Bitten (Women of the Otherworld 1), by Kelley Armstrong

4 Stars

bitten

Bitten is definitely paranormal romance, but there’s a lot more action and adventure to the story than is usual for the genre. That’s both the reason for the high rating and the reason I didn’t award that 5th star. The relationship between Clay and Elena is too central to the story not to categorize the title as romance, but also lacks the emphasis of a typical love story, because of the heavy and engaging plot. At times, I couldn’t decide if I wanted more Clay and Elena or if I wanted to hear more about this whole wolf thing.

The plot itself is original and complex, and a truly unique take on werewolf lore, without creating a new supernatural breed. Honestly, though, I think my favorite aspect of Armstrong’s writing is her characterization. None of her characters are truly perfect. Elena is sort of cold and angry. She holds a wicked grudge against Clay, who is pretty unforgivably barbaric at times, his choices differing greatly from the show. The choice between Clay and Phillip isn’t obvious to the reader, because Phillip is never painted as a villain. Once again, the relationship is not the sole focus of the story. Typically, with PNR, we enjoy the tale, but we know how it ends. This isn’t so in Bitten. Characters die. Hearts are broken. Not everyone is forgiven. It’s quite refreshing in the genre, if you’re looking for refreshing. There’s also the joy of the closely based Canadian show, now available on Netflix.

Review Word Count: 250

Women of the Otherworld
1. Bitten
2. Stolen
3. Dime Store Magic
4. Industrial Magic
5. Haunted
6. Broken
7. No Humans Involved
8. Personal Demon
9. Living With the Dead
10. Frostbitten
11. Waking the Witch
12. Spellbound
13. Thirteen

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Voyager (Outlander 3), by Diana Gabaldon

5 Stars
This review contains spoilers for Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber.

Gabaldon-Voyager-220x332

After Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager was a make-or-break deal for me. I loved the first book in this series. It was unique, action packed, and had an endearing love story that didn’t detract from the engaging plot. In comparison, Dragonfly in Amber was Rowling’s epilogue in The Deathly Hollows, crushing every imagined ending for the beloved characters in an ill conceived creative writing exercise. These books aren’t short. If I’m going to dedicate such a large portion of my life to a title, it’d better be worth it. Well, Voyager absolutely was. 

::sigh::

Dragonfly in Amber ended with pregnant Claire’s return to the future after everybody dies at Culloden and it’s discovered that Jamie wasn’t among them. Naturally, Voyager began with Claire’s preparations for her imminent return to her sexy highlander and introduced daughter, Briana/Bree. While the opening dragged in its depiction of every single moment since the characters separated, that was partly my own impatience for the pending reunion, at about page 250. At times, the story felt almost anecdotal, the many tales seemingly unrelated, but all the little details came together quite nicely in the last chapter, without testing the limits of my suspension of disbelief. Additionally, Gabaldon did an excellent job of growing her characters. I wasn’t reading a story of twenty-something Jamie and Claire with a forty-something label. They were actually more mature and experienced people, both having been through their own period appropriate hardships and their actions reflected it. Any less would have killed the story.

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly in Amber
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo in the Bone
8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Review Word Count: 250

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander 2), by Diana Gabaldon

2 Stars

dragonfly in amber

Compared with Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber was a massive disappointment.

I think my biggest issue with this title, is that Gabaldon opens with whopping spoilers. I’m not sure what the editor was thinking in approving the layout of this book, but the first six chapters are the ending. The reader knows exactly where the story is going and spends the entire book waiting to catch up, which doesn’t happen until the last page. In all honesty, I would recommend that anyone reading this series skip to chapter seven and go back to the first six after they’ve finished. I’m not exaggerating. I wish I’d done so, myself.

Besides the lack of spoiler alerts, this book was just too far-fetched, which is saying quite a bit for an epic time travel, highlander, adventure, romance. Jamie and Claire spend the story hobnobbing with royalty as they try to prevent the massacre at Culloden. Not only was I forced to expand my suspension of disbelief, but I had to do so amidst tears of boredom. For the most part, every time Outlander started to drag, someone got shankraped on the next page, but not so much with Dragonfly in Amber. Furthermore, some of the things that occurred between Claire and Jamie were just a bit too depressing, which is again, saying something for this series.

Ultimately, I’m glad I muddled through this one, because Voyager more than made up for it. As it is, though, I’m not even looking forward to season 2.

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly in Amber
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo in the Bone
8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Review Word Count: 250

Outlander (Outlander 1), by Diana Gabaldon

5 Stars

outlander

One of the few series I own in hardback, this title spans several genres, from science fiction/fantasy to romance and adventure. While the time traveling heroine, Claire, comes off as annoyingly brazen at times (she’s from 1945, not present day), the characters are quite likable while remaining realistically and consistently flawed. Jamie Fraser makes for a great book boyfriend and swoon-worthy hero… and is beautifully portrayed by Sam Hueghan in the Starz Original series. While the first book might fall under the romance genre, the series as a whole does not. Only in Outlander do we see the traditional development of boy meets girl and Gabaldon has been unclear as to whether readers will get a true HEA. Angst-filled and really quite rapey, the back and forth of this epic (books range from 600-1500 pages) may not appeal to some, but it’s certainly kept me reading. The show has followed the first book almost exactly and watching in tandem makes for a brilliant nerd time. First and foremost, though, I would call this an adventure series, not romance. If you’re looking for steamy scenes or a romanticized historical romance, I’d suggest Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series, not Outlander.

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly in Amber
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo in the Bone
8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Review Word Count: 197