Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia BriggsDead Heat by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #4
Published by Ace Books on March 3, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
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five-stars
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.

I am a huge, huge fan of Patricia Briggs’ werewolf series. Actually, having read probably 90% of her books and never finding one I disliked, I can say I’m a huge fan of Patricia Briggs, period. But anything out of the Mercy Thompson series (which made #1 on my Alpha Couples list) and the Alpha & Omega series is an automatic buy for me. So there was no question that I was going to be nose-deep in Dead Heat (which was my top anticipated release for March 2015) sometime during the first week of its release. It’s been under a week since it was published, and not only have I read it twice, but I reread the book before it for good measure too.

Yes, I loved it. If I were a cat, I would have purred my way through every page. And I loved it in a different way from the way I loved all the other books in this series, which made it somehow all the more special.

To backtrack, the series follows the exploits of Charles and Anna Cornick. Charles is son to the Marrok, the alpha’s alpha and head wolf to all packs in North America. He serves as his father’s right hand, his detective, and all too often, his assassin. Anna, Charles’ mate, is an Omega wolf, which means she exists outside the pack structure, not submissive but also without the overt aggressiveness of dominant wolves. As Briggs describes it, her power is kind of like Valium for werewolves. It’s a meeting of opposites: he gives people (and other wolves in particular) the heebie-jeebies, and she spreads sunshine.

In the past few novels, we’ve seen them thrown into one explosive situation to another from the get-go. Normally, Charles is given a task by the Marrok, his father, and Anna helps him. Even when Anna takes the lead, her position and power seem secondary to that of Charles. Which is to be expected, considering he’s centuries older than she is, and he has been seeing and doing nasty things since before her parents and grandparents were born.

But what I like about Dead Heat is that this is where you see Anna come into her own, where you understand that while they may joke about her “anti-superpower,” she has gotten a good handle of how to use it, and it is every bit as strong as what Charles brings to the table. In X-Men terms, Charles might be Wolverine, but Anna’s Jean Grey is nothing to scoff at.

At the same time, we get to see a softer side of Charles, to show that Anna isn’t the one bright spot in his existence (which would be sad, and which would make their love story a little less believable, had it been the case). Could this be why this book’s cover is the first in which Charles is depicted in his human form rather than as Brother Wolf? Through Charles’ and Anna’s insights and how they deal with other werewolves in this story, too, we get to gain a better understanding of my favorite supporting character throughout both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series: Bran. Dare I hope an HEA is in his future too someday? I will!

Apart from seeing more of Charles’ and Anna’s characters as individuals, we see more of their dynamic as a couple here too. The novel doesn’t start out with a mystery that needs solving or people who need managing. Which means that we finally get to see what the Cornicks’ relationship is like when they aren’t in the center of a hurricane. Because since they met, it seems like they’ve been thrown at one potential disaster after another. And after the last novel, it’s good to see how they have become a unit. So when the nasty stuff does hit the fan a few chapters in, it’s easier to see how they gel, how even when they disagree, they remain solid.

Even with the big issue of having children (werewolves in this universe can’t have them because their bodies spontaneously abort the fetuses when they have to change with the full moon; the only one who has managed it is Charles’ mother, and she died after birthing him), the trust and love and pride in each other remain constant. And you know what they say—the test of a relationship isn’t just in the hard times, it’s in the boring ones too. So it makes me believe Charles and Anna’s marriage is one that can be sustained through dozens of books.

Dead Heat is more of a procedural or standard mystery than any of the other books that have come before it, and I think this is what might surprise long-time readers of this series. Charles and Anna do more legwork than usual, it seems, and this was something I thought was different and fun. But the part of me that enjoyed it is the same part that lets me enjoy the lab scenes in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the scenes of Dr. Reid flipping through stacks of books and paperwork in Criminal Minds.

I think that if you don’t enjoy going through the grunt work scenes, you might not enjoy this novel as much as the other books in this series. Certainly, I wouldn’t recommend starting your Alpha & Omega journey with this one. Still, I caught clues in my second read of the book that I didn’t pick up on during my first read-through, and I’m kicking myself because they would have clued me in to who the villain was earlier. And that’s the fun I have with good mysteries, which I try never to read just once. Still, I did recognize a few mysteries that have yet to be unraveled, questions that have yet to be answered: Who was the Grey Lord in the beginning of the novel? What’ll the political fallout of the events in this novel be like? How will things change for Charles and Anna? I’m thinking the second question will spawn at least a few more novels in this series as well as bleed over into Mercy’s series, which is all to the good, in my opinion.

Apart from the drudgery, there’s a lot of technical horsey talk, which I enjoyed because I used to have just the slightest obsession with horses as a girl (which has morphed into a love of horses in fantasy ala Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series and in romance, because I do love me some cowboys). If you’re not the least bit interested in horses, all the talk about Arabians might bore you. But as Anna points out, Charles loves horses. So it’s good to know more about the things Charles loves and indulges in, as these are not so very many we can afford to ignore one.

So yeah, this is not so much a review as a litany of love, love, love for this novel. And while I do recognize parts that might not work for other readers, I do hope you’ll give this a try if you’ve read the other books in this series. If not, well, I highly recommend reading the first novella, “Alpha and Omega,” which was published in the On the Prowl anthology. Or you can skip right on to Book 1, Cry Wolfwhich works but isn’t as much fun.

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Reading order: On the Prowl (“Alpha and Omega” novella), Cry Wolf, Hunting Ground, Fair Game, Dead Heat