4.5 Stars for the story
1.5 Stars for the narration
I've reviewed this novella before, but as I spent most of that "review" giving a blurb on the story I thought I'd try again. I'll also get into my issues with the narration - as this is my first time listening to the audio-book.
If you've read Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs, this novella takes place following the major events in the story. Charles, Bran's son and enforcer/executioner, is sent to Chicago to deal with some issues that have arisen there.
Anna's a member of the Pack in Chicago. Submissive, so she's been told, and abused by her pack, it took all her courage to call Bran and alert him to some of the happenings. When she finds out this is going to place her in the direct path of one of the most dominant wolves she's ever met, Anna's understandably worried.
Anna's not a kick-ass heroine, at least not right away. She's been beaten down, abused, hurt, and cowed. Three years of this has really done a number on her self-esteem and her reactions. I was nearly as angry as Charles when I would see her cringe from him, worried about how he might use his power over her, how he might hurt her. But, god, she's strong. They haven't buried her in herself yet. She still has a kernel, just a small tiny flame of her old self, defiance and pride and a knowledge of her own self-worth hidden away inside of her. Even still, her transformation to healthy and secure in herself takes time. Perhaps slightly spoilerish, but it's well into the 2nd full-length book, Hunting Grounds before Anna's pretty much shed all the abuse that was heaped on her. Her slow, gradual change is so incredibly believable to me. That she fights for herself, to get back what she's lost is something that I think is so incredibly strong. I can't help but love her.
Charles, what can I say about Charles? I admit that my opinion of him was a little skewed before I started this because of Mercy's thoughts about him. Charles doesn't say four words when one will do; doesn't share of himself too terribly much. So that left Mercy with little idea of how to understand and relate to him. He's such a refreshing surprise in this book. I love that, unlike the Mercy Thompson series (which is in 1st person POV), we get both Anna's and Charles' POVs here (3rd person POV). He's everything I expected of him, with little things that surprised me. I like those little things because they add character and nuance. They make him more real.
Though fated-mate/insta-bond is not my favorite thing, I do love how it's handled here. And I was rooting for them from the first moment. They're so perfect for each other, and I couldn't wait to see them grow together - to see Charles 'court' her.
Though this is just a novella, the plot was really interesting to me. I'm sure this has something to do with the fact that it's a resolution to another aspect of the events that happened in Moon Called. It's not drug out, and it's not rushed. It was nice to see how things are resolved in the Packs, how Bran deals with ruling and running all the Packs in North America and how seriously he (and his sons) take those responsibilities.
In my first review I said how I'd been nervous to start this series because I loved the Mercy Thompson series so much. I worried it wouldn't live up to it. That it'd detract from the world, or my love of the characters. I delayed reading it for YEARS. I was so, so wrong. This is just as good as Mercy - more romantic, especially right away - it might even be better. O_O
The novella does end rather abruptly, as it picks up immediately in Cry Wolf. I know that Patricia Briggs has said she'd never do something like this again, but if you look at this novella as a mini-story to start Cry Wolf I think everyone would be more satisfied.
Now. Onto the narration. This novella is narrated by Holter Graham. I was kind of bummed because I was hoping that the same person that does the Mercy Thompson series would do this one (as I was pretty happy with her narration in Moon Called). But I decided to just see how it went.
Good lord. The narration was awful to the point of distracting. Mr. Graham has this incredibly irritating pacing tic that had him taking odd pauses every few words. The speech pattern actually, quickly, reminded me of Christopher Walken's. Then I couldn't stop hearing that. But when he got to Charles' voice (not his narration, but when he actually spoke) I nearly rolled my eyes right out of my head. Who would have thought that a man would be so horrible at the male characters' voices?? It shocked the hell out of me, because I was actually pretty good with how he was doing the women's voices.
It seemed like he was trying to make Charles especially (but Bran's too) voice too deep, too slow, with those weird pauses it made him sound like he was translating in his head before speaking, like English was his second language (and I'm sure it's not his first, but he's lived in the US for 200 years I think he probably talks it about as good as anyone). So it frustrated and irritated me.
Read the novella. It's a nice cap to Moon Called, and definitely read it if you're planning to read the novels in this series. It's necessary and so much fun seeing Charles and Anna's first meeting.