Ha, if I ever write a shifter book I think I’ll use Wrapping up the Omegas as the title. I like it. This Omega challenge was a short one, designed to fit into a weekend. I read what turned out to be four books and a short story (and one DNF); everything on my To-Be-Read shelf containing the word Omega.
And it was an interesting experience, which left me wondering about the nature of the omega wolf mythos.
With the exception of Omega Rising (which was a Farscape-like sci-fi), all the books were about shifters and you know what? I don’t think there’s any real consensus about what an omega is. Is he/she the smallest wolf? The weakest? Is it some inborn trait? Earned? Is it the result of breeding? Does it come with special powers? Is it necessarily a bad thing? What does it mean to be omega? It seems to be agreed they’re bottom of the pack, but not how or why.
Sure, it makes sense that different authors would have different takes on what it means to be omega, but I sensed a real reluctance to commit to their ideals, even within the same author’s work.* Often omegas were said to be the weakest, most abused wolf in the pack (that’s what made them omega) but then shown to be strong and self-reliant, rising above their station and expected abilities. But they never seemed able to lose the stigma of ‘omega’ and I was left to wonder why.
I sense in this the need to set a character up as a victim before redeeming them with a show of strength. Something any reader of hetero romance will recognize. How many heroines have been raped, are fleeing abusive relationships, or come from traumatic childhoods? This idea of a weak, abused omega werewolf just seems to be a codification of one particular kind of victim to victory trope.
And this is fine, really, except that it kind of doesn’t work for me. Because they’re either these beat down dogs or they’re not and, in the majority of the stories I just read, the authors tried to make them both. In one case, the author twisted the plot so hard, trying to accomplish this that she/he simply violated what I understood to be the laws of the world they constructed.
This was my main take away from the experience of immersing myself in a weekend of shifter omega-ness. There were other, smaller ones too. Omegas seem overwhelmingly likely to be claimed by alphas, the leaders of the pack (usually the most powerful one available). ‘Alpha’ and ‘omega’ tend to be such strong aspects of a character’s character that they negate all else.
On a wider scale, other than betas (second in command) there don’t seem to be any other ranks to a werewolf pack and none of those wolves matter and there seems to be a language to werewolves, that while obviously originating somewhere, is being adopted on a wider scale. The idea of going ‘loup’ for an out of control wolf, the soul ‘mate,’ descriptions of inner wolves ‘pacing’ and ‘clawing’ to be free, a ‘scion’ being the son of an alpha. Some of this I recognized as ubiquitous to the paranormal genre, but some struck me as possibly lifted straight from other, more well-known books and series.
So, while four books and short story is hardly a huge sample of available omega stories (especially as one of the books and the story were from the same author), I think it was enough to get an idea of what this particular corner of the paranormal genre has to offer.
If you’re interested in individual reviews they can be found here:
*Obviously, I'm speaking only to the books I read in this challenge. I've read enough shifter books to know I'm not speaking in universals here.
Edit 3/29/16: Someone made a comment on one of the Amazon reviews with a link to a wiki page on the Alpha/Beta/Omega Trope. While, I was well aware this was a frequent pairing, it hadn’t occurred to me that it had solidified into an actual genre of it’s own. Apparently it’s called the Omegaverse. As I said to the commenter, even as a trope I still like enough world-building to know something of why rigid pairing structure occurs. Is it a social constraint, biological, etc? But it’s nice to have learned something new, all the same.
Edit 4/17/16: Even though I technically called this challenge finished, I couldn’t help picking up another Omega book and I bet it’s not the last time I do it, this year. So, I figure I’ll just tag the new ones on down here at the bottom.