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Stolen is the follow up to Kelley Armstrong's "Bitten" which was the first in her Otherworld series about the only female werewolf in the world. I said in my review of Bitten that I didn't think the book had whet my appetite enough to read the follow up, but this one came up as a swap and I thought I'd give it another shot. I'm really glad I did, as it provided a totally different vibe than the first one and as a result, I'm likely to read the next (although again I won't be going out and hunting for it!)
Even if you haven't read the first book, it doesn't really take too long to catch up the narrator is Elena Michaels the werewolf herself, and she kindly and frequently briefs the reader when elaboration on a subject or sentence is necessary! However, I liked the fact that I already knew Elena's personality, she is feisty and strong willed and it comes across strong in her narrative. She tells her story with wit and sometimes sarcasm and her strength as a character does more than manifest itself in her physical being where she has the strength of a werewolf.
A brief mention of the first book...
As I mentioned, its not entirely important to have read the first book although it does lay some foundations. In the first book, Elena was still in denial having pushed her "pack" away and was trying to live a human life. In this book, its immediately obvious that she has come to terms with the way in which her life has changed - and about time as Elena has been a werewolf for ten years! Re-reading my review of the first book reminded me of one of the only things that I disliked about Elena - her relationship with Clay as she was struggling to forgive him for turning her into a werewolf in the first place! In this book, my main gripe is wiped out as they are a proper couple and not only that, there is (occasionally! A softer side to Elena which is nice to see after her tough girl act throughout!!
It doesn't take long for the story to get going, and that was exactly what I liked about the first book. Any important facts or back-stories are told along the way and there isn't much "setting the scene" which is a refreshing change. Even in the first book, the story was off to a flying start and again in this one it doesn't feel rushed or confusing; I found that the information was imparted in a clear way at important points I the story.
In this story, there is a "scientific" camp who are capturing creatures from the supernatural world. This group is made of up scientists and wealthy businessmen who are either looking for the next discovery to make their name or to make them wealthy. (or both!) Elena is sent to approach a woman who has made a post on a supernatural site and upon meeting her, finds that she has come face to face with two witches. These witches then tell Elena about how supernatural beings are being captured by these humans and tortured for their own purposes. It is at this point that the pack learns of all the different types of supernatural's that exist from shamans to witches to demons and vampires. Elena and the pack must join forces with this group to stop anyone else being captured as well as trying to destroy any trace of its existence. Before they have a chance to get going, Elena herself is captured! How will she escape? And what is in store for her in the camp?
Content and review...
Most of the book focuses on Elena's capture by these scientists and actually when I think back on the book, not a lot happens to move the story on. During this period, Elena tries different tactics to try and escape the prison she is in but it mostly focuses on the other inmates and her captors. Nonetheless, when I was actually reading the story, it was far from boring and stuck on the same subject. There were some quite harrowing scenes (even if it is about werewolves and not humans!) that really evoked some strong emotions and Armstrong did well at depicting some really despicable characters intent on torturing and drawing out as much pain as possible in their captors.
Another exciting and different aspect of this book compared to the first was that, as mentioned, other supernaturals were introduced. Half-demons, shamans, vampires and witches come together and show off their special powers. I'll admit, occasionally I felt that some of the "powers" and descriptions were just a bit ridiculous and almost ruined any credibility this book had. (If that is possible with supernatural themes?) At times I did feel like I was reading a childrens book where even more weird and wonderful creatures appear with even more whacky and zany powers and spells! I also felt that the descriptions of these creatures, their powers and their relationships were a bit too confusing.
Despite this, I was looking forward to some of the characters being developed in the book, but actually it doesn't really happen. I believe that the young witch has her own book series so this might be one of the reasons but it would have been nice to have seen some of their powers a bit more in action.
Violence over Sex...
In fact, the violence and torture seemed to overtake the "sexy" part of the book. IN the first book, there were lots of fairly racy scenes between Elena and Clay which did still fit well with the theme of the book. Elena at this time was still in denial and was fighting her feelings for Clay. This book had a completely different feel; Elena and Clay have made up and so the focus was on the violence that the humans were inflicting. For this reason, the whole tone of the book was darker and definitely more violent. A lot more was put in to describing the transformation of werewolves as well as describing the pain that werewolves go through when they are bitten and "transformed" into half-werewolves. I really liked the darker tone to this book, it gave it a much more intense feel and a sense of urgency. I raced through the pages desperate to find out what happens in the end!
