Read Recently: The first (book) of January

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

I actually started reading this one in December; but I got about 90 pages in and put it down again (very gently; I’ve only ever thrown a book once) because it was really bugging me and I couldn’t figure out why. Once I did I was able to finish the book off–about another 400 pages. I still can’t say I enjoyed it.

Let me begin by damning it with faint praise; it’s a well-written book and I can understand how some of you might enjoy it very much. Indeed, I know that some of you have. And the subject matter, werewolves, is handled in an interesting fashion, with both the biology and the social habits well worked-out.

The narrator of the book, Elena, is a werewolf. Indeed, she is the only female werewolf in the world. She lives in Toronto (now you see why I bought this book about werewolves in the first place), where she has a nice place, a super-nice, very sensitive live-in boyfriend who she cannot let know she is a werewolf. Elena is putting a good life together, including a job and fitting in with her boyfriend (Philip)’s family, when she is gets a phone call from another life: from Jeremy, the leader of the Pack, the Werewolves she is affiliated. Jeremy (and, by extension, the Pack) needs her help. Against her better judgement, Elena flies down to New York state and tries to help the Pack with its problem while simultaneously maintaining her independence.

That’s a little harder than it seems. The Pack’s problem is that “wild dogs” have been killing people in the area around Jeremy (and by extension, the Pack)’s home. Leaving the bodies for the rest of the humans to find. The Pack doesn’t think it’s wild dogs; the Pack thinks it’s rogue Werewolves.

Rogue Werewolves, called Mutts, are a problem for the Pack, since most often the main reason they aren’t considered suitable for Pack membership is that they are psychopathic killers. So it’s not unlikely that one of them might try something like this, to cause trouble for the Pack. Or is there something bigger, darker, going on?

Of course there is. And Elena is caught up in the middle of it.

So what was bugging me? Well, when Elena arrives at Stonehaven, Jeremy’s estate and the overall home of the Pack (when its constituent members aren’t all off on their own territory), she is greeted by Clay. Clayton. Her ex. The werewolf who bit her and turned her into a werewolf. A full-on, 14 carat, bastard. A jerk. I’m pretty sure she at one point calls him a psychopath (he agrees). I’ve read enough classic Harlequin romances to know what happens when the spirited, intelligent heroine meets the asshole hero: by the end of the book she falls into his arms. I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t like Clay; I liked Philip. And since it’s a rare book that would let the heroine have both (and per Anita Blake that’s not always a good idea), something would have to happen to Philip–possibly something nasty. Since the book’s about werewolves, possibly he would get his throat ripped out.

I read on, hoping I was wrong. And I was, partially. But not about Clay. In fact, it doesn’t take until the end of the book for Elena to be boffing him. For obvious reasons, werewolves get naked often. Elena and Clay don’t have to wait for the drop of a hat; they’re doing it at the drop of anything.

Basically, every page with Clay on it annoyed me, and once he appears he is on, or influences Elena’s actions on, most pages.

Things I liked included the fact that the total number of werewolves in the world is a very small number–I’m remembering less than 200, though I can’t actually find the cite right now.This means that it is actually believable that no one in the rest of the world knows about them except peripherally.

Things I didn’t like included the characters–I didn’t like Elena all that much, I hated Clay, I didn’t think much of the Pack and its politics . . . the characters I liked best were Philip and one of the villains.

Overall: a potentially good book, spoiled for me by Harlequin-style sexual politics. If werewolves interest you, this might work better for you than it does for me.

I shan’t be picking up any more of Armstrong’s books, though.

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