Tuesday, June 29, 2010
CBR Book#49: Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong
This novel is a collection of short stories concerning the male characters of Armstrong's Otherworld novels. When reading Armstrong's first Otherworld novel, Bitten, I was impressed with the amount of back-story that she seemed to have mapped out while not fully exploring it in her first foray. Of course, that left me with curiosity about the specifics of this fully formed background that we, the readers, were not privy to. My curiosity has been sated, at least where the men are concerned, with this novel.
The first story in the collection takes place in 1946. The Pack is drinking in a bar to celebrate the birth of future Alpha wolf Dominic Sorrentino's third son, Antonio. In Armstrong's lore, only males can be born with the werewolf gene and pass it to future generations. The men of the Pack bed human women, keep an eye on them to see if they are pregnant, and then watch the birth. If the baby is a boy then the Pack member must take him from the mother, severing all ties to ensure that no one finds out that werewolves are real. It is a sign of one's dominance and value to the pack if he sires many males. Malcolm Danvers has no sons. No daughters either. He blames his father and carries a lot of shame and anger toward the man and most every one else.
At the persistent ribbing of his Pack mates, Malcolm decides to bed the Japanese waitress in the bar. She is all to happy to seduce him in a manner that makes her seem subservient to the werewolf. Malcolm awakes after their session of baby-making to hear chanting. As the young girl gave him a drink to help make the sex better, Malcolm is still groggy and isn't sure that he is actually seeing what looks like a magic ritual being performed on the girl. He goes back to sleep. When he awakes, the girl is gone and he must track her to find out whether she conceived and whether he has finally sired a male.
The next several stories concern a young boy who is bitten by a werewolf when he is only five or six years old. The boy has purposely sought out the old werewolf and asked for the gift, most probably to escape from his harsh home life. The young boy is able to escape the old wolf and recover from his bite to become a full werewolf well before a hereditary werewolf would. Unfortunately, he has no one to mentor him and help him to control his changes, urges, and keep him grounded in his humanity. He is a feral child.
One day he is approached by a man that he recognizes as a werewolf by scent. The man snatches up the boy and laughs at him, later cuffing his head when the boy growls and struggles. The man was Malcolm Danvers. He tells his Pack of the feral boy werewolf, catching the attention of his son, Jeremy Danvers. Jeremy is determined to bring the child under his protection and into the pack. Once trust is built between the two, Jeremy and the boy, named Clayton, return to Stonehaven to begin lessons on how to be a werewolf without being seen by humans.
Clayton continues to hog the narrative, which is fine by me since he has the most interesting background and stories by far. We learn a lot of the information Armstrong teased us with in Bitten, including how Clay positioned himself as a type of urban legend of doom to keep mutts off of Pack territory. It was so enjoyable that I read until after midnight and then just kept going until I was finished.
The last story concerns Jeremy Danvers, son of Malcolm and protector and father figure to Clay. Jeremy is the Alpha wolf in Bitten and in this tale. It takes place six years and several novels after the events in Bitten, spoiling some things that I haven't yet read. It doesn't spoil them so badly that any other novels would be ruined for me, as Armstrong is able to weave all of the characters and tales together in ways that give you the information you need while leaving out that which can be told later. Any way, Jeremy is visiting his girlfriend, Jaime Vegas, and senses someone watching him. When he investigates, he finds answers to who he is and who is mother was.
Armstrong, as I've said, does a fantastic job creating fully formed and layered characters. There is a reason that Clay is angry and protective and it isn't glossed over. There is a reason that he is different from his Pack members, a reason why he is able to be the protector and enforcer that he is. There is a reason that Jeremy is different from others in the Pack as well. Everything is well thought out and explored. I am only disappointed that I didn't get a version of Elena's being turned by Clay from Clay in this novel. I still want to know more about his motivations, though I know the primary factor. All said, you could do a lot worse for supernatural fixes than Armstrong. A lot worse.