Top critical review
I wanted to like this book
on 6 August 2017
I wanted to like this book, I really truly did. I found Kelley Armstrong's series with an accidental pick up of her 11th book in the series, Waking the Witch. After reading that and Spellbound, I was looking forward to seeing how the story got to such a point and all the characters that those books alluded to. I will give one bit of credit; it is very obvious how much the author's writing and character development has grown over the series when you compare the two works. So, let's get on to the actual review. Obviously, spoilers entail so read with caution.
The set up:
Very general, very slow, and not very intriguing. The backstory of the protagonist sounds more interesting than the story that's actually playing out but we're only ever given blips of information about what happened or why. If the plot had been set during the backstory's events, it would have been massively more interesting.
My biggest pet peeve of the story. The characters were flaky, cliche, and generally self-righteous and obnoxious.
The main character Elena is obviously meant to be this tortured soul but comes across more as a spoiled entitled little brat who tries to use a less privileged upbringing as an excuse for her behavior (when really it only means she should have known better). She flip-flops back and forth between personality, which could have been interesting if it was actually a trait in and of itself. The self-righteous attitude she has in regards to the pack could almost be forgiven if it weren't for the way she constantly blows hot and cold with her 'former' love interest, Clay, all the while playing her actual partner who remains forgotten and neglected back in the city. I'll give the author credit that she TRIES to address this matter with on again off again feelings of regret and guilt in the protagonist, but such attempts are often immediately derailed but the typical follow up of justifying and excusing it for asinine reasons such as 'history' or 'instinct' with the typical 'normal humans can't understand' tacked on. The way this protagonist constantly uses the people around her to justify her use of them and her actions is absolutely maddening and makes her rather unlikeable.
The pack, much like Elena, are self-serving and unjustifiably righteous. Their actions towards those not of their pack are callous and ignorant at best and outright cruel at worst, and yet they are surprised when they are acted against. This could have been an opportunity for amazing character development but is instead twisted to be used as a way to vilify the 'outsiders' as little more than evil savages and justify the pack's actions and behavior.
Clay, oddly enough as someone the protagonist would have us feel contempt for despite how wishy-washy she is in her relationship with him, is probably the most likable character in the story. He has flaws, MASSIVE flaws, yes, but actively acknowledges them and continuously tries to make up for them rather than justify them.
Overall, I understand the theme involving wolves (werewolves, duh) but I think the whole pack dynamic and wolf instinct was pushed a bit too much to the detriment of actual character development. The constant forced justification is really what kills the characters and the story alike.
The Overall Story:
The story, while obviously trying to be something of a mystery thriller, comes across less as having intriguing twists and turns and more as if it doesn't have a clue what it's actually doing. It tries way too hard to juggle multiple plots and story elements in an attempt to create interest and intrigue but only ends up being all over the place and seeming confused. This isn't suspense or mystery, this is just a confused plot that has no idea what the actual story is.
I love Kelley Armstrong. I really do. I bought this book because I fell in love with her writing in the later part of the series but it really is obvious how much she has grown and changed from this starting point to the later portions of her writing. She IS a good author and her writing DOES get better. However I would not recommend this book to someone just getting into her work; it is NOT the best example of her talents (and she IS talented, which is why this was such a disappointing read).