Review: Kelley Armstrong’s No Humans Involved

21bjyeouhjl__aa_.jpgKelley Armstrong is one of the first authors I started reading in the urban fantasy genre, along with Laurell K Hamilton and Charlaine Harris.  This was when these authors were still shelved under Horror because no one quite knew where to place their books.  In a way, it was easier finding them back then – now if they’re not in Horror, I have to wander through Mystery, Romance, SF/F and Crime (yes, in that order usually) trying to track down their books.

Anyway, “No Humans Involved” is the latest in Ms Armstrong’s Otherworld series.  It’s one of the 2007 books I’ve been waiting for – and I’m glad to say I loved it!   I bought it on my way home from work Friday, and thought that I would read just a couple of pages before I went to bed.  Let’s just say that I had to force myself to put the book down a couple of hours later.

The Otherworld books are narrated in the first-person by one of the female characters in the series.  In this book, Jaime, a necromancer, is the narrator – I was a bit wary at first, as I hadn’t really warmed to Jaime in previous books.  However, she won me over in the first couple of chapters – and her crush on Jeremy made me giggle.  Oh yes, Jaime just happens to have a thing for the Alpha of the North American werewolf pack – so this was their story as well.

Back-cover blurb from Ms Armstrong’s website:

Jaime, who knows a thing or two about showbiz, is on a television shoot in Los Angeles when weird things start to happen. As a woman whose special talent is raising the dead, her threshold for weirdness is pretty high: she’s used to not only seeing dead people but hearing them speak to her in very emphatic terms. But for the first time in her life – as invisible hands brush her skin, unintelligible fragments of words are whispered into her ears, and beings move just at the corner of her eye – she knows what humans mean when they talk about being haunted.

She is determined to get to the bottom of these manifestations, but as she sets out to solve the mystery she has no idea how scary her investigation will get. As she digs into the dark underside of Los Angeles, she’ll need as much Otherworld help as she can get in order to survive, calling on her personal angel, Eve, and Hope, the well-meaning chaos demon. Jeremy, the alpha werewolf, is also by her side offering protection. And, Jaime hopes, maybe a little more than that.

The reality TV angle made for an interesting plot device, and I enjoyed learning more about necromancers in the Otherworld universe.  I mean, we know a lot about werewolves, witches and sorcerors from the previous books, so it was nice reading about another supernatural race.  (Oh, and as a complete aside, I’m looking forward to one of the books where Cassandra, a vampire, is the planned narrator – now that should be interesting).

It was fascinating seeing events from Jaime’s perspective.  In previous books, I think the reason I didn’t like Jaime was that I was seeing her from Paige’s and Elena’s perspective, and they felt that she was constantly trying to push her way in.  Having seen things from Jaime’s perspective, it was less that she was being pushy, and more of trying *not* to be useless.  I think Ms Armstrong said the same about why some readers didn’t like Paige – it was because Elena didn’t really like Paige to start off with, and readers were only seeing Paige from Elena’s perspective.  I’m paraphrasing horribly – and perhaps somewhat inaccurately as I can’t find the source of that piece of info – but that was the general gist, I believe.  For me, seeing events from different viewpoints is part of the attraction of this series.

I thought the book was tightly plotted, and both Jaime and Jeremy were very strong characters.  Both of them are also older characters, and that came through in the maturity of their actions and thinking.  And I appreciated that the romance and sexual tension was handled in a realistic manner.  It wasn’t inappropriate lusting a.ka. “Oh, I must have sex with you right now, never mind the hundred and one demons right behind me” – unlike some of the other books I’ve read recently.  But the first time they slept together was hot!

What else?  I did find it slightly surprising that Jaime knew so much about the Pack and their politics – maybe it was because of her thing for Jeremy…  actually, I suspect she and Jeremy kept in closer contact than most people knew.

The secondary characters were well-rounded, and I think she’s set up the Hope and Karl pairing for the next book rather well – it’s an intriguing relationship.  If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ll probably be lost with references to other characters, but I actually wish there were more Elena and Clay.  I love Clay…

So in summary, lots of action, well-paced, with more in-depth world-building – an excellent addition to the series.  I wavered between an A- and B+ for this – it would be an A for sure if there had been more Jeremy time.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that this is first-person and I do like Jaime – it’s just that I just want more Jeremy, and I would have absolutely loved reading his perspective! 

Having thought it over, it’s an A- for me.  It’s definitely a book I would re-read and makes it onto my keeper shelf.  However, if you haven’t already read previous books in this series, I wouldn’t start here as you’ll probably miss a lot of the world-building details and relationships that make this series special.

The next book in the Otherworld series is called “Personal Demon” and is due out Spring 2008.  It’s narrated by Hope and Lucas – more details on Ms Armstrong’s website.  And Ms Armstrong is also starting a completely new series (still suspense but with absolutely no supernatural stuff) – “Exit Strategy” is coming out July 2007, details and excerpts again on her website.

NoHumansPS:  And on the cover – damn, the UK cover isn’t as good as the US one.

2 thoughts on “Review: Kelley Armstrong’s No Humans Involved

  1. I’m just finishing this up now! I agree with pretty much everything you say. 😉

    I’d kind of forgotten that I didn’t like Paige much at first either! LOL. Now she’s one of my favorite characters–but I guess that’s what is good about (and limiting) about the first-person narration. Interesting.

    I’m not too sure about Cassandra’s book. Isn’t she supposed to be dying? (Or not dying, since she’s already dead, but you know what I mean!)

  2. I read that over at Twisted Kingdom’s interview with Kelley Armstrong – Cassandra’s apparently down as the narrator for Book 10. What I’m wondering is if there will be a romance in that book, since yeah, she’s “dying” – or rather, she’s losing interest in living, so that’ll probably be the basis for that story. Also, it’ll be interesting since she’s had such a long life – all the narrators so far have essentially been modern women, whereas Cassandra will have a completely different viewpoint on things, I wonder what her “voice” will be like. Err… I’ll stop speculating now.

    But yes, NHI completely lived up to my expectations – I think the previous book wasn’t fantastic, but this was good!

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