Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: Trial By Fire

(Raised by Wolves #2)

Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Paranormal Young Adult
368 Pages
Available Now
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.

Rating: 5/5


  1. Honestly I wasn't expecting a lot from the series. But your 5/5 rating makes me want to read the first book in the series. A mature YA character like Bryn is a good change.

  2. Awesome review Jenny. I can't wait for my copy to arrive. I am sure I am going to be surprised by what happens :)

  3. Oh I just read two weeks ago the first one and I LOVED Callum - more than any other character in those books! I'm so very glad you loved this one so I'm going ahead and buy the audio.

    Do you know if this one is the last?

  4. Great review, it just made me want to read this one even more now. =D

  5. I almost picked this one up yesterday and am now regretting I didn't. I loved Raised by Wolves and after reading your review I think I need to go back to the bookstore and get it now.

  6. Misha - I love, love, love this series. There's so much drama but none of it is of the angst variety and I really like that about it:)

    Nic - Yay! Can't wait to see what you think:)

    Danny - I love Callum as well. I love that I'm not sure why I love him and am just waiting for him to show me that I'm right about how I feel. I doubt this one is last based on her scene will Callum at the end:)

    Cynthia - Thanks!

    Jan - GO JAN GO! It was a really refreshing read for me, very different from so much YA out there:)

  7. I agree - there are so many layers in plot and characters. I'm very conflicted about Callum. I know he always has his reasons but I still haven't forgiven him for actions in book one. Fantastic review!

  8. OMG! So jealous you read this one! I loved the first book and it swept me off my feet! Can;t wait to read this book!

  9. Oooh, 5/5! Sounds good! I haven't read the first book in this series yet, but I've heard a lot of amazing things, so I really must check it out!

    Thanks for the great review, and for adding yet another book to my already toppling-over TBR pile! ;)

  10. I've had Raised by Wolves on my shelf forever, hopefully I get to it soon so I can read this one too!

  11. Alyssa - I agree, I still can't quite forgive him for that either, despite his "knowing" it was something that had to happen. I was glad to see Byrn come to the conclusion that that excuse wasn't going to work forever:)

    Savy - I just love this series:)

    Leanna - It was good:) And my TBR pile is out of control as well, so I'm glad to know I'm not the only one:)

    Rebs - I hope you do, it's a favorite of mine!

  12. Fantastic review, Jenny! I have been getting more and more into werewolves, so I will definitely have to check out this series. Your review has definitely got me interested in Bryn and Chase.

  13. A 5! When a least expect (ok I expected good) lol, then they come. And I am getting intrigued. I should read more YA

  14. Ohhhh, Jenny! You just gave me my newest series - I LOVE YOU! Bryn is becoming a rather popular name - Andrea Cremer has a character named that in the Nighshade series, and I think it might be a nod to a Stephen King setting in one of his series.

    Seriously going to request the first one from the library right now - thanks, Jenny!


  15. This sounds like a wonderful series. Love the cover art. I will have to check it out :) Thanks for sharing your review today.

  16. Christina - Thank you! I just love the way she does her wolves, they feel so human but then she always reminds you that the wolf part of them is present:)

    Blodeuedd - I know! I don't give many 5's:)

    Linds - YAY!!!! I think you'll really enjoy it. The stories don't seem like they're action-packed when you're reading, but then when you stop and take a moment you realize your heart is pounding and you've been holding your breath because the emotional element is so intense:)

    Denise - It really is, I can't recommend it enough!

  17. I'm not extremely curious about Callum. You seriously have me wondering why I've overlooked these books for so long. I need to get over my prejudices against wolves.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review, Jenny.

  18. I just ordered Raised by Wolves a couple of days ago so hopefully I can start this series this summer.

  19. I seriously need to read Raised by Wolves! These books sound amazing. I'm so glad the sequel was as good as its predecessor!

  20. Missie - You do, these wolves are awesome:) Everything is just so subtle, nothing is over the top or super dramatic, but you just get sucked in. And Callum is fascinating.

    Jenny - YAY! Can't wait to see what you think:)

    Lauren - You do! I was worried I wouldn't like Trial as much since I adored the first one, but it was such a natural progression of the story and things just got more intense. Loved it:)

  21. Yes... I do believe I recall you telling me to read the first book in this series ASAP. I failed. Grrr. I'm ON IT!

  22. Okay, I have to read this if for no other reason than Callum. I have to know him. I'm so curious. I still need to get this first book.

  23. And now after reading this, I am left wondering why I had ever brushed off this series as not worth reading. I think I've read a couple of bad reviews here and there. That must be why. Because now all I can think about after reading this well thought out review is I must read Raised by Wolves! Adding it to my TBR now :)

  24. I have Raised By Wolves in my TBR pile and keep putting it off. If the sequel however rates a five and the first book in my experience is usually better, I'll bump it to near the top then. Thanks, Jenny!

  25. A 5?! That's a must read from you, Jenny. I'm always on the lookout for a great shifter story. I've got the first book on my tbr pile and I'm adding this one too. :)

  26. That is extremely high praise and I think I need to read these. I am pretty sure that I will like them based on this review. I like when an author keeps you on your toes, even in the simplest moments.

    Fantastic review!

  27. Ashley - Tsk! Get it now! I just loved it to pieces:)

    Melissa - Callum is a favorite of mine. I love him but he also makes me very angry at times. He's an enigma:)

    Aylee - I'm sure it's not for everyone, I just really enjoyed both books:)

    Zahida - I gave both books 5's which I think has never happened before:) I hope you give them a try!

    Rummanah - I know, I think I've probably given less than 15 5's in the whole year I've been blogging. It's rare thing for me, but I adore this series:)

    Felicia - I think you'll like them, they read older to me, Bryn and Chase are both really mature and a lot of the romance angst dominating other YA is missing from this one which I like. I love angst as much as the next person, especially teen angst, but this one is refreshing:)

  28. Holy cow, I'm right there with you in loving this book! I think that this is one of my top two fave werewolf series and I absolutely adored Bryn. She has to deal with so much and she does it with great aplomb and maturity (but not TOO much -- you know she's still a teen, albeit a mature one). Great review!
    Happy reading,
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  29. Now this sounds like a cool read, a little something different mixed in with an old favorite. I'm definitely looking into this one.

  30. I'm so glad this book is getting such great reviews. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

  31. I still need to read this series. I'm glad you like it so much. I've heard mostly good things. I'm especially curious about Callum. Father figures are often the most interesting characters in YA.

  32. YES. I am SO glad to hear that this book lives up to book one! I can't wait to start it now, and that's saying something because I'm on a smidge of a burnout right now haha fab review, Jenny! :)

  33. Oh man, Jenny. I just got Trial by Fire and I am itching to open it up. Raised by Wolves is one of the most well written YA novels I've come across, and I'm a major fangirl of JLB. Your review has me even more interested and excited!

  34. I must admit I was really disappointed with Raised by Wolves. But after seeing so many positive reviews of it since I last read it I do think that I should give it another chance, especially after reading your review and seeing that the second book is as good as, if not better, than the first. Hmmmmm...

    Anyways, thanks for the great review Jenny- you have potentially made me a believer!

    Have a great weekend!