Burn Bright (2018) is the fifth and latest novel in Patricia Briggs’ ALPHA AND OMEGA urban fantasy series … actually, it’s more mountainous wilderness fantasy, but it does involve werewolves and witches living amongst humans. Burn Bright, though it has different main characters, also intertwines nicely with the main MERCY THOMPSON series.
Bran, the grand-Alpha or Marrok of most of the werewolf packs in North America, is still out of town due to the events in the last MERCY THOMPSON book, Silence Fallen. He phones home and tells his wife Leah and son Charles that he’s leaving them in charge while he takes a trip to Africa to see Samuel, his other son. In Bran’s rather mysterious absence, Charles and his wife Anna try to manage his pack of werewolves and the pack’s finances, and to not get into too many arguments with the irascible Leah.
This effort gets a lot trickier when Charles gets an urgent phone call from Jonesy, one of the so-called wildings. These are a separate, outlier group of werewolves under Bran’s protection and leadership who live near but apart from the Marrok’s main pack. The wildings are broken beings, fragile and often particularly dangerous, and are rarely seen by anyone except Bran himself. Charles and Anna, an “Omega” werewolf with the helpful talent of calming dominant werewolves, head out to check on Jonesy.
Jonesy turns out to be a powerful fae who lives in isolation with his werewolf mate, Hester. Hester has been captured by a secretive armed task force that is trying to kidnap ― or kill ― some of the wildings. And the evidence indicates that someone among the wildings or Bran’s main pack is a traitor who is working with these attackers. With Bran incommunicado for some reason, it’s up to Charles, Anna and other members of the Marrok’s pack to try to neutralize the invaders, warn the wildings of the danger they’re in, and find the traitor.
The mystery in Burn Bright is distinctive, though ultimately it didn’t gel for me as well as in the best of Briggs’ books. The plot is somewhat disjointed, though the threads come together fairly well in the end. The logic is occasionally strained. For example, there’s a significant rule involving cell phones not being allowed in wilding territory, where the explanation simply didn’t make sense to me, and a key development involving eye color that seemed highly unlikely under the circumstances. The plot involves both extreme long-term planning by the villain and some improbably rushed action and coincidences. However, as Briggs has frequently done before, she pulls in plot threads from preceding books in the series, weaving in the consequences of earlier events and decisions made by the characters. Though it’s not necessary to have read all of the books in both interlocking series to understand and enjoy Burn Bright or any other particular book in these series, it’s certainly conducive to a greater appreciation.
The highlight of Burn Bright is the characters and their interrelationships. Briggs creates well-rounded characters in a fantasy setting who are realistically flawed and believable. It was fascinating to get to know some of the members of Bran’s pack of misfit werewolves better, both characters we’ve met before as well as some new ones. Some poignant moments for several characters add to the depth of this urban fantasy. There was a fascinating aside in the form of an insight into Mercy and Bran’s relationship, and even the detested, hard-hearted Leah becomes a character that the reader develops more understanding and even sympathy for.
Burn Bright is a solid entry in one of the better ongoing series in the urban fantasy genre. If you haven’t read the previous ALPHA AND OMEGA books, I would recommend starting at the beginning, with Alpha and Omega and Cry Wolf, but fans of Patricia Briggs and her werewolves will relish this new adventure.