Pros: Characterization, good plot
Being a fan of the horror genre, more specifically vampires, I generally run into werewolf novels, or they are the side plots in a vampire novel (they are mortal enemies), but its not a story line I pursue. I, generally, am a vampire snob; werewolves usually lack the finesse and complex nature of the vampires. Or so I thought until I came across Hamilton's complex Richard in the Anita Blake series (Guilty Pleasures) and now in this novel Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. Bitten is the first in what promises to be an excellent series of novels. Its an excellent book steeped in character development with a good plot featuring a complex and strong female character.
Background: Seems in this reality there are werewolves, but very few of them as in less than 30. Its hard to become a werewolf from being bitten, seems most people can't take the change and die. Most werewolves are hereditary werewolves a.k.a born with it and change for the first time when they are going through puberty (bet that is rough). But the kicker here is its Y-chromosome linked meaning it can only be passed from father to son. When a werewolf fathers a son they take him away from the mother to be raised in the pack with his cousins and uncles. There are no women save one, Elena. She became a werewolf by being bitten by a member of the pack of which she now belongs. She once loved the man that turned her, but he has betrayed her so terribly by making her a werewolf.
Plot: Elena, the only female werewolf, has been living away from her pack (her pack resides in New England) in Toronto trying to live a normal human life. She has a job, as a magazine journalist, she has an apartment and a boyfriend. But she has to hide what she is from everyone around her. Creeping out in the middle of the night to run (incidentally, they dont change with the full moonit is a time based cycle meaning they have to change ever so often but can do so on their own timing unless they wait too long) as a wolf in a park downtown. She can never let her boyfriend know what she is, meaning she can never be herself, but she so wants to be normal.
She gets a call from Jeremy, the leader of her pack. They have a problem and they need her expertise to take care of the problem. She is compelled to fly home and help her family, her pack. She tells herself only for a day to hear Jeremy out, all the while, stalling to keep her boyfriend from flying out to help her with her family emergency. Each of the pack members has their job, and Elenas was to keep track of mutts. Mutts are werewolves that are not associated with a pack. They are generally not brought up in a pack and usually not born as werewolves meaning they survived a werewolf bite. They have no control and kill humans either because they cannot control themselves or because they enjoy it. They are not allowed to settle down in once place (as not to draw attention to themselves or werewolves in general), and they are not allowed into pack territory at all. But now it seems that a mutt has invaded the territory of Elenas pack killing humans in the area and casting suspicions on the wealthy yet reclusive Jeremy and his family. This could potentially destroy the home that Jeremy has created for his pack. They need Elenas to help identify the mutt and to help control him before their home is destroyed. Elena is afraid to go, much less stay, and help. She is afraid it will cost her humanity and her normal lifetrapping her with the lure of belonging to the pack. Besides she doesnt want to see Clay, the man she loves, but who betrayed her by making her a werewolf. Will she help the pack? Can they stop the mutt before he destroys their home? You will just have to read and find out.
Armstrong is very easy to read. She has done an excellent job in her characterization of the werewolves rather than dumb animalistic brutes; her humanizes her werewolves without subtracting from their monstrosity. She has done for werewolves what Anne Rice did for vampiresonly Armstrongs characters have not lost their sexuality. Her characters range from the very complex Elena stocked with psychological issues from her childhood to the fairly simple Clay who knows what he wants in life and then goes to get it. Her characters (beyond the werewolf thing) seem normal and believable. Jeremy is a levelheaded leader, calm and smart. Good with the planning. Clay is their simple brute forcehe is good at the kill, but he has a deep and somewhat complex love for Elena. Plus he is an intelligent man sporting a PhD. All of which makes him a very interesting character indeed. Elenas character is superb, she is a strong will, sexual female that while needing no help to survive and relying on no man, still needs a family and a place to belong. She is emotionally and psychologically complex and a very fun character to read about.
The plot is good and involved with several twits. It moves along easily and is a very compelling read. It has lots of action and the dialogue doesnt seem to be forced.
This book is a great first novel. Written very well from the character development to the action and violence to describing how the werewolves change. Overall, if you like werewolves and this type of genre then this is a great novel. It does contain violence and sex, so if this bothers you then perhaps this novel is not for you. But any fan of Laurell K Hamilton should enjoy Armstrongs first novel.