Series: The Others #1
Format Read: Hardcover
Source: Owned by the reviewer
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | Barnes & Noble
* affiliate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.
Blurb from goodreads:
No one creates realms like New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop. Now in a thrilling new fantasy series, enter a world inhabited by the Others, unearthly entities—vampires and shape-shifters among them—who rule the Earth and whose prey are humans.
As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.
Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
I have a new love! I've looked at Bishop's fantasy books over the years, picking them up, looking at them and then putting them back. Then she came out with an urban fantasy book and I thought, "Hmm, that sounds interesting" and I put it on my wishlist. Then a friend, who loves the book, sent me a copy and I devoured it. It took me two nights, the hard cover is over 400 pages, and I stayed up late to finish but it was absolutely worth it. I don't know if I can adequately convey how wonderful the book is but I'll try,
"Written In Red" is set in an alternate history earth. Country names are different and history is different but for the most part life is as we know it now - jobs, movies, books, etc. seem to be contemporary America. Politics are different though as the Other, also known as terre indigene, are in charge. They live in separate communities and many have nothing to do with humans except to feed on them. The Other in Bishop's world are what we call werewolves, vampires, fae, etc. and they are very, very predatory; humans smell like prey and they refer to humans as meat, or more kindly, monkeys.
Into one community of Others wanders Meg. On the run, desperate, and with only minimal knowledge of the world and of the Others, she nevertheless gets hired as their liaison to the outside world which is basically a glorified mail position. She receives packages and mail from human delivery people; they don't want to deal with the Other and most Other don't want to deal with humans. Meg has a certain appeal, apart from being food, that draws some of the Others to her and she makes friends, including several who are high up in the chain of command. When the human who controlled her, basically owned her, tries to retrieve her the Other gather around and defend her. She is their Meg and she's not going anywhere.
"Written In Red" has politics, espionage, humor, a hint of romance, and action all tied up in a compelling story. Bishop has a knack for developing her characters and avoiding stereotypes. She mixes characterization, world building, and action into a page-turning brew. Bishop grabbed me from the opening paragraph and kept me all the way to the end. I liked Meg, I even liked Simon, and I really enjoyed Bishop's spin on supernatural beings. Her weres, vamps, fae, etc are NOT fuzzy and lovable; they really are Other, and just when I would be lulled into thinking how nice someone was, they would say or do something that reminded me how different they really were.
The interactions between Meg and Simon, her boss and the leader of the Other community, are hilarious and occasionally tender. There's a hint of romance between them and I'm on the fence about that. On the one hand, I think they could be good for each other but on the other hand, he can't stop thinking of her as human, as meat. He doesn't, usually, think of her as prey, but he certainly doesn't consider her to be his equal. Yet, he takes care of her, in his own high-handed, growly way and she misses him when he travels away on business. Meg is hesitant at the start of the book and unused to making her own decisions. We see her grow, find her backbone, and become strong. Though, she had to be strong to survive her previous life as a slave (my term, not Bishop's, but it's apt).
I loved "Written In Red"; it's intelligent, engrossing, and can be read as plain urban fantasy or you can go deeper and read it as a fictional look at cultures interacting with each other and the frictions that arise, the poor treatment and abuse that people inflict on each other and especially those we perceive as being different.
I'll leave you with this quote:
Didn't humans understand how expendable they were? The terre indigene were as old as the world, as old as the land and the seas. They learned from the top predators and became more than those predators. Always adapting, always changing as Namid changed. They would be forever.ETA Feb. 14th: SQUEEE. I received a copy of book two, Murder of Crows, for review!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The terre indigene in Thaisia didn't need humans anymore in order to have the material things they wanted. If the monkeys became a real threat, they no longer had enough to offer to make their presence endurable. If that day came, humans would follow the same path as other creatures before them and become an extinct meat.