Joy (cithra) wrote,

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Bitten - Kelley Armstrong

Despite my trusty book of NY Times crossword puzzles, I was ambushed by a book in one of the airport shops yesterday afternoon. Part of it was that I was simply more in the mood to read than to work the puzzles, the last several of which had been on themes of which I am culturally athwart. That is the best way I can describe a peculiar subset of the puzzles from Eugene T. Maleska's tenure as editor. He leaned toward puzzles with arcane or geographical references to the extent that sometimes I'm completely at a loss as to what's going on. Working through a book, it's a little disheartening to encounter two or three of these in a row, where not even a peek at the answers in back helps me to get on with the solving. So I was ready to do something a little less punishing, like reading a book.

While browsing in the airport gift shop, I picked up Bitten, subtitled Women of the Otherworld, Book 1 with a small shiver of trepidation - I have a personal bias against books that announce themselves as "book x" of a series, especially when books x + n have yet to appear on the shelves. ( We are promised Stolen as book 2 in the summer of 2003.) I initially guessed it would be vampire fiction until the red eye on the cover resolved itself as a wolf's. In the pantheon of Traditional Horror Monsters I've always been more partial to the werewolf than the vampire, so I skimmed the first page and decided to get it.

I mentioned earlier the unusual encounter that led to the book being purchased for me; I was in the airport some several hours earlier than my flight left (on account of the way the schedule for Horizon's SEA-FAT service falls out more than anything) so I toddled off to my gate and sat down to read.

I was really quite enchanted. It's partly a coming-of-age story, or rather a coming-to-terms-with-your-life story, and it also touches on themes of family and belonging - adjuncts to the theme of 'just what is human, anyway' that is one of my favorites (or perhaps the favorite theme of mine, if you consider my anthropology background). It also raises some interesting questions about human serial killers and human/animal nature, a fresh and welcome addition to the theme.

Craft-wise, it avoids the trap of trying to over-explain the mechanics, though certain aspects of the story raise some questions I might find more intrusive on a second read. It reminded me a little of Laurel K. Hamilton's work - not in a derivative way, more in the pleasure I get from the were- portions of her stories. For a first novel, it's well put-together. If the series does indeed continue, Armstrong will probably settle into a pretty good story-teller.

It was a quick read - though I'm a quick reader - I was finishing it as we touched ground in Seattle. Obviously I'm recommending it, here. It's out under Penguin's Plume imprint, according to the back cover.

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