Otherworld Nights collects several (eight) stories in the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. The sum of all my knowledge about the series comes from the TV show, Bitten. While I enjoy the TV show, I’m not sure that I’ll read the books. For one, the love triangle in Bitten, which features Elena, Clay, and Elena’s human boyfriend (for the uninitiated, Elena is the only female werewolf in this world, Clay is her former lover/fiancé, who turned Elena into a werewolf without her knowledge or permission) is too much a love triangle for me, and even though the result is obvious, I liked both men in the love triangle enough – well, I almost liked her human boyfriend better. The other reason is that I can’t get on board with only one female werewolf. There are plenty of stories, the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs among them, where women survive the change less often than men (because they’re inherently weaker, or less… survivalist – and let’s not even touch that one for the moment), but to just have one female werewolf makes no sense to me. If one was turned, surely there have been other women strong enough to survive. It feels like an obviously convenient plot device that only serves to make the heroine Special.
All that said. It’s probably no surprise that I didn’t enjoy the short stories about Elena and Clay.
Now, for my review.
The first story is “Demonology,” about a young woman driven to desperate measures to find out what’s going on with her young son, who has a fascination with fire and strange abilities related to the element. She’s waiting for a professor, a PhD doctor who was recommended to her by the last doctor, when she finds out he studies demonology. Properly freaked out, she runs away. Given time to think, she comes back, and the story is about what she discovers from the professor. As a new reader of this series, I can only guess that this book acts as a prelude to a story about elemental magic.
I actually found this short story incredibly intriguing. I liked the mother who believes so strongly that there is nothing wrong with her son, so determined to find the right explanation for his abilities. It ended at the highest point of suspense, after she agrees to work with the demonology professor and after she learns more about what she’s dealing with, when she realizes that her son is not the only one with strange abilities.
“Twilight” focuses on vampires. In this world, vampires enter into a strange pact when they become undead: every year, they must drink fully from a victim, killing them in the process. If they don’t, they begin a quick descent into true death. Cassandra, main character and narrator of this novel, finds herself unable to renew her contract for another year.
Again, the premise of the supernatural culture/way of living/worldbuilding didn’t really make sense to me (see my rant about one single female werewolf, above). Why would vampires have a contract like that? How does it fit into the magic systems or supernatural laws of the world? Yet, I found myself intrigued by this vampire’s struggle with life. Is she ready to die, is that why she can’t bring herself to kill a human?
The third story, “Stalked,” never really grabbed me. Taking place years after Clay and Elena get together (they have two young children), it’s set in St. Louis, where they spend a belated honeymoon. Written from Clay’s point of view, it tells of Clay’s determination to keep Elena clueless about the stray werewolf (that is, a werewolf without a pack, an outlaw) that has been following them around the city.
About the only thing I enjoyed about this short story is the portrayal of an un-perfect honeymoon, and the exploration of how a couple might deal with a honeymoon that doesn’t meet their expectations. Clay’s efforts to keep Elena from figuring out about their stalker are a bit ridiculous, but especially so because Elena supposedly has the best nose and tracking ability of all the werewolves he knows.
In “Chivalrous,” Reese, a young Australian werewolf, son of a renegade werewolf and the woman he was ordered to kill but married instead, meets a young woman at college who is everything he thought he didn’t want. Turns out, she’s the Alpha werewolf’s daughter – the same Alpha who has been trying to hunt down and kill Reese’s parents ever since his father ran away from the pack with his mother. According to Reese, the narrator, the Australian pack is much stricter in terms of discipline than their North American cousins, hence the kill orders and the hiding. As Reese and his young lady become more deeply involved, he risks his safety (and that of his parents). True love, though.
This one has a surprise ending – or, it surprised me. I won’t give it away, but I think it made the story even better. Deeper. It also set up a really interesting main character in Reese, and while I don’t want to read more about him, that’s due to my own predisposition against the series because of what I’ve learned watching the TV show.
“Lucifer’s Daughter,” set in almost entirely in a museum, introduces (well, to new readers, anyway) the half-demon Hope and her werewolf boyfriend, Karl. Hope has an interesting family, including a grandmother who funds a special museum exhibit based on Hope’s work. Karl is a thief, and while he’s there to support Hope receive her dubious honors at the exhibit opening, he’s also there to scope out likely artifacts. He enlivens the evening by letting loose a demon from its box. Hope and Karl spend the rest of the evening struggling to cage it again.
The relationship between Hope and Karl felt comfortable but still exciting, the situation was thrilling and suspenseful but also quite funny. Out of all the stories in the collection, this is probably my favorite.
“Hidden,” a story about a Christmas vacation that Clay and Elena take with their two young children, didn’t interest me at all, so I only read the first few pages before moving on to the next story.
With another lengthy story about Elena and Clay, et al., this is where I pooped out and stopped reading due to waning interest in the universe. So the last two stories are up to you to discover!
Ultimately, if you’re into the Women of the Otherworld series, you’ll most likely enjoy these short stories. Even if you haven’t begun the series, or you’re not a fan, there are some interesting pieces in here that might pique your interest. Definitely for urban fantasy and paranormal romance fans, although the romance is light to non-existent in these shorts. Some of the stories are even good introductions to a few narratives in the series.
*Advance copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Werewolves: You’ve seen a lot of these lately on the blog, but here are a few of my favorites:
Vampires: Again, these may be familiar.
Demons and Half-Demons: Less “alike” than the others (in one case, high fantasy instead of urban fantasy/paranormal romance), but still great reads.