Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega 4) by Patricia Briggs
Synopsis from Goodreads:
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…
Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.
Let me say right off that I love Patrica Briggs’s Alpha and Omega/Mercy Thompson novels (The two series take place in the same verse during the same time period, but you don’t need to read one series to understand the other, but it can help with understanding the world and some of the characters). I love the world and the characters, and I love that they so often contain real life problems written into a fantasy world.
And this newest one did not disappoint. …Well, except in the cover department, but I’m used to that from both of these series. I’m not buying them for the covers, after all.
Warning for potential *SPOILERS* as I discuss a couple of plot points below.
I loved the discussions about life and death and choice, about how sometimes it’s better to know when it’s your time rather than trying to seek immortality (via lycanthropy). The issues of consent about turning someone into a werewolf could’ve been interpreted as asking someone to take an experimental drug cocktail that might cure their cancer or might just drag their life out.
And the frank, if scattered, argument between Anna and Charles about children felt painfully realistic, especially as she tried to work out exactly why he was fighting her so hard on this one. Speaking of, let me say that I love the differences between Anna and Charles as compared with Mercy and Adam. I love that Briggs has these two couples who are so different and yet so believable. I don’t doubt either pair, and I love that they have completely different dynamics without making me doubt the equality between the partners in each relationship.
Speaking of characters, I loved Jospeh and Chelsea and Kage and Hosteen and the kids, although I wish more had been done with Chelsea’s plot line, as it felt it had more to do with Hosteen than with her. As for Maggie – meh. I’m not sure I always believed her motivations or what other people thought of her, but we also didn’t really hear much about her from an objective point of view. But it was great to see Agent Leslie Fisher again, and finally some people from Cantrip who can find their, uh, butts without assistance! And they’re decent people? Will wonders never cease? In all seriousness, I would love to see Marsden, Leeds, and, of course, Agent Fisher in future novels or novellas. Marsden and Leeds in particular were rather intriguing since we saw a lot of Leslie in Fair Game and didn’t see much of the two Cantrip agents this time around.
The continuing fae story-line is still wonderfully creepy, although this particular plot left a few unanswered questions about the person the fae in question was impersonating, if indeed it was an impersonation, especially considering the book’s opening scene. However, it fit perfectly with the rest of the book and series plot lines, so I’m not too upset about not having all the holes filled in. And I’m really curious to see how the events in this book effect Fire Touched, the next Mercy Thompson book, and what will happen with the brewing war between humans and fae – and werewolves!
However, while the fae plot fit, it did feel as if the villain had been made fairly obvious in the beginning. I remember thinking, one of these two people is the villain, and then neither Charles nor Anna picked up on it or even really thought about it at all, even though both were connected to the daycare where they found the fetch. On top of that, there was no real explanation of why the Gray Lords are releasing some of the more dangerous fae back into the world. There’s speculation, yes, but no real discussion of it, and so in the end it felt like a hanging plot thread.
I think that this book was more character and world development than anything else, showing us more about Charles, giving us a bit more information about and discussion on the Change, and focused on where the sides are being drawn in the war between fae and humans. In other words, sort of a placeholder/move-it-along book before we get to the real conflict. And that’s fine, I still liked it, but coming after Fair Game, it felt like a let down. A breather episode, if you will.
My other complaint with this book is all the horse information can feel overwhelming at times, especially to someone like me who has only a passing acquaintance with all things equine. I mean, I know that there’s a difference between Western and English, and I recognized a couple of the horse breed names, and I know walk, trot, canter, gallop, but that’s about where my knowledge ends. I felt like Anna, completely outside the loop of all this equestrian terminology, and there is no explanation of most of it. But if that’s my only complaint, then that’s pretty good.
Four out of five stars. If you like urban fantasy or paranormal romance, with vicious werewolves, creepy vampires, and the Fair Folk, this series might just be for you.