Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Women of the Otherworld, Book 1
First of all, I would like to say that although there is a TV show adaptation of this book, I do not recommend the show even though I highly recommend the book series. I choose not to say that the TV show is an adaptation of the entire book series here because the TV show diverges so much from the first book of the series that it’s practically its own thing. The only thing that the TV show really shares with the book is a general starting plot and the same characters (by name mostly, not actions or motivations). Everything that I really enjoy about this book series was either watered down or gotten rid of all together. Hands down, the book series is much better than the TV show.
That out of the way, I’d like to discuss the things about the book that I really enjoyed. As Kelley Armstrong is one of my favourite authors, there are many things that I liked, from the characters to the plot to the writing style itself.
As Bitten was first published in 2001, it is obvious that Armstrong’s more recent books were better written. That isn’t saying that this series isn’t written wonderfully, because it is, just that if you’ve read some of her more recent reads it is easy to see that she’s grown enormously as a writer since Bitten. Having read most of Armstrong’s published books at this point in my life, I can say with confidence that the Women of the Otherworld series remains one of my top 5 favourite series of all time.
The characters themselves are extremely engaging. As the book centers around Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf, Armstrong gives the reader an insight into what it is like to be both inside the group and separate from it at the same time. As well, it shows Elena’s struggle between her two “worlds” along with her struggle to accept herself.
While this is a book that surrounds the supernatural, it deals heavily with understanding yourself and the expectations both you and others place on yourself. By getting an inside view into Elena’s head, the reader is able to see what she is struggling with and what it takes for her to overcome her inner demons.
Of course, this is not a book that focuses on mental health in the forefront. Most of what Elena struggles with happens in the background and it is up to the reader to piece things together. I believe that Armstrong wrote this part of the book beautifully as not everyone who is going through things like PTSD and other mental illnesses are conscious that they are going through it. By not making it a running stream of consciousness throughout the book, I believe Armstrong was able to keep it as close to reality as possible in a book about werewolves.
As the male lead, I have a huge soft spot for Clay. I love his “I give no shits” attitude and his ability to be comfortable in his own skin. While this is partially because of the family that he surrounds himself with, it also shows how strong of a person Clay is because he’s not willing to let society force him to pretend to be someone he’s not. Not everyone is confident enough in themselves to be able to do this.
While no great detail happens, there are parts of this book that are quite sexual. If you are not comfortable reading these things, or are too young to read them, I would suggest that this book/series might not be for you. I read this series for the first time when I was in high school, reading it from the ages of 14-17, and I can admit that I was too young at the time. This book is definitely for mature audiences, and if you are too young or do not consider yourself to be mature I recommend not reading it at the moment. Maybe wait until you are more mature and can fully appreciate the complexity of the story.
If you are a person that enjoys supernatural stories, I definitely recommend this book/series. It showcases werewolves in a way that I haven’t really seen duplicated in other works. Armstrong’s writing is wonderful, even reading it 18 years later. As well, it does not have what I consider to be antiquated ideals on issues that dates so many books that were released at the same time as Bitten.
One of my favourite parts of this book would have to be Elena trying to convince herself that she doesn’t love Clay and doesn’t want to be with him. But she also rationalizes with herself that she isn’t really cheating on Philip because it’s Clay and not being with Clay in at least some capacity isn’t possible for her.
Let me take a second here to say that I do not condone cheating of any kind. While I understand the sentiment that Elena is saying, it is still cheating. Even if she did not have sex with Clay, which she does multiple times, I would still consider it to be emotional cheating.
Of course, Clay does everything in his power to try and show Elena that they belong together. He wears his wedding ring because to him, they’re already eternally together. While he’s not happy about her having another guy, he doesn’t yell at her about it, instead trying to convince her in other ways that Philip isn’t the one she wants to be with. He’s even willing to stay in the apartment that Elena and Philip are sharing so as to show Elena that he can play nice. Oh, and also that he’s willing to do anything to protect her. Heck, Clay’s even willing to risk his own life to save Philip instead of leaving him to Daniel because he knew that it was what Elena would have wanted him to do.
I thought it was adorable that Elena ended up choosing a human version of Jeremy. Her own personal Prince Charming, if you will. She chose someone who was basically like a father figure and would be patient with her even when she knew she was screwing up. (I’m only going to briefly mention daddy issues and now I’m moving on.)
Jeremy as his own character is amazing. In this first book, he’s the strong leader that the Pack needs. He’s methodical in his planning which is a stark contrast to the way that Elena and Clay try to handle things. He’s willing to hear input from the Pack as to what should be done, but ultimately he’ll do what he believes needs to be done regardless of what the others think. Like keeping Elena and Clay home while going on a reconnaissance mission. Or locking Elena in the cage because he knew that she was emotionally wrecked and couldn’t be trusted outside of it at the moment.
Armstrong wrote Elena’s flashbacks to her change and the time directly after it so wonderfully. These scenes fit perfectly into the flow of the story, never interrupting what was going on in the current timeline. Written this way, only giving the reader little bits of information at a time, helped create a secondary narrative with past Elena. It helped me understand why Elena was so determined to blame Clay for everything and why she felt like she owed so much to Jeremy. It showed how Jeremy was the father figure that Elena had always wanted but felt like she didn’t deserve.
Now to get into the darker parts of the series. Daniel is an evil genius (and Armstrong is as well for being able to create such a villain). Using someone from the Pack’s history was amazing as it allowed past issues to be aired and it allowed for a greater insight into how the Pack operated before the series began. Bringing in some dangerous mutts as well allowed for further understanding of the way the werewolf community operates in this world. It also allows the reader to see that humans can truly be the monsters and that “animalistic” behaviours are rarely carried out by animals other than humans.
Logan’s death alone shows human capacity for violence. It was only by strangulation, something that werewolves would not consider as it is a cowardly way to go about things. Even further than that, LeBlanc’s reliance on weapons such as guns and knives show how vicious and cruel humans can really be. It was the human side of Brandon that caused him to “play” with that poor boy in the rave, not the wolf side of him. By choosing human killers Daniel brought out the worst in werewolves – their human side – and gave them more power to inflict damage and destruction.
While I am loathe to say this, Peter was written to die. While I know that Logan was the same way, as we only get to see one phone interaction between Elena and Logan, Logan’s death was more impactful. He was Elena’s best friend and the only connection she wanted to keep with the Pack. Peter, on the other hand, was a complete throwaway. If this was Star Trek, I’d have to say that Peter is a red shirt.
Finally, I want to touch on the reasons that Elena decided she had to leave the Pack. While it’s true she made the decision to kill Jose Carter and that scared her into leaving, I do not believe that this was truly the reason that Elena left. I believe that her desire to have a normal life, a normal family, is what ultimately got her to leave. While she as content with the pack, Elena needed to experience the mundane in order to fully understand that. She never would have been able to stay with the pack if she didn’t eventually leave. Yes killing Carter was the catalyst to her leaving but I truly believe that it was just a convenient excuse for Elena. She was always going to leave the pack for a period of time. Her “hatred” of Clay and her unwillingness to accept his apology, her inability to accept that the love and friendship that the Pack gave her was pure, her desire to fit into society her whole life. All of these things made it impossible for Elena to have never have left the Pack. She needed to leave in order to grow.
I don’t want to say more than that on this book because from that point, my feelings on the characters and the plot bleed into the rest of the series. I don’t want to go into the other books in case anyone who reads this hasn’t read further into the series yet. If you’re one of those people, I encourage you to keep reading because I sure will be (again).