Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Book 1)
by Kelley Armstrong
Originally posted January 2006

Credits: For George, who was nice enough both to lend it to me, and to give me fair warning — and for Lou, who helped me think things through. ;)

I was set to really enjoy this story, as I've always loved the idea of being able to shift shape into a powerful animal form. Now I've finished it, I'd have to say it was… okay. I'll give a synopsis and list the problems I had with it first, so I can close on a positive note.


Elena, our protagonist, is utterly unique. In this world, "werewolfry" is invariably contracted only through one of two ways. Either it is acquired through the male genetic line, or through being bitten — which is ordinarily so painful and damaging that few men and no women survive the process.

Further, there are only about 35 werewolves in the entire world, and of those, less than ten are members of the ruling class Pack — who refer disparagingly to all the remaining, lone werewolves in the world as "mutts." Thus, due to a remarkable set of circumstances Elena is not only a member of the exclusive Pack — she's also the only female werewolf in the entire world.

Elena is not happy about this, as she feels deeply betrayed by her lover having bitten her. After a decade or so of being a werewolf, she's left her Pack in an attempt to discover who she truly is. Currently she's financially successful, romantically involved with a nice man, creating a nice niche for herself in her job… basically just trying to make it in the human world, even as she must struggle to deal with the issues of occasionally being a wolf.

Then her pleasant, carefully constructed "human world" life has to be put on hold — because the Pack calls for her return. Someone is messily killing humans near the Pack's home, and the Pack is afraid they'll be discovered. Elena must decide between a nice life she's created and chosen for herself; and a life she loves on a gut level, but which was created and chosen for her by her former lover.

Tails down

Right off the bat, I had a serious issue with two of the basic premises of the story: women aren't as intimidating, or as able to endure pain, as men are. Unfortunately for the story's background premise, every independent study ever done on the subject demonstrates conclusively that women have more endurance, and handle pain better, than men. I'd guess, from this story's basic premise, the female author has not yet given birth or engaged in any very physical sport.

Also, Elena routinely laments her inability to scare off even normal human men, and concludes women just can't do intimidation. When I read that I had to laugh; it was painfully obvious the author had personal issues showing up in the character.

As a woman, I have more than once "bounced" men away from bothering me — sometimes without even trying. Frankly, I wish the author had done a bit of research before making such silly assumptions. Issues such as these make it hard to take the story's background seriously. Once my suspension of disbelief has been so rudely shattered, it's like poor Humpty Dumpty — everything comes tumbling down, and it can't be put back together again.

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