Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: 'Written in Red' by Anne Bishop

“Vlad hated doing the paperwork as much as he did when a human employee quit, which was why they'd both made a promise not to eat quitters just to avoid the paperwork. As Tess had pointed out, eating the staff was bad for morale and made it so much harder to find new employees.”

Meg's blood is precious; as a cassandra sangue she has been gifted with the ability to see the future
when her skin is sliced. Women such as Meg are valuable commodities and kept isolated from the world - for their own protection. But Meg knows the truth, she has seen the girls driven mad, imprisoned, disappeared and she flees into a snowstorm. Seeking shelter from the storm, Meg accidentally stumbles into The Courtyard and the Territory of the Others who can masquerade as human but whose humanity only runs skin deep.  This chance meeting changes the lives of a lonely young woman as well as her new friends, friends who are both more and less than human.

Written in Red is the first in a new series by adult fantasy author Anne Bishop and introduces readers to the world of the Others. This world is a alternative version of our own where nature spirits take physical form and Gaia's guardians keep humans in check.  Each large human settlement has a Courtyard where Others (were creatures, vampires, and more) keep an eye on humans as well as trade goods and services.  The Courtyard that Meg finds herself working in as Human/Other Liaison is one of the most powerful in North America and run by Simon, a Wolf. Wolves don't have much use for humans, but as he watches Meg interact with others Simon begins to view humans as more than just meat; a shift in perspective that could change everything.

Meg is an interesting blend of innocence, kindness and determination.  She has spent her life in the control of others, forced to produce visions of the future and kept ignorant of many of the most basic concepts.  Watching her character explore the world allows the reader to learn about the Others' Realm alongside Meg in an organic manner.  Anne Bishop creates complex, exquisitely detailed worlds that leave readers aching to return.  Her characters are fully formed, unique and relatable - everything a reader could want.

This is definitely an adult fantasy novel, but I can see it having appeal to mature teens. Elements of paranormal/urban fantasy are blessedly free of romance in Bishop's new novel.  This along with a fascinating world and characters helped catapult Written in Red to the spot of my favorite non-Young-Adult novel of 2013.  I wouldn't hand this novel to my middle schoolers, but 16+ fantasy or urban fantasy readers should enjoy.

Book two of The Others , Murder of Crows, releases in March 2014.

Reviewer: Rebecca
Book Source: Public Library
Recommended Ages: 16+ for violence and sex (not overly graphic but does happen)

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