Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs
This short story is the prequel to the Alpha & Omega series that I have read. I found it quite useful to bring a little more detail to the background of the Alpha & Omega series while, at the same time, striking the ideal balance of not actually being essential to reading that series. It doesn’t add more to Anna’s history than I already knew but does provide a greater context to how her abusive past happened (especially given the inviolate nature of Omegas in the series) and how she and Charles met.
Even though I have read this series and the Mercy Thompson Series I also think this book did an excellent job of being both a stand-alone novel and giving us enough information about the world to be both workable and intriguing. Whether you had or hadn’t read the series, it was still a good story with elements for both readers.
While I’m not a big fan of the whole Alpha-male-werewolf-rawr trope but I think this story did a good job of looking at some of the consequences of this – how easy it would be for these “dominant” wolves to be abusive and for their victims to fear them all due to the ease of abuse written into their culture. Sure there’s a heavily element of the abusive werewolves doing-it-wrong, but at the same time it’s clear why their victims wouldn’t see much difference and would be wary of dominants.
We do have a lot of insta-love and insta-sexiness going on with Charles’s woo-woo mating bond kicking in. This causes a lot of over sexiness, a lot of domineering sexiness and, frankly, a lot of really unpleasant sexual pressure that is only exacerbated by Anna being a rape victim
We have some POC in this story – Charles is a Native American and drops in a fair amount of his culture and origins. Kara, Anne’s best friend, is Black – but it’s a shame she doesn’t get more presence here or in later books, serving only to be worried and protective of Anna (in a rather powerful way) without much more to her.
Anna sets the tone for future books in this series – while she’s hurting, abused and fearful, she’s also intelligent, brave and resourceful when called for – she’s abused but it’s made clear that doesn’t make her weak.
Unfortunately, this book does revolve around one of the tropes that is central to these series – mental illness is worse than death. Older werewolves in this world are often prone to insanity. This is considered terrifying, very dangerous and, ultimately, these werewolves have to be “put down”. Making mental illness a source of danger (a common, destructive and rarely true trope), a fate worse than death and something incapable of treatment or management.
This story has issues but it’s the one I liked most in the book – and the one I think struck the best balance with the series it was part of
Inhuman by Eileen Wilks
This is a short story set in the same world as the World of the Lupi series that I have read. It is, however, an excellent standalone story – in fact, while it’s set in the same world and the same events that are in the main series shape this one, it’s so separate from the main series that I missed that it was a part of it – in the beginning at least. It’s possible this perception is because I have read the main books and don’t realise how much I’ve assumed or absorbed to make this one work but it was very detached. The events like the magic wave flowing over the world and the increasing magic were mentioned in the beginning and nicely easily understood concepts to establish this world setting without having to get into the detail from the main series
If anything, the World of the Lupi series is too dependent on this book. Nathan and Kai, the protagonists of this story, return to play a major role in Night Season which makes that book feel very rickety unless you have read this short story to explain who Nathan and Kai are.