Wednesday, 4 February 2009

‘Men of the Otherworld’ – Kelley Armstrong (Orbit)


And here is the next ‘guilty pleasure’ book...

Not so long ago, in my review of Patricia Briggs' 'Moon Called', I mentioned that it felt to me that male lead characters were under represented in the Urban Fantasy Genre. Not only was I pointed in the direction of several U/F books with male leads (thanks again to everyone who commented on the post!) but now it appears that Kelley Armstrong has heard my plea and written an entire book based around certain of the male characters in her ‘Otherworld’ setting...
Closer examination reveals that Armstrong didn’t actually write the book in response to the random grumblings of a UK blogger, bet I had you all going though! ;o) ‘Men of the Otherworld’ is a collection of tales that you can find, for free, on her website. This immediately raises the question of whether you want to fork out for a book full of stuff that you can get for free, maybe you do and maybe you don’t... Any proceeds from the sale of this book will be going to charity though (it says so in the introduction) so that’s ok :o)

The stories collected in ‘Men of the Otherworld’ are centred around the werewolf Alpha, Jeremy Danvers, but most of them (almost all of them) are told through the eyes of others; namely Jeremy’s father Malcom and his ward Clayton. This approach means that not only do we get to find out about a large chunk of Jeremy’s life (from birth to the present day) but we also get to find out more about the people who are an important part of his life. Foremost of these is Clayton Danvers (Clay) who, as a curious six year old, asked a werewolf to bite him just so he could see what happened next...

‘Men of the Otherworld’ is a three hundred and sixty nine page read that feels a lot shorter due to its short story format. As I’ve already mentioned, these stories are linked but they can also be split into three ‘chunks’, depending on character perspective, and read independently of each other. The stories are, for the most part, good fun to read and fulfil their purpose in terms of filling in the back story for the characters. Fans will have read these already but they’re still very much a good place for casual readers of the series (like me) to jump in and find stuff out.

Malcom’s tale (‘Infusion’) tells of the circumstances surrounding Jeremy’s birth, circumstances that will give the reader a little more background to the ‘non werewolf’ supernatural abilities that Jeremy has. It also gives us a few hints about the reasons why Malcom turned out the way he did (i.e. his relationship with Jeremy’s Grandfather). It’s a short read but does its job very well.

Clayton’s tale takes up the greater part of the book as it deals with his being bitten and everything he must go through as he is integrated into the werewolf pack (and back into society as a whole) as well as his role in Jeremy’s ascending to pack Alpha. This story spans several years and has a tendency to meander as a result, sometimes I just wanted it to get to the point instead offering up more detail that didn’t really move the story forwards (as far as I could see)! According to the introduction though, it was the fans who asked for these stories and it was these people who were very much on Armstrong’s mind when she wrote this story...
On the bright side so, what you do get is an intriguing ‘White Fang’ style story that takes it’s time in building up Clay’s character and also offers an in depth look into werewolf life that’s full of the explosive fights that I’ve come to love.

It’s a shame that the final story, ‘Kitsunegari’, didn’t quite live up to the other two as far as I was concerned. ‘Infusion’ leaves the door open for this tale to be told and I’m not sure that it should have been, sometimes it’s better to leave things deliberately vague...
What we get instead is a story that ties off the loose ends but in doing so presents the reader with an antagonist that is so easily defeated that the ending becomes a bit of a damp squib. All Jeremy has to do is say ‘no’ (and tell a couple of lies) and it’s job done... Like I said, I’m not sure that this particular tale needed to be told.

‘Men of the Otherworld’ is a mixed bag in terms of its contents but is still an entertaining read if you haven’t already read these stories on the website. I’m looking forward to more from Kelley Armstrong :o)

Eight out of Ten

4 comments:

Hagelrat said...

I love this book, just finished it and posted on it today.I don't think it would be a good introduction to the Otherworld series though.

SciFiGuy said...

I quite liked this backstory novel. I agree with Hagelrat that it best left until after you have sampled the series.

Graeme Flory said...

Having thought about it, I'm half and half on this one... I can see this book as a great place to get started as it takes you right back to the very beginning but maybe it would be better to meet the characters, in other books, first.
I don't know now...

Anonymous said...

Loved the book would like to see Jermey find his wolf soul mate and have powerfull kids not crazy for the Jamie as his love partner.