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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Tales of the Otherworld' by Kelley ARMSTRONG


‘Tales of the Otherworld’ is a collection of short stories and novellas set in Armstrong’s ‘Women of the Otherworld’ universe. All of these short stories were initially e-serials, available for free on Armstrong’s website as a sort of ‘gift’ to her fans.

Fans aren’t disgruntled by the fact that these previously free stories are no longer available online – because (as Armstrong says in her author’s introduction) after she published her e-serials the number 1. fan question was ‘when will they be available in book form?’. Well, that time has finally arrived. And Armstrong’s even gone so far as to donate the proceeds of ‘Tales’ to the World Literacy of Canada – a nonprofit volunteer organization. Wow. As if fans needed another reason to heap praise on this legendary paranormal author…

‘Tales of the Otherworld’ is a collection of 8 short stories featuring some beloved characters, and a few secondary ones. Only 1 short story is original, and never before been available for download.

Rebirth’ is the story of Aaron, and his transition from human to vampire.

Bewitched’ is the new story in the collection, and is all about Eve Levine (Savannah’s mother). The story is a ‘prologue’ of sorts, recounting how Eve met and became lover to Kristof Nast.

Birthright’ is the back-story to a deceased werewolf pack member. It explains how Logan discovered his werewolf heritage and journeyed to Stonehaven to come face-to-face with his father for the first time.

Expectations’ follows Lucas Cortez in an early investigation of his.

Ghosts’ is another time-filler, set during the timeline of ‘Bitten’ when Jeremy is left alone at Stonehaven.

Wedding Bell Hell’ is a story that fills in the timeline gaps between books, by telling the tale of Lucas Cortez and Paige Winterbourne’s wedding

The Case of The El Chupacabra’ is a Lucas and Paige murder-mystery investigation.

All of the stories are wonderful. Of course they are when written by the masterful Kelley Armstrong and set in her colourful ‘Otherworld’ universe. A lot of them are filling in the gaps and fleshing out stories that were previously referenced in the ‘Otherworld’ novels, but only in passing.
It’s one of the wonderful things about the ‘Otherworld’ series; the narrators and characters change in each book, but when a narrator picks up the thread of their story they don’t get bogged down in recounting the missing months or years. It means that the series always moves at a swift, energetic pace, because Armstrong isn’t concerned with giving every minute detail of her character’s goings on… but it also means there are some gaps that fans want filled. Some stories that we miss out on and actually want to be told. Well, ‘Tales’ scratches that itch – well and truly.

My favourite short story was ‘Beginnings’ – it’s the prequel to Elena and Clay’s romance… the story of how they met.
Elena is my favourite narrator, and Elena/Clay are one of my all-time favourite Urban Fantasy couplings. I absolutely loved getting the back-story to their story.

Clay is teaching anthropology at the University of Toronto where Elena is studying journalism. From their first ‘encounter’, it becomes clear that Clay and his wolf are intrigued by Elena… she’s not like other flirty, vapid co-eds. She’s smart, tenacious and not afraid to stare Clay down. For him, Elena is the first female he’s ever had an interest in. Hell, she’s the first human he’s ever had an interest in.

Clay is a rare werewolf who thrives on his wolf-nature and instinct. He understands his beast better than his humanity, and as such he’s never been one for slaking carnal lust or one-night-stands. In Elena he sees a true mate.

From Elena, readers are offered a perspective on her first real healthy adult relationship. Elena’s character history is quite dark and sad; she was passed around from foster home to foster home, where she was repeatedly sexually abused. It’s a history that Armstrong recently addressed in ‘Frostbitten’, but is even further developed in ‘Beginnings’, adding more layers to Elena’s character.

Ultimately though, ‘Beginnings’ is completely romantic. Elena and Clay are one H-O-T couple who steam up the page in their ‘Otherworld’ novels. Armstrong definitely communicates that lust in ‘Beginnings’, but it’s a slow burn from first meeting, to tentative friendship, blooming relationship and then full-blown romance. And there’s a real element of forbidden love to them too – since werewolf pack law forbids any werewolf from entering into a long-term relationship.

He laughed and tugged me down in a kiss. Then, lips still close enough to feel them tickle mine, he said, “You know this is it for me, right? You’re it. First and last.”
I looked up and met his gaze. “Same for me. First and last.”

‘Beginnings’ is a very fleshed out, microcosm of a story. Elena and Clay both narrate, which is wonderful. Fans get rare insight into Clay’s thinking – particularly his decision (calculated or otherwise) to bite Elena and turn her into a werewolf… another issue that has recently been discussed between them in ‘Frostbitten’, but now holds more weight because of Clay’s point of view in ‘Beginnings’.

I loved this collection of short stories. It doesn’t feel like a mishmashed, haphazard collection, hastily thrown together… rather, all of the stories in ‘Tales’ offer new perspectives and insights into characters and side-stories. It is a very cohesive, layered collection that sheds new light on the ‘Otherworld’ universe.

If you are a ‘Women of the Otherworld’ fan, you MUST give this collection a read.

5/5

5 comments:

  1. The only book by her I have read is Bitten and I really liked it. Why have I not read more?? Tell me why! LOL.

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  2. I saw this at the booksstore but for some reason I thought I'd read it - maybe I read some of the short stories? I've got all the Elena/Clay books on my keeper shelf, and loved Men of the Otherworld. Looks like I'll be making another trip to the bookstore!

    @Mandi: Oh, yes, you definitely need to read more!!! Elena and Clay are one of my fave paranormal couples.

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  3. I love Kelley Armstrong and this series is amazing!

    Clay and Elena are near the top of my fave UF couples, maybe even at the top hehe

    Great review! =)))

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  4. I must first say that I am a great fan of Kelley Armstong, I love her characters, her plots, and her writing style. With Tales of the Otherworld, like her previous anthology for charity, Men of the Otherworld, Armstrong is giving her readers more glimpses into the lives of characters we love from her series.

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