Friday, November 30, 2012

Thirteen (Women of the Otherworld, #13) by Kelley Armstrong

Rating 3/5

Here ends Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld urban fantasy series. But not really. Apparently, there's going to be two anthologies of short stories. Armstrong has also left the door open to more novels. This is probably my favorite adult urban fantasy series, and Bitten is what got me into the genre in the first place.

Armstrong put the prologue for Bitten at the beginning of Thirteen to remind us where it all began, but I'm not sure this was the best idea, because it also reminded us what she can do when she has time. Bitten is the best book in the series, and I've kept reading Women of the Otherworld hoping she'd recapture that style. Bitten was more about Elena, the character, about being a werewolf, about character development. The rest of the books in the series were more and more plot-driven. Armstrong is pretty good at coming up with complicated plots. We know she's also good at creating characters and relationships, but unfortunately she hasn't focused on that lately.

Thirteen brings together all Armstrong's main characters and quite a few minor ones in a big fight to "save the world" (i.e. America) by getting caught in between the "reveal" movement and equally radical "anti-reveal" terrorists. The story is told mostly from the first-person perspective of Savannah, with several third-person chapters telling bits of the story that happen to the other women. It's a weird way to write a book. Personally I think it would've been better to write it all in third-person.

I still think Savannah is a YA character, even though Armstrong keeps trying to make her grow up. She's also not a very interesting or unique personality. I just don't get a sense that the author has a deep grasp on who she is the way she did with the rest of her Women. After three books, Savannah should be a fleshed-out character, but I still feel like she's a pale caricature, and so much like every other YA protagonist in the genre. I can't tell if it's because Armstrong was too focused on plot to develop a genuine character, or if she focused on plot because there wasn't much to Savannah.

The plot itself was supposed to be epic, I guess, but I just didn't feel the "gravitas". Even though this was (supposedly) the last book of the series, you knew they would solve the problem, and there was never the sense that anyone was in dire peril. (spoiler removed)

Armstrong has been writing two books a year for quite awhile now (one WOTOW and one YA), and it's a pity. Because she's turned into a bookmill, she's never recaptured the level of writing she had with Bitten. Quantity over quality is the name of the game in this genre, and I really wish some of these writers would resist that. Especially this one, because we've seen how talented she can be.

After this book ends, we are "treated" to a short-story (really an epilogue) about Clay & Elena's return to the Pack. It's odd, because it seems its only purpose (spoiled removed)is to set up some future plot (spoiler removed). As a story on it's own, and considering this is supposed to be the end of the series, it really doesn't make any sense. I guess it is just a hint of what might appear in those future anthologies.

To sum up, Thirteen is kind of a last gasp. It's full of action, lots of people running all over the place trying to stop bad stuff from happening. It's a quick read, and better than Spell Bound, but not a meaningful or satisfying end to a series that I used to get really excited about reading.

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