Broken (Women of the Otherworld 6) by Kelley Armstrong Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: Broken (Women of the Otherworld 6)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: 1841493422
Publisher: Orbit
First Published: 2006
No. of pages: 444 pages

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
Book 6 in Kelley Armstrong’s supernatural series marks the return of werewolf Elena Michaels from Bitten and Stolen. When half-demon Xavier calls in the favour Elena owes him, it seems easy enough – steal Jack the Ripper’s ‘From Hell’ letter away from a Toronto collector who had himself stolen it from the Ripper evidence boxes in the Metropolitan Police files. But nothing in the supernatural world is ever as simple as it seems. Elena accidentally triggers a spell placed on the letter, and manages to tear an opening that leads into the nether regions of Victorian London. Toronto may be looking for a tourism boost, but ‘Gateway to Hell’ isn’t quite the new slogan the city had in mind…

Review:
This was a very welcome return to the lycanthropic inhabitants of Stonehaven (they have been relegated more to the background over the last three installments in the series) and although I didn’t feel this quite lived up to Bitten and Stolen, it came pretty close! There were times that I felt Elena was perhaps being a little reckless for someone who is pregnant and very vocal on the subject of being careful whilst carrying her child and this detracted a little from the reality that Armstrong has carefully constructed as a home to her characters.

The supernatural aspect of the Ripper legend was a nice twist on an old and well-loved theme, and there was the element of sleuthing as well as the usual thrills, chills and spills you’d expect from the Women of the Otherworld series.

All in all, Broken is an excellent addition to the WotOW catalogue and I very much look forward to seeing how Armstrong further develops her characters in future novels.

Truth and Consequences / The Halloween House by Kelley Armstrong Saturday, Jan 17 2009 

Title: Truth and Consequences / The Halloween House
Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: -none- (online short stories)
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:
Truth and Consequences – This short story was first (and last) published in the February 1996 edition of Lost Worlds, a sci-fi and fantasy magazine out of North Carolina. Here Armstrong first created the character of Elena. If you’ve read Bitten, you may recognize some aspects of the story, which were briefly recounted there. The events of were the impetus (or excuse) for Elena deciding to leave the Pack—a resolve which she must break at the start of Bitten.

The Halloween House – Armstrong’s first piece of online fiction: a G-rated Halloween offering from 2002.

Review:
Truth and Consequences is another Otherworld online short story, which chronicles an incident briefly mentioned in Bitten (the one where Elena went after a con-man with proof of the existence of werewolves). Personally, I would have liked to see this included in the Otherworld Tales 2005 collection, as it would fit snugly with the rest of the stories there. It’s another well-written piece with the distinction of being in the third person (unusual where The Pack is concerned – they’re usually written in the first person).

The Halloween House is completely unconnected, but a nice little teen mystery with a slight horror slant to it. It’s more a short study of changing relationships as children grow up, set against a normal, suburban backdrop with the obligatory “spooky house” down the street. It’s well-rounded tale, which has an easy appeal to it.

Both stories are only available on Kelley Armstrong’s official website.

Otherworld Tales 2005 by Kelley Armstrong Saturday, Jan 17 2009 

Title: Otherworld Tales 2005
Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: -none- (online collection of short stories)
Rating: 6/10

Synopsis:
A collection of short stories relating to Armstrong’s Otherworld containing:

Rebirth: Aaron’s first year as a vampire
Infusion:
Jeremy’s conception and birth
Demonology: Talia discovers the truth about her son, Adam’s, heritage
Birthright: Logan’s first visit to the Pack
Case of the Half-Demon Spy: Paige and Adam’s first sleuthing adventure
Expectations: Lucas’s confrontation with Eve
Territorial: Karl Marsten before the events of Bitten
Ghosts: Jeremy after sending Elena and Clay to Toronto in Bitten
Escape: Eve’s incarceration at the compound
Wedding Bell Hell: Paige and Lucas’s Wedding
Adventurer: A Kenneth adventure!
Bargain: Xavier gets the “From Hell” letter theft job

Review:
Otherworld Tales is a little different from Armstrong’s other e-fiction, as rather than a novella, this time she chose to write a collection of short stories with some input from her fans. She polled her readers and they chose four Otherworld characters as well as four events mentioned or briefly alluded to in the books, while she chose the final four. This has led to a loving look into the lives of characters who fans have come to know very well and serves as fillers to the back story of the published books.

As such, if you haven’t already read the books, these won’t make any sense to you at all, as they are completely unconnected, so this would be of interest to existing fans only, but the final story, Bargain, leads on to her forthcoming novel, Broken*, so if you intend to read this, read the books first, then read Otherworld Tales before its release in May this year.

Not as “complete” as her other online fiction, but enjoyable nonetheless.

* Since this review was written, several more books in the Otherworld series have been published.

Beginnings by Kelley Armstrong (online novella) Saturday, Jan 17 2009 

Title: Beginnings (Available as part of Men of the Otherworld as of February 2009)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: -none- (online novella) (Men of the Otherworld ISBN: 978-1841497433)
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
Beginnings is the third  online novella and prequel to Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. It charts how Elena and Clay first met in Toronto, where Elena was at university and Clay was teaching Anthropology, right up to the point where she is bitten.

