Werewolves have always held a frightening place in the mythology of
mankind. The wolf is one of nature's purest hunters: savage, fierce
and deadly. To see the narrowed yellow eyes and bared teeth awakens
deep fears. Werewolf stories were used to keep children on the
straight and narrow. Fear bred the concept that wolves, and
werewolves, were merely brutal and horrific monsters.
Kelley Armstrong has taken that notion and obliterated it. Her
series of werewolf tales has given the creature a new look, one
that is more romantic and accessible, much like vampires have been
for ages. Granted they still bear the savagery one would expect,
but they are not simple carbon-copies of long ingrained myth. In
fact, Armstrong does a tremendous job in dealing with the very
human side of werewolves because, after all, they are human,
and they are presented with lives and loves and fears that we as
readers share in common.
Elena Michaels is the only female werewolf, and as BROKEN begins we
learn that she is pregnant. As she prepares for the Change by which
she will morph from human to wolf, she fears for the safety of her
child. Will the alteration harm the baby? Her fear as an expectant
mother is threaded throughout this new novel, and as such readers
are given an opportunity to connect with her and understand her on
a very human level. The concerns for her child grow as she and her
companions, Clay and Jeremy, are called upon to perform a task in
exchange for information they have been seeking that will help them
eliminate an adversary.
The half-demon, Xavier, needs their help in obtaining a long-lost
relic: the infamous "From Hell" letter purported to have been
written by Jack the Ripper. The three agree to the job and succeed,
but in doing so they inadvertently open a portal to Victorian-era
London, unleashing a pair of zombies. Worse yet, Jack the Ripper
himself slips through time and is free to move through modern-day
Toronto, where his ultimate goal is Elena.
Armstrong has an outstanding grasp of the world she writes in. The
modern world is very much what we expect and her descriptions of
the way the Otherworld works and how it functions within our own is
exceptional. Weaving a modern tale with the historical Jack the
Ripper mythos lends the story a dose of excitement and edge and
helps to make this unbelievable story infinitely more believable.
Yet even more helpful in engaging the reader are the characters.
Each of them is so well-defined and given such well-executed
individual voices that it is hard not to become involved with their
stories and to feel a kinship with them.
BROKEN is a mixture of dark adventure, horror, passion, history and
humor. Armstrong's writing is clear and captivating, and she does
nothing to hold back the quick pace of a great story. She has been
compared to Laurell K. Hamilton and that is a very accurate
comparison, to be sure, but without question her work has the
strength to stand on its own merits.
We all have a creature in us, a darker side of ourselves that
sometimes can't be held back. Armstrong shows us through Elena and
her fellow werewolves that they, too, are creatures. Literally. Yet
they, like us, feel love and loss, and even surrounded by millions
of people, one can still feel isolated, alone and different.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on December 23, 2010