It’s Halloween, the night for all things spooky and ghastly, so what better time to review a Women of the Otherworld tale of a portal hidden in a letter from hell, of zombies and an infamous serial killer unleashed to stalk the night? Let’s rip open Broken, by Kelley Armstrong.
Ever since she discovered she’s pregnant, Elena Michaels has been on edge. After all, she’s never heard of another living female werewolf, let alone one who’s given birth. But thankfully, her expertise is needed to retrieve a stolen letter allegedly written by Jack the Ripper. As a distraction, the job seems simple enough—only the letter contains a portal to Victorian London’s underworld, which Elena inadvertently triggers—unleashing a vicious killer and a pair of zombie thugs.
Now Elena must find a way to seal the portal before the unwelcome visitors get what they’re looking for—which, for some unknown reason, is Elena.
Is there any character more overdone than Jack the Ripper? He’s in the Nightside and Secret Histories series by Simon R. Green. He’s in the Golgotha series by R. S. Belcher. He’s in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Nobunagun and Fate/Grand Order. He’s even in freaking Babylon 5. Even before picking this book up, I’d had enough Jack the Ripper to last me a lifetime. So, needless to say, I was going into this one with a negative attitude from the start. However, I might have been able to overcome that if the story itself had been up to usual Women of the Otherworld standards. Unfortunately, it was not.
The central mystery which is supposed to be sustaining the novel, Elena and her pack’s quest to track down Jack after they accidentally unleash him from a portal, is so laughably simple that it just gets more and more frustrating the longer the characters fail to figure it out. Look, Jack the Ripper went into the portal, and Matthew Hull came out. Hull claims that he was one of the sacrifices used to make the portal, but the other two sacrifices came out as zombies whereas Hull is still alive. You don’t have to be a polymath to put 2 and 2 together, here; this is not something it should take the length of an entire novel to puzzle out. And yet, the protagonists completely fail to make the connection, even as they remark on how good they are at reading people:
While I wasn’t discounting Tolliver as the source of the power outage, my money was on Shanahan. His “horrified innocent” act didn’t work with me. I’d seen too many mutts pull the same routine. We’d show up at their doorstep and they’d stand there, stammering and wide-eyed at the very notion that they would be hunting people, denials pouring out on breath that reeked of human flesh.
– Broken, “Truth”
Well, guess what? Turns out Tolliver and Shanahan are both completely innocent while you completely fell for Hull’s “horrified innocent” act. Way to go, Elena; I’m slow-clapping for you here.
Broken feels like the first genuine misfire for the Women of the Otherworld series. Dime Store Magic took a little too long to get started and Industrial Magic dragged a little towards the end, but Broken was lackluster throughout. Really, the only bright spot was the introduction of Zoe, the lesbian vampire master thief. She was a fascinating character, and I definitely wouldn’t mind her getting a book of her own. But she alone is not enough to redeem this disappointment of a story, and so it is with a heavy heart that I must give my first non-recommendation to a book in the Women of the Otherworld series.
Final Rating: 2/5