Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Tales of the Otherworld

Reviewed by Jen
This is the second of two short-story collections Kelley Armstrong wrote for fans of her Otherworld series.  Like Men of the Otherworld, most of these stories are prequels to the novels... the backstories that fans wanted to hear. But like I warned with that anthology, just because these stories come first chronologically, it doesn't necessarily mean you should read them first. You'd probably get the most out of the book reading it either after Industrial Magic or Broken.

"Rebirth" - narrator: Aaron - This is the very short story of how Aaron came to be a vampire and how he and Cassandra met. Aaron was a farm boy who died trying to save a woman from a beating. The vampirism was hereditary but he didn't know about it until after he dies. Aaron was resolved to allow himself a final death after his first year of being a vampire, because he refused to take the life of someone else. But Cassandra convinced him that he could do more good in the world by killing bad men and staying alive to help others.

"Bewitched" - narrator: Eve - From Dime Store Magic, you would never know what kind of man Kristof Nash really was. Here you get that insight, as we see the relationship between him and Eve, leading up to Savannah's conception. Eve isn't a bad person, but she is willing to work and teach black magic. As a result, she sometimes runs with a bad crowd. Kristof decides to hire her to teach him witch magic. In return, he'll pay her, not only in cash, but also tips to navigate the darker side of the supernatural world. Over the course of their lessons, they become friends and eventually lovers. They really do love each other, which makes it all the more poignant when Kristof's father threatens a pregnant Eve into leaving town. At least we know they spend the afterlife together.

"Birthright" - narrator: Logan - As Logan reaches his 18th birthday, he receives a note from the father he never knew. It's Jeremy's name and address. Curious, Logan investigates. Of course, Clay thinks he's a mutt, there to challenge the Alpha. But once it's clear that Logan has no idea what's going on, Jeremy breaks the news about his supernatural heritage.

"Beginnings" - narrators: Clay & Elena - This is it. The short story that rules all other short stories in the Otherworld universe: the story of how Clay and Elena fell in love. It's not really short... well over 100 pages... and it is everything I could have wanted. Clay is in Toronto, on a short-term professorship and Elena is a student wanting to take his class. He instantly finds a kinship in her; an outcast, set apart by an alien childhood. It's so great watching them fall for each other; and the story is made stronger by alternating between Clay and Elena's own perspectives. It's so hard not to feel sorry for Clay, as he struggles with his love for Elena, while he has to hide what he is. From Bitten, we know the years of hardship they will have to endure in the wake of his actions, making their love story all the more bittersweet. We also see how Logan and Elena become friends; and get insight into more of Elena's horrible childhood. No Clay and Elena fan should miss this one. It is epic.

"Expectations" - narrator: Lucas - In Dime Store Magic, Lucas makes reference to the one and only time that he ever met Eve Levine. This is it. Here, Lucas is only 20 years-old and trying to establish his credability in the supernatural world. When someone comes to him and tells the story of a witch with a dark grimoire, Lucas decides to steal the spellbook himself. It doesn't go so well.

"Ghosts" - narrator: Jeremy- This story actually takes place in the same time frame as the end of Bitten. You see a snippet of what it's like for Jeremy when he sends Clay and Elena back to her apartment in Toronto. He misses them terribly, and in their absence, he reflects on what it was like to witness Elena's agony as she came to terms with being a werewolf; to banish Clay; and to have to track her down when she escaped the first time. This one was pretty short, but it gives us a better look inside Jeremy's perspective of a pivotal time.

"Wedding Bell Hell" - narrator: Paige- This story picks up three weeks before Paige and Lucas get married. It's short and sweet, detailing the plans leading up to and including the big day. Benicio is trying to run the show; there's a mix-up with some matchbooks... nothing too intense. But it does fill in the gap between Lucas & Paige's decision to work together in Industrial Magic, then showing up married 18 months later in Haunted.

"The Case of El Chupacabra" -narrators: Lucas & Sean- Sean Nast has known he was gay for a while, but he also knows his family will never accept it. On a discreet visit to a gay bar in the midwest, he stumbles on a dead body that looks like it could be the victim of a vampire attack. The locals think it's the legendary El Chupacabra. But Sean realizes that it's only a matter of time before his family's cabal sends someone to investigate. Hoping to find the killer before the Nasts realize his connection to the case, Sean hires Lucas & Paige to solve the crime. The story bounces back and forth between Sean's and Lucas' point of view. And we learn that Lucas' father has built a new cabal office in Portland, hoping to lure Lucas back into the fold. He even sweetens the offer, promising Lucas can run the office to continue his crusade against anti-Cabal abuses. That rests on the back-burner while Lucas, Paige and Cassandra track down the only vampire in the area. And that vamp quickly becomes a scapegoat for the cabals' growing animosity toward all vampires. In the end, (**spoilers**) we learn that the killers were just plain old humans. Sean discovers that family expects him to marry and have kids no matter what he feels about it... so he knows his days in the cabal are likely numbered. And Lucas dips into his trust fund to buy that new office his father built, so he and Paige can start their dream of working together to help the downtrodden of the supernatural community.

5 stars.
Tales of the Otherworld
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: April 13, 2010
Publisher: Bantam Books

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At Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 9:11:00 AM CDT , Blogger Karen said...

This book is a must have for fans of the Otherworld series especially Beginnings.
I loved it.

At Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 11:26:00 AM CDT , Blogger Amber I @ Awesomesauce said...

I love this book. And Beginnings is amazing!!!!

At Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 2:59:00 PM CDT , Blogger Jen at Red Hot Books said...

I agree with both of you! I love the prequel stories so much...


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