Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

     Title: Bitten (The Women of the Otherworld, #1)
     Author: Kelley Armstrong
     Publisher: Vintage Canada
     Published: October 1, 2001
     Number of Pages: 422
     Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
     Date Read: January 2011 (and also last night...)
     Acquired: Christmas gift from my Aunt!

Elena has  been living and working in Toronto for a year now, leading the normal life she has always dreamed of, including a stable job as a journalist, a nice apartment with a lake view (if you stand at just the right angle at the right time of day), and a wonderful, caring boyfriend who sends her flowers and cooks for her...and doesn't question the fact that she likes to go out for "walks" at 2 in the morning. Those secret midnight prowls are her way of protecting her secret, you see she's the lone female werewolf in existence. She hates it. 

She's heading back to Stonehaven though, the Pack needs her expertise; when she was with them she used her position as long female wolf to help control the renegade lone wolves. Now some of those renegades have formed an alliance and they are hell bent on exposing and annihilating the Pack. And although Elena is obliged to rejoin her "family," she vows not to be swept up in Pack life again, no matter how natural and comfortable it might feel. She has made her choice. Trouble is, she's increasingly uncertain if it's the right one. Especially the more time she spends with Clayton.
Her crisis deepens when it turns out that the renegades plans for destroying the Pack specifically revolve around her. They want her, bad. Jeremy and the Pack, especially Clayton, will do anything and everything it takes to keep Elena safe and stop the renegades, but things get out of control fast. In the end  it comes down to Elena, can she do what needs to be done? Can she save herself and the Pack? Can she choose which life she wants more?

Just last year ago she was living a very different life, not one she had chosen, but one that was chosen for her by someone she loved (still loves if she were capable of being honest with herself). After being changed several years earlier she was adopted by the Pack, living with them in Stonehaven NY.  She had spent a long struggling with her resentment at having her life stolen away. Finally, torn between two worlds, and overwhelmed by the new passions coursing through her body, her only option for control was to deny her awakening needs and escape. That was how she'd ended up in Toronto.

My aunt gave me the first three books in this series (Bitten, Stolen, Dime Store Magic) for Christmas because my Mum had mentioned to her that I'd bought the 4th, 5th and 6th books of the series when I saw them on sale a few weeks before Christmas. Being a fan of the series herself she wanted me to start right from the beginning, which I always think is a good plan with series. I remember the first time I read Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest ChroniclesI accidentally read the last book in the series first...didn't make them any less enjoyable though. But back to the point, so she bought them for me and I started Bitten at some point in January (it was the 6th book I'd read that month I can't remember when exactly I read it) and I really loved it. I am a big fan of Supernatural Fantasy, I enjoy seeing different authors interpretations of the different species. For awhile I contemplated getting a graduate degree in English and focussing on the evolution of Supernatural Fantasy, now it's just a hobby.

Female werewolves don't pop up all that often in the genre in my experience, so having not only a major character, but the narrator of the book be not just A female werewolf but the ONLY female werewolf sparked my interest right off the bat. It's not what one usually expects and I enjoy unusual. Elena is a strong female voice. Fiercely independent, sharp, intelligent, but also deeply flawed. She's definitely not the perfect heroine that romance readers are used to and that's another thing I find that makes this novel so enjoyable. And it's not just Elena's characterisation, Kelley Armstrong is an AMAZING characterisation writer, all of her characters are really well thought out and developed I feel. Take Clayton for instance, on the surface he comes across as a possessive, violent, selfish jerk. But when you stop and look at everything he does through the lens of his motivations, beliefs and past, it's understandable why he appears that way but appearances can be deceiving. He's actually a very moral and traditional character who cares intensely about his pack, especially their Alpha, Jeremy, and Elena of course. She's also a little too good at portraying the sleazy characters of Victor and LeBlanc, they give me the creeps.

I like the mix of plots, it's not strictly romance, although the romance element is important of course because Elena is struggling to choose between two lovers; but it's not just the lovers she has to choose from, it's the lifestyles and the realities they represent. Plus while she's dealing with her identity crisis she's also got to help the Pack deal with a group of rogues who want to alternately kidnap her and use her as a brood mare, or kill her, depending on which Mutt you ask. So there's lots of good fighting action going on as well.

Overall it's a fantastic first glimpse into the Otherworld, my only complaint would be that because of the insular nature of the Pack there's no mention of the other species, but that more than gets rectified in the next book so I'm not complaining too loudly.

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