Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other–one that lurks too close to home…
They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.
With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…
I always eagerly await the newest Patricia Briggs novel. No matter if it’s an Anna/Charles book or a Mercy book in the larger world. It has never mattered, because I’ve always loved the world and loved the characters. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t had any concerns or issues with the books over the years; I have. They’ve remained a bright spot in my reading each year. Looking back, Sarah and I have re-read this entire series every single year for the past several years. We can never resist. Once we get a fresh book in our hands, it’s time to re-read. To re-visit everyone we love and see the story thus-far, again.
This time is no different for me, I’ve finished Burn Bright and I’m immediately diving back into Moon Called. But I have some different motives this time, too. And this one – spoiler ridden – thought is overriding all other thoughts about this book. It’s a small moment, no more than a background conversation while the story gets rolling. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about the implications and what it means. Not for the series, or world, because I think it means little in the grand scheme of things. But for me? For me, it may mean the end of my enjoyment of this series.
You may think that’s a bit dramatic. And perhaps it is. But this is a fairly big deal to me. And I’ll get into it more below – and mark where I’m talking spoilers very clearly. Before I do, let me talk a little about the story that was told here. And, to be clear, if it wasn’t for this conversation (that I quote below), this book would get a solid 4 stars from me. But this conversation could take it down to 2.
First, timeline-wise, this book takes place immediately following the events of Silence Fallen, and thus Bran is out of the country. Which leaves Charles in charge of the Pack for at least a little while. But Bran’s absence extends, making me very suspect as to what’s going on. I loved this twist. I loved the build-up to it, and the implications of it as well. And I will say that I didn’t see the twist coming. I’m not entirely sure that I buy that someone could fool the Marrok, or Charles, for long, but … it worked for me.
I think that it’s fascinating that Patricia Briggs has found a way to expand the world, right in and around Aspen Creek. I love the addition of the Wildings, and hope that we get to see more of, at least some of, them in the future. They add a further depth that I wasn’t expecting.
There are multiple POVs in this book. More than the normal of just Anna and Charles. We get a few secondary characters that have only short-term roles, and at least one from a character that I wasn’t ever expecting: Leah. That POV, in particular, added a lot of depth to her for me. I never really expected to feel anything but hatred for her, and trust me I still can’t forgive her treatment of Charles and Mercy, at the very least, but I think I could grow to understand her. Maybe. Probably not, but I do like at least being able to see why Bran’s wolf picked Leah. I think it begins to show here, whereas before I never even had the slightest inkling or understanding why.
HERE BE SPOILERS…
You’ve been warned.
Speaking of Leah, the issue that I had early in the story ties directly back to her. I think, and this is only my assumption or guess, that we’re supposed to start feeling somewhat sympathetic towards her. To start forgiving her. Maybe I could have – but I could have done it without this. I don’t feel too badly sharing this since it occurs in the first chapter, and I’m going to quote it here. Charles and Anna are talking about having a musical night in Aspen Creek again. Charles is telling Anna about the history of it – with Mercy in particular – and how they came to be the center of a battle between Bran and Mercy. All bold emphasis are mine.
(Charles) “The musical evenings were the center of a battle between my da and Mercy — and you know how Leah feels about anything that had to do with Mercy.”
“I do,” she said. “I even understand it, much as it pains me to say so. Bran is funny about Mercy. If you were that funny about Mercy, I would feel the same way Leah does — no matter how likable I might find her.”
“Bran’s not funny about her,” he told Anna, feeling uncomfortable. “He thinks of her as his daughter, and he doesn’t have any other daughters still alive. There’s nothing strange about it.”
“Or so everyone is much happier believing,” agreed Anna blandly. “Including Bran. We’ll leave it at that. So the musical evenings were a thing between Bran and Mercy?”
“Not like that,” Charle said, feeling defensive because Anna put her finger right on something that he’d been ignoring for a long time. He took a deep breath. “All right. All right. You may have a point about Da and Mercy.”
She smiled, just a little.
He threw up his hands. “Okay. Yes. I saw it, of course I did. As did Leah. But my da would never have moved on Mercy. Say what you will about him — but his wolf has accepted Leah as his mate, and he will not cheat on her. And Mercy has never seen him as anything except a father figure and her Alpha. That’s what she needed, and that’s what he gave her. I don’t think Mercy has ever recognized that it could be more than that.“
“Yes,” Anna agreed, to his relief. “That’s how I read their relationship, too.”
