A friend had been urging me for months to read Kelley Armstrong's "Bitten," the first book in the "Women of the Otherworld" series. She told me that the novel was well written and unusual, with a fresh take on the same old werewolf/shapeshifter tale. So I finally got around to reading the book and all I have to say is "WOW!" I can't think of one negative comment to make, not that I'd want to. I only have praise for this terrific read and for the author. The plot is excellent; the dialogue is at times serious, at others very funny, filled with dark humor. And it's all very believable - if you believe in werewolves, of course.
Elena Michaels is a young, attractive, athletic journalist who lives in Toronto, Canada with her older lover, Philip, an architect. He is very serious about her and wants to marry her. Elena thinks she might care for him enough to marry him, except for one problem. Elena is a werewolf. As a matter of fact she is the only female werewolf...in the entire world. The werewolf gene has always been passed down from father to son - never to daughter. Almost all females bitten by werewolves have died before their bodies could adapt to the change. Elena's body adapted, which is more than can be said about her mind. She almost lost it for an entire year after her transformation. Then she finally accepted her fate. But she couldn't accept the betrayal, the bite, that made her other than human.
Ms. Armstrong's werewolves live in packs. They do not kill human beings. Those who choose the life of a loner, eschewing the pack, are called mutts. They are not to be trusted because they can become very violent, unpredictable, and sometimes kill people, just for the love of the kill. Therefore a special pack, the one Elena belonged to, tracks and monitors the mutts, worldwide.
Elena left her pack over a year before and is trying to make it on her own in the big city. However, the wild still calls to her and exerts a powerful pull. When a serious problem arises, Elena is called home to her pack's large forest estate in upstate New York, to assist them in their need. Then the real adventures, struggles and romance begin.
Ms. Armstrong's characters are marvelous. Elena is a feminist and holds her own among the males. She gives as good as she gets. She is sassy, cynical, realistic, good in combat, but inside she's about as tough as a marshmallow. The other characters are every bit as strong and complex. Their lives and histories unfold as you read. And there's a wonderful sense of comaraderie and caring among the pack. After you finish the book, you will care about them too. I have already ordered the next two books in the series: "Stolen" and "Dime Store Magic." This is a real find! Very highly recommended!
on January 1, 2002
Bitten is a terrific debut novel, and a great werewolf tale that sucks you in and keeps your attention. I'm a fan of Laurell K Hamilton, but Bitten gave me a new appreciation for the limitations of the lycanthrope portrayals in the Anita Blake series. Perhaps it's to be expected, since so many creatures and monsters exist in Anita's world, no one group can be fully developed and explored. One of my difficulties with Anita's tales is that it's hard to focus sometimes. She careens from one problem to the next so quickly you barely have time to assimilate the differences between the monstrous groups she's dealing with.
That problem doesn't exist in Bitten. To the contrary, Bitten is so focused on the werewolves, and on one small group of them in particular, you are able to get much more involved with them, their lives, their struggles. One of the things I really enjoyed about Bitten was Ms. Armstrong's attention to detail, including emotional detail. All of the characters rang true to me in their reactions and dealings with each other.
Elena is a wonderful character. She's not always likable, but she's real. She is a reluctant werewolf who just longs to be human, and her uncertainty and anger at her situation are palpable. It's a miracle she functions as well as she does in the human world, though we actually see her less there than you realize at first. Despite her longing to be human, she revels in her wolf characteristics and is continually troubled by the duality of her nature. She tries to delude herself, but she's rarely successful and I respected that even when I didn't particularly like her actions at times.
I appreciated the nature of the relationship between her and Clayton, the werewolf who bit her and still wants her, despite Elena's continued resentment toward him. Their bond is fascinating and multi-faceted -- in many ways they are reflections of each other. I was happy with the initial resolution of their conflict and hope to see more of them. Likewise, the relationships between Elena and Jeremy, and Clayton and Jeremy are well-drawn and fully realized. Antonio and Nick suffer a bit by comparison, but their roles are lesser, so it's not a fatal flaw. Philip was weak too, but I suppose he had to be.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Bitten and hope that it is the first of a series which will expand on the well-crafted themes and give us new insights into the absorbing characters. Great job, Ms. Armstrong!
on March 12, 2002
Bitten is one of the best first novels I have read in a long time. Kelley Armstrong proves that you can still take an old, tired and overused storyline and make it great and entertaining. Her book is sexy, intelligently written and highly entertaining.
