Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review 2017 #5 - Patricia Briggs's Burn Bright

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★ 
To Buy

Bran is MIA after helping rescue Mercy in Europe. This leaves his son Charles in charge of the Aspen Creek Pack. Instead of Anna and him being on the outer fringes of the pack and living in their home that is more a haven than anything else they are ensconced in Bran's house, Pack HQ, and Bran's wife Leah isn't taking too well to having house guests. She's used to having the pack in and out of her house at all hours, but not her step-son and daughter-in-law underfoot. It's almost a relief when a crisis arises. The hills behind their small Montana town are filled with wolves that are under Bran's protection but can not live amongst the pack. A danger to themselves and others, they live off the radar. These wildings are often left to their own devices but can call on the pack in times of crisis. One such crisis has arisen. Men have shown up in the woods. Well armed and prepared men. They have abducted Hester, a member of the pack, and her Fae mate Jonesy has called for help. Due to the remoteness of their location it's a miracle that Anna and Charles arrive before Hester is gone. The ensuing fight leaves many dead but even more questions that need answering. These militant attackers came into the Marrok's territory and attempted to take a pack member under his protection when they knew Bran was gone. They were too well prepared and well informed, indicating an enemy that is well funded and a possible mole within the pack. Yet there is a surprise in store. One of the attackers is known to Anna. He was there when she was abused in her old pack. Charles would kill him if the man wasn't already dead. Hopefully there will be no more death. With that goal in mind the strongest wolves set out to visit the wildings and when Anna meets the werewolf artist Wellesley and connects with him everything starts to make sense. The puzzle pieces are falling into place. But will they be able to accept what is revealed?

An ongoing perk of being a blogger is access to NetGalley where you can request digital advance reader copies of books. Yet NetGalley is a double edged sword, not just because you might end up requesting so many books there's no chance you'll ever finish them, of which I am guilty, but because sometimes instead of allowing you to request a book, in it's place, taunting you, is the "I Wish" button. Of course sometimes they do grant wishes, they tell you right there as you're desperately clicking the button hoping it will transform into a request one. Of all the authors I've read through NetGalley over the years I have never gotten such a thrill at seeing a book listed as with Patricia Briggs. Those gorgeous covers by Dan dos Santos though are always followed by nothing more than a wish. Yet in these instances my wishes have all been granted, thankfully without some nefarious deal with a fairy on the back end; just a request for my honest opinion, and my honest opinion is that I love Patricia Briggs and all her books set in the world of Mercy Thompson. Yet it's hard to review these books if just for the simple reason that after fifteen installments it's hard to find something new to say... except this time there is something new to say, and that's my realization that I love the Alpha and Omega series more. As long as there aren't any more horses. Yes, I entered this world through Mercy's adventures, but I relate more to Charles and Anna. At first I was wondering if it's because with only five books under their belt they had less baggage, but as seen here this series carries Mercy's baggage as well as it's own. Therefore I thought, perhaps it's the more focused narrative with less characters, but here we dealt with a pack bigger than the Columbia Basin Pack. In the end it comes down to the fact I relate more to Charles and Anna. They are more introspective, more removed. They are a part of their pack yet cherish their alone time, and that's something I can relate to.

As for the Aspen Creek Pack, they really take center stage in Burn Bright. Aside from their first adventure, Charles and Anna have been traipsing all over the continental United States and rarely have time to take in the Montana air. This time isn't downtime either, with Charles's farther Bran MIA after helping rescue Mercy in her previous adventure, but Charles being placed in charge of the pack means he's stuck on his home turf. Therefore, for what I feel is the first time, we're really getting a firsthand look at the pack. It's not filtered through Mercy's memories or passed down gossip that eventually gets to Charles and Anna, it's on the ground and immediate. We get to not only see the pack, but see what they are like without Bran present, who is such a dominate force he can overpower any plot line. And while each and every revelation of how the pack structure works was interesting to me, what I was most drawn to was the insight into Leah. Leah is Bran's mate, a mate who no one likes. Sometimes it seems that Bran doesn't much care for her either. In each and every one of her appearances, be it Mercy's stories or Charles's, she comes across as a really self-centered and bitchy stepmother. I won't say wicked, because she's never done anything altogether malicious, but she's always appeared to be cut from the same cloth. Burn Bright started out in this same vein and yet, while Leah never changed we readers finally got insight into how she became the way she is and the benefits of that. It's often the case that being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes lets you empathize with them and so it is here. We got to the bottom of her rage and came out seeing her with new eyes. She has even earned the respect of Charles, and that's saying something.

We also learned about "secret" pack members. Enter the wildings! Oh, how I love that Patricia Briggs has taken a word that is so heavily associated with Game of Thrones and George R. R. Martin and made it her own. The wildings, instead of being people just living behind a really big wall are werewolves, occasionally with their mates, who can no longer live in a pack setting. They are either too damaged or too dangerous, or a combination of both, to be allowed entrance to the town of Aspen Creek. Some of them occasionally can join the pack hunts, but most of the time they are secreted away on their own large parcels of land under Bran's supervision. Why this resonated with me so strongly is that I've felt for awhile that the black and white nature of who deserves to live and who deserves to die due to their behavior in this fictional universe was needing some grey. Having Charles as executioner to Bran's judgment was harsh. Bran seemed to make Aspen Creek a haven for the damaged, but only up to a point. Yet now we find out that he's actually been hiding his people out in the woods to protect them instead of giving them a fatal punishment. It makes Bran more human to me. He's no longer this untouchable, this unknowable force, he has a heart, and not just for Mercy. This is also seen in the expanding of Leah's past. The superhumans are coming down to our level and that just makes this a more relevant series. Briggs has always explored the all too human side of suffering with her series, and this is another great entry into seeing ourselves more clearly through something that is "other."

All the wildings could be considered crazy, to an extent. It's almost as if Briggs is creating her own spectrum, from unable to take human form to will kill you rather than look at you, we see a wide range of problems. Yet all this boils down to the notion of what makes us crazy and who cares for crazy. I was drawn to the first problem, what makes us crazy. Due to things that have been happening in my own life I felt the importance, the weight of this question. Is it environmental factors? A genetic disposition? An outside factor like drugs? Or, as we are in a supernatural world here, magic? With each different wilding we see a different presentation of madness, and yet, Anna shows that by approaching the situation with compassion these issues can be dealt with. With how Anna carefully deals with Wellesley we see what it is to be an Omega. She is the carer. She has had so much pain inflicted on herself that she knows what others who are injured need. So much of the book ties back into Anna's past traumas, in other words perhaps a re-read of her introductory short story from On the Prowl is needed, that we see there is no instant cure. Anna is still recovering. Her marriage and mystical connection to Charles didn't automatically heal all wounds. In fact, through dealing with her problems and then helping the Wildings, Anna is finding her place in the pack. Your damage, your illness, your problems, whatever they may be, they don't make up who you are, they inform who you become, and Anna is becoming an amazing heroine. My heroine.


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