>> Tuesday, April 22, 2008
TITLE: Stolen (prologue, chapter 1)
AUTHOR: Kelley Armstrong
SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Paranormal fiction (verging on paranormal romance, sometimes)
SERIES: # 2 in the Otherworld series
REASON FOR READING: I really liked Bitten, the first book in the series. I enjoyed the story and the characters and the romance. However, there was something there that held me back from reading further. Compelling as I'd found it, certain elements made me uncomfortable, like the degree of violence in Clay's character and the ease shown by the werewolves when killing humans who hadn't really done anything wrong, other than being in possession of dangerous information.
I told myself that wanting to be comfortable probably isn't the best way to challenge myself as a reader and find reads that really make me respond. I sincerely meant to continue with the series, but a couple of years later, I hadn't followed through. Which was when No Humans Involved came out, and I heard so much about it that I just skipped to it and absolutely LOVED it, even more than Bitten.
So earlier this year, when I found them in my library, I started reading all the books in the middle, in quick succession.
When a young witch tells Elena that a group of humans are kidnapping supernaturals, Elena ignores the warning. After all, everyone knows there's no such thing as witches. As for the thought of other 'supernaturals', well, she'd just rather not dwell on the possibility.While in Stolen the focus is still on Elena and Clayton, as it was in Bitten, Armstrong starts widening our vision of her world.
Soon, however, she's confronted with the truth about her world, when she's kidnapped and thrown into a cell-block with witches, sorcerers, half-demons and other werewolves. As Elena soon discovers, dealing with her fellow captives is the least of her worries. In this prison, the real monsters carry the keys.
During a routine investigation of a reported werewolf sighting, Elena meets with Ruth Winterbourne and her niece, Paige. It's soon clear to Elena that it's a setup and that they're not genuine info dealers, but she's very surprised when she finds out what's going on. Ruth and Paige are witches, you see, just one of the many different kinds of paranormal beings that exist in the world. This is news to Elena, just as it is for the reader, as both she and us previously thought werewolves was as far as the non-human, paranormal world went.
And not only are there more paranormals (witches and sorcerers and vampires and half-demons), they are gathered in something called the Interracial Council, where representatives of all the different races deal with issues that pertain to them and make sure the human world remains unaware of their existence. Werewolves used to be part of the Council, but due to a falling-out years earlier, they've remained aloof, with the existence of the other beings quickly becoming no more than vague legends for the current Pack members.
But now someone is abducting paranormals, and the Council wants the werewolves' help. They're not well-disposed to give it (the Pack has been doing quite well in its isolation, thankyouverymuch), but then Elena gets abducted herself, and if they want her back, the Council's help will result invaluable.
Most of the book's action takes place in a compound where she and other paranormals are being held captive, ostensibly for research purposes. And I say "ostensibly", because while the millionaire who conceived of the project is fascinated by the power implicit in the paranormal and wants to discover its secrets, the guy has a sadistic streak which makes this very claustrophobic book also feel very scary and creepy and disturbing.
In spite, or maybe because of this, I found it to be a very good read. I especially appreciate that Elena is as complicated and interesting a character as she was in Bitten. She's strong and kickass, but she's also smart enough to know her vulnerabilities and she's willing to be cunning and devious when she needs be, even if that requires manipulating her enemies and (*gasp*) making them believe she's their friend. What an un-heroine-like kind of behaviour! She's also got a wry, dark sense of humour, which is fortunate, because she makes the grimness a bit more tolerable.
I also liked seeing the new dimensions of the Otherworld. As you come to realise when you continue with the series, this is a complex world, with several different kinds of beings, all with their strengths and weaknesses and agendas. Stolen does a good job of introducing the concept without overwhelming us.
MY GRADE: A B.