All in all, I found it a great follow up to "Bitten" as it provided a totally different feel. If you are a follower of Twilight, you may appreciate that the books, (although good I'll admit!) do tend to be fairly same-y and I'd be hard pushed to distinguish between the books now except from the final one. With this series, there is a clear distinction as the characters and the story develops. This series has proved itself to be the raunchier, darker and more violent version of the popular "Twilight" series. If you found Twilight too fluffy but like the supernatural theme, then this series could be the one for you.
Elena Michaels is a very rare beast ~ she is the only currently known female Were-Wolf in existance; the problem being that only males pass on the genetic material to become a Lyncathrope and that females have to be created by being bitten. As it is unsurprisingly rare for humans to actually survive a Wolf attack, in most cases victims die after being bitten by a Were-Wolf. Elena is fortunate; lucky in the sense that not only has she survived but also in that she has been accepted into a Pack and has become the mate to her Pack's second-in-command who is also the Lycanthrope responsible for her condition.
Elena spends her time in between writing a political column for a Canadian newspaper and tracking down "mutts" (Were-Wolves not assigned to any Pack) who threaten to cause trouble and bring human attention to the group. Whilst tracing a lead that offers information to the highest bidders, Elena stumbles quite literally on a pair of Witches looking to attract other creatures of Supernatural existance. Someone, it seems, has been collecting specimens from the paranormal community for scientific research and is looking for further subjects. Before long, Elena soon falls foul of these very same people and discovers that the man responsible for the abductions is none other than a highly successful and notorious business man, Ty Winsloe. But it is not just research he is interested in. Winsloe also wants subjects for his "Most Dangerous Game." A hunt that satisfies his video-game inspired hunger, Winsloe desires not just Virtual Reality but "Actual Reality" and what could be more challenging than hunting a man (or woman?) that can turn into a Wolf?
Winsloe is not the only one whose lift doesn't go all the way to the top. Amongst his staff is one Dr.Bauer who at first tries to befriend Elena but has personal issues of her own that REALLY need dealing with; then there is the Half-Demon, Xavier, who has his own motives (mostly greed) for aiding and abetting the enemy. Even Head Scientist, Dr.Matasumi has his own little reasons for conducting his research that are certainly less than altruistic and defenitely not benevolant! All in all Elena has seemingly walked into a very mixed bag of nuts. Can she escape with any of her fellow captives before she is next on the hit-list for Winsloe? And just what are the reclusive entrepenauer and his team REALLY after?
Stolen is that rare thing; a supernatural thriller that has been slotted into the genre of Paranormal Romance (and regular readers of my reviews will recall how much I hate that term!) that is actually very good! Elena is a very easy character to like and associate with and there is no need to have read the first book in this series (Bitten) to be able to follow what is going on. As a stand-alone, this novel works perfectly adequately and is all-in-all a bloody excellent read that is as fast-paced as it is action-packed! Very little time is devoted to the romance side of things, though there a couple of slushy bits, and more time devoted to the supernatural/ paranormal aspects! It is not really horror per se but there is violence, blood and gore and shares many elements of the more traditional horror genre. Still, this is a book that feels strongly aimed at the female market though there is plenty here to like for hetro red-blooded males as well!
The style of writing could be best compared to that of a much more talented James Patterson or Dan Brown with its easy-on-the-eye approach and there is certainly nothing THAT challenging here. Still that is not to say that this isn't absolutely excellent by any means, only that the book is written in a very light manner and interspersed with plenty of pop-culture moments as well as being inter-laced with a liberal smattering of very dark humour!
Kelly Armstrong is on to a real winner here and I cannot wait to read further books in this series! I have read one or two in the past but never one after another and never really following the continuity as is probably advised. Certainly this book sets up the premise of a much more grander and varied world than as was first apparent in first novel, Bitten, with its introduction to all manner of Races not explored in the series' predecessor. If you like a bit of punch for your paranormal pounds, then this is without a shadow of a doubt, one series you need to be reading!!
It's a rollercoaster of a ride that once you stop, you WON'T want to put down!!!
After re-reading the first book in Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld Series, I couldn't wait to re-read the second one, Stolen, and I wasn't disappointed. When you come across a new author its always a worry that sequels to the original won't be as good, but I had not need to be concerned about this author, if anything Stolen is better. The plot has you on the edge of your seat, and this is definitely one of those books you shouldn't read in bed when you have to get up early the next morning! Elena discovers that there are more paranormal species than just werewolves, and when she is taken captive to be studied by a team of scientists funded by a megalomaniac billionaire who wants the supernaturals to be able hunt them in a 'reality' videotype game, she has a hard time figuring out who are the good guys and who are the baddies. I don't want to give away too much of the story, so I'll just say the book is a roller-coaster so sit back and enjoy the ride!
