I have put down quite a few books the moment I saw this trope. We all have those particular tropes that we just cannot stand. This is one of those for me.
The trope in summary:
A small human woman, usually with some small degree of magic and a huge attitude, rules over the big bad shifter pack. Said pack is full of big heavily muscled guys two or three times her size, all with issues controlling their inner predator. None of them will dare cross her though, she’ll glare them down and have them submit.
Let’s break down why this bugs me.
It’s makes no sense. Nada. None.
If we look at situations where a physically smaller person has physically larger, (and thus much stronger and capable to killing said smaller person), bow and scrape to them, it’s because the smaller person has leverage. What they lack in physical ability, they make up for in political and financial sway. Perhaps psychological too. Either way, they have enough non-physical power to make the larger person’s life not worth living.
The classic case of this happening is either in a criminal organisation, or business. In both cases, the smaller person has enough political sway that they can ruin the larger person’s life. Be that through torturing their families, or them, cutting off their income, or other such things. There is far too much of a risk there for the larger person to even think about it.
It takes time and careful maneuvering to put yourself in that position. It’s very rare that you’re just born there. Yet this woman just rocks up, and is somehow just a bigger personality than all the big bad shifters, and has them break their own internal rules (no bowing to non-shifters). Seriously?
Now keep in mind that these are shifters, they’re not fully human. So you have to take the predatory side into account here. Even if she were somehow a bigger personality and psychologically more dominant than all of those other predators, she needs the physical capability to back that up. That psychological thing can only go so far with wolves and such before they decide it really needs testing and they leap for your jugular. We’ve already established she’s much smaller and therefore easy to smush. But! But, she, being the protagonist, has just enough psychological strength to just, ya know, stare them down and stop any such nonsense.
I get it. It’s a huge thrill and ego boost. The idea of controlling the big bad pack, and having the big bad alpha lusting after you. I get it. I do. That however doesn’t stop it from bugging the hell out of me.