Kelley Armstrong’s Haunted
Seal Books, 2005

It begins with Bitten, first published in hardcover in 2001, and is projected to have thirteen books in total, the eleventh having recently been released, Tales of the Otherworld. Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series has taken hold in unexpected and dramatic ways and I am completely and entirely hooked.

Bitten is told in the voice of Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf, one strong woman in a world traditionally dominated in every way by men, er, that is male werewolves. Interesting premise (it’s what hooked me on the first novel) and it definitely adds a complexity to the story that I appreciate.

Elena isn’t always the focus of the novels, however. She, like other characters, drifts from the centre of the storytelling in one novel to just brushing another charcter’s story in later books. That’s one of the things I especially like about this series, the way characters drift in and out. Apparently the author has been told several times that her series would sell better if she stuck with a single narrator, but she likes the challenge of different voices.

It adds to the credibility, I think, (perhaps even more important when establishing otherworldly characters) and gives the reader a sense of community for the characters, all the while keeping the narrative style fresh from book-to book. Because I “met” Elena first, I always particularly want to spend booktime with her character above all others (and, so far, she narrates four of the books in the series), but Haunted is told in Eve’s voice.

Eve really wasn’t my favourite character — not because of the rumours that have circulated about her, how baaaaaaaaaad she is (muahhahhah), but because I never really felt that I understood her motivations as a character — so imagine my surprise to find that this, the fifth novel in the series, is a contender for my favourite to date. Believable characters I readily invest in (now I “get” Eve, too), steady pacing that rockets from each book’s mid-point, ideas that range from interesting to fascinating (some of the story elements in this installment really stood out for me in that regard, but mentioning them specifically would be spoilery indeed): Haunted stands out.

Yes, it’s another smart, sassy heroine, but that hasn’t gotten old for me yet; I do wonder if it might, because there are a lot of similarities between Elena, Paige and Eve (independent, intelligent, determined, driven by desire to protect those who matter most to them, dialogue that snaps with irony and sharp humour), the narrators of the first five novels in the series. They each tend towards reactionary problem-solving, and they each — to varying degrees — recognize their short-term thinking as a problem but still they end up in situations where simply reacting causes complications.

If I was reading the books in close proximity maybe this would feel repetitive. (But it’s still believable: most people do react, don’t they? and in situations that aren’t life-or-death important.) But even if it was overworking a particular character flaw, I’d much rather the author rely on that to generate tension than to jerk the characters around to suit the plot; plot-driven fiction that alters characterization just to suit the story drives me crazy. These characters behave consistently, even if sometimes that means making the same kinds of errors in judgement on multiple occasions, and the books are consistently entertaining.

Have you read it? Liked it? Recommended it to your friends? If so, is it one of many books about the paranormal on your list? Or does it stand out because normally you don’t read much fantasy but something about this series grabbed hold? Have you enjoyed some books and not others? Do you feel the series stands up as more books are published, or do you feel the quality has declined (surely a worry with any lengthy series)? Are you interested in her new straight ( i.e. not paranormalish) writing, or are you all about Kelley Armstrong‘s Otherworld?

PS I get a real giggle out of carrying this around with James Wood’s How Fiction Works, its serious, scholarly-looking cover seeming to cower in the opposite corner of my bookbag, as far from the fiery and fleshy Haunted as it could get.