AUTHOR: Kelly Armstrong
COST: UK RRP £6.99
AVAILABLE AT: Waterstones, Borders, WH Smith, amazon.co.uk, and probably a whole load of other places
GENERAL INFO: Stolen is the second book in Kelly Armstrongs Women of the Otherworld series. All the novels in the series (in order) are Bitten, Stolen, Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic, and Haunted; with the sixth instalment, Broken, due in the US on the 25th of April 2006. As the title of the series suggests, each novel stars a supernatural female living on modern day earth amongst the regular human beings who are completely unaware of the fact that supernatural races exist at least, most of them.
BACK COVER: Elena Michaels is a wanted woman. She hasnt done anything wrong. Well, not recently, anyway. But ten years ago her lover turned her into a werewolf: the only female werewolf in the world, in fact.
And now, just as shes finally coming to terms with it all, a group of scientists learns of her existence. Theyre hunting her down, and Elena is about to run straight into their trap. But they havent reckoned on Elenas adoptive family, her Pack, who will stop at nothing to get her back. They havent reckoned on Elena herself, either, and thats a very big mistake
HANNAH BANANA THINKS: You know, after reading Bitten, where Kelly Armstrong first introduces us to Elena Michaels, I didnt think it could get any better. I mean, you always get those authors who have a really successful first novel, and then come up with mediocre sequels in an attempt to cash in on the devotion of their new-found fans. Kelly Armstrong is not one of them. No, as hard as I found it to imagine Elenas story getting any better, it did. And, oh, how much better.
In Stolen, Kelly Armstrong creates a fascinating plot, exploring not only Elena, the only female werewolf, but a whole band of supernatural beings, a plot to capture and expose these creatures and the sick mind of a multimillionaire. Sounds a bit difficult to believe, but it works.
The story opens with Elena going to investigate a suspicious internet advertisement from someone claiming to have solid proof of the existence of werewolves up for sale. Within her Pack, its mainly Elenas job to make sure that the activities of the Mutts (non-Pack werewolves) do not expose their existence, so she always investigates claims that look like they might amount to something. As it turns out, it amounts to much more than Elena expected. Two witches tell her they put the ad on the internet to lure her to them so that they could warn her. Elena, who until that moment had believed that werewolves were the only supernatural beings, suddenly finds out that there are in fact many other supernatural races; and that the safety of all these groups are at stake.
Before she knows it, Elena finds herself at a meeting of the supernaturals - from Witches and Shamans to Half-Demons and Vampires. This unlikely assembly strive to prevent a group of scientists undergoing an investigation from capturing and exposing their kind. Despite the meeting and warnings, Elena is kidnapped and taken to a high-security compound in a forest in the middle of nowhere, where she finds many other supernatural beings being held. There, they are kept under round the clock surveillance, living in cells with 1-way, soundproof glass for walls. They are poked and prodded by doctors and scientists looking to find a way to tap into their powers for the benefit of the human race.
However, we soon find that the manipulative, self-centred billionaire Tyrone Winsloe, who is funding the project, has an agenda of his own. He is funding the project on the condition that once the scientists are finished with each supernatural specimen, he can let them go in the forest, which is rigged with high-tech surveillance equipment and traps, and then proceed to hunt them to their death. This is his sick idea of a game.
The place is almost impossible to escape from, and even the supernatural friends on the outside are finding it almost impossible to get into. But they are determined. And the scientists hadnt banked on the idea that the supernatural races (both the ones in the compound and the ones that are free) would team up, combining powers such as super-strength, telepathy, astral projection, the ability to incinerate anything with just a touch, and spell casting to plan their escape and their revenge.
Stolen is brilliantly written, combining quick, quirky, snatches of humour with graphic, gory scenes of battle and mayhem. You wouldnt expect to find your self laughing out loud in the middle of the description of a bloody battle, but Kelly Armstrong makes it so easy to do just that. She provides just the right dose of comic relief to ease the tension that is built in the gorier scenes. I really liked the way the narrative was laced with sarcastic humour, and Armstrong poked fun at the very genre she was writing in, with comical references to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Men and the X-Files. The plot develops too quickly for the reader to become bored or to question the use of such ideas as a witch casting a spell to become invisible and really leaves us wanting more. All her characters are unique individuals and are very well developed as the story progresses.
Another great thing about this book is that unlike other books that are part of a series, you dont have to have read the book before it to be able to understand and enjoy it and it has a proper ending, instead of leaving you hanging. It is truly a brilliant read, with a gripping story-line that leaves you unable to put the book down. (I made the mistake of starting this book at night: I couldnt put it down until Id finished itat 5am the following morning!) Loved it.