Women of the Otherworld #1: Bitten

It’s that time of the month again… no, the other time of month, when the moon is full and werewolves howl in the night. It’s time to bite into Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong.

Synopsis:

Elena Michaels is the world’s only female werewolf. And she’s tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her–her temper, her violence–but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she’s growing content with that life, with being that person.

So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she’s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she’ll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really.

Source: Goodreads

SPOILERS BELOW

I enjoyed the plot of Bitten. I had some problems, however, with the main character. Now, in general, I’m a fan of kick-ass, tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners women. When writing such a character, however, care should be taken that they do not cross certain lines into becoming unsympathetic; at least not if one intends them to play the role of a traditional hero rather than a borderline-loathsome anti-hero such as Thomas Covenant. While Elena does not descend to such extremes, there are certain aspects of her character which I find unpleasantly hypocritical.

The first is her treatment of Philip. To be clear, I’m not objecting to the fact that she ends up with Clayton at the end of the book instead: the fact that Philip is unable to deal with her being a werewolf, and Elena realizing that her feelings for him are more platonic admiration rather than the romantic love she feels for Clay, are both perfectly acceptable rationales for her changing partners. What I have a problem with is that she cheats on Philip with Clay even when she is still planning on remaining with Philip, even going so far as to say that it doesn’t count as cheating because she’s known Clay for longer. That is not the opinion of a sympathetic protagonist.

The other problem I have is the double-standard regarding murder of humans by werewolves; though this applies to all the werewolf characters, rather than just Elena. Elena is rightly appalled by the casual murder of humans by the villainous werewolves, for instance being disgusted by Cain’s belief that he has the right to hunt humans. But then she talks about her own and Clay’s backstories with lines like these:

“Unable to reason, barely able to think, I was driven entirely by the needs of my stomach. The rabbits and raccoons weren’t enough. I killed people.”
– Chapter 4, “Meet”

“He’d been living the swamps and tenements, eking out an existence killing rats and dogs and children.”
– Chapter 4, “Meet”

I’m sorry, but that is not a line that you casually toss out there and then move on from without acknowledgment. This is actually one of the few things that I’d say Rachel Vincent’s Shifters series does right. I wouldn’t recommend that series by any means – I found it largely boring with only the occasional actually intriguing plot occurrence – but I believe that the third book in the series, Pride, handled the depiction of a lycanthrope who inadvertently ate humans while out-of-control in animal form a lot better. Which is to say, it actually deals with it as the sort of traumatic event which might have consequences, rather than a throw-away line which is never mentioned again.

Eating children should not be something you just drop in passing. It should be, if not the revelation of the villain’s ultimate depths of depravity, at the very least be a major horrifying revelation (Pride) or else foreshadowing of a plot where Yuri Varkanin hunts the protagonist down for revenge (Overwinter by David Wellington – and look for a review of the Cheyenne Clark series to be posted sooner or later, because that was a damned good werewolf story).

Those points aside, though, the book is enjoyable enough to be a promising introduction to the series.

Final Rating: 3/5

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