Men of the Otherworld, by Kelley Armstrong
March 25, 2009
Men of the Otherworld is an anthology focused on Clay and Jeremy Danvers, mostly told from Clay’s perspective. Most of this book was previously available for free on Armstrong’s website, but it’s nice to see it in print form. Armstrong will be donating her proceeds from the book to World Literacy of Canada.
On a purely superficial note, I think that the cover art is unfortunate. The half-naked man on the cover makes it look like a romance novel, and if I hadn’t already known a little about the book then I’d have assumed that this was a signal of Armstrong taking her series in more of a paranormal romance direction. Between the art and the title maybe they’re trying to draw in more romance fans, but anyone expecting something steamy would end up disappointed because only the last story includes any romance elements. Anyway, on to my impressions of the stories.
A very short story (less than 30 pages) that introduces Jeremy’s father. It’s interesting mostly because of what we learn about Jeremy’s background and family. Malcolm is obviously a sleaze, but he becomes a much more interesting sleaze in the next two stories.
This is a longer novella, told from Clay’s perspective, that covers his transformation, Jeremy’s attempt to civilize him, and his first introduction to the pack. It’s a fun story, partly because any reader familiar with Armstrong’s Otherworld will pick up on some things that the young narrator is describing but not really understanding.
Also from Clay’s perspective, this one covers his life as a teenager and Jeremy’s struggle to become pack Alpha. This is my favorite of the stories because there’s a strong political element and it goes into the details of a frequently-referenced event that happened during the days when Clay was earning his reputation.
While spending some rare time off with Jaime, Jeremy is propositioned by a beautiful stranger and learns a secret about his past. I was really looking forward to this one because Jamie and Jeremy are probably my favorite Otherworld characters. But the unsettled resolution, and especially the way that Jeremy handled it, left me a little cold. It was surprisingly mean-spirited, and his involvement of an unsuspecting human seemed especially out of character.
I have to admit, I’ve never really been that into Clay as a character. I certainly didn’t dislike him, but I never managed to connect with him. So I was pretty surprised to find that these stories made Clay a lot more interesting to me. Here he’s an awkward kid who keeps facing unfamiliar situations, and because of his background the practical approach of his wolf side tends to guide his thinking. That’s more compelling to me than the adult Clay, who, apart from one nearly unforgivable decision, has always seemed a little too close to perfect for my taste.
“Savage” and “Ascension” were really well done and reminded me why I connected with this series in the first place. Unfortunately, they also reminded me how disappointed I was with the previous two novels. The Hope books just seem so scattered and unfocused, and it stands out even more in comparison with the tight plotting and solid characterization of most of this anthology. Thankfully Frostbitten (coming in November) is a Clay/Elena book. So if it’s just that I’m finding the books about a half chaos demon too, uh, chaotic, then maybe settling in with some earlier characters will help.
The first three stories are prequels, but I’d recommend that anyone new to the series go with the publication order rather than the chronological one.