Um. What? I’ve been reading and re-reading this series for years. This is the 15th book in the series (not counting short-stories). I’ve dissected, examined, and discussed this series with friends – both fans and non-fans – many times. I’ve never, not once, read anything more than fatherly love in Bran’s actions towards Mercy. Yes, she had more leeway than anyone else would have. But she was a coyote in a pack of wolves. She was a child, brought under his protection when she was very young, basically abandoned by her mother. And she had a never-quit attitude that grew along with her. I always read Bran as charmed by Mercy, loving her spirit and ability to get herself out of trouble as much as she got herself into it. And the fact that she could pull one over on him, made him proud of her. But always in a fatherly way.
Keep in mind that she was 16 when he sent her away. And he didn’t see her again for years. Leah acted this way towards Mercy from Mercy’s earliest memories. Bran once said that he couldn’t have brought Mercy into his house because he knew how Leah would treat one he cared for, so he gave her to her foster parents. SHE WAS A CHILD. Bran is thousands of years old. The idea that he harbored any feelings other than fatherly towards her…it squicks me out.
I have the feeling this was added to make us feel some sympathy towards Leah. I’ll never say that I couldn’t come to adore Leah – because honestly, I love Jamie Lannister who pushed a child out of a window – but I didn’t need this. This doesn’t affect how I feel about Leah. How she treated Charles and Mercy when they were young is inexcusable, to me. You don’t take you frustrations out on a child. I don’t care if you think your mate has some sort of creepy love for her. Rather than give me sympathy for Leah, it makes me question my love for Bran.
*ETA after re-reading the entire series in preparation for posting this review: There is not one, single hint in the entire series that Bran feels anything more towards Mercy than fatherly love. I’ve always, always, felt the love and care that he had for Mercy, but it was ALWAYS parental. You canNOT tell me that Samuel wouldn’t have noticed anything in Bran’s feelings towards Mercy. He says, in one of the books, truthfully I might add (because Mercy can feel the truth of it) that Mercy is “like a daughter” to Bran. I’m sorry, but this conversation – the more I think about it – makes me mad. It feels like manipulation, because….
I know that Patricia Briggs has previously shown that characters aren’t always reliable at reading other characters motivations (as evidenced by the fact that Mercy thought Bran barely tolerated her for years – when we all knew better). But these two characters agreeing on something like this makes me unable to just dismiss it as a misunderstanding. Especially when coupled with some other more minor things I noticed that made me go ‘Hmmm…’
These things all together make me wonder if Patricia Briggs is re-evaluating the truth of her world and rewriting the rules. A couple of quick examples:
- Sage and Leah are presented as best friends in Burn Bright. But in Cry Wolf Sage nearly mocks Leah to her face to protect Anna from her first visit. Going so far as calling her their “queen bitch.” It wasn’t in the friendly, joking way that women can sometimes do, it was meant to mock. I find it hard that Leah, sometime over the last couple of years decided to become best friends with anyone, much less Sage. But it’s plausible. I’m curious as to how it came about though.
- Charles states that any of the wolves in Anna’s old pack (in Chicago) could have, if they really wanted to, defied their alpha and contacted Bran. He goes on to say that they’re human, too, and could have used that to override the instincts of the wolf. But, again in Cry Wolf, we’re explicitly shown and told (many times) about how werewolves (in human or wolf ascendance) cannot disobey their alpha. Even Charles can’t disobey when his alpha, Bran, tells him to stop. Asil, someone we know to be incredibly dominant and strong, is forced home, to stay there, and to rest (which makes his eyes sleepy), by Bran’s simply statement. So much so that he can’t put his hand on the doorknob to try to leave and go talk to Bran again. Charles ruminates on how much respect submissives deserve to put themselves under the total possible control of someone else. How on earth could any wolf in Leo’s pack have disobeyed his order to not contact the Marrok and called the Marrok? And, on a related note, if they could have and just didn’t…why the hell aren’t all those wolves that abused Anna dead. Because that means that their brutalization of Anna was a choice, not an order they had no choice but to obey (and I honestly don’t think Leo ORDERED them to abuse her, just encouraged it, anyway). If they truly had a choice….they don’t deserve life. At all.
It makes me wonder if I can trust the rules of the world. It makes me worry. And it’s going to continue to make me incredibly uncomfortable for the next couple of books that I read – until I’m sure that Adam and Mercy’s HEA isn’t in any danger.
So, now I’ll re-read the entire series, and I won’t be able to stop myself from looking for any evidence that these feelings were there on Bran’s part. And, honestly? If I see them, I may never be able to enjoy this series again. (ETA: already did. saw nothing.)
If I don’t see them…well, I might be able to put it down to Charles and Anna reading the situation wrong. Patricia Briggs has made clear throughout this series that characters misinterpret events, peoples’ feelings, and emotions all the time. Hell, for the longest time Mercy thought that Bran thought of her as an obligation that he didn’t really like at all.