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Nowhere near the usual standard
on 1 December 2008
With the exception of Haunted, I have rated every Kelley Armstrong book 5 stars. It always saddens me when I can't do that, and unfortuanately this is the case with Living with the dead.
LWTD carries on from Hope's story Personal Demon, don't let the dust jacket fool you into thinking this is Robyn's book, she hardly gets any page time. It supposedly attempts to answer the question, what happens when a human gets thrown into the dark side of the Otherworld?
This is the first time Armstrong uses the third person narrative and we have five different view points to contend with. This means that we are really actually dealing with five different stories as whilst the plots do relate to each other, the different characters all have very separate issues to contend with. This gave the plot a very disjointed feel and it was easy to miss clues relating to the story outlined on the jacket.
This also means that none of the characters are especially developed. The chapters are tiny (usually 2-3 pages) which means that we are jumping around all over the place. It was the first time when reading Armstrong that I had no concept of time passing. I also couldn't remember what had happened to each character by the next instalment of their narrative. This made for a confusing, frustrating read. I couldn't get gripped on the story line, which was sad.
It doesn't help that none of the characters are particularly redeeming either. I'm sure this is because they don't get developed properly, but for example Robyn bored me to tears and seemed to be there just as a plot device, her acceptance of her situation seemed to me unrealistic. This is a shame when you consider that their individual situations are actually interesting. A character like Finn could have a fascinating book as he becomes aware of his own place in the Otherworld. Sadly such things are passed by. Theoretically established characters like Hope were also disappointing, she bore no resemblance to her sparky character in Personal Demon and is so bogged down in relationship issues she is somewhat emotionally unstable, her grasp over her demon also appears to have slipped leaving her irrational at times.
After reading LWTD, I am left confused and unsure what I gained from the book, if anything. Not something Armstrong intended I'm sure. Dedicated fans will gain something from this book as I have done (Karl was real high point) but newcomers will be overwhelmed. Start with Bitten, and hope that in Frostbitten, the next instalment we see a return to form.