Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Alpha

ALPHA (Shifters Series #6)
Rachel Vincent
Urban Fantasy
472 pages
Available Now

This review contains NO spoilers, though it does summarize events from the previous five novels.

Faythe is not one to play it safe. She's in no hurry to get married and have innumerable children in the hope of finally giving birth to a daughter and fulfilling her duty as one of the country's few tabby cats at a breeding age. No, she's a fighter, always knee deep in trouble, equipped with her sharp claws and her dry wit as she fights to find a place of her own making in her Pride.

All the trouble Faythe and the two men whom she loves, Marc and Jace, have gotten into in recent months has finally come to a head. The direction of the governing council is changing, spearheaded by ruthless rival Alpha Calvin Malone who has no desire to keep either Marc or Jace breathing, and his plans for Faythe center on an immediate marriage to, and subsequent pregnancy by, one of his own sons.

Faythe's father has been training her to lead in his stead though she knows she's not ready. Unfortunately for her, she has no say as to whether she's ready or not as war lands on her Pride's doorstep and forces her hand. Now with her world in shambles and her heart strings pulled dangerously taut between Marc and Jace, Faythe begins a brutal journey to discover what it means to be Alpha.

Ms. Vincent concludes her intensely dark Shifter series by throwing down an emotional gauntlet from which there is no way to escape unscathed. We are challenged at every possible opportunity, an utterly repulsive dictator forcing an anger to burn in our chests so shockingly bright we can't help but fear the very pages we clutch white-knuckled will ignite with the fiery depths of our loathing. Pain erupts from a multitude of wounds inflicted by the sharp tongue of a betrayed lover and friend, creating an agony so consuming that at times we have no choice but to get up and walk away from the fictional world, gasping for breath and seeking the solace of reality as our only means to stanch the bleeding. We as readers are afforded no quarter, left with no other option but to barrel forward with Faythe as we both cling to the meager hope that our injuries, both emotional and physical, won't prove fatal.

Faythe is a character who has progressed beautifully, starting her journey as a young, naive girl trying to escape a world she feels will strangle the independence she so desperately seeks, and becoming a woman with an unmatched fortitude and a strength of will to equal the inherent power of her Shifter body. Her respective relationships with Marc and Jace are unbearably real and gruesome in their vitriol, positively shredding the soft tissues of our hearts with the depth of their feelings for one another and the extent of their combined guilt and anger. The torments of their love triangle are aired out in excruciating detail until we are brought to our knees, doubled over in a pain no less profound for its vicarious nature. Though the abject misery is overwhelming, we are able to glory in its realism as Ms. Vincent does not structure events so a magical solution to every heartbreak appears, but rather she forces Faythe to make the hard decisions, reaping what she's sown, without making the decision easier for her by providing a simple default option.

The emotional pain of not just Faythe, Marc, and Jace, but of all the characters, is only equaled by the physical torture as casualties of the Shifter war steadily grow in number as the book progresses. There is anguish. There is death. There is a hatred for Calvin Malone so extreme we can only curse at our own impotency, wanting nothing more than to scream his injustices at anyone who will listen in the hope that by some miracle, the characters might hear us and the events will be rewritten in our favor. But through the mist of our bleary eyes and our shallow, uneven breaths, there is a tiny pinprick of reassurance that this is a war worth fighting, and the individuals we so love will not die in vain.

By the end we are exhausted, our bodies throbbing with phantom aches, our minds churning with possibilities for the future, and our hearts mourning the loss of spectacularly brilliant characters. Tears run in jagged streaks down our cheeks, but we dare not wipe them away for they are a testament that we survived the events with Faythe, witnesses to her joys and pains, her successes and failures, and most importantly, her transition from young girl to South-Central Pride Alpha. This series is brutal and violent, but also infinitely satisfying, a true journey marked by both searing pain and soaring joy, and one that has earned a prominent place in my heart and on my bookshelf.

Rating: 5/5


  1. ooooh boy, nice review. I can't wait to read this one.

  2. Loved, loved, loved this book! The series is on my keeper shelf and this is my fave book in the series. My only hope is that Ms. Vincent will give us a short story update in the future - I want to know how things go :)

  3. Great review - I've only read the first in this series and it looks like I need to invest in the rest of them. I don't know if I like Faythe but maybe my feelings about her will change as the series goes on...

  4. Savannah - hope you like it!

    Patti - Me too! I wasn't sure how she would wrap things up and I was panicking about the Marc vs. Jace situation, but I thought she did a brilliant job.

    Heather - I wasn't a fan of Faythe at first either, but she really grows with each book and by this last one, I loved her.

  5. Wow. I've never picked up the series but I'll definitely look into it now.

  6. @Heather - I agree with Jenny - one of my favorite things about this series as a whole is how much growing and maturing Faythe does over the course of the books.

  7. I soooooo need to read this series!!

  8. Great Review!! I always enjoy reading your reviews! This series is one that I will have to start soon I think. I hear such great things about it!

  9. Excellent review!!! I loooooved this series, and loved this book. I felt completely satisfied with the way the story played out and how the series was ended. Watching Faythe go from who she was in Stray (I seriously wanted to slap her at times) to Alpha was just an awesome journey and I could not be more pleased with this as the last book :) I can't wait to see what Rachel Vincent does next!

  10. Jennifer - some people can't get past Faythe in the first one, she's a little whiny at times, but it's all part of it since she progresses book to book. They're definitely worth reading!

    Mandi - I think you'll like it, they were really fast reads for me.

    Kelsey - Thank you! I hope you like them, they're some of my favorite books:)

    Pam - I cried, screamed bloody murder, and threw this book across the room but I wouldn't have changed a thing. I got so involved which I love and the Jace and Marc situation just about killed me.

  11. I love the series as well and am sad to see it end. But I must admit that I loved the ending. And sometimes a series must come to an end so it's not overly drawn out. I could still see a little more development to the story line, but still it ended good.

  12. Oh boy do I have some serious catching up to do. I haven't even started with the series yet, but I think I'm going to have to make it a priority after reading this review. I love book series where you can see character growth and development throughout the series, so you've definitely got me sold on this one!

  13. I've just started reading Alpha but as a result of your review I'm sitting next to a big box of tissues with my cat to help me through teh emotional wringer! :)

  14. I have these on my kindle but haven't read them yet. I think I am waiting for The Vampire Academy to end then I will read them :)

  15. Jessica - I loved the ending too, I thought she did a fantastic job providing closure.

    Tammy - If you like character growth, you will love this series, Faythe goes on quite the journey:)

    Mel - Can't wait to see what you think! Tissues are a necessity with this one.

    Felicia - Oh Vampire Academy, I can't wait to read the last book! I hope you get a chance to read this series though, I think you'll really like them

  16. Ok, this is the 10th time just this month alone that I have been hearing about this series. It's going on my tbr pile. Thanks for another great review, Jenny!

  17. Fantastic review, Jenny! I just finished this one last night, and reading your review brought all that intense emotion right back! Writing my own review is going to be tough...

    I can't believe it's over. I am sad we will no longer be able to visit Faythe and gang, but I couldn't feel more hopeful for their future.

  18. great review Jenny!!

    I'll miss this series so much!!! I just wish she had done an epilogue... I wanna see how things turn out a bit later and stuff .... maybe a short story?? hehe