Elena is a young woman who was once bitten by a werewolf, which inevitably turned her into one as well. Only problem is that in Armstrong's world, only males are allowed to be werwolves as the curse is passed down through the male line. But she survives the change and The Pack, an organized group of werwolves, decide to keep her alive.
She does not like her life as much as she ought to and so she escapes to Toronto, only to be brought back to her New York dwellings (the home of The Pack) when strange murders start occuring. She is quickly thrown into a plot involving a group of Mutts (werewolves who are not part of The Pack and who only want to cause trouble for the organization) who only wants to see The Pack disappear.
Violent, dark and often wittingly funny, Bitten is a very original novel that takes the werewolf legend and plays with it amazingly well. The book reminded me of the early efforts from Anne Rice; Armstrong, just like Rice did with vampires, rejuvinates the legend on her own, putting a much-needed life back into the genre.
Any fans of the genre should be pleased with this book. And non-horror fans will also find something to like here; Armstrong's prose is very beautiful, straight to the point and extremely colorful. This one is not to be missed!
on August 3, 2012
The novel "Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong is a disappointment. It is more a romance novel than it is a werewolf story. It is told in first person from the vantage point of Elena, the only female werewolf (so why the subtitle "Women of the Otherworld"?).
Anyway, in this novel's mythology there are two kinds of werewolves: hereditary and bitten. Male werewolves can impregnate a human female and if the offspring is a male, he is a werewolf. The dad then steals the son, and raises him to know about his "change." Armstrong's view of werewolves is more like vicious dogs. The werewolf can change at will, not tied to the full moon, but sort of is, that is unclear in this novel. And these wolves then do really pretty ordinary stuff for wolves. They run in the forest, then chase down rabbits and deer. Not very werewolfish. There are some werewolf murders, but those are much more like a rapid dog attack than a more classical werewolf attack. Also in this novel, werewolves can be killed by getting hit by a car, or shot in the head, or pretty much anything that would kill a big dog.
Elena has a troubled history with "the Pack" and is trying to live on her own in Toronto. She lives with Philip who is not a werewolf and who does not know she is one. She gets summoned back to the Pack and reluctantly goes. Her history is not revealed until the middle of the novel, and that buildup is not very effective.
When back at the Pack, she is reunited with a former love interest, Clayton. So the romantic love triangle is the Elena with Philip the human, or Elena with Clay the werewolf. The pack is under attack by some "mutts" (men who have been bitten and are werewolves but not part of the pack). The encounters with the mutts are simplistic and kind of dull. Secondary character development is almost nill.
There are several graphically described sex scenes which add nothing to the plot or character development. And they border on rape. And that is my major problem with this novel. The male domination and exploitation of women in this novel is held up as a good thing for the woman.
Throughout the novel, "Bitten" Elena is abused, is tied up, she is forced into sex, locked in a cage, and then she "falls in love" with the abuser? Stockholm syndrome or not, that is just plain wrong. In the end, she decides to stay with the abuser.
"Bitten" by Kelly Armstrong fails as a werewolf novel, and fails as a romance novel. It does succeed in making women look weak and dependent on men's sexual demands and does it does seem to reward men dominating and exploiting women because in the end, "the woman really wants it anyway." Skip this book.
on November 6, 2010
So according to my Kindle I made it 62% of the way through the book before I just couldn't take it anymore. This book was so painful and slow. I had been forcing myself to read it from the beginning but it just never improved for me. There were a few scenes that made me get into it and forget I was reading... and then I was back to trudging my way through the book. Almost everything I read was just slow and tedious and uninteresting to read. Elena has got to be the most boring and irritating heroine I've ever read about. She'd start arguments over stupid things and then be a push over on things that actually matter.
Finally, after a few paragraphs would start putting me to sleep, I gave up. Now, I've read my share of bad books (and read one right after this one for that matter), but I have never not finished a book before. Heck, it's rare I don't finish a series even if I don't love the first book. Maybe one day I'll go back to it to finish, but I can definitely say I will never buy another book in this series.
on November 24, 2004
Elena seems a normal young woman. She has a job, and lives with her perfectly normal boyfriend. However, things aren't always what they seem to be: Elena is a werewolf, the only female werewolf in the world to be precise...
Elena was turned into a werewolf by her previous fiancée, Clay, who wanted her to be with him forever, and thus did something forbidden by Pack Law: he bit her. Against all odds Elena survived, but she felt betrayed by Clay and ultimately left the Pack.
Now, however, the Pack needs her: a band of mutts (not Pack werewolves) are killing humans, and they must be stopped. So when Jeremy the alpha werewolf calls her, she decides to return and face her past, even though she isn't specially eager to do so.
