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Review: Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

WARNING: If you haven't read Raised by Wolves, the first book in the series, then you probably shouldn't read this review.

Trial by Fire (Raised by Wolves #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Release Date: June 14, 2011

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Source: borrowed/Public Library
Purchase: Book Depo. | Amazon | Kindle
About the Book:


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.
So there's the tender, sentimental werewolf stories and then you have the creepy, intense werewolf tales and the mildly annoying, confusing ones, but the best I've encountered by and so far is the Raised by Wolves series. I read Trial by Fire's predecessor last year and I liked it a lot, but this book... well, I pretty much love. There's no impending apocalypse coming, no epic questing involved, or anything nearly as drastic or mysterious. Instead this is a trilogy that tells a straight-forward story about a girl fighting the odds and the foes that stand in her way, that threaten her pack, and the struggles of leading said pack as alpha, as a female HUMAN alpha.

I adore these characters! I love Bryn! It's almost disgusting the way I love them all. And the most delightful thing about being in total love with the heroine and crew is that sense of connection, the way the story brings all of your emotions to the surface to cling to these characters and their story. Being Alpha, feeling the pressures and making definitive, life-changing decisions is no walk in the park, and Barnes really sheds some light on that WHILE skillfully nudging your sympathies toward the main girl, to Bryn. Every time something had to be done that had to go through her, I was pulled into two, torn between what's right and what's right along with Bryn. Protect the pack or protect an innocent? Watching Bryn toe that line, to feel that internal war inside of her--there was no way I couldn't ache for her. But it was also both comforting and idol-worthy to know that Bryn was strong, tough, and not some weak little female. She makes one hell of an alpha, freakish claws and fur or no. I also loved witnessing that softer side of her, the part of her that reaches out to a troubled person in need, that worries and safeguards not just her best friends and her guy, but her ENTIRE pack, that part that actually cares. It's nearly impossible to resist, to not respect and idolize someone like her.

But the fantastic characterization didn't end at Bryn. Nuh-uh. I wanted to mesh my voice with Devon's "wicked falsetto" and take up his lively tunes, to cuddle up and hold Chase close, to have Lake teach me how to plant a bomb or shoot with a rifle gun, to comfort and protect sad, quiet, yet capable Maddy, to play with and tickle Lily, Katie, and Alex, to... You get the idea, right?  That these felt like my friends, reminded me some of my own family speaks volumes for this book and Barnes's ability to craft such likeable, genuine characters. There's a closeness between these characters that go beyond an ordinary Pack bond, and gives way to something much more beautiful, brilliant, solid, and real. Something addictive to the reader.

My only qualms came in the form of the non-ample amount of romance and the sometimes much-needed comic relief. Devon or Lake were usually responsible for handling that, but there were points where things were so tense that I thought my neck would give out and I needed some release. And after book one, I was craving and hoping for much more in the romantic department, for a bit more development. Barnes delivered, but not enough to sate me.

What truly sold the book for me, though, was the action, the problems that arose in this book. That battle for dominance and possession between Bryn and any and all other alphas that wish to pull the rug out from under her so to speak. Foolish werewolves who mistakenly and completely underestimate her. I hate Shay, Bryn's main adversary, the depth of which surprised even me. But that kind of sick evil had bile coating my thoughts at any point he was so much as mentioned. Abusive, calculating, manipulative, and vindictive. That's Shay in a nutshell, in the most accurate, polite terms available to me. But, I have to give him props for the way he executed his hateful plans. He really knows how to play a rousing game of chess, that's for sure. The methods that he used to undermine Bryn, her newfound power and control, and her pack were brilliant, I must say. And the psychics he used... well, they were probably the most exciting, most interesting aspect of the book.

SPECIFICALLY when this band of psychics instigated a full-blown battle that had my bookish soul crying out with shameless pleasure. Sure, I worried about my guys and girls, but I needed the high dosage of action. Which so many books seem to be lacking, it's scary. Action-y scenes are the best way to get my blood pumping, to get me to tear through the pages in undeniable interest, concentration, and fascination. By the second half of the book, my reading pace increased to scary heights.

All leading up to an unforeseen, upsetting, and confusing ending that made me want to scream. I was hurt and furious over Lucas, Maddy, and puzzled by that parting conversation and its meaning. Now I'm left wondering, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU HAVE IN STORE FOR US, JENNIFER L. BARNES??? I was just pacing in my bedroom pondering that question just before I started this review. And I'm greedy for the answer, for the rest of this thrilling series!

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"No more school, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks..."
For a two-hundred-twenty-pound werewolf, Devon Macalister had a wicked falsetto. Leaning back in his chair with casual grace, he shot a mischievous look around our lunch table. "Everyone sing along!" (1)

"Fine," I said, flicking a French fry in Devon's general direction. "Have it your way. No more school, no more books..."
Dev made an attempt at harmonizing with me, but given my complete lack of vocal chops, it did not go well, and a horrified silence descended over our entire table.
After several seconds, Devon regarded the rest of us with mock solemnity. "We shall never speak of this moment again" (4). 

Shay laughed, and it was a horrible, genial sound that made me want to put a fist through his trachea and pull out his spine. (248) LOOOOVE that line!

3 comments:

chelleyreads said...

My sister and I have Raised By Wolves but neither of us have gotten to read it. Reading your review of its sequel and how much you enjoyed it makes me want speed read Raised By Wolves so I can just get my hands on Trials of Fire. If only I could though...

Thanks for the great review and happy reading:)

ambercruz1 said...

I LOVED this book as well! Soooooo good! I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. Great review! :-)

~Amber

A. Knight said...

chelleyreads- Yes, the sequel is much better, BUT Raised by Wolves is also pretty good. And I wish it was that easy! *lol* I hope you enjoy the series when you get the chance! :D

ambercruz1- Wasn't it? :) I couldn't believe myself how good it was.