Sunday, March 01, 2009

Re-Read: Bitten and Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

Sigh, I didn't intend to leave this till the last minute... but I had a busy day yesterday and I haven't been feeling very well this week. Overall, it's lack of sleep that leads to all kind of aches :( So I've been catching up today and thus, the late review ^_^; I'm also not looking forward to going back to work yesterday as apparently, the experiment fails and my supervisor is looking for someone or something to blame.

Anyhow, onto something more cheerful: my re-read review :) This month, I've chosen Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. It led to the re-read of the sequel, Stolen... which makes this month's challenge a two-fer for me :)

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
published by Random House in September 2001

Elena Michaels is the world's only female werewolf. And she's tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her— her temper, her violence—but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she's growing content with that life, with being that person.

So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she's trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she'll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Women of the Otherworld, book #1

The Story: Elena Michaels is the world's only female werewolf, courtesy of her lover, Clayton Danvers. It has taken her years to adapt to this new life, accept reality and forgive Clayton. However, after killing a human to protect Pack, Elena realizes that she's become too comfortable with what she is and has crossed a line she never intended to. As a result, Elena freaks out and decides to break off from Pack, move to Toronto and pursue a normal relationship and a normal life.

However, Jeremy Danvers - the Pack's Alpha - is now asking Elena to return and help them resolve a mutt matter. Elena is not thrilled; however, the truth is that she owns Jeremy and so returns. Then, what Elena fears happens - her closeness to Clay makes her re-evaluates all her efforts in the past year... Although, before she can get to that, she and the rest of the Pack will have to survive.

My Opinion: It's no secret that I'm a fan of Kelley Armstrong and her Women of the Otherworld series. However, Bitten doesn't figure into my favorite books of this series and to tell the truth, if I didn't have Stolen when I read Bitten... then perhaps I would not have continued reading this series ^_^; It's not that the book is bad, it's actually quite good... Just not what I was used to - it's a bit less romantic and a bit more 'gory.' I also think it's quite a subtle read, trying to understand Elena's position and true feelings towards Clayton. As a result, I don't very often re-read Bitten and prefer the later books where Elena and Clayton's relationship is better and more solidly established.

So what did I think of Bitten on this re-read? I enjoyed it a lot. I remember the main lines, but my memory was a bit fuzzy on details and that's why it was so fun to re-read it :) I've always loved the setting of this book, i.e. have Elena already a werewolf for a certain number of years and having all the bitten incident as flashbacks and reminescences. I think that was a clever idea, especially with all of Elena's emotional baggage. For sure, Elena is emotionally torn and I think that Ms Armstrong captured that emotions very well. It's not simply being a werewolf, but the fact that she still loves Clayton, but can't accept that he's bitten her and her relationship with Jeremy. She thrives for his acceptance and respect, but she doesn't want to... All those relationship and interactions between the Pack members were the strength of this book... and after reading Ms Armstrong's online novellas... I'm sooo sad about the death of some Pack members T_T

The intrigue was also very interesting - Pack vs mutts, especially mutts that used to have a connection with Pack. It was also a great introduction to the universe of werewolves and the dynamics between Pack members and mutts. I like how all the action was intertwined with the relationship stuff and how Ms Armstrong didn't brush away the issue of Elena's relationship with a human or at least, dealed with it separatedly.

What makes Ms Armstrong's characters and relationships so interesting is that they are all flawed. Nobody is perfect, nobody is trying to be perfect... they are what they are and they're not making excuses for themselves. Best example is Clayton and I just love him for that. I was very relieved at the end of the book when Elena and Clayton got together... they are meant together... but they will have to work hard for it. Again, that is why Ms Armstrong's relationships are so interesting. She doesn't hand them the easy happy ever after ending. Instead, you see how the relationships improve and what they have to work on. The compromises, the obstacles, the sacrifices. It's the case with Elena and Clayton, Paige and Lucas, Jaime and Jeremy and Hope and Karl.

