I started Frostbitten expecting a romance, but although there’s a married couple at the center of the book whose relationship is still in development mode (and thus open to a romantic plot line), there wasn’t sufficient time spent on this element for me, Therefore, I am reviewing the book as a paranormal or urban fantasy with romantic elements.
Elena is the only female werewolf in the world, turned so by her now-husband when she was younger. The werewolf set-up in Frostbitten is of tiny packs, so tiny I’m still amazed that they haven’t gone the way of the Dodo. There is only one pack in North America (though there are werewolves who choose to live outside of the strict pack hierarchy) and this pack numbers 20, if that. Because I came into this series late, I didn’t expect to get an info dump of backstory – and I didn’t receive that – so perhaps it has already been explained why werewolves number so few and why it is that continents can’t have more than one pack. This was a point of confusion for me.
Because Elena is the only female werewolf, most other werewolves are physically attracted to her because of her scent. But now that she is married with two children (and because she is strong and quick-witted), these males for the most part respect her. Not all however, particularly those who don’t come from her pack. In Frostbitten, Elena is the sexual target of a nasty rapist werewolf who previously victimized human women but now cannot resist the prize in a female werewolf. Elena only becomes his target after she starts hunting him; she is on an investigative job for her pack leader, trying to figure out whether a werewolf has been killing humans. This rapist and his partners are the prime suspects.
The book is very action-oriented, and there are many long tracking and chasing scenes with various antagonists. Armstrong’s writing is very direct; she does not use ten words when one will do. I was able to easily follow the excitement. However, though I quickly realized that this was not a romance, I still wished for a greater emotional connection with Elena (who narrates the entire book). I will admit that this could be an unfair request as Elena does go through heavy emotional trauma during the course of the book, not just with respect to her stalker, but on a more personal front. However, perhaps due to that very direct, sparse writing style, I always felt as if there was a lot about the woman that I didn’t fully understand, even though I should have been privy to a great deal via the first person narrative.
In addition, Elena was just so strong – emotionally and physically – that she was slightly unreal to me. In one particular scene she’s trussed up and left in the forest for a Sasquatch-type creature to kill her. The way she handles the situation is extremely admirable, but given how many other similar situations she had been placed in before and after that moment, I got weary of her being put in these positions and “admirably” through both brains and brawn, finding her way out.
In my experience with paranormal romance books, while in werewolf form, the creature is overtaken with animalistic urges often sexual or for the hunt. Elena as a werewolf is much the same as Elena as a human in that her brain processes as it would were she on two legs not four. However, there is a scene where she and her husband Clay in their werewolf form make a feast out of killing and eating mice and this was hard to reconcile with the fact that her brain was still working on a human wavelength. But Elena spends quite a lot of time in wolf form and I really appreciated the way in which the differences to her sight and sound and nature around her are explained.
When back in human form, I was most interested in the struggles of those who wish to leave the werewolf world behind. Elena had previously fought the call of her pack and we read about a werewolf who has successfully managed to cut himself off. Unfortunately for me, this character was developed as weak and selfish for more reasons than just his distance from the pack and not as much time as I would have liked was spent on this aspect.
In general, as a straight paranormal/fantasy book, Frostbitten held my attention. I liked Armstrong’s writing style and I liked Elena’s voice. But the balance of flat-out action to periods of down-time was skewed too greatly towards action – and with Elena in danger for most of it – for me to completely enjoy the reading experience.