Color fans happy, happy, happy when the news broke that Kelley Armstrong’s best-selling novel, Bitten, would be adapted for television. Bitten, Book 1 in the Women of the Otherworld series, was published in 2001. It was Armstrong’s first novel, and was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Horror Guild. There is now a total of thirteen novels in the series, with numerous novellas and spin-offs. Coincidentally, or not, Thirteen is also the title of her final Otherworld novel, though the ending suggests that Armstrong may revisit that universe again.
Armstrong has remarked in various interviews that Bitten was inspired by The X-Files. In crafting this series, she chose not to incorporate many well-known werewolf horror elements that we see in other stories. Silver is ineffective. A bullet can kill them. They do not need the moon phases to change. They retain their intelligence and humanity while wolves, but cannot speak nor make their clothes disappear.
Set in modern times, the series revolves around Elena Michaels, an ordinary woman who just happens to be the only female werewolf in existence. The reader gets to follow her life, as well as the trials and tribulations faced by her pack and the supernatural world at large as they attempt to live in a world that knows nothing about them or their gifts.
Bitten introduces us to Elena and sets up the world(s) in which she maintains one foot at all times. Elena makes for a very interesting protagonist; a difficult foster childhood results in a strong lack of trust, which made her transformation to wolf even more difficult. Elena’s trust was broken when her longtime boyfriend, Clayton Danvers, bit her to bind her to him, changing her life forever. Elena views it as the ultimate betrayal and cuts all ties with him and his family. Not only did he lie to her about who he was, but he bit her without her consent. Front this point on, Elena struggles with her dual nature. She becomes increasingly distraught as she realizes that she enjoys being a wolf and struggles daily to hold on her humanity. When she becomes too comfortable in her role as hunter and executioner for the pack, she leaves, determined to live her life on her own terms.
The story begins with Elena living in Toronto with her human lover, Phillip Madden. Jeremy Danvers, Clayton’s guardian and alpha of their pack, contacts Elena, commanding her home for the first time in years. A series of murders at Stonehaven, the pack sanctuary, looks to be caused by animal attacks. Soon, Elena finds herself pulled back into the politics of the pack and and having to deal with the number-one reason she left the pack in the first place: Clayton. As Elena comes to terms with her dual nature, she learns that when push comes to shove, she will do anything to protect her family.
Bitten was one of my first forays into urban fantasy with a strong female protagonist. Elena has always reminded me a little of Eve Dallas from J.D. Robb’s futuristic In Death series—loyal, intelligent, damaged, and able to do whatever is necessary to keep her world safe. Elena (like Eve) is not one to cry, pout, or shirk her duties. I enjoyed the biting edge the book contained. An overlay of darkness blends well with the faint romance, interesting world-building, and snarky dialogue. No overly affected prose in here. These characters are frank and brutal in both speech and action.