I think that in a way, my re-read of Bitten was even more enjoyable than my first read, because of Ms Armstrong novellas and the other books in the series. Men of the Otherworld and the other novellas have given me great insight into the Pack prior to the events of Bitten - for example, why does Daniel hate Clayton so much, I've also gotten to know Logan and Peter better, how Clayton and Elena met and the beginning of their relationships. So all those events made Bitten more cohesive to me. However, there are also some drawbacks. I think when Ms Armstrong wrote Bitten, she had a strong idea for the series, but I think she was a bit uncertain about where all this was going and that led to some inconsistencies in the storylines. For example, if I'm not mistaken, it's hinted in Bitten that Elena was molested in foster home, which made her stronger... however, I'm pretty certain that in Beginnings (Elena and Clay's novella prior Bitten), she's a virgin. I think that Ms Armstrong was looking for a reasono why Elena was so strong mentally... but in the end, she didn't really need it. There are also a few more details - Logan was not adopted and Jeremy's abilities beyond werewolf. So those are things that I picked up.

My Grade: B. Bitten was definitively a good, solid read - a good beginning to the series. However, contrarily to many series, the first book is not the best in the series... and my reason for not re-reading it as often as the others still stand.

Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
published by Random House in September 2002
When a young witch tells Elena that a group of humans are kidnapping supernaturals, Elena ignores the warning. After all, everyone knows there's no such thing as witches. As for the thought of other 'supernaturals', well, she'd just rather not dwell on the possibility. Soon, however, she's confronted with the truth about her world, when she's kidnapped and thrown into a cell-block with witches, sorcerers, half-demons and other werewolves. As Elena soon discovers, dealing with her fellow captives is the least of her worries. In this prison, the real monsters carry the keys.

: Urban Fantasy
Series: Women of the Otherworld, Book #2

The Story: Elena is on a mission, checking on werewolf information being sold and meets Ruth and Paige Winterbourne who announce to her the existence of supernaturals. In addition to this unexpected turn of event, they also warn her of a group of people kidnapping supernaturals for study and who'd be very glad to get their hands on a werewolf. After actually being a target, Elena and her Alpha, Jeremy, have no choice then join this supernatural council meeting in order to get more information about this threat. Things turn out unexpectedly - not only learning that half-demons, witches and vampires exist, but in the end, the enemies get their hands on Elena.

My Opinion: Contrarily to Bitten, Stolen made my list of favorites in this series and after the re-read, it remains a favorite :) I especially love Stolen because it introduces the other supernaturals, setting up for the rest of the series. I really liked discovering this new world and in the re-read, I enjoyed getting back to the basics.

It was very fun to see where Elena and Clay's relationship has gone to after a year. Like I said, I enjoy it better when I know that their relationship is secure :) It was also fun to see Clay interact with other people. Sure, Clay is known to be anti-social, but it was kind surprising and touching to see Clay take Adam under his wing.

It's kind of weird, reading Stolen after so long and so many books... and realized that when the series start, there were only 4 representatives in the council ^_^; Sure shows how far the series has gone :) I think Ms Armstrong did a good job, setting for the next books to come, introducing new characters, but remaning focus on Elena being the main character. To my big pleasures, there were also some good LOL moments ;)

Once again, the intrigue was very interesting and credits to Ms Armstrong for the great balance. Although the time that Elena spends in the compound is not my favorite part, the escape and rescue plan though, top notch. Very interesting and gave the proper amount of action necessary to the book.

My Grade: A-. All in all, it's still one of my favorite book and there's nothing I really didn't like about it :D

After re-reading part of the series, it makes me realize how much I want to read more about certain characters. Nick and Cassandra for example. Cassandra's character is sooo complex and it'd be interesting to see if Ms Armstrong has anything in store for her... As for Nick, I think he's the werewolf that everyone under-estimates...

Anyway, I'm glad for this re-read challenge, especially since it gives me the opportunity of reviewings book I didn't have reviews for :) Sharing my love!!