Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Book 1), by Kelley Armstrong

This, visit web Kelley Armstrong’s first published novel, has been rumored to be under development for a movie, but IMDB won’t give me any proof, so I leave it here for you as an unfounded rumor. Armstrong is Canadian, from somewhere around London, Ontario, and she is shortly to hit her eighth book in this series.

Elena Michaels is a werewolf, living in Toronto. It’s not that comfortable — her live-in boyfriend is a little annoyed with her habit of sneaking off in the middle of the night every few days, and living in the city with so many people around is difficult — but she survives. Life is made even a bit more difficult by the fact that she’s the only female werewolf ever. Female werewolves are made, not born, and she’s the first one to survive being bitten. One day she gets a phone call from her old Pack leader; the pack she moved to Toronto to escape. He tells her to come back to the old stomping ground right away. When she can’t get a hold of him by phone again, she leaves to go visit. There she encounters not only her old pack leader, Jeremy, but the rest of the pack, which includes Jeremy’s foster son, Clay. Elena and Clay’s relationship goes back a long way and is a little strained, to say the least. More importantly, there have been a number of murders discovered in and around Jeremy’s property in upstate New York; either they are werewolf kills, or someone has been going to great lengths to make them look like werewolf kills. Can Elena keep her life in order and yet deal with both Clay and the murders?

It took several hours before I remembered what book this reminds me of — Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause. Bitten is sort of the grown-up, graphic version of that YA book. That’s not meant as a slight on either, although I think Blood and Chocolate is the better of the two.

The first section of this book is in first-person, present-tense narration, and believe me, the book would have been overly melodramatic had it continued in that fashion. After an introduction, it switches to past tense. Armstrong does use a lot of descriptions of her surroudings, as one might guess a wolf would notice them.

This forest was mine. It was Pack territory and therefore it was mine. Mine to run in and hunt in and play in without fear of partying teenagers, overeager hunters, or rabid foxes and raccoons. No discarded sofas to block my path, no rusty cans to slice open my paws, no stinking garbage bags to foul the air I breathed, or dumped chemicals to pollute the water I drank. This wasn’t some patch of woods claimed for an hour or two. This was five hundred acres of forest, every acre crisscrossed with familiar paths and stocked with rabbits and deer, a smorgasbord supplied for my pleasure.

She doesn’t, however, spend a lot of time describing people. They usually get a short, cursory placeholding description — Clay is tall and blond and muscular — and then go on. I wasn’t even quite sure what Elena herself looked like until the end of the book, when all the short bits of description had built up into a picture. I didn’t find it to be a problem; the plot is fast-enough moving that more description would have bogged it down.

The romantic plot is a love triangle, of course. Clay and Elena had been lovers a long time before, and since he is also a werewolf, one would think he would be perfectly suited for her. She starts the book calling him a psychopath, and gradually changes her internal monologue. By the end, she’s realized why he is how he is and has come to appreciate it, in a way. Phillip, on the other hand (her live-in boyfriend in Toronto), is generally viewed fairly sympathetically. He’s a good guy, just not the right guy for her.

The murderous suspense plot is fairly straightforward, but gruesome. There are many deaths; many descriptions of killings and dead bodies. Elena is even involved with some of them. This isn’t exactly a light-hearted werewolf romp. Werewolves, in Armstrong’s mythology, are perfectly willing to kill to hide what they are. Humans, on the other hand, kill for sport sometimes. Elena also has a background straight out of nightmares: early parental death, bad foster homes, abuse, rape, and, oh yeah, being turned into a werewolf. While she isn’t a candidate for therapy during this book, she isn’t the most stable of individuals, either.

While the book isn’t exactly breaking new ground in terms of werewolf mythology, its original publication date in 2001 (or thereabouts) makes it fairly early in the growing urban fantasy/paranormal range. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone too much below the age of sixteen, what with Elena’s background and the fairly graphic sex and violence, but for anyone who reads paranormals or urban fantasy with a dash of horror and who somehow managed to miss this book like I did, it’s a satisfying read. 4/5 stars.

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