by Kelley ArmstrongElena Michaels is the only female werewolf in the world. In Kelley Armstrong's novel the werewolf gene is transmitted from father to son, and only a few people are strong enough to survive a werewolf bite and become one of them. These few either live in the Pack as part of a werewolf family ruled by the Alpha, or they are loners, known as "mutts".
Elena abandoned the Pack and has been trying to fit into a normal human life in Toronto with her human lover, Philip. But this means she has to sneak out in the middle of the night to change into a wolf and give in to her hairy instincts to hunt. Then an emergency brings her back to Stonehaven, where the Pack is in crisis. A mutt is on the rampage, killing humans. It's up to the Pack to assert its law and hunt down the renegade before it has the chance to kill again.
The problem with returning to Stonehaven is Clay, the werewolf Elena loves but also the reason she left. As the mutt mystery deepens she wonders whether she will ever get to return to her mundane life.
One of the best things about Elena's character is how socially awkward she is. She's had an unhappy childhood and has been passed through a number of unsuitable foster homes. As a result she finds fitting in difficult, to the extent that she doesn't even know how so-called normal people should respond in certain circumstances. So her background is both the reason for her vulnerability and her strength, and she's very believable.
The werewolves in this novel may live a little longer and be a little stronger and faster than regular people, but they're not overpowered, especially when they're up against their own kind. They can die. So the novel's tension is believable, and the action piles on. The book is part supernatural thriller, part steamy romance. Of the bodily fluids flying around, blood is by far the most frequent. There's excitement punctuated by sweetness, and the author hits all of the right emotional buttons, so in that sense this is highly enjoyable. My main complaint is that whilst the story began in a very original way, with the werewolf curse used as an interesting metaphor, it ended fairly conventionally. There are a few characters who seem a bit extreme in their manifestations of good and evil, too, with nice guys who are too nice and psychopaths who take their cues straight out of the Dahmer playbook.
However, for the most part Bitten delivers. Elena is sassy without being annoyingly smart-alec, vulnerable without being wimpy, tough without being invincible, and sought-after without being Mary Sue. It's the recipe for a fun read, and a virtual avalanche of puns about being bitten by the Women Of The Otherworld bug.
9th March 2014
Review © Ros Jackson