Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong
|Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: In the final anthology of tales in the other world of vampires, angels, werewolves and the like we have everything from reality tv to brutal battles for supremacy. All good fun with a moral undertone and a very light touch.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: October 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
I came to Armstrong's Otherworld quite late in its development and it seems that she's now wrapping it up to move on to other things. Billed as the 'final collection' of stories Chills allegedly completes several storylines of her best loved characters. I'd disagree. If Sherlock can survive Reichenbach then I'm sure Werewolves, Vampires and demi-demotic Angels can survive whatever state they may have been left in.
For those not familiar with Otherworld it is essentially a parallel world that intersperses with our own. Populated by Werewolves and Demons and Vampires and Angels, who have their own 'life-issues' not too different from those on this side of the divide. The super-naturals have various powers, all pretty much consistent with the general mythology we're all familiar with, except where Armstrong has decided her 'other world' is going to deviate, which she simply shrugs off with a simple 'commonly believed urban myth' discounter.
There are seven stories in the collection, one or two of them short enough to read in a lunch-break, others of novella length. Some of them edge more towards the horror end of Armstrong's spectrum, or at least the thriller end – because if you accept her premise for the existence of these creatures and the world in which they inhabit, then you're automatically on their side of the divide and so they are not 'the enemy' the way they would be in traditional horror. Others are more Young Adult in flavour, one could even be considered a children's story – if you don't mind your children asking too many questions about how you tell the difference between a dog and a wolf and a Werewolf.
We start with Brazen, in which the New York werewolves are faced with the resurfacing of an old and dangerous enemy. This is really your escaped serial killer versus the cops kind of a tale, except the killer has a very personal victim in mind, who the 'cops' (who aren't cops) really don't want alerted to the fact that the game is a-foot. Lots of dark alleys and vicious fights, a dead body or two along the way.
Then a lighter tone is offered in Chaotic. Hope is a half-demon, who has been protected to the point of ignorance about the world she inhabits. She's inherited her father's taste for chaos, but no real powers to get her out of the situations that tends to land her in, not until she's offered a job working for the Council, which gives her contacts and a pair of spell-laden handcuffs and, probably most importantly, a gun.
A boring date at a gala event turns to adventure when she finds a (not)cat burglar stealing the goodies from a back room at the museum and finds herself caught up in not just a robbery but a vampire feud going back decades. This one is played more for the smiles – if not outright laughs. Think: James Bond or Allingham's Campion.
Amityville Horrible reunites us with Jaime Vegas who I first encountered in No Humans Involved. Conned into doing another reality TV show, our necromancer starts to spook herself when she meets some ghosts who don't fit into any of the categories she knows to exist, frightened and bleeding and begging for her help.
A bit of chick-lit emerges in Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word, except one of the chicks is the most glamorous Vamp ever to walk the otherworld and someone else is in a bit of a long-term sulk.
Then we're into more traditional angels and demons fighting it out in the dark vaults and nether regions, ye even unto the dimensions of hell on the trail of lost sacred texts… before we head into real fairy story territory. Once upon a time there were two young werewolves who wanted a puppy for Christmas. In many ways the story is exactly as twee as I make it sound, but that doesn't stop it being intensely entertaining. There's a bit of a skirmish in this one, despite the involvement of the Stonehaven pack, and lots of morality messages – so if you are short of something to read the kids, this one would probably work.
…And then we wind up with a pregnancy that's not exactly unplanned – just not planned by the parents-to-be. Although set in Otherworld and using the characters and constructs of that place, it could just as easily be set in the world as we tend to more rationally expect it to be.
That's almost the point of a lot of Armstrong's stories. Her characters have super powers and/or enhanced abiltiies or senses, but they have an endearing way of acting just like common or garden human beings.
You don't go to Armstrong if you want to be seriously frightened. The word Chills in the title overplays the spooky angle. Nor does she write for the laughs. None of the stories are funny exactly, but they are all fun. She has a lightness of touch which says this is all just a bit of silliness, but she laces it with lessons about family and friendship and trust and justice – and isn't afraid to throw in some serious violence when it's needed. In the definitively adult stories she also feels the need to throw in the obligatory sex scene, which I kind of wish she wouldn't – not because there's anything specifically wrong with the way she writes them, but just because they don't really add anything to the telling in hand. Otherwise, it's all light easy reading that keeps you turning the pages and wanting to know how it all turns out.
You can read more book reviews or buy Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong at Amazon.com.
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