with all of it at once. I like that it’s not an idealized fantasy world, where all of the bad guys are banished and the heroes save everyone.
Maggie: That’s such a good point – if they managed to defeat all the evil it would become a Disney film. Speaking of evil – for some readers this tale might need a trigger warning: the villain is a rapist who can erase memories and use magic to seduce women, subjugating their will to his own, which would, as one of the characters points out, negate consent. I didn’t find that aspect of the story graphic and felt it was handled fairly well.
Rachel: I definitely think that for some people it might be triggering; this particular story does play into the mythos of beings that require humans to reproduce and subvert their will to do so. I think it’s told well and doesn’t go too far; I was satisfied with how it played out.
Maggie: My overall grade for the novel is a B. As always, the prose was excellent and the plotting fast-paced and original. It’s a good story overall – but I felt the action overshadowed the character building. For example, I would have liked to have gotten greater insight into Leah and her past since the story revolved around that, but I felt that while we know more facts about her, we don’t really know her thoughts and motivations more deeply in spite of having access to that data. What about you?
Rachel: I might be biased because I’m such a huge Briggs fan, but for me it’s in the DIK range. With a lot of paranormal books, I feel no tension, no suspense, and I’m not ultimately all that curious. I am always surprised by Briggs’ books, but it’s never a twist out of nowhere – I just have to admire how intricately everything fits together. The story also benefits from the previous books in that there is that preexisting characterization, I already feel connected to these characters. And I did really love what this story did with Leah; it’s given her space to evolve in so many interesting ways. I guess I would have enjoyed a little more insight into her throughout the book, but hopefully we’ll get to see more of her in the future. I feel like in a series with so much already written, it can be hard to put characters in new situations, to give them new roles. I really look forward to seeing what’s next, and that’s a real achievement.
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