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Saturday, September 22, 2012

'Thirteen' Women of the Otherworld #13 by Kelley Armstrong

From the BLURB:

War is coming to the Otherworld. A sinister cult known as The Supernatural Liberation Movement is hell-bent on exposing the truth about supernaturals to the rest of the world. Their violent, ruthless plan has put everyone at risk: from werewolves to vampires, from witches to half-demons.

Savannah Levine - fiery and unpredictable - stands at the heart of the maelstrom. There is a new, dark magic inside her, granting her the power to summon spells of terrifying strength. But whether this magic is a gift or a curse, no one knows.

On the eve of battle, all the major players must come together in a last, desperate fight for survival - Elena and Clay; Adam and Savannah; Paige and Lucas; Jeremy and Jaime; Hope, Eve and more... They are fighting for lives. They are fighting for their loved ones.

They are fighting for the Otherworld.

This review contains spoilers for all previous 'Otherworld' books

‘13’ is the thirteenth and final book in Kelley Armstrong’s epic urban fantasy ‘Women of the Otherworld’ series.

This is the all-star final showdown, slow-clap finale to Armstrong’s much loved series. This is the book fans have been waiting for, but I’ve got to say … I was not impressed. Much as it pains me to admit.

Savannah Levine is again narrating, rounding out her POV books to a nice trilogy – ‘Waking the Witch’, ‘Spell Bound’ and now bringing it all together with ‘13’. But even though this is, again, Savannah’s book, every previous female protagonist gets one chapter devoted to them, so throughout the book we’re switched to Elena, Hope and Paige’s point of views.

Armstrong certainly has made ‘13’ an epic finale (maybe a little too epic?) with supernatural in-fighting between all supernaturals. The Supernatural Liberation Movement want to ‘out’ supernaturals (and presumably take over the world?) but they have a fight on their hands, against those who would prefer to keep their secrets. So all species are drawn into this one – vampires, werewolves, witches, psychics, necormancers, angels and most especially demons (many of whom are watching over their human offspring, and hedging bets on which side will come out victorious). Savannah Levine seems to be in the middle of it all – a powerful witch with a demon grandfather, deceased witch mother and warlock father who now have ties to the otherworld.

If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, that’s because there is. And that was actually a real problem for me – the helter-skelter plot really detracted from the characters and turned this into a rather cold, impersonal ‘sayonara’.

This feeling of detachment was particularly prevalent with the ‘romance’ aspect of this final book, between Savannah and Adam Vasic. It’s partly the fact that the groundwork for them really hasn’t been there in previous instalments. In Savannah’s other two narrated books, Adam was a bit player, and it was Savannah’s feelings for him (even in his absence) that were the focus. They literally came together in the last few pages of ‘Spell Bound’, and now we jump into the very chaotic events of ‘13’, when they really don’t have time to reconcile their newfound feelings and it just generally makes for a jumble. But, like I said, that’s partly due to the groundwork not being there for these characters in previous books . . . and you realize that maybe Savannah’s previous narration turns were a little too plot-heavy and not focused enough on her relationships. Really, the two books Savannah narrated followed similar storylines of Savannah going solo on an investigation into a small country town. We’ve really only got to know her on her own, and what we know of her in relation to other characters (Paige, in particular) we’ve only garnered when she was a secondary character in their books or short stories.

It’s actually reiterated a few times that Savannah and Adam are kind of testing the waters – this will be the first major relationship for both of them, and they’re wary about losing a friendship if the romance doesn’t work out. Then there’s the age-gap (Lucas, creepily, points out that Adam is only one year younger than him). But Savannah maintains that if it’s a mistake, she’ll have to make it on her own terms. Now, I completely understand that fast-tracking Adam and Savannah’s relationship from ‘childhood crush’ to ‘soul mates’ would have been disingenuous and would have had readers scoffing. But at the same time, this is the last book, and for that reason I would have liked more fireworks and epic love, as opposed to the rather ho-hum ‘let’s just see how it goes’ and ‘we’re taking things slow’ route. All in all, Adam and Savannah were a fizzle, not a sizzle. I was actually more invested in the small snippet scenes between werewolf, Karl, and his pregnant psychic wife, Hope because they had that deep, connected love story between them – and it just added more weight and meaning to all of their scenes. Karl and Hope actually ended up highlighting the hollowness of Savannah and Adam.

