A New Job Description for Angels: Kelley Armstrong’s THIRTEEN
I had the absolute pleasure of sitting beside Kelley Armstrong for a banquet when she spoke as the MC for the Aurora Awards at When Words Collide 2012 in Calgary. I became a fan based on her devotion to keeping Young Adult fiction as Young adult, and allowing her characters to mature at their natural pace rather than rushing the storylines along simply to create the conflict some readers desired. As her bestselling Women of the Otherworld series comes to a close with the conclusion of Savannah Levine’s story in Thirteen, I’m excited to see what Kelley will throw at us next!
The final installment of Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, Thirteen, combines everything the fans have grown to love about her fast-paced writing style, action-packed plots, tones of mystery and suspense, and vivid ensemble cast of characters that have grown across the volumes.
As Savannah Levine takes on her biggest challenge yet with the help of her ascended angel mother, Eve Levine and necromancer Jamie Vegas, new depths of darkness in the world of supernatural creatures make themselves known.
“Typical guy. You fight through hell – literally, hacking through legions of beasts and zombies and demon-spawn – to sneak home and spend a few stolen minutes with him… and he’s not there.”
What an opening line!
The Women of the Otherworld Series (also called more simply the Otherworld Series) is a fantastic demonstration of how an author can write a book within an existing world with established preconceived notions (angels, werewolves and silver, etc) and expand that world to touch upon subjects, situations and well-known myths while proving many of those preconceived notions wrong. Bitten, the first book in the series, follows the story of Elena, a female werewolf. But as the series developed, Kelley allowed the perspective of the stories to shift, and ended it all by smashing together every element of the series that her fans adore with books 11, 12 and 13 – Waking the Witch, Spellbound and Thirteen – a trilogy told by a character who was still under the care of her guardians in the early books of the series, still impulsive and in need of parental guidance.
Well, Savannah Levine has certainly grown up through the series, and for readers who are expecting all the brutal action of the werewolf volumes of the series and all the twists and turns of Industrial Magic, Thirteen does not disappoint.
In reuniting unexpectedly with her ascended angel mother, Eve Levine, Savannah learns that though she’s happy to spend time her mother following her death, she has grown up without her and can hold her own while battling demons of all varieties. But in Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld, being an ascended angel is definitely not what you might expect from the usual job description we associate with angels and their duties.
“Considering the size of that sword, I’m guessing angel-hood isn’t about playing harps and listening to prayers.”
Savannah is eager to learn about her mother’s life as an angel but recognizes that there is far more to it than she expects.
Her mother replies, “It’s not. Glorified bounty hunter is more like it. We go after anyone and anything raising hell where they shouldn’t be. Imps and demi-demons, hell-dimension escapees, general afterlife shit disturbers.”
There are cutting encounters of unexpected, heart-wrenching attacks and moments where you’ll bend the cover (or bump the volume button on your tablet) gripping it to brace for what’s next. A court scene gone bloodily wrong and moments of grief, hope, and fear… but never without momentum and the desire to see “How’re they gonna get outta this one?!”
As an author, I tend to mix third person perspectives in with a first person main character, and Kelley Armstrong does the same. The voices of her characters are sharp and consistent, the transitions smooth, and I truly adore the way Savannah’s character has matured into a New Adult voice. In one particular scene, Savannah must tell someone that the mother of his unborn baby is dead, and she expresses how she wants to run and scream, but she steels herself and encourages the survivor, Jake, to live, to carry on. It’s a moment of sorrow and maturity, and exactly what New Adult voices are about: the desire to have a total meltdown muted behind the responsibility to do exactly the opposite.
If I had one issue while reading Thirteen, it would be an occasional lack of description, written staccato to drive the story forward with increasing momentum.
“She reached down and cracked open her case. Light flooded out. ‘You see, Toby, you were wrong. I haven’t been hiding out.'”
This particular passage caught me because the case, until that moment, had been closed and its contents a mystery, and I wanted to see the fear on Toby’s face as Eve reveals her angelic weapon. I wanted to watch his ears prick at the click of the bow case… but, though that left me wanting, the paragraph afterwards resolves my sense of satisfaction entirely:
“Toby jumped back, knees knocking his laptop and sending it toppling as he scuttled onto the sofa.”
*Giggles* Ha Ha, Toby. Sucks to be you!
The staccato pace fits well in the action sequences, however, keeping the events rolling forward without wasting time to stop and smell the roses. And then there are parts of the story where not only am I glad there was NOT more description, the words used to describe the events are so bold, so pronounced, that they hit with more punch and shock because there was less of a reaction from the character. Things too shocking to require a reaction:
“The bodyguards leaped around the table. Balaam fluttered his fingers and the men’s eyes… popped. Just popped, blood streaming down their faces as they screamed. Balaam snapped his fingers and they stopped screaming.”
Yeah, those are the shivers I’m looking for within a bloodbath. *shudder* Love it.
If paranormal fiction of any kind is your flavor, you’re sure to find at least a few volumes within the Otherworld series that prick your appetite for suspense and action. The style of the books vary depending on which character tells the story – some more investigative with less brutality (something many fans expressed disappointment about, while others were delighted to read Kelley’s masterful weaving of mystery) and some with more depth into the heart and soul of the character and how she comes to terms with her history – as in Thirteen.
The other twelve installments of the Otherworld series
In case thirteen books in one series and several other series on the go, plus novellas and anthologies and short fiction wasn’t awesome enough, Kelley Armstrong has also announced on her website that Space TV will soon begin filming a series based on Bitten, the first book in the Otherworld series.
Have you read the Otherworld series? Got a favorite installment? We’d love to hear your comments, and I hope to keep information on the Bitten TV series coming as details emerge! According to her website, though, those details still seem rather hush-hush.
Be sure to Like Kelley on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KelleyArmstrong.