Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong (book review).

August 3, 2022 | By | Reply More

In the sub-genre of contemporary supernatural fantasy, there are two approaches. The human population are aware of the supernaturals such as in Laurel K Hamilton’s ‘Anita Blake’ series or Nalini Singh’s ‘Archangel’ series and the races have learnt to tolerate each other.

The alternative approach is with the supernaturals keeping a low profile, hiding away from ordinary humans such as in Lyndsay Sands’ ‘Vampire’ novels. In the former, the plot often revolves around keeping the peace between factions while, in the later, it is often concerned with keeping humans from finding out that they share their world with potentially scary monsters. Kelley Armstrong’s ‘Otherworld’ series falls into the second camp.

There have been thirteen novels focusing on the ‘Women Of The Otherworld’ with different types of supernatural taking centre stage. There are also volumes of shorter stories and novellas with the same background and features some of the characters from the novels. ‘Otherworld Chills’ contains seven novellas which signal the winding up of loose ends from the novels.

The first of the series, ‘Bitten’, introduced the werewolf pack. The first novella in this volume, ‘Brazen’, focuses on one of the lesser members. Nick Sorrentino is a playboy and always manages to attract sexual partners on a casual basis. Here, he is working with a team of supernatural investigators to track down Malcolm Danvers, a brutal werewolf who was thought to be dead. The pack will not be safe until he is eliminated. Malcolm has been in prison and out of touch so mistakenly considers Nick weak and does not believe that the pack’s Alpha could be female. Nick is working with Vanessa, a fire half-demon who fancies Nick. The weakness in this story is in suggesting that Nick will break his own rules and consider Vanessa as more than a one-night stand. It goes against his nature as both wolf and man.

The core members of the werewolf pack feature in ‘The Puppy Plan’. Logan and Kate are the children of Elena and Clay. This is told from Logan’s point of view as, just before Christmas, he finds a dumped puppy in the snow. So far the children have been told that they cannot have a puppy, but he thinks this would be a perfect Christmas present for his sister. This presents him with a dilemma. He expects to be told they cannot keep it but wants to give his sister the best present ever.

‘Chaotic’ follows the problems of being a half-demon whose power is to sense chaos. In fact, Hope gets a buzz from it and is drawn to and often lands her in awkward situations. As the novella opens, she is on a date arranged by her mother with social climbing Douglas. They are at a museum gala for which her boss has given her tickets. She thinks she is working for the Interracial Council when she has been duped into working for the Cortez Cabal. This is a business organisation run by sorcerers and who want to use Hope to capture Karl Marsten. He is a werewolf and a thief. He is familiar to readers of earlier books in the series and is the romantic element in this novella.

‘Amityville Horrible’ features Jaime Vegas. She is a necromancer but earns her living as a spiritualist medium. Her romantic partner is Jeremy Danvers, the werewolf who stepped down as Alpha in favour of Elena. She has been persuaded to take part in a TV documentary about the Amityville Murders for charity. Unfortunately, more than one of the participants is not what they claim.

Vampires for the most part have kept a relatively low profile in the novels but the shortest piece in this volume, ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ features them. When Cassandra is ready to step down from the interracial council, she wants Zoe to replace her. Although she wants the position, Zoe is not going to give Cass the satisfaction of accepting until she gets an apology for chasing away Zoe’s human lover, many years previously. Zoe, though, is not averse to manipulating the situation to get what she wants.

Eve Levine is a ghost and a part-time angel. In ‘Off-Duty Angel’, she is becoming bored as she has down-time and her lover is unavailable, being tied up in court. As she discovered in the novel ‘Haunted’, the afterlife is more complicated that she realised. Kristof Nast, once head of the Nast Cabal of sorcerers, still has a role to play in the Afterlife. While he is tied up in court, he asks Eve to carry out a surveillance task for him. It becomes more complicated than either Eve of Kristof expected.

Traditionally, witches and sorcerers have been antagonistic to each other, the men in particular not believing that women are capable of the same magic as they are. That is beginning to change, especially as Paige, a witch, is married to Lucas Cortez, heir to the Cortez Cabal. They have made a decision not to have children though Lucas’ father, Beneficio Cortez, thinks they should continue the line. There are arguments, so when Paige finds herself pregnant due to a faulty birth control implant, Beneficio is immediately suspected of meddling. Detective work narrows down the field of suspects and Lucas and Paige have decisions to make.

All these stories have characters that echo the novels of the series and without knowledge of them it could be difficult to untangle the web woven through them and the relationships between the different supernatural races. While each story or novella is self-contained the nuances are better understood in conjunction with what has come before. There will be deeper enjoyment for a reader who starts at ‘Bitten’ and comes to this book later.

Pauline Morgan

August 2022

(pub: Orbit, 2016. 457 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50066-3)

check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net and www.kelleyarmstrong.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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