I was so impressed with Kelley Armstrong’s debut book, Bitten, that I did something I’ve never done before: I ordered the sequel, Stolen, from another country. I just couldn’t wait until the book came to the good old U. S. of A. to read what happens next.
What happens next is somewhat complicated. Those readers who read the first book know that Elena Michaels is a werewolf. In fact, she’s the only female werewolf in existence. She and her lover and mate, Clayton, live with the Pack alpha, Jeremy, on the Pack’s estate in New York. It’s Elena’s job to check out werewolf sightings and determine if they are dangerous to the welfare of the Pack as a whole. When the book begins, Elena is checking on a tip she got through the believe.com website. She is to meet with a Paige Winterbourne, who is interested in selling her further information on werewolves.
Only when Elena encounters Paige, it’s clear right away that more is going on. Paige and her aunt, Ruth Winterbourne, aren’t really looking to sell information. They’re looking to contact the Pack. They are witches, and a threat to paranormal beings everywhere has arisen. It seems that someone is collecting witches, half-demons, and assorted paranormals and using them for an unknown purpose. Paige and Ruth are concerned and they would like the Pack’s help in determining what the danger is and how to confront it.
Jeremy and Clay aren’t too interested in getting involved. They figure that the Pack can take care of itself and what happens to the rest of the paranormal species isn’t any of their concern. But when Elena is abducted from her vehicle, they have no choice but to cooperate with Paige. They are willing to retrieve Elena at any cost. But will Elena manage to survive until they can find her?
Stolen is a gripping and fascinating, if sometimes difficult, read. Bitten was not a book for the gentle reader, but the body count is even higher in Stolen. And the villains are stranger, more complicated, and more unpredictable; the wealthy man bankrolling the paranormal study project was freaky in the extreme. I had no idea what he would do next, except that it would be awful. Every time he entered the scene, I read ahead out of fear for Elena. All of Elena’s abductors are fairly horrific, however. Many of their actions bore resemblance to some of the cruelties the Nazis inflicted on their victims.
Stolen is less romantic than Bitten. In the first book, Elena’s conflicts are two-fold: internal and external. She’s fighting the bad guys and her feelings for Clay. In this book, her relationship with Clay is already established. It may be complicated, but the two of them have a certain arrangement, and they’re happy with it. So Clay makes fewer appearances in this book, though he is just as yummy as ever in the ones he makes.
Part of Armstrong’s talent is that she juggles plot and characterization so well. The story’s set-up is quite original, and from there, Armstrong keeps her readers guessing. There are any number of twists and turns. But through all of this Elena remains constant. Her voice shifts a bit when she shifts from human to wolf, but at all times she remains strong, quick-witted, cynical, and possessed of a dark, biting humor. And her relationships with Clayton and Jeremy are complicated and intense, though emotionally supportive.
I was not disappointed in Stolen and do not regret paying the additional shipping to get it early. Armstrong’s next book, Dime Store Magic, will not be about Elena. Instead Paige will get a turn to tell her story. And while I will miss Clay, Elena, and Jeremy, at this point I’m willing to follow wherever Armstrong goes. She has a big fan in this reader.