Women of the Otherworld #10: Frostbitten

It’s a damn cold night, and even wolves can get frostbite. The women of the Otherworld have returned for their latest adventure; so let’s give seven days to the wolves with Frostbitten, by Kelley Armstrong.

Synopsis:

Being the world’s only female werewolf has its advantages, such as having her pick of the Otherworld’s most desirable males. And Elena Michaels couldn’t have picked a more dangerously sexy and undyingly loyal mate than Clayton Danvers. Now their bond will be put to the ultimate test as they follow a bloody trail of gruesome slayings deep into Alaska’s frozen wilderness.

There’s nothing the werewolf community dislikes more than calling attention to itself. So when a pair of rogue man-eaters begins hunting humans, it’s up to Elena and Clayton to track down the predators. But any illusions their task would be simple are quickly dispelled. For even in werewolf terms, there’s something very disturbing taking place in the dark Alaskan forests. A werewolf more wolf than human and more unnatural than supernatural is on the hunt—a creature whose origins seem to spring from ancient legends of the shape-shifting Wendigo.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Clayton and Elena find themselves confronting painful ghosts from their pasts — and an issue neither of them is eager to discuss. For one of them has been chosen to become the new Pack leader, and as every wolf knows, there can be only one Alpha. They’ve always been equals in everything. Now, when their survival depends more than ever on perfect teamwork, will instinct allow one of them to lead…and the other to follow?

Source: Goodreads

SPOILERS BELOW

The Women of the Otherworld series returns to its roots, with werewolf Elena once more taking the position of protagonist. This time, she and Clay find themselves in the untamed Alaskan wilderness, where they must confront the threat posed by a newly introduced supernatural race: the shape-shifting Ijiraat. These mysterious and powerful creatures, the latest introduction to the Women of the Otherworld series’s ever-growing roster of supernatural threats, will doubtless prove to be formidable adversaries who Elena and Clay will have to use all of their considerable strength and cunning to overcome.

Except not.

You see, Frostbitten is a throwback to the first Women of the Otherworld novel in another way, too: the main conflict is Pack werewolves versus rogue werewolves. That’s right, the antagonists aren’t this new heavily hyped species of supernatural, but just your plain everyday werewolf. In essence, all the hints and mystery and lore scrounged up by the protagonists about this mysterious and elusive new race are nothing but a giant series of red herrings. While some Ijiraat do appear at the end of the novel, they do absolutely nothing and have so little plot relevance that they could be cut entirely and the story would still play out the same way. What a letdown.

Maybe it was the intent all along for the Ijiraat to be red herrings: have all sorts of horrific acts blamed on these unstoppable monsters, only to reveal at the end that the real monster is man. (Or werewolf, I guess). It’s a twist I’ve seen done successfully in, for instance, The Creeping, by Alexandra Sirowy. However, such books have to walk a careful line. The more they build up the menace and suspense surrounding the supposed threat, the more the audience will anticipate the climactic unveiling of the threat. It is, after all, the classic horror-movie build-up used to such great effect in films like Alien and Jaws: at first you only see tiny glimpses of the monster, see the aftermath of its attacks and hear characters speculate about it; and then, at the film’s climax, you get the money shot where the monster finally reveals itself in all its glory. To subvert that reveal is to disappoint the audience with an anticlimax. And when the Ijiraat are finally shown, not as unstoppable supernatural killing machines but as a bunch of lazy whiners who complain about the rogue werewolves horning in on their territory but refuse to do anything about it and leave it to the protagonists to solve the problem, it is a massive disappointment.

Well, the rest of the stuff that happens in the book is decent enough, and the Ijiraat play a small enough role in the plot that they don’t manage to drag it down too badly. Still, such a major failure in narrative buildup and payoff destroys any chance the book had at excelling. In the end, the result is solidly mediocre.

Final Rating: 3/5

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