TRIAL BY FIRE
(Raised by Wolves #2)
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Paranormal Young Adult
Received at BEA
Being the only human to ever be raised in a pack of werewolves, Bryn's used to an unusual life. With the help of her unique gift to re-work pack bonds, she's found herself the alpha of her own small pack of wolves, most of whom are turned wolves not born; something that separates their pack even further from the others.
When a beaten and bloody wolf stuck mid-shift shows up on Bryn's doorstep seeking sanctuary, she knows things are about to get more complicated. Bryn has something a lot of the alphas would kill for: a high percentage of female wolves. One alpha in particular, Shay, is gunning for Bryn and what she's protecting, and it just so happens the abused wolf at her door belongs to him.
Bryn knows the boy is part of a bigger plan Shay has to take what's hers, and he knows her well enough to understand that turning over the young man to his abusers, as is werewolf law, will tear Bryn apart. Shay is not the only one looking for him however, and Bryn soon finds her mettle as alpha tested from all sides. When Callum, the man who raised her and a fellow alpha, offers no immediate assistance, she knows she's on her own to prove she's worthy of defending those she loves.
Trial By Fire is a stunningly beautiful and deliciously complex story, fascinating us with the challenge of harnessing our own conflicting emotions as we read, and keeping us on edge as to what we'll be made to feel next. We're often both comfortable with Bryn and her pack and, at the same time, acutely uncomfortable as we wait with breath held for the inevitable trouble to come knocking. We also both love the unpredictability and uncertainty as to exactly what is going to happen while cursing it at the same time for tying our stomachs knots and pulling our heartstrings dangerously taut. Reading Ms. Barnes's characters and her world is a decadent indulgence, her story a spectacular blend of rich characters, layered plot, and breathtaking emotional connections that truly makes us sit back and remember why we love to pick up a book in the first place.
Bryn has a maturity that exceeds her young years, making difficult decisions that affect an entire group of people who rely on her for their mental and emotional strength. She is a character who exists in nuances, new facets of her personality revealed with every threat she faces both outside and within the pack, and each test reinforces our bond with her until we can't possibly feel any closer. Her relationship with Chase is anything but a typical teen romance, and she struggles to deal with his absolute certainty of his priorities when she knows her own must differ from his due to her position. He has to be second to her first in his life–her duty to the pack resolute and unwavering–and their quiet and often brief exchanges are all the more interesting for this dynamic. Nothing is simple for them but nor are things unnecessarily complex, it's just them and the exquisiteness of their individual natures as they deal with a species barrier, a hierarchy barrier, and the multiple mental barriers erected as coping mechanisms against shared difficult pasts.
In addition to the brilliance of Bryn and Chase, Ms. Barnes has written one of the most enigmatic and captivating characters in alpha and father-figure Callum. He is a werewolf nearly impossible to label in terms of our exact feelings for him, we can only settle for taking his measure in terms of how we want to feel as he proves himself to be an utterly foreign being for all that he is recognizable to our minds as both human and wolf. Though he is both, there's absolutely no separating the two, being so firmly ensconced in werewolf politics and life we can't possibly judge him by the standards to which we might hold a human man, instead we can only watch mesmerized as his methods of teaching Bryn to grow as an alpha often hurt and help in equal measure. We want so badly to know how he truly feels about the incredible young woman he helped raise, wishing for a definitive action or gesture instead of cryptic gifts and the occasional flash of the eyes or twitch of the facial muscles to telegraph his emotional response to her. Frustratingly and admirably however, he always remains steadfastly Callum, neither man nor wolf but indisputably and irrevocably both.
Raised by Wolves and Trial by Fire are not to be missed, they are books to be savored rather than devoured quickly as Ms. Barnes has layered her story with details and subtleties that only reveal themselves if we take the time to linger. She has an uncanny ability to create tension in even the simplest moments, keeping us constantly on our toes by setting up numerous different outcomes and possibilities that sometimes force us to walk away in a moment of emotional self-preservation before returning almost immediately, gluttons for the most delectable of punishments.