Unlike previous posts where I have looked at a specific series of books by an author, regardless of whether they have done more or not, this time I want to look at the author and the books and you’ll see why as you read on. Armstrong’s main series so far is the Women of the Otherworld, with two trilogies and two more adventure novels which could expand into a series in the future.
The Women of the Otherworld series is what first alerted me to a terrific author who hadn’t seem to hit the mainstream market yet. When Bitten, the first book, was released it was put under the fantasy genre and sometimes moved into the horror genre. It wasn’t until sometime later when a new genre, Dark Fantasy, was recognised and Armstrong, along with many other authors, found a more suitable home for their tales.
One of the greatest lures about this series is that we are not constantly following one character. We are introduced to Elena first and through her we meet Paige, and then Eve and so on. Elena is probably the most popular character and makes a return as the protagonist multiple times as well as a supporting character even more. It is even possible to say that the whole series could have focused around her and her life as a werewolf but to fully comprehend this world Armstrong created, I cannot think of a better way than to move from character to character in a logical way. This is done brilliantly.
All of her stories have been done in the first person narrative, to completely immerse the reader in the story and surroundings. That all her protagonists are female is not as big a deterrent as it may seem. There is obviously some bias but not in a derogatory way, it is simply what Armstrong feels most comfortable doing. There are several short stories from the point of view of male characters that deepen the depth of this series.
They are compelling reads and once you start the series, it will be extremely difficult to stop reading. I have had to wait for each release and each time it seems to get longer between each book whereas now the whole series is available for future readers to enjoy whenever they are ready.
The world is realistic enough but much of the focus lies on the underground world of supernatural beings. It is a very dark, gritty and daunting setting that we are exposed to right from the start of the series and each novel in turn. There are some strong images and feelings but little in the way of strong language or swearing. I will point out that there are some explicit scenes in the books. I admit that it was unexpected but on reflection and further reading it seems to add another layer to the characters and tensions that run throughout each story. These could be left out but without a replacement of equal emotional value, something would be missing from the stories and it could change what genre readers would put it under.
The adventure books focus on Nadia, an ex-cop turned assassin and her relationship with her mentor, Jack. There is a distance between them and everything they do with an underlying urge to bridge that gap and explore what could happen in a more intimate and evolved setting. The conflict of their jobs and adventures prevents this and we are left rooting for something that by the characters own logic, could never happen. While the two books stand-alone right now, there is still potential for more in these series and I would greet these eagerly.
It is interesting that so much of Armstrong’s books focus on characters and relationships. With a background in Psychology, it is obvious why this would appeal to her in her writing and why the characters feel so real, even in a fantasy setting but the seamless blend of this with plot and setting is fantastic and anyone who reads her books will be left wondering why this author has not become as popular as J. K. Rowling or even Stephen King. Unfortunately, the niche genre she writers in still has a representatively small following. This is growing everyday but it will take some time to get close to science-fiction and fantasy genres.
On another note, I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Kelley Armstrong a couple of years ago and it is amazing how little ego she has! My time at university taught me that a good number of writers have massive egos, most likely to help them prepare for the huge number of rejections they face in trying to publish a book. Much like Philip Pullman, it is the opposite with Armstrong and she took so much time in talking and engaging with each fan that came to see her that is a huge inspiration for how to act despite doing something you love every day. It was a fantastic night and one of my fondest memories.