Title: Otherworld Nights (Otherworld Stories #3)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Plume on October 28, 2014
It’s been more than ten years since Kelley Armstrong began the Otherworld series and drew legions of fans to a realm roamed by witches, werewolves, necromancers, vampires, and half-demons. View Spoiler »Many of the novels have become bestselling favorites, but not all of the Otherworld adventures have been easy to find. At last, Otherworld Nights shares short stories that have previously been available only online or in obscure collections. Fans have long been clamoring for this anthology and they won’t be disappointed—they’ll find plenty of surprises are in store. « Hide Spoiler
Anyone who regularly reads my blog is probably aware of my undying love for Kelley Armstrong, and it all began with her Women of the Otherworld series, so imagine my glee at receiving a copy of OTHERWORLD NIGHTS! Armstrong is one of the few authors who can write short stories just as well as she does novels. Yay! So bear in mind that I love Armstrong, love the Otherworld universe, and I’m a big fan of short fiction, because I thought this was one of the better anthologies I’ve read in the last few years.
Also, please note that this review contains minor spoilers for the Women of the Otherworld series (mostly pertaining to romantic relationships).
This story is a prequel to the Women of the Otherworld series from the perspective of Talia, Adam’s mother, and recounts the events leading up to her discovery of Adam’s half-demon powers. Concerned about her son’s behavioural issues and his seeming pyromaniacal tendencies, Talia gladly accepts an appointment with Dr. Robert Vasic when he contacts her. But what she didn’t realize is that Robert studies demonolgy…and it all goes downhill from there. This is the first story that Armstrong has published narrated by Talia, and I thought her perspective was fresh and compelling. It was the best kind of fan service to read about the first meeting between Talia and Robert, since fans of the series will recall that Robert is Adam’s stepfather in the novels.
Cassandra is a controversial character in the WotO universe: some people love the vampire and others hate her. I don’t really fall in either camp, although I must say that I’m not a big fan, and Twilight didn’t change my perspective. Cassandra is experiencing a growing depression and lethargy indicative of her impending death. Armstrong’s vampire lore states that the creatures are only immortal to a certain extent – eventually their will to live diminishes, they cease desiring blood, and their body’s break down. I did enjoy the insight into her tumultuous relationship with Aaron, who’s been a major fixture in all of Cassandra’s story lines, but ultimately this story was too slow-moving for my tastes.
Confession time: I’ve actually read Stalked before, when it was published in another anthology. Stalked is narrated by Clay, a high-ranking werewolf in the Pack who’s got a reputation for kicking some serious ass. Clay and his mate/wife Elena are on honeymoon in St. Louis when Clay realizes that they’re being stalked by a mutt. What does the mutt want? Well, Elena of course! The American Pack seriously needs to track down some other female werewolves because being the only known one is a major pain for Elena, since all the mutt wolves want a mate. It was wonderful reading about Clay and Elena working as a team to bring down their stalker – it wouldn’t be a holiday for them without some mutt maiming.
My favourite story in the collection! Chivalrous recounts Reese’s backstory, a recent addition to the American Pack who hails from Australia. And good lord is it ever a backstory! Reese has always been a fairly mysterious character: the only thing we really knew about him prior to this story was that his parents were murdered by the Australian Pack and he needed to escape the country. Believe me when I say that the reason they were killed explains A LOT about Reese’s personality. The poor guy has lost so many people and been horribly betrayed; I was very impressed by Armstrong’s ability to break my heart in such a short number of pages, and I highly anticipate further stories about Reese in the future.
Lucifer’s Daughter 4/5
Hope and Karl, one of my favourite WotO couples, star in this fun story of a museum opening gone wrong. Karl is a member of the American Pack and a jewel thief, so he’s naturally a bit of a risk-taker. His girlfriend Hope is an Expisco half-demon, a supernatural species that feeds on chaos and chaotic emotions. So of course it’s a bit of a cluster eff when Karl gets curious and opens a box displayed at the museum…and releases a demon. The couple has to wrestle their impulses – and the demon – in order to get everything back in order without anyone else attending the opening realizing anything’s amiss.
Hidden is the longest story in the collection – actually, I’d say that it’s probably a novella. Elena, Clay, and their twins Logan and Kate are on their Christmas holidays at a cabin in Algonquin Park when weird things start happening. Clay and Elena unearth evidence that suggests a local mutt may be a man-eater, a blatant violation of Pack law. Their investigation into the matter is complicated by the fact that they’re with their four year-old kids, who are completely unaware of the existence of werewolves – and that they themselves may be werewolves as well. Logan and Kate are wonderfully realized characters, by turns mischievous, playful, and petulant. Seeing their personalities and relationships with the other Pack members develop was so much fun! Despite how great they were, I’d have to say that the strongest element of Hidden was the atmosphere of the national park. Armstrong’s writing is evocative, describing the snowscape of the forest beautifully. It also made me quite nostalgic, as I myself have spent quite a few holidays in Algonquin Park with my family. I always love it when Armstrong uses a Canadian setting!
From Russia With Love 3/5
In From Russia With Love the American Pack goes to Russia (go figure) for a werewolf summit discussing the debacle with Gilles de Rais, one of the big bad villains of WotO. The story is narrated by Elena, who (of course) goes into fighting mode when (of course) the twins are targeted by other supernaturals. My least favourite of the collection, I didn’t really understand why Armstrong and her editors chose to include this story. There are already two Elena and Clay stories in Otherworld Nights, and the entire collection is only seven stories! I definitely would have preferred another couple to have been spotlighted, particularly since I was hoping for a story about Paige and Lucas.
Vanishing Act 4/5
Vanishing Act is set after the Thirteen, the final novel in the WotO series. Narrated by Savannah, a young private investigator at Cortez Winterbourne Investigations, Vanishing Act is about a young man whose half-demon powers are…unusual. In fact, Savannah and her partner Adam suspect that the boy’s powers have been genetically modified. Together with Savannah’s guardians Lucas Cortez and Paige Winterbourne-Cortez, Savannah and Adam must try to save the boy and protect him from the Cabals, supernatural corporate mafias who want to use him for his powers. A secondary plot-line in the story is the relationship between Savannah and Adam, a new romance still finding its feet. I’m so pleased that Savannah and Adam got their HEA in Vanishing Act – I confess that I felt like they got a bit shafted by Armstrong in the final WotO books. I should’ve known that she wouldn’t leave us hanging like that!
Overall I thought that Otherworld Nights was a wonderful short story collection, and I loved revisiting the Otherworld universe. I’ve been a long-time fan and despite having read more than 15 books in the Otherworld universe, I still look forward to new Otherworld content from Armstrong.