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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Release: June 14, 2011

Series: Raised by Wolves (book #1)

Source: Publisher (Egmont USA)
There can only be one alpha.

Bryn is finally settling into her position as alpha of the Cedar Ridge Pack—or at least, her own version of what it means to be alpha when you’re a human leading a band of werewolves. Then she finds a teenage boy bleeding on her front porch. Before collapsing, he tells her his name is Lucas, he’s a Were, and Bryn’s protection is his only hope.

But Lucas isn’t part of Bryn’s pack, and she has no right to claim another alpha’s Were. With threats—old and new—looming, and danger closing in from all sides, Bryn will have to accept what her guardian Callum knew all along. To be alpha, she will have to give in to her own animal instincts and become less human. And, she’s going to have to do it alone.

Bryn faces both the costs, and the rewards, of love and loyalty, in this thrilling sequel to Raised by Wolves.

Let me being by applauding Jennifer Lynn Barnes on writing a sequel that did not a) break up the main couple or b) ruin the main character’s friendships and other relationships. This has been something I’ve long been struggling with when it comes to sequels, especially in the paranormal genre. If Barnes hadn’t been able to pull this off, I would’ve been rather upset. Though I’m not crazily in love with the main couple like I am with other books, I do love each of the characters individually. From weapon-loving, pool-hustling Lake to show tune-singing, dramatic Dylan, the characters in this series are incredibly endearing.

My initial concerns with Trial by Fire were something along the lines of, “what is Barnes going to do?” Though Raised by Wolves ended with a monumental change for both Bryn and the werewolf world, there was only the possibility of more books, not any direct storyline to pick up. Barnes, in my opinion, pretty much could’ve taken the story anywhere. In the end, I really enjoyed the path she chose.

The new were, Lucas, presents a challenge to Bryn, both within her pack and with her relations with the other North American packs. Bryn is, after all, a very unique pack leader. She is not a were, but rather an extraordinary human placed in extraordinary circumstances. Throughout the entirety of the novel, Bryn struggles with this, as well as her dilemma with what to do with Lucas: return him to his pack and certain death or risk everything to save him? These internal battles, while captivating on their own, are just details of the larger battle she’s facing: how to reconcile her individual identity and her new identity as the leader of the Cedar Ridge Pack.

Barnes definitely gave Bryn the breadth to fully explore this battle. Though she still developed the characters surrounding Bryn, Barnes really focused on Bryn’s internal struggle. This was by far my favorite aspect of Trial by Fire. I have always found Bryn to be a fascinating, complex character and enjoyed watching her develop even more, both as an individual and as an alpha.

I was not completely enamored with the novel, though. The other supernatural elements Barnes added into the story made me a bit weary. The subplot was interesting and was undeniably helpful in further developing Ali’s character, but I was never entirely sold on it.

Even with my less than stellar opinion on the supernatural additions, I really did enjoy Trial by Fire. It was an absorbing storyline that could easily hold its own as a standalone novel, while still fitting in perfectly as a sequel. I especially liked that Barnes once again defied the norm by giving readers a bittersweet, satisfying ending that leaves just enough open for another chapter of Bryn’s story, should Barnes choose to tell it.

4 stars!

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