Truth to be told, this is the first book by Kelley Armstrong that I have read, and I discovered it by chance. A friend told me to visit Armstrong's website ([...]) to read some of her free novellas, and I did exactly that when I had some free time. I didn't regret it: the three free novellas that Kelley offers in her website are just awesome. "Ascension", "Savage" and "Beginnings" are prequels to "Bitten", and quite different to other things I have read (different in a good way, though).
My immediate reaction after reading Armstrong's free novellas was to buy "Bitten", Armstrong's first published novel and coincidently the first book in the "Women of the Otherworld" series. I'm pretty happy I did that. As a matter of fact, I liked this book so much that I gladly recommend it to you, provided you like fantasy/horror books with non-stopping action, an interesting plot and a little bit of romance :)
on December 1, 2011
I wanted to like this book even though Elena was very annoying. Clay is her love interest even though she had another man at home. Then comes the "sexy" rape scene. If this isn't rape or some form of sexual assault then what is?
He ties her to a tree then rips her shirt off. Then he starts molesting her. Elena's told him to untie her at this point. Then he pulls her pants off and sticks his fingers inside her. She had not given him the go ahead but he then takes his pants off. Once he's ready to shove himself inside her, he stops and says he won't force her and he'll stop if she tells him to. She's still tied up and he's already molested her at this point. She says NOTHING, not yeah, baby, keep raping me, but nothing. He then has sex with her. After she's moaning and loving the whole rape fantasy, he unties her.
I don't get all these rape fantasies lately. Is this what's supposed to be attractive now in a male love interest? I like males who are aggressive in fiction, but not when it comes to forcing themselves on a woman. Then there's the weird thing where the chick says no, but she really means yes and then the sex is great so it's a good thing he forced himself on her in the first place.
Am I missing this trend with women? I couldn't respect either character after that scene and I stopped reading. I know it was supposed to be sexy or something, but it was weird and made me think he was a violent pervert and she was an idiot with rape fantasies. Then she starts whining in the next part about how he forced her to become a werewolf. Yeah, but Elena clearly you like being forced. Whatever.
I get that these are werewolves and not humans, but it's not sexy. Maybe I missed the part where the writer explains how rape is common in werewolf culture so this behavior is normal or something. Anyway just writing that the guy is hot and her soul mate so it's okay that he rapes her because he knows her well enough to know she'll dig it isn't entertaining. I wanted to read the rest of the series, but I'm not sure I trust the writer to give me decent characters that don't cheat and rape. Just weird that this was written for women, by a woman.
Unless you think rape is sexy, don't read this book. I wish I had been warned.
on February 16, 2009
Not going to give the synopsis, you can gather that from other reviews or the editorial....
Armstrong is a very talented writer and I enjoyed the world she created, though I had some major issues with this book.
I really really really really tried to like the main character, Elena and tried to empathize with her but she really had no redeeming qualities. Such as her constant need to rebel and assert her independence but it was all thoughtless, the instances when she should have been standing up for herself she became docile and the times she should have followed the rules she did not. Did she learn from this you might ask? Not at all, she kept up her reckless behavior to the very end. She was whiny, immature, dishonest, deluded, reckless, careless, short-sighted, etc. It also seemed to send this message of the good woman should listen to the men because she's completely incapable of doing anything on her own...what's up with that?
I am curious as to why, granted this is an urban and more modern era story, there are only 35 werewolves in the world and Elena is the only female.... Huh? That part I didn't buy at all. I also wondered how the Pack managed to cut off all contact with infant male werewolf's mother without problems from said mother, that was never really explained either.
There were quite a few unanswered questions that would have made the book a lot better and more complete, such as more specific and detail information surrounding Clay and Elena's relationship, more information and specifics about Elena's life in college, prior to college and such, you really don't know her very well. The impression I got from Elena's and Clay's relationship was that it was unhealthy. It was built on a foundation of lies and mistrust from the picture painted, we didn't get enough glimpses into their past before she was bitten to see how it was before. How did they meet? Considering she was abused, didn't Clay have to overcome her trust issues? How did that play out? Clay in almost every sexual experience we saw the two in practically rapes Elena, those issues should have been dealt with. I mean you are trying to get people to "buy into" the story, give us something to work with.