Review:
Having read all the Women of the Otherworld series to date, I’ve often wondered about the start of their relationship, knowing how betrayed Elena felt for years afterwards. The story is written in chapters which alternate between Elena’s and Clay’s point of view, so you constantly get both sides of the story – a nice twist, as all the other stories, both books and e-fiction, have been from one character’s point of view only*.

Reading it felt like getting to know old friends even better, getting all the secrets out in the open and seeing into their past in a way we have been unable to until now. It was such a good read that I managed to whiz through it all in one day, despite having a jam-packed schedule – I couldn’t wait to get back to it!

Excellent – even better than the previous two online novellas and a wonderful lead-in for those who haven’t yet read Bitten, as well as a nice look back for those who have.

* This was true at the time of writing this review in January 2006)

Ascension by Kelley Armstrong (online novella) Saturday, Jan 17 2009 

Title: Ascension (Available as part of Men of the Otherworld as of February 2009)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: -none- (online novella) (Men of the Otherworld ISBN: 978-1841497433)
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
Ascension is another prequel to Bitten and picks up where Savage left off, following Clayton’s life as a young man, as well as Jeremy’s rise through the ranks of The Pack. It gives an even more in-depth look at the relationship between Jeremy and his father, Malcolm, as well as the Pack hierarchy and goes some way towards explaining why Clay becomes so feared by Mutts everywhere (the dark past that is only hinted at in Bitten).

Review:
Even more action-packed that Savage, this one is a non-stop roller-coaster ride filled with treachery and betrayal, as well as showing just how the Pack was so reduced in size by the time Elena came along. This back history is a thrilling read and very much recommended whether or not you’ve already read Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. Pick them up and you won’t put them down again in a hurry!

Savage by Kelley Armstrong (online novella) Friday, Jan 16 2009 

Title: Savage (Available as part of Men of the Otherworld as of February 2009)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: -none- (online novella) (Men of the Otherworld ISBN: 978-1841497433)
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:
Savage is Armstrong’s first online novella and is a prequel to Bitten in that it follows Clay’s story, of how, as a boy, he became a werewolf and was subsequently found and taken in by Jeremy Danvers.

Review:
It was incredibly interesting to see the dark beginnings of Clay, who, as all Armstrong fans know, eventually grows up to be the main muscle of The Pack and Jeremy’s body guard as well as Elena’s lover. It’s entirely written in the first person, from Clay’s point of view. This is something that usually annoys the hell out of me in novels, but the Otherworld series seems to be the exception to the rule and I’ve barely noticed it while reading any of the books. Same goes for this novella.

It’s well-written, full of action and insight, and is completely engrossing – I literally sped through it despite currently reading another book at the same time. I found myself literally gagging to get to the next page and see what happens next, so much so that I’ve already begun reading the next online novella in the series, Ascension.

This is my introduction to online fiction and Armstrong’s approach seems to be particularly good in that she asks for input from her fans and actually takes their ideas and opinions on board – it’s not every writer who would be so humble. Long may it continue and long may she write; both books and online fiction – there’ll always be an audience for it!

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong Wednesday, Dec 31 2008 

Title: Haunted
Author:Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: 1841493414
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:
Eve Levine – half-demon, black witch and devoted mother – has been dead for three years. She has a great house, an interesting love life and can’t be killed again – which comes in handy when you’ve made as many enemies as Eve. Yes, the afterlife isn’t too bad – all she needs to do is find a way to communicate with her daughter Savannah and she’ll be happy. But fate – or more exactly, the Fates – have other plans. Eve owes them a favour, and they’ve just called it in. An evil spirit called the Nix has escaped from hell. She feeds on chaos and death, and is very good at persuading people to kill for her. The Fates want Eve to hunt her down before she does any more damage, but the Nix is a dangerous enemy – previous hunters have been sent mad in the process. As if that’s not problem enough, it turns out that the only way to stop her is with an angel’s sword. And Eve’s no angel…

Review:
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Kelly Armstrong’s “Women of the Otherworld” series, but neither Dime Store Magic nor Industrial Magic were a patch on the 1st two books in the series; Bitten and Stolen. What can I say? Armstrong is most definitely back on form with this 5th installment.

Focusing on Eve Levine; powerful half-Witch/half-Demon and self-styled “bad-girl”, who is now a Supernatural ghost (as opposed to a “normal” ghost), the reader is enticed into the afterlife with her, where she manages to cause as much trouble as she did when she was alive. This time, however, she has to hunt down a most dangerous breed of demi-Demon; a Nix.

As the story is firmly set in the afterlife, we don’t tend to see much of the living characters we’ve grown to love, such as Savannah (Eve’s teenaged daughter) and her guardians Paige (a Witch) and Lucas (a Sorcerer), but we have the novel twist of being able to leap in and out of the afterlife to witness events of the past – with an ingenious explanation for the horrific murders committed by Lizzie Borden – which more than makes up for their almost total absence.

We do, however, have time to really get to know Eve a little better, as well as having the chance to see Savannah’s father, Kristoff, in a different light, now that he has also passed over to the other side. It makes for interesting reading, to see characters previously thought of as being “bad” people actually turning out to be pretty normal when you are finally able to see things from their point of view without the bias of others who think they are the enemy!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through the various ghost dimensions and can’t wait for the next book, Broken, to be published next May (incidentally, a teaser for this next tale is included at the back of the book, so I already know we return to Elena Michaels, the Werewolf from Bitten – hurrah!).

If you haven’t already read the previous installments, I heartily recommend picking them up – you’ll thank me for it in the end!