Thursday, June 23, 2011

Otherworld: Short Stories and Novellas

Reviewed by Jen
I love the way Kelley Armstrong has enriched her Otherworld series with a wealth of short stories. She compiled many of them together into the anthologies Men of the Otherworld and Tales of the Otherworld, but there are even more out there. Some are free reads on the internet (provided by Armstrong herself); others are parts of anthologies shared with other authors.  You don't have to read them all to know what's going on in the novels. But they are great fun and teach us more about the characters we have already grown to love. I've got the details on the short stories found in Men & Tales, in the reviews for each of those anthologies. This is a short breakdown on the rest.

"Demonology" (free online story) - This is one of the very few Otherworld story that's not told in the first person narrative.  It features Adam's mother Talia, as she struggles to figure out what makes her child different. Adam is only 8 years-old in this story and he is becoming fixated with fire. He's even exhibiting some strange physical behaviors, like hot hands, and giving other kids a jolt. It's in trying to help her son that Talia meets Robert Vasic, the half-demon that will end up her husband... and who will finally explain her son's true nature.

"The Case of the Half Demon Spy" (free online story) - narrator: Adam -  This little 16 page short story gives us a peek at Adam and Paige as young teens. They're growing restless, being shut out of a council meeting, when they see a demon spying on the gathering. They take it upon themselves to scare him away and get his notes. They never realize that it was all a set up by Adam's step dad to give them an adventure.

"Truth & Consequences" (free online story) - narrator: Elena - This story takes us inside Elena's life, not long before the events of Bitten. She is working for the pack, tracking down a man who says he has proof werewolves exist. Elena is forced to kill him to protect the pack. It's a decision that will ultimately drive her away from Stonehaven and set the wheels in motion for the first novel.

"Territorial" (free online story) - narrator: Karl - As this story begins, Karl is working a mark to steal her necklace. But his mind quickly turns to reminiscing about his past and his father. In flashback, we learn how his father died: killed by Malcolm -- and why Karl believes it was hit fault. As the tale draws to a close, we see how his path crosses with Daniel Santos, laying the groundwork for their evil plan in Bitten.

"Escape" (free online story) - narrator: Eve - We didn't get a chance to meet Eve in the supernatural holding cells of Stolen. She was already dead. But here we get her perspective. We learn why Savannah was home they day of their kidnapping and the events that led them to their captivity. And we watch as Eve works to free herself and her daughter from the facility. It looks like she was on the right track... until a guard kills her.

"Adventurer" (free online story) - narrator: Kenneth - If you're asking yourself, "Who the heck is Kenneth?' -- don't feel bad.  I couldn't remember either. He's the shaman in the interracial council with Paige, Adam, Cassandra and co.  In this story, we get to see the council members from his perspective --and see the quiet contribution he makes.

"Bargain" (free online story) - narrator: Xavier - This story sets-up Xavier's approach to Elena in Broken.  It seems that his desire to make her an ally came before the job to retrieve the From Hell letter. He actually looked for a way to need her help to cultivate her as a contact and perhaps, by extension, he could cozy up to Lucas through their connection with the interracial council. Xavier's been having trouble with a cabal lately and some well placed contacts could make all the difference...

"Chaotic" (Dates from Hell) - narrator: Hope- Hope is a half-demon who gets off on chaos. That's given her a lot of trouble following the straight and narrow. So when Tristan approached her to serve as an agent for the supernatural interracial council, she didn't hesitate to say yes. She doesn't realize, though, that she is on the job the night she goes on a blind date at a museum gala. But she can't help but follow the threads of tension she feels coming from one of the exhibits. It turns out to be werewolf Karl Marsten, there stealing some jewels. Her first thought is that he's the bad guy and she has to stop him. But she finds out quickly that it's really her boss who is evil and he is after Karl for petty vengeance. Hope doesn't work for the council at all... She's just a pawn in his schemes. Hope and Karl grow closer as they work to escape Tristan and his henchmen. And there is one really hot scene they have while in hiding that I may have read two or three times. All in all, it's a pretty solid story. And while you don't have to read it, it lays the foundation for future books that feature Hope and Karl.

