Kelley Armstrong was the first paranormal fantasy author I read – and I picked this off the shelves just to check out whether she is as good as I thought she was, back then. Men of the Otherworld is – apparently – a series of short stories narrated by Clayton, charting his earlier life, before he makes an appearance in Bitten. If you’re a fan of the sub-genre, but somehow managed to avoid Armstrong’s series, then I recommend them. Armstrong’s strength is her characterisation – you care about her protagonists, even when they don’t behave very well. Which is just as well, in Clayton’s case.
Clayton is a young, neglected child who is bitten by a werewolf and Changes. He survives by scavenging in dustbins and living rough. By rights, he should be tracked down and killed. That is the fate of all mutts who live outside a Pack. But he has a saviour – Jeremy Danvers, who finds him, takes him home and tries to civilise him. Can he succeed in taming Clayton sufficiently? Because if he doesn’t the Pack Alpha will decree his death, something even Jeremy’s role as the Alpha’s favourite won’t allow him to disobey. The clock is ticking…
Armstrong has made a very good job of welding these stories together into a coherent whole and if you’re not a short story fan – many people aren’t – don’t let that put you off. If it wasn’t mentioned at the start of this book, I don’t think you’d know. If you’re lucky enough not to have read Armstrong’s series, I would highly recommend starting here, before going onto Bitten. It gives a really good introduction to the world and give some intriguing background on the key characters you’ll encounter, later.
As ever, her depiction of her protagonist is spot on. So often, successful authors disappoint when they attempt to go back and embellish an already established world. Not so in this case. There is plenty of tension, as we follow Clayton’s fortunes and Armstrong successfully manages to whip the narrative along at a decent clip, while developing her characters and their world. The book did nothing but enhance my understanding of what comes later and reminded me all over again, why I got so sucked into the sub-genre of paranormal fantasy. I blame it all on Kelley Armstrong!