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Bitten: Women of the Otherworld #1    by Kelley Armstrong order for
by Kelley Armstrong
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2003 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Ready for a new twist on familiar werewolf tales? Then check out Bitten, Kelley Armstrong's smart, well-written, surprisingly complex and very sensual first novel. Elena Michaels is the only female werewolf in existence - a distinction she is neither comfortable with nor wants. The only thing she truly craves is a normal life, one that died with her parents in a horrible car crash. One too many foster homes have given Elena a hard edge and a tough exterior. Yet inside she's frightened, vulnerable and looking for the love she's been denied for so long.

As a young journalism student Elena meets brilliant academic Clayton Danvers. Within a year they're engaged and Elena is certain she's filled that empty void and is about to embark on a perfect new life with the perfect man. She eagerly accompanies Clay to Stonehaven in upstate New York - the sprawling and very isolated estate of his mentor Jeremy. It is here that Clay inflicts a 'love bite' on Elena and she discovers his true nature; he's a werewolf.

No other woman has survived a werewolf's bite, let alone her first agonizing 'Change'. While Elena fights for her life and her very sanity, Clayton is banished for defying Pack rules. Now it's up to Pack Alpha Jeremy to help Elena accept and control her 'Changes' without endangering herself or humans. After an agonizing year of adjustments and still furious over Clay's deception, Elena leaves Stonehaven and returns to Toronto. She's determined to live her life away from Pack control.

Each day is a struggle to lead a normal life while at the same time controlling violent lycanthropic urges. She moves in with a gentle and much older man who appears to understand her 'mood swings' and need to go off alone on certain nights. Elena even contemplates marriage, if only for a semblance of elusive normalcy. Then she receives an urgent summons from Jeremy -- her presence is required to help eliminate a threat against the Pack. Mutts (half-breed werewolves) have moved into Pack territory and will stop at nothing destroy the Pack and claim Elena as their own.

In her stunning debut novel, Canadian writer Armstrong has taken the old tried and true werewolf mythos, dusted it off and given it a fresh new luster. Her cast of dynamic, complicated, and in some cases damaged, characters are the book's true focus. Brutal and passionate, playful and carefree, wild and unpredictable or driven by pure instinct, Armstrong's small pack of hereditary werewolves and their close knit human/wolf dynamic are a rare treat. Elena walks the most precarious line, alternately reviling or reveling in her feral and often brutal nature and most of all trying to deny the all-consuming passion she still harbours for Clayton.

Bitten is a must, MUST read and Armstrong a strong talent on the rise. If you end up liking this book as much as I did, then look for the sequel, Stolen, out right now in trade paperback. And in early 2004, watch for Dime Store Magic, the third in this highly readable and intriguing supernatural series, Women of the Otherworld.

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