Stars: 5 out of 5.
I was a bit apprehensive when I started Hunting Ground. I loved Cry Wolf, the first book in the series (and you can read my review here), as well as the short story that told us how Charles and Anna met. I was scared that the next book wouldn’t be as good, and that I would end up disappointed with the series. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. If anything, I loved Hunting Ground even more than Cry Wolf.
The events of Hunting Ground take place just a few weeks after the first book, and all the characters are still dealing with the aftermath of their confrontation with the witch that almost destroyed the Marrok and his pack. But they don’t have the luxury to lay low and lick their wounds because the Marrok has decided to make the existence of werewolves known to the general public, just like the fae have done a few decades ago. The advances in science, technology and medicine leave him no choice – it’s just a matter of time before they are discovered anyway, so the Marrok wants to do a preemptive strike and “come out” on his own terms.
Since he is the Alpha of the North American pack, his decision is law, but he decides to call a summit in Seattle as a courtesy to the European, African, Russian and British werewolves, because this decision will impact them as well. The werewolves are coming out of the closet and that is not up for discussion, but Bran is willing to offer terms and aid to the other packs to mitigate the backlash of this announcement.
Only the spirits tell Charles, in no uncertain terms, that if the Marrok attends the summit, he will die. So after a lot of werewolf-style discussions (aka lots of snarls, fighting and broken furniture) and a little help from Omega wolf Anna, Bran finally decides to send Charles and Anna in his stead…
The story itself is interesting enough, and we get to meet a lot of different werewolves, both dominant and submissive, as well as another Omega. It was interesting to learn more about the structure of werewolf packs and their society, as well as the interaction between different Alpha wolves. The author also reveals more details about what makes an Omega so special and why using Omega powers can be bad in some situations.
Oh, and the villain was not who I had expected, so that was a nice plot twist.
But what sucked me into this series and kept me reading book after book is the relationship between Charles and Anna. I love how wonderfully detailed those two characters are, and how their backgrounds impact their actions and their perception of the world. More importantly, I love how they grow and evolve in this series so far.
They are still pretty much newlyweds, and their past experiences don’t make married life easy. Anna had been raped and abused by her first pack and still has problems with intimacy. Charles has been a loner most of his life. He is used to being treated with fear and disgust because he is the Marrok’s enforcer, the cold-blooded killer who will hunt down and eliminate anyone his father orders him to. He has no friends, because he never knows when he would have to kill someone he’d called friend just a few days ago. So it’s easier for him to build a wall and not get attached to anyone.
Needless to say, they both struggle with everything that being a couple entrails. But what I love about this series is that they work on these problems. They don’t just go skulk in different corner after a fight or a misunderstanding. They sit down and talk it out until they uncover the underlying problem and agree on how to make things better. They are a couple, yes, but they are also equal partners, and their relationship is based on mutual respect as well as love.
I also love the fact that even though Charles is extremely dominant (he is only a little weaker than the Marrok himself, which makes him the second strongest wolf on the American continent) and has a protective streak a mile wide, he never tries to dominate Anna or to smother her with his care and protection “for her own good.”
Oh, the impulse is there, and his protective instincts scream at him a lot. He is just wise enough to stop and think about whether locking Anna in their hotel room or forbidding her from joining the hunt is really the best solution or if it’s just his fear talking. And in the end, he always choses to let Anna do whatever would help her become stronger, even if it means letting her participate in a hunt with a bunch of other Alphas.
Anna grows tremendously in this book as well. She finally comes to terms with being a werewolf and an Omega. She even starts using her powers to help Charles and her pack. She also faces her own fears and insecurities. Anna is a very calm and level-headed person, some might even call her passive, but she is no doormat. There is a steal core of resolve under that soft exterior. So it is perhaps symbolic that it’s not Charles, the Marrok’s enforcer, who defeats the antagonist in the end of this book, but shy and broken Anna. I loved the way she does it as well. In fact, I loved that whole scene.
My only complaint is how one-dimensional the character of the Beast of Gévaudan, Jean Chastel, was. He is too much horrible bad wolf, maniacal murderer. All darkness and no light. He is so evil he reads like a caricature, especially compared to all the other well-developed characters in this book. I think that he would have been much more interesting if Mrs. Briggs had added a bit more ambiguity to his character.
All in all, I will definitely recommend Hunting Ground to my friends, and I can’t wait to start the next one in the series.