Kelley Armstrong – Broken, a book review

Broken is the first novel by Kelley Armstrong that I’ve read. I picked this one up in the local library, not completely convinced that a heavily pregnant female werewolf chasing down Jack The Ripper in modern-day Toronto would be a… believable…. read.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that Broken is part of a series of books. Looking into it, it seems to be a supernatural series called Otherworld. In all honesty, until I discovered this, I figured Ms Armstrong was positioning herself as the Anne Rice of werewolves. I’m serious….

The plot of the book centers on werewolf Elena Michaels. A bit of background: Elena lives in a ‘pack’ of werewolves, a very modern, enlightened community by all accounts. She and her partner Clay are expecting a baby and life is peachy until a half-demon – Xavier – calls in a favour.

Aside: Until Buffy, I have never heard of such a thing as a half-demon. They’re all over the place these days. What the hell’s wrong with having full demons for a change?

Anyway, the task is to steal the notorious “From Hell” letter from a collector in Toronto. A seemingly easy job, but in the course of the operation, Elena and her pals manage to trigger an enchantment on the letter and trigger an interdimensional portal (yep, one of those) which releases a couple of zombies and a killer, presumed to be The Ripper.

The action centers on Elena from that point as it seems that the zombies are tracking her for some reason. This is the author’s cue to release just about every conceivable supernatural entity in the book: vampires, necromancers, sorcerers, etc are drafted in to help solve the mystery and close the portal (which has introduced a slew of 19th Century diseases to modern-day Toronto, dontcha know).

Well, without spoiling the ending, the plot becomes utterly preposterous by the end. Although there are a few unexpected twists, the climatic ending is over too quickly, proving a little bit of a let down. Armstrong tries to dirty up the ending by leaving Elena’s partner Clay with a some battle scars, but that’s ultimately unconvincing given that she pops out two baby wolves shortly afterward.

On the upside, I found the werewolf pack in Broken to be an interesting group: their relationships with each other and outsiders are explored well by the author, and the protectiveness of the pack toward Elena as the only female in the group shows animal instinctiveness and human bonding working in tandem.

If you’re buying this book for the Jack The Ripper back-story, dont. That is merely a sub-plot and Armstrong doesn’t delve too deeply into Ripper lore. For me, the verdict is out on this one – on one hand the plot became utterly preposterous (I think the vampires in Armstrong’s universe can walk in sunlight), but on the other the story is well paced, interesting and pretty unique. And it certainly keeps you guessing.

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