There was this conflicting picture of someone abused during childhood, then she was this happy passive person when her and Clay met. I was also thrown when the author threw in that line about her foster parents not being complete ogres and them having some sort of Christmas traditions, okay correct me if I'm wrong but what would you call it when a foster parent sexually abuses a child and the other parent knows it's happening and chooses to ignore it? Regardless of any Christmas tradition, they are worse than ogres. I also think she glossed over, if not completely ignored, the issues of childhood sexual abuse. It really made me question the author's insight and authority of writing on the subject or even interjecting it into the story. I thought at some point those issues should have been addressed beyond Elena mentally separating her body 'ME' from her spiritual/mental 'ME'. Childhood abuse manifests itself in horrendous way that effects a person all the way into adulthood and nothing was ever mentioned with how Elena dealt with that.
It was very hard to identify with her on any level. The beginning was a good start but it did not build well and it ultimately had a very disappointing end. I was very saddened that the all of the major issues of the book, issues that were present throughout the entire book mind you, were wrapped up in the last six or pages. I thought that it was a cheap and easy way out. I think I would have liked it better if Elena had took off on her own away from everyone and went on a journey to find herself and get some perspective, because she was just as lost at the end as she was at the beginning.
Needless to say I was extremely disappointed at the direction the book took but hey "to each its own". This is my first and last "Women of the Otherworld" novel.
on July 31, 2004
Finished Kelley Armstrong's Bitten this morning. It was a wonderful book; I can't believe it was her first. I was very skeptical of the whole 'modern day werewolves' theme, to be honest, but damned if she didn't pull it off nicely, telling us a riveting story while giving us glimpses into the whole werewolf mystique and leaving room for many more stories to come (I hope).
Overall she kept a tight leash on things (yes, pun intended) until the very last parts of the story where she got a little careless about leaving bodies behind, so to speak. This is forgivable in that the reader is so caught up in things by then that they're probably just as happy to not have to pause for the explanation of how a fight scene is cleaned up. Ideally, though, we wouldn't be left with questions of "What will the police think when they find...." and so forth.
That's a minor nit, though. The story moved along really nicely; a real page turner. Elena is a believable modern day heroine. She's got flaws and she has some very dense moments (perhaps a few too many -- several times I was shouting the Bitten equivalent of "DON'T GO IN THE BASEMENT!") but she's still likable and a very sympathetic character.
I'm looking forward to reading more from Ms. Armstrong.
on September 15, 2008
So I bought this book after having it recommended to me, and after seeing the other reviews raving about how wonderful it is, how it has a Strong Woman, and everything else.
I really, really, REALLY don't see it.
To take the lazy route and cut and paste (and slightly edit) from a review I wrote of it in my own booklog:
Apparently the traits of being a female werewolf are being bitchy, but always always picking the wrong things to rebel about. When she should stand her ground and actually keep people from controlling her entire life, she caves and whines and pouts and flounces off to her room in a huff. When there's actual danger involved, the need for a plan, etc., she decides that No One is going to Tell Her What To Do, and goes off and does Something Really Stupid and gets bit in the tail for it.
Being a female werewolf also means knowing enough of the human world to live in it and hold down a job *in journalism* (not surprising since she was actually human up until college-age, you'd think), in knowing how dangerous men's psyche's work, in being able to manipulate people to bait them into traps and so forth, or manipulate touchy social situations on the spur of the moment. Yet it also means being so bad at human social interaction that she can't even realize that good grief, maybe she can actually snap at people once in a while without deciding to just leave her immediately, or can't deal socially with her boyfriend's family (for example) on an even footing. (To be fair there is some in-character reasons that her socialization might not be all that normal... but it's still irritating to read, regardless. And it still doesn't gel very well with how *good* she is at other social bits.)
Best of all (yes, that's sarcasm, just to preemptively warn you) being a female werewolf means that no matter how much you try to assert yourself against those mean ol' alpha males who are trying to run your life the way THEY see fit... they'll always (or at least almost always) turn out right in the end, and silly female lil' ol' you was wrong wrong wrong. They do know what's best for you, after all! All your own personal dreams, and decisions? Pfff. You should know better, kid. Eventually you'll realize what's REALLY best for you.
And then there's things like this woman who was apparently raped (or rather "molested") repeatedly as a kid being quasi-raped by the big strong manly werewolf, and at the last minute when he says he won't force her (after he's, y'know, tied her up and got her all worked up), she of course realizes that OH YES, that's what she wants, and she just can't stop her lil' ol' female hormones. Not with that big strong dominant MAN around.
So long story short, I really cannot recommend this as any sort of read if you like strong female characters, or if you want to get into urban supernatural books instead. There are much better ones out there.