If you haven’t heard of Kelley Armstrong, turn on your TV to Bitten (now on the Syfy Channel and over at SPACE) or pick up the New York Times Bestseller list.
Kelley Armstrong’s Led Astray is a collection of short stories from her different series – Darkest Powers, Darkness Rising, Otherworld, and Cainsville, as well as stand alone works.
If you are already a Kelley Armstrong fan, this book’s for you. And if you are not a Kelley Armstrong fan, this book will make you one.
The collection’s a short list of greatest hits – think of it like a tasting menu – something to get you into whatever weird and wonderful world Kelley Armstrong has created, you meet the characters, and are left wondering about them.
Which is, the essence of a good short story.
You are left truly hooked.
In all of this, I would have liked to have seen an introduction by the author – something in Ms. Armstrong’s words telling us why the stories are selected or some history behind them (a la Stephen King-esque rambling or the Ed pages around here).
But I digress.
I’ve seen Kelley Armstrong speak in person, and what hits you most is her drive – her passion for writing, and willingness to immerse herself in these fantastic worlds. She juggles (like so many of us) a family and a career, and sheer determination is what pulls her through. There are a few nods to the cost of writing scattered through her short stories – The Screams of Dragons mentions a mother who works at a job that doesn’t earn much money, much to the chagrin of her husband. And Devil May Care features a fae character whose day job is writing for the human world.
Stories in the collection range from humorous (a brothel filled with zombies), some with fun twists inside haunted houses or attempts to resurrect the dead, to killer action with drop kicks and chase scenes all over the place, to not-so-subtle glimpses at our own foibles through the lens of postapocalyptic dystopias and otherworldly villages. Supernatural creatures aside, we are not as rational as it seems; and in stories like Suffer the Children, we are exploited for this fact.
Writing is lean, fast, and moves at a rapid fire pace. People are always doing something, this is not about lush supernatural navel-gazing and otherworldly sensuality. People in Kelley Armstrong’s worlds get shit done.
What I like most are Kelley Armstrong’s characters – if Twisted Sister lit mag is about feminist horror and dark fantasy, Kelley Armstrong definitely fits the bill. Female characters are central and strong – think dropkicking and arrow shooting abilities, and male characters are complex (not just muscle moving across a page). As in all things, there is a balance, with great adolescent male characters and men (and women) who might be both good and bad.
But the bottom line is there is heart to her stories, which makes you want to read them again and again.
Led Astray is available at
Be sure to check out Kelley Armstrong’s website for excerpts of her work.
And check over here for Brookelynn Berry’s review of Kelley Armstrong’s Stolen.