For What It's Worth

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Trial by Fire: A Raised by Wolves Novel
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. (YA Paranormal)

*Note: This is a Guest review by Tiger from All-Consuming Books

Brynn is the Alpha of a wolf pack, but she’s kind of an oddball leader because she’s human, not a were (not aware!). But she has a mental pack-bond with the others and feels their need to run and be free as strongly as if she changed forms herself. It’s Thanksgiving break and the Cedar Ridge pack is healthy and happy, plus things between Brynn and her werewolf boyfriend Chase are going good. But then a tiny new girl at Brynn’s school seems unnaturally threatening (you can never trust a girl who wears elbow-length gloves to school!), Brynn starts having violent nightmares, the pack politics between her and the Stone River pack are strained, and she’s getting weird gifts from Callum, her former alpha and father figure. Add to that, a tortured wolf from another pack who shows up in her territory, begging for protection. Looks like life is never going to be too easy for this human girl who was raised by wolves.
I love Brynn’s pack. They’re a little unusual because they have a bunch of female werewolves, which are super-rare, and they also have a ton of young kids. In the previous book, Brynn saved everybody from a Rabid wolf and as a result, almost all of her pack-mates are human children-turned-wolves who only survived because of their qualities of Resilience. There are older teens like Brynn’s friend Lake, a model-gorgeous girl with plenty of attitude, and gentle Maddy. Brynn’s young foster mother Ali takes care of the little ones, and an older wolf named Mitch acting as a dad/mentor of sorts, so they’ve formed a makeshift uber-protective family.
The big drama of the book comes from the arrival of Lucas, who is a wolf belonging to Shay, a mean alpha who happens to be the brother of Devon (Brynn’s BFF and Beta). Everybody wants to break up Brynn’s pack and divide the girls among themselves, but nobody wants to see Brynn’s downfall as badly as Shay does. So we’ve got a few different nasty villains, some new mythology, a big moral dilemma, and tons of inter-pack drama.
The romance isn’t overplayed, though Chase is just an “okay” boy in my view. Chase is just a little too much of the standard paranormal YA guy―he’s handsome, strong, protective, and a teensy bit mysterious. He’s not as possessive or aggressive as some guys, but still there’s nothing about him that stands out in my mind except his quiet strength and protectiveness for Brynn, which are nice characteristics, but they’re not enough to make a character memorable. On the other hand, I adore Devon Macalister, Brynn’s best friend. He’s a huge, muscled-up werewolf but he’s also a class clown who’s very fond of showtunes. He cracks me up. When Brynn tries to sing with them and they sound awful, he announces, “We shall never speak of this moment again”. You’ve got to respect a guy who’s not afraid to sing some ABBA from time to time, and I wish he were the love interest of this book, because it would just shake things up so much, but sadly, he is not.
Regarding the main character, I love that Brynn doesn’t toss orders around and abuse her authority, but it’s a little disconcerting that she almost can’t enforce her authority when needed. However, I think Brynn has grown up a lot since the first book. I seem to recall Brynn being rebellious for no good reason in Raised by Wolves (a quote from my RBW review from last year: “Brynn often knows perfectly well that a certain course of action is going to end badly and painfully, and she'll do it anyway.”). That attitude is gone, here, and Brynn is acting like a real alpha.
Trial by Fire features some nice subtle humor, good characterization, and the worldbuilding’s mighty fine. I believe these characters and their connections and environment. But the stress and strain of Brynn’s problems never let up. This is still a great series―if you like werewolves, you can’t afford not to read this―but the story itself is angsty, with trouble piled on top of trouble with virtually no lighter scenes to balance the darkness out. It’s a bit of a paranormal downer.

Rating: 3 stars out of 4.

Thanks Tiger!

Karen here with my take - I have to agree with Tiger. Trial by Fire didn't quite match the intensity of Raised by Wolves for me. I love every single character and how this is a story more about pack and family bonds than romance. Even though I KNOW there are strong bonds and feelings within the pack there is very little time for any of the relationships to deepen or become more complex. There are almost non stop problems. For every moment Brynn and Chase get to be alone they are quickly interrupted. Brynn's awesome kick ass best friend Lake is woefully underused. Devon absolutely steals the show and although I'm sure there is a Brynn/Chase/Devon love triangle looming in our future I would really love to see Devon and Lake together.
This is an absolute must read for werewolf fans. Barnes writes were pack dynamics better than any author out there right now with the exception of maybe Kelley Armstrong but I wasn't too emotionally invested this go around.

Buy the book: Trial by Fire: A Raised by Wolves Novel
Find Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Website Blog Twitter
Publisher: Egmont USA June 14, 2011


  1. Great review ladies. I admit I haven't read this series yet.

  2. How could she become alpha? Ok I shall not dwell on that cos the rest sounds nice

  3. Smartass answer to that last is "read the first book". Naturally. ~_^

    Personally, I thought Trial by Fire was even better than the first. It moves a little slow in places, but then about thirty pages from the end it takes things skyrocketing to the next level.

    Lupines and Lunatics

  4. Brynn sounds pretty kick-ass! I wanna read this series, but i'm not a fan of "paranormal downers!" they make me sad....and they make my heart hurt. Karen i know you haven't read the Nightshade series yet, but this book sounds a lot like the second in that series....interesting....

    I'm probs still gunna check this series out...i like fluffy wolves! And i was kinda already hooked when i read about Devon <---um he sounds FREAKIN' AWESOME!! love me some funny boys!! :D

    oh! and i got like a million & six "Raised by Wolves/ Trial by Fire" tats at ALA! would you like me to send you some?!

  5. @Blodeudd The alpha thing is a really cool concept and definitely worth reading about. it's what makes this series unique.

    @LupLun Most reviewers on goodreads agree with you. I'm glad you really enjoyed Trial by Fire

    @Brooke This is a really good werewolf series even if I was disappointed by book 2 and you would most definitely love Devon. Haven't read Nghtshade yet but I do have it sitting on my shelf. My hubby read it and I think I'm going to wait until all three books are out. I'm already Team Ren
    PS _ I have the TBF tats - got them at BEA but thanks and hugs!