Women of the Otherworld 13.3: Otherworld Chills

So, here we are. After thirteen novels and four short story collections, we have at last come to the final installment of the Women of the Otherworld series. So, after saying our final farewells, let’s shiver to Otherworld Chills, by Kelley Armstrong.

Synopsis:

Embrace the obscure. New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong once again opens the gates to the Otherworld. This collection of rare and never-before-published novellas and short stories brings the clever wit, dark twists, and intense suspense Otherworld readers have come to expect. Favorite characters return, secrets are revealed, and several important storylines reach their conclusions.

These stories cover a whole range of characters from the Women of the Otherworld, and answer many mysteries and questions from the series. A vital and fantastic collection of stories, many of which are be brand-new, while others have only appeared on the author’s website.

Source: Goodreads

SPOILERS BELOW

It’s the end of an era: we have at last come to the conclusion of Women of the Otherworld. And though there are plenty of other urban fantasy series out there for me to read, parting is still such sweet sorrow. Let’s look at the final crop of stories and see if they are a worthy conclusion to the series.

The first story, “Brazen”, starts off with a lot of potential but ends up unsatisfying in the end. While Thirteen mostly closed out the series’ lingering plot threads, it did open up one new one by revealing that Jeremy’s father Malcolm was actually alive, having been turned into a supernatural Winter Soldier by one of the Cabals. With him escaping custody at the end of that book, it was something that really needed to be addressed before the series finished. And this story seems to do that… only to end with Malcolm still alive, still at large. In other words, nothing was really resolved at all. The story’s other antagonist is someone who has been hiring bounty hunters to eliminate werewolves. That also seems like it might make for an interesting story – but it is also left unresolved. The bounty hunters are defeated, but we never actually find out who was hiring them or why. If this collection came in the middle of the series, I’d assume it was a plot hook for a future antagonist; but this is it, the end. That’s a newly introduced plot thread which is going to be left dangling for all time. On top of which, since this is Nick’s final story, I was correct in my fears that his revenge subplot would never get any resolution either.

Well, fine. If the book series isn’t going to provide answers, I’ll make them up for myself. Malcolm anticlimactically dies offscreen after his wounds get infected, Khal Drogo-style. The bounty hunters were hired by Vincent Doonan (from The Unbelievable Gwenpool), who hates werewolves along with everything else supernatural on principle. Nick tracks him down and then hires the Agents of MODOK to kill the werewolves who killed his parents, thus completing his revenge. There, loose plot threads all tied up. On to the next story.

“Chaotic” is a lot better, telling the story of how Hope and Karl first met. It’s exciting, well-written, and fills in Hope’s backstory from before she got her job for the Council. No complaints about this one; it’s probably the best in this collection.

After that comes “Amity Horrible”, a Jaime story and probably the second-best in the collection. It features a good mixture of humor horror, and features a clever twist for the conclusion. If I have a complaint, it’s that Jeremy’s kitsune/kogitsune/kitsunegari (I can’t keep track of the specific nuances of each term) heritage is once again brought up, reminding me that those fox maidens who appeared in that one other short story represent another dangling plot thread which is never going to be dealt with.

Alright, headcanon time again. The fox maidens give up on Jeremy and decide to emigrate to the universe of the Felix Gomez series, where characters are far more willing to engage in gratuitous sex scenes on the flimsiest of pretexts. Boom, done. Next story.

“Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” is the Zoe Takano story of the collection, and the biggest disappointment. It’s the shortest story in the book, and just revolves around Zoe tricking Cassandra into giving her an apology for a past incident between them. Drama? Tension? Suspense? Look elsewhere, my friend. And it really hurts the most because, despite its brevity and non-plot, it nonetheless indicates to me that Zoe had the potential to be an awesome character who could easily support a book of her own. For instance, when Cassandra, arrives at Zoe’s apartment, she has a failed vampire slayer named Brittany crashing with her. A very few lines of dialogue manage to imply a whole rich story about how Brittany decided to be Buffy, came to Toronto to hunt Zoe because her reputation as a pushover made her seem like an easy target for a beginner, and Zoe ended up not just talking her down but convincing her to give up vampire slaying altogether. Doesn’t that sound like an interesting story? Why can’t I read that story? Oh, Zoe Takano; you will forever in my heart represent the greatest missed potential of the Women of the Otherworld series.

“Off-Duty Angel” was a decent Eve story. Nothing spectacular, but there wasn’t anything really wrong with it, either. I suppose that it does solve one problem I had with Waking the Witch, in that this story includes the reveal of Leah’s escape from her hell dimension and foreshadows her eventual return as an antagonist; so if I’d read this story first, her reveal as the antagonist of that novel wouldn’t have seemed so out of left field. Obviously, this collection wasn’t published until six years after Waking the Witch, but devoted Kelley Armstrong fans could have read this story when it was first written… two years after Waking the Witch. Okay then, never mind; its “foreshadowing” is fully retroactive and Leah’s return in that novel really was as out-of-nowhere as I initially assumed. Welp, so much for that.

“The Puppy Plan” did not interest me at all. Zoe’s story was the biggest disappointment because I had high hopes for it due to my love for her characters; but I expected right from the start that “The Puppy Plan” would be my least favorite story of the collection and it fully met my expectations in that regard. Logan finds a puppy, and tries to keep it secret from his family. I’m pretty sure this is a fairly cliche plot on Saturday morning cartoons. It ultimately boils down to an extremely awkward, ultimately stakeless waste of time.

And finally, “Baby Boom” – a Paige and Lucas story, and a weak ending to the collection so far as I’m concerned. Well, it does resolve the lingering issues regarding the futures of the Cortez and Nast Cabals, so I can’t really fault it in the providing closure department, but I didn’t enjoy it the way I did “Chaotic” or “Amityville Horrible”.

And so ends the Women of the Otherworld series. It’s been a long road, with not nearly enough Zoe Takano along the way, but ultimately I found it to be a usually good and sometimes great series with only the occasional misstep. I wouldn’t exactly call Otherworld Chills a strong finish to the series, but I enjoyed the journey while it lasted.

Final Rating: 3/5

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