Omega (War of the Alphas #1)
Red Iris Books
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Deirdre Tombs is a shapeshifter but one with a difference. Unlike others, she doesn’t actually shift into another shape. She doesn’t even know what her inner animal is. She displays some shapeshifter abilities, such as healing quickly, speed and agility but apart from that….nothing. Even the Alpha, Rylie Gresham cannot force her to transform like other members of Rylie’s pack. This makes her an omega.
Everton Stark wants to be Alpha – the only Alpha and he’s building an army to challenge Rylie Gresham. Stark can force any shapeshifter to change into their animal or do anything he wants, such as murdering people by command alone. When he passed Deirdre in the street, he gave her a command but she wasn’t under his compulsion spell. This does not go unnoticed by the Alpha, Rylie Gresham and she decides that someone such as Deidre, who seems to be the only person who can resist Stark’s compulsion, would be perfect to infiltrate Stark’s group and share information. At first Deirdre is reluctant to get involved – as an omega she’s never been accepted into Rylie’s pack and she’s experienced a lot of segregation and a lack of access to basic services because of her omega status.
But Deidre agrees to take part and now she has to survive undercover as part of Stark’s group who will stop at nothing to mount his challenge to Riley. With a companion from Riley’s pack named Gage, Deidre undertakes her mission to gather information and hopefully ascertain an outcome that will make things a little more equal for everyone, everywhere. The added bonus is Stark might just be able to help her figure out precisely what sort of shifter she is.
I grabbed this from NetGalley so I didn’t realise that while it’s the first in a series, it’s a spin off from another series so in reading this I think it’s assumed that there’s a familiarity with the world. There’s a few brief explanations but they mostly centre around Deirdre and how she became a shapeshifter but a lot of the bigger picture is not painted quite so well, which does make things a bit confusing.
There are some good parts to this story and some incredibly weak parts, the first of which is the plan to infiltrate Stark’s group. Stark is basically portrayed a vigilante borderline psychopath using his ability to command people to wreak havoc. He’s amassing an army, he’s challenging the system and basically Deirdre finds him in about three minutes and despite her having someone that Stark is aware is part of Riley’s inner circle with her posing as her ‘boyfriend’, Stark accepts her into his little group in three minutes. And not just his group, but the part of the group that gets to carry things out. She’s barely there when all of a sudden she’s undertaking her first mission with Stark and his core crew. What I did find interesting was that Deirdre finds herself actually believing in some of Stark’s visions and what we wants for the future. She doesn’t agree with the bloodthirsty way in which he’s going about it but as someone who has been treated as a second class citizen because she doesn’t shift, a lot of what Stark has to offer is attractive to her and those just like her.
Everton Stark is a bit of an enigma, I’m not sure if he’s a villain or some sort of romantic anti-hero that will be tamed by Deirdre in a few books. He occasionally shows flashes of depth but it’s pretty difficult to get past the randomly using his control to force others to murder at his whim and will. He promises that he can help Deirdre get to the bottom of what animal she is really and there might have been some progress in that area but it’s hard to tell. That’s kind of what is keeping me intrigued in this story – I really want to find out precisely what sort of shapeshifter Deirdre is and why she doesn’t shift and how she’ll be able to, if at all, at some stage. I’m hoping that I get some more answers in later books.
The romance (? if it can even be called that) in this is a little confusing and seems to come out of no where but given the events of the book, it’s out of the running for a long term arrangement which perhaps might be for the best because it didn’t work whatsoever. It felt awkward, clinical and clumsy and just….pointless. I felt like they perhaps didn’t think through the ramifications of sending someone alone with Deirdre who was susceptible to Everton Stark’s commanding influence, who could be ordered to do whatever Stark wanted him to do. Gage seemed to really serve little purpose – Deirdre doesn’t need protecting. And the one time he does manage to get a message out to Rylie, he’s overheard, so he’s not great at being a secret agent.
Despite a few issues with this, I am really curious to find out where it goes and what’s going on with Deirdre’s shapeshifting (or lack thereof) and I want to know more about Everton Stark.
Book #77 of 2015