Kelley Armstrong
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Buy *Stolen: Women of the Underworld* online Stolen: Women of the Otherworld
Kelley Armstrong
468 pages
September 2004
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Kelley Armstrong debuted the "Women of the Otherworld" series with the spectacular book Bitten, in which readers were introduced to the concept and lives of werewolves living among ordinary humans today through the struggles and adventures of the unforgettable protagonist Elena Michaels - an unsuspecting young woman who’s bitten by her werewolf lover and transforms, thus becoming the only female werewolf in existence.

In this second, highly anticipated continuation of the series, Elena, in her role of keeping track of non-Pack mutts, comes across an auction of surprisingly authentic evidence of werewolf existence. When the women purporting to be the sellers reveal themselves to be real-life witches who know Elena’s true nature and confess to having lured her to warn as well as invite her to a rare meeting of the supernatural races, Elena doesn’t know whether to laugh in disbelief or slash their throats - a task she finds impossible once the witches bind her with their spells.

Abashed but convinced, Elena, together with her Pack Alpha, comes to the gathering headed by the witches Paige Winterbourne and her aging aunt Ruth, and attended by other mythical creatures such as demons and vampires. In an unexpected but magnificent twist of plot, these legendary villains have gathered to discuss the recent surge in kidnapping/killing of their fellow supernaturals by their seemingly ordinary foe: man – in particular, computer billionaire Tyrone Winsloe, who has grown bored with his video games and now wants the thrill of hunting some of real-life monsters. Before these highly mistrustful and bickering races can agree upon a common strategy, Elena is kidnapped by Winsloe’s team. What will happen now? Who will win this epic struggle between man and creatures from his worst nightmare?

In the first book, Bitten, readers were made aware of the secret existence of werewolves in normal human society. In the second book, Stolen, author Kelley Armstrong takes this theory one step further and introduces more such mythical creatures, arguing successfully that if werewolves are possible then so are vampires, demons, witches and others. Once readers digest this hypothesis, it’s very easy to get sucked into Armstrong’s slick supernatural thriller that, together with her trademark dry prose, breathless action, non-stop suspense and in-depth characterizations, makes Stolen a broader, more well-rounded story, almost as captivating as Bitten.

Despite an overabundance of intriguing new characters, Elena once again remains the strong and compelling central protagonist, although Armstrong does take care to briefly but adroitly flesh them all out most believably. In this way, the author not only opens up herself but readers as well to the possibilities of a die-for supernatural series, instead of just getting stuck with a werewolf one. Conflicts are multiple and equally fascinating, whether between the different supernatural species or between members of the same species and ultimately, between them and their human captor/hunters. Armstrong never lets the narrative slow or the tension dip, even when the characters are being introspective or when romance, what little there is, briefly takes over. Passion, drama, pathos and loss, all further complicate this multi-pronged story.

Overall, this richly imagined and well-executed story is a sterling addition to a series that’s already garnering acclaim by the truckload and is not one to be missed.

© 2004 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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