This is the first Alpha and Omega novel, a sequel to the novella "Alpha and Omega" in On the Prowl. This is in the Mercy Thompson universe but with different main characters (some supporting characters are shared), and it's slightly helpful to read Moon Called first, but I think this book would stand on its own well enough. It tells a complete story.
This is a werewolf book. I'm not capable of being objective on the subject of werewolves; if a character is a werewolf I get all soft-headed over him or her, and as long as the author doesn't really screw up, I'm going to enjoy the story. Briggs doesn't screw up. Once again, she puts lots of story into what is by today's standards a short book. The magic and the personal history of some of the characters we learn is fascinating, and the main story about the heroine overcoming her past and coming into her own is very satisfying. In fact, the biggest weakness is that she ends up being too perfect, and everything is tied up so neatly that we'll need a whole new challenge to continue the series.
9 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
We start out with the badly wounded Charles and the traumatized Anna coming home to Montana and having to contend with the funeral of Dr. Wallace. I cried over Dr. Wallace for a week when I read Moon Called, and of course I cried some more over his funeral. There was a minor continuity problem; in this book Dr. Wallace was described as not having been able to integrate with his wolf. It was important for me to get through my grief that he wasn't the victim; he chose not to integrate, though it meant his death, rather than become the different person he would have had to become. It was hard, but I managed to come around to respecting that, so I'm picky about seeing it told right. There's also a rogue wolf out in the Cabinets who's killed a couple of people. Bran needs Charles to deal with it, and Charles is too ill. It seems some silver was left in his wounds, and he starts recovering better once it's cleaned out properly. At the funeral, Anna meets Asil, a very old wolf who is having trouble dealing with his memories of his mate, who was an Omega like Anna and was lost 200 years ago. Asil wants to die, but Bran won't do him in yet. Partly to deliberately provoke Charles, Asil comes on to Anna. Charles believes they are mated but the bond hasn't settled, so Anna doesn't smell like Charles' mate. Anna very much wants to really be Charles' mate. They make love and the bond still isn't settled. A non-werewolf forest ranger sees the rogue attack, and Bran realizes that if he can't show this guy that the problem has been solved, he'll have to kill him or he'll talk, and it would be bad press right at the time when Bran is about to go public. And he's married to a relative of one of his wolves. So Charles and Anna go out to look for the guy. Then Asil learns that the rogue wolf matches the unusual physical description of his lost mate Serai, and he goes haring off into the wilderness himself. There actually is a rogue werewolf, a guy who's been living alone in the mountains for decades because he has severe PTSD. But Anna uses her Omega powers to calm him and get him in control, and they learn that he got bitten by the wolf that looks like Serai. It turns out that Asil and Serai adopted an orphan witch child who went crazy, and killed Serai and turned her wolf into a Guardian because it was the only way she could feel safe. Taking the wolf spirit made the witch immortal. Some part of Serai's love for Asil remains. Bran comes out into the woods too, and then finds out who he's facing, and we learn the really fascinating story of who Bran was. It seems that (even longer ago than Asil and Serai's witch trouble) a witch turned her son and grandson into wolves and enslaved them. Until the son turned into a super-powerful monster who killed the witch and then killed any living thing that approached within miles, for decades, until Bran somehow got control of himself again. We have a big fight, with Asil stealing the guardian away from the witch, and the witch trying to force Bran to kill Charles, which very nearly makes Bran turn into the Berserker again, and the rogue takes a shot that was meant for Anna and dies, and Anna manages to knock the witch out and then breaks her neck. Then, with her Omega powers, she's able to help Bran hold together until he can get back to his mate. We learn that Bran is mated to Leah, a shallow, nasty person that he really doesn't like, because he nearly lost control of himself when he lost the last woman he actually loved (Samuel's mother). So he chose a mate acceptable to his wolf, because she can keep him sane, even though he doesn't actually love her as a human so he's not really happy. But Anna and Charles are properly mated and accepted, and Asil is finally at peace with himself, though the last trace of Serai died with the witch.