Monday, May 2, 2011

Once Bitten

I have a hard time with some forms of escapist fiction and thus am not familiar with the Twilight series of books, or those that have sprung up to try to emulate their success.  When my sister recommended the book Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, I was quite skeptical.  Luckily for both of us, I recognize her gift for choosing great books and submitted myself to her better judgement. My big issue with fiction that requires me to suspend my disbelief, is that it rarely manages to turn off my internal b.s. meter.  I want to immerse myself in the story without thinking about the plausibility of the plot or the fantastical nature of the characters.  For the most part, unless they are of the more trashy variety, I am able to do this while reading romance novels.  Perhaps this is not a fair comparison, because I read such books with the specific intention of bidding farewell to the rational part of my brain. 

Though I approached Bitten with a certain amount of trepidation and I considered this type of book to be a relic of my teenage past, I found myself sucked in.  The plot of the novel revolves around Elena, a werewolf that tries her best to maintain a "normal" human existence.  She finds herself drawn back into her old Pack when she is contacted out of the blue.  Dropping everything she leaves her home and boyfriend to find out more about this mysterious threat to her adoptive family.  While investigating the deaths of innocent people around Pack territory, Elena reunites with her former lover and fellow werewolf, Clay.  Their troubled relationship and her kinship with her werewolf brethren cause her to question her dream of assimilation into human society.  This is one of those plots that is somewhat generic in that monsters usually struggle with their identities and often display internal conflicts about the acts that they commit.  One of the best examples of this is Anne Rice's character, Louis, from Interview with a Vampire.  Another such example is that of Pinocchio, who just wants to be a real boy.  

What differentiates this book from so many others is Armstrong's strong understanding of the genre and her plucky heroine.  Elena embodies a lot of the qualities that women strive for, she has an almost unthinking belief in her ability to take on challenges.  She takes on scary situations with the aggression and rebelliousness one would expect from a young woman with superhuman strength.  The other aspect of the book that I enjoyed, is the self-effacing jokes that Armstrong makes throughout the novel that shows the reader that she has a sense of humour about her work and the genre she employs.  Overall I was pleasantly surprised by how well-paced the plot was, with almost non-stop action and some steamy love scenes.  I am still going to be a bit selective about the escapist fiction I read, but if I can find more of it that is as good as Bitten, I might have to reconsider my position.

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