Good morning, and welcome to the first in a (maybe, if I can pay attention to the idea long enough) series of posts about 'Series That Are Better Than LKH'.
We'll start with Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series, more often called the Women of the Otherworld, though there are some short stories that focus on the male characters. Which is why I prefer just calling it Otherworld. And it's my blog, so I do what I want.
For proof of my Powers of Randomness, Random Thor!
First off, since this is a 'Better Than LKH' series, it's in the same genre. That being urban fantasy. What, I can hear at least one of you asking (and yes, I'm looking at you, Susanne), is urban fantasy. it's a genre of fantasy writing where most of the action takes place within an urban setting, a city. It is typically set in modern or future times, with the addition of magic or aliens, but it can be set in historical periods as well, provided that the action occurs primarily in a city.
Okay. I'm going to just talk about the first book in the series, and then a little general squee about the overall world and why I love it so.
The first book in the series is called Bitten and it is the story of Elena Michaels. Elena is a writer for a popular newspaper in Toronto. She lives with her boyfriend Philip and is, most of the year, a perfectly normal, relatively happy woman.
What no one else knows is that Elena is on the run from herself and her past. Bitten years ago by the man she loved, Elena is the only female werewolf in the world. Unable to forgive or understand Clay's reasons for changing her, a process that has killed every other woman it was tried on, Elena has left the Pack that sheltered and taught her to control her new instincts to try and live a normal life.
Jeremy, the Pack Alpha, has respected her desires and made certain that the other members of the Pack (Clay, we're looking at you) respect them as well. However, when people start showing up murdered on Pack land, drawing attention to the Pack and endangering the people that Elena knows and loves, she is drawn back to hunt down the threat.
Bitten could almost be a stand alone, in that the Pack in the book are the only supernatural characters that you meet. In fact, as far as they are aware, they are the only supernatural creatures that actually exist. It isn't until the second book, Stolen, that the wider world of this universe begins to be revealed.
Things that I love about this series:
The women are real women. They're not all 'manly tough', 'I can kick every guys ass'. Which, while it can be a little fun on occasion, is not realistic. And to be fair to Elena, she can kick more ass than your average person. What with being a werewolf and the combat training and all, but she has to work at it. The women have realistic issues with trying to find their place in the world and (in some cases) trying to change the cultural stereotypes of their own people that are holding them back. This is especially true in the case of the witches, who we meet in the second book. Paige Winterborne is the daughter of the head of the American Coven and part of her story is her struggle to do what she knows is best for her and for the other women of the Coven, breaking them away from old fashioned notions of what is 'appropriate' for witches (who are all women) to do and allowing them to be full participants in the world.
Men who do shit get called on their shit. And I'm looking at you, again, Clay. I won't tell you what happens between Clay and Elena because it's a major plot point, but unlike in many supernatural romance kind of situations, Elena doesn't go all gooey and doe eyed when Clay acts like a cave man around her. Seriously, I just read a book where the man essentially meets a woman and declares that if there weren't other people around he'd just pin her to the wall right then and there. And rather than kick him in the balls and run away, she melts and thinks that he's the hottest thing. *rolls eyes* And that's when I tossed the book. *sigh* Seriously. To be fair to Clay, that is not something he would ever do. Not just because he's more than aware that Elena can and will hand him his own spleen, but because even he's aware enough to know that that is Just Wrong.
Truth be told, Clay has enough issues on his own - he's the least human-thinking of the entire Pack, for reasons which I shall not disclose! :p Even knowing that, however, and to a point understanding why Clay is not as socialized as the rest of the Pack, he does not get a free pass for his inappropriate behavior. There is a very clear progression of Clay learning what is and is not acceptable and *why*, and you can also see that Clay *wants* to learn these things in order to make the people he cares about most, Elena and Jeremy, happy.
The books are well plotted, well written and the universe building is believable. For all that some of the characters have phenomenal cosmic powers, they are still very human in their flaws. There is some sex in the books, as several of the characters find people that they love and eventually pair off with them but it is not the focus or the driving impetus of the books. It's incidental and natural feeling given the characters and their story arcs. It is also not graphically depicted. There is some violence, but again it is not graphically depicted and it works within the story, being a natural consequence of the choices of the characters and not dictating the movements of the characters to justify the fight sequence or what have you.
Over all, I give the entire series a 4.5/5, just because I like some of the books and the characters that they focus on, less than others. But it's an excellent series and if you enjoy this genre I heartily recommend it.