By now we’re all well acquainted with the women of the Otherworld. But what about that men? What untold tales have they been getting involved in off-screen? Here comes the short story anthology to answer all your questions: it’s Men of the Otherworld, by Kelley Armstrong.
As a curious six-year-old, Clayton didn’t resist the bite—he asked for it. But surviving as a lone child-werewolf was more than he could manage—until Jeremy came along and taught him how to straddle the human-werewolf worlds, gave him a home…and introduced him to the Pack. So begins this volume, featuring three of the members of the American Pack—a hierarchical founding family where bloodlines mean everything and each day presents a new, thrilling, and often deadly challenge. For as Clayton grows from a wild child to a clever teen who tests his beloved mentor at every turn, he must learn not only to control his animal instincts but to navigate Pack politics—including showing his brutal archnemesis, Malcolm, who the real Alpha is…
Remember when I reviewed A City Dreaming and said that the “a novel” subtitle was a lie because it was actually a short story collection? Men of the Otherworld is the opposite: it subtitles itself as “a collection of Otherworld tales”, but the bulk of it is in fact a single story about Clay’s youth. It covers a large period of his early life: how he was bitten by a werewolf, how he was adopted by Jeremy, and his experiences at school. This is all good information to have, as Clay was pretty enigmatic when he was introduced in Bitten: we were told he had all this history with Elena which ultimately made her choose him over her fiancé, but it was left pretty vague as to what. Men of the Otherworld fills in a lot of important gaps in his backstory and gives me a much better sense of who Clay was when he met Elena. Unfortunately, this book comes to an end before his first meeting with her, so I still don’t have a good idea of their early relationship.
Also, the ending to the Malcolm subplot is a major anticlimax. I suppose it’s supposed to be poignant that they never got the final confrontation they seemed to be building towards and that Malcolm just ending up dying in some random fight against some random guy who himself died in another random fight without any involvement from the heroes; but it’s not exactly dramatically satisfying closure to that whole arc. For the book’s main antagonist to just sort of give up and wander off to die is questionable storytelling.
The only parts not about Clay are the bookends, which reveal the secret of Jeremy’s Kogitsune heritage. Useful information to know; but I can’t forgive the book for getting my hopes up by having Jeremy initially mistake one of the fox maidens for Zoe Takano. Zoe, if you might recall, is a lesbian vampire jewel thief who made only a brief cameo in the Women of the Otherworld series; a potentially fascinating character who I hoped would return for more stories or even her own book. It is a desire I have thus far been disappointed in. Then Men of the Otherworld mentioned her name, I thought the time had finally come for her reappearance… only for it to be a fake-out. Boo.
Final Rating: 3/5