I did spend a bit of ‘13’ thinking this felt more like the book before the last book. Like Armstrong was still laying a lot of breadcrumbs and setting up her long-game ending … maybe because the many character reappearances, near-deaths and open-ended relationships felt more like build-up than finale.

There’s ‘a word from Kelley Armstrong’ at the beginning of the book, where she acknowledges the fact that many fans would have preferred that this final book finish with Elena narrating (and coming full-circle in the series that she started, with ‘Bitten’). Armstrong acknowledges that, but says she’s had the idea for Savannah to be the final narrator for a while now – since she’s the character we’ve seen grow from teenager, into young adulthood. Nevertheless, it just so happens that some of the most interesting exchanges and moments in ‘13’ are concerned with the Pack, and involve Clay and Elena anyway. It’s these moments that far outshine the rest of the goings on with Savannah, demons, angels and Adam. I feel like Armstrong inadvertently touched on this in one particular scene. . .

I grinned. “Yes, typical five-year-olds – playing Metallica and learning French for fun. As for the bunnies, I’m not going there.”
“Don’t. Anyway, sounds like situation normal at the Lester house tonight. The kids fighting, while Mom’s telling them to stop bickering before their dad comes down to chew them out.”
“Except at our place,” Clay said, “it’s me saying ‘Cool it before Mom comes down.’”
“Because I’m much scarier than he is,” Elena said. Now if I could just convince every mutt in the country to see it that way.”
Adam said, “So Lester’s upstairs?”
“Oh, sure, bring the conversation back on track,” I said. “Spoilsport.”

My sentiments exactly.

But I think Armstrong must have been more swayed by readers clamouring for Elena’s POV than she let on, because there’s another note from her at the end, followed by an Elena short story called ‘From Russia, With Love.’ In this ‘final note from Kelley’ she admits that ‘13’ didn’t wrap with the ‘Otherworld’ characters going quietly into the night, their stories neatly tied up.

“God, we’re getting responsible,” I said.
He smiled. “Being careful just means we’ll live long enough to have more adventures.”

If readers feel like this universe is still expanding, that’d be because it is – with Armstrong planning three short story anthologies (the first of which is slated for 2014) and she’s also not saying ‘no’ to a possible revisit to the ‘Otherworld.’ I certainly hope she does, particularly because a certain basement discovery in ‘13’ has great impact on the Pack, and the short ‘From Russia, With Love’ reminds readers that there are still some interesting, untapped werewolf secondary characters to be explored – like suave Nick Sorrentino and Australian wolf, Reese.

All in all, I was really disappointed with this book. It felt like Armstrong was so laser-focused on the big, grand, sweeping finale plot that all those characters we’ve come to know and love fell by the wayside. Clay and Elena, as always, were the most interesting aspect of the book – and their short story at the end was perhaps the major highlight of the whole thing. The romances of Lucas and Paige, Karl and Hope, heck, even Cassandra and Aaron all really highlighted what was missing from the ‘we’re testing the waters’ fledgling romance with Savannah and Adam – and made me realize that if you’re going to write about the end of the world, maybe don’t focus on a first-date couple, rather go for the epic love story of soul mates? Just a suggestion.

I certainly hope Armstrong continues to write ‘Otherworld’ short stories, and revisit a few characters, because ‘13’ was not how I envisioned this thing ending. Not at all.



  1. I skipped the review & looked at the grade. I started reading this series recently, just finished No Humans Involved. So far, I really like it but bummer this one didn't end on a high note.

  2. Great review hon! Despite having enjoyed the book, I have to agree anout a lot of what you said... I so hope we het more in this series, it was avery subdued ending for Savannah storyline :( though the Elena and Clay stuff, as well as all the other secondary characters was awesome!


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