Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Otherworld #1)

Elena Michaels is the world’s only female werewolf. And she’s tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her–her temper, her violence–but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she’s growing content with that life, with being that person. 

So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she’s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she’ll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really. 

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Aasne Vigesaa (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Books on Tape
YEAR: 2001
LENGTH: 436 pages (12 hours 54 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.

Elena has been trying to live as a human, but it quickly becomes apparent (to the reader, if not to herself) that her life in Toronto among the humans and with a boyfriend has been an exercise in making her smell self small enough to fit into what she thinks a human woman ought to be. When a mutt (a werewolf outside the pack) starts trespassing and leaving dead humans in the Pack's woods, Elena is called back to help them track down the mutt and put a stop to their activities. For all its dangers, she clearly revels in the camaraderie and safety provided by the pack. Her relationship with Clayton is tumultuous, vibrant and toxic by turns, but it's obvious both how much each of them care for the other, and how hard it is for him to change. 

I read this because one of my favorite authors recommended the third book in this series, and I'm a completionist who wouldn't be able to stand starting with book three, so I began here. I'm very glad I did. While some of the relationship dynamics haven't aged particularly well, I was pleasantly surprised by how much of it holds up in content, structure, and tone. It's also a snapshot of the 1990's, with cell phones available but low in signal quality, and only a hint of the internet. Elena is the sole female werewolf, a detail that I thought was a bit of a gimmick until I learned that in this series there are fewer than 50 werewolves in the world at any one time. This is possible because hereditary werewolves are all male, interbreeding with humans to produce offspring who then grew up in the pack. It's a neat way of having a small, scrappy species with numbers that edge close to extinction but aren't actually in danger of succumbing to a genetic bottleneck. The other way to create new werewolves is to bite a human, which is what happened to Elena a decade before the story begins. Her survival made her the only female werewolf, as the odds of surviving the bite generally are low, and she was bitten under the best possible conditions to have support through her first few changes.

As the first book in the series, this has a self-contained narrative which arrives at a new status quo by the end. Several major plot points are resolved, but the possibilities created by the ending make me very interested in what the sequels might hold. I like narratives where two very stubborn people gradually try to fit together. While I wouldn't actually want to be in this relationship, it's very fun to read about.

I love the audiobook narrator's performance, especially the voice for Clayton, his tone is captured perfectly. I plan to keep reading the series, and am interested in where it goes next.

Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, infidelity, sexual content, blood, gore, panic attacks/disorders, body horror, violence, gun violence, injury detail, torture, murder, death.

Moderate CW for sexism, misogyny, kidnapping, confinement, sexual harassment, toxic relationship, child abuse, alcohol, car accident, animal death, parental death.

Minor CW for ableist language, racial slur, pedophilia, pregnancy, rape, sexual assault, sexual violence, cannibalism.

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A woman's back, shadowed and surrounded by green above and a wolf below


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