"Framed" (free online story) - narrator: Nick - We've heard a lot about Nick, but always from Elena or Clay's perspectives. Here, get a glimpse into his mind as someone tries to frame him for murder. He wakes up one morning, with no memory of the night before, and finds a dead woman in his bed. It turns out to be a blackmail scheme. A man wants Nick to seduce his estranged wife and take pictures. It seems she has a thing for werewolf romance novels, so Nick brushes up on the stories to set up his seduction. But he draws the line once he realizes the sex is supposed to take place while he's in wolf-form. So he finds a creative solution to the problem and is proud that he manages to handle the whole thing without help.

"Twilight" (Many Bloody Returns) - narrator: Cassandra - I think Cassandra may be my least favorite character in the Otherworld series, so this story didn't do much for me. Basically, we already know that she is getting closer and closer to her final death. Now it's time for her annual kill, but she is having a lot of trouble forcing herself to do it. She's been putting it off and putting it off... and Aaron is worried that she won't do it all. But what he doesn't realize is that it's not just a mental problem, but a physical one for her as well. Obviously, in the end, she makes the kill, but it leaves you wondering if she'll be able to do it next time.

"Stalked" (My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon) - narrator: Clay - It's really important to Clay that his honeymoon with Elena is just right. She didn't have the wedding of her dreams. He ruined that idea 18 years ago when he turned her into a werewolf. But, the honeymoon... he wants to make that perfect for her. Only, a mutt is stalking them. Clay tries to hide it from Elena, but that doesn't quite work out. The good news is... taking down the mutt together may be the highlight of their trip.

"Chivalrous" (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2) - narrator: Reese  - Of all the short stories, this is one of the two I haven't actually read. I just couldn't bring myself to part with the 30-bucks it would cost for this anthology. And it took me forever to even find a decent blurb telling me what it was about. But I finally found some info from a review on Locus Online. Paraphrasing, it basically says that Reese is an Australian mutt, who is attending college when he rescues a young woman from being raped. It turns out she is the local Alpha's daughter sent to insinuate herself into his life. He doesn't find that out until after he falls for her. So then he must decide whether to protect the woman he loves or his family, still threatened by her father. --If you're asking yourself what an Aussie wolf has to do with anything, Reese becomes part of the current cast of characters in the novel Frostbitten. This is his backstory.

"The Ungrateful Dead" (Blood Lite) - narrator: Jamie - There's an obnoxious ghost demanding help from Jamie. She's all ready to banish him, but decides to grant his request to open his cousin's coffin. Savannah comes along on the adventure. And they both get a big surprise when they lift the lid and a zombie comes out. It seems that the pair tried to harrass another necromancer into bringing them back to life and the necro tried to teach them a lesson with the zombie trick. You think they would have learned that lesson, but they keep pushing Jamie, until they push her a bit too far. (This had some pretty good one liners in it. A couple made me laugh out loud.)

"Zen and the Art of Vampirism" (A Fantasy Medley) - narrator: Zoe - Zoe didn't make a huge impression on me when we met her in Broken, so I wasn't too disappointed that I never got a chance to read this one. From the reviews I have found, the story is about some young vamps who decide they want to take over Zoe's territory in Toronto. She turns the tables on them and they hightail it out of town.

"Learning Curve" (Evolve) - narrator: Zoe - This may be the shortest of all the short stories.  Wannabe vampire hunters are stalking Zoe. Somebody's been watching too much Buffy.

"Checkmate" (free online story) - narrator: Elena - Clay and Elena take a trip to Winnepeg to check out reports of missing hookers. They think a man-eating mutt may be to blame. As they investigate, they think, perhaps it wasn't the mutt after-all. But in the end, it was.

"Recruit" (free online story) - narrator: Elena - The Pack needs to increase its numbers. Clay and Elena decide to go meet a possible new recruit. But the man tries to sell them information on a man-eater. His plan doesn't really work. But he does give them the information --and they let him keep all the body parts that he came with.

"The List" (Evolve 2) - narrator: Zoe - Release date: August 15, 2011

"Lucifer's Daughter" (Blood Lite 2) - narrator: Hope - Karl and Hope are at a bash thrown by Hope's mom back at the museum where they met. Karl accidentally unleashes a demon, who recognizes Hope for who she is. Hope and Karl manage to contain him, but it's no easy feat. And this has quite a dramatic ending (*spoilers*) as Karl asks Hope to marry him.

"From Russia with Love" (13) - narrator: Elena - As the drama comes to a close in 13, Elena and Clay travel to Russia where the rest of the pack has been staying with the twins.  After a surprise visit from Xavier, Jeremy passes over the reigns, making Elena the new Alpha of the pack.  It's a great ending, as we see the series come completely full circle.

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