Review: “Written in Red,” Anne Bishop

Pros: Wonderful characters, plot, pacing…
Rating: 5 out of 5

Anne Bishop’s Written in Red is the first book in her series “The Others”. The terra indigene include such creatures as werewolves, vampires, and some far more frightening mystical creatures. They own the land, which humans have leased from them. Most Others have never really stopped seeing humans as just another kind of meat. There’s one werewolf, Simon, who wants to learn more about them. His Courtyard has shops that humans can go to, including a bookstore and a small cafe. He employs several humans, and there’s a position for a ‘human liaison’ who interacts with the outside world for them. In large part she accepts, sorts, and delivers mail and packages for the entire Courtyard. No one seems to last long in that position, so it’s available for the taking when Meg Corbyn arrives looking for shelter. She’s human, but for some reason she doesn’t smell like prey. Meg doesn’t have a lot of preconceived notions regarding the Others–she’s led a very sheltered life. So she gradually wins over the Others living in the Courtyard, and when someone comes looking to take her away, they rise up to protect her.

… [A]ll roads travel into the woods.

Meg is a wonderful character. She understands many things in theory, but has to learn how they operate in the real world. She makes friends with some very dangerous creatures simply by not realizing that she shouldn’t. No one knows quite what to do with her. I like Simon as well–he gradually grows to like and care about Meg, but his understanding of people is still very much a wolf’s understanding, and he, too, has a lot to learn about how humans work. For Meg’s part she’s a ‘blood prophet’–she sees the future when her skin is cut, and that makes her extremely valuable. There’s a police officer, Monty, who is going out of his way to try to work with the Others, sometimes to good effect and sometimes not. As usual in Anne Bishop books, all of the characters have a lot of life to them. Her supernatural creatures are volatile beings, capable of causing a great amount of destruction should the need arise, but they also have plenty of individual personality.

The pacing is superb. I could barely put down the book; I always wanted to know what would happen next. The cats probably think I’m insane, because I couldn’t help swearing at the bad guys, laughing out loud at some of the funnier parts, and shedding a few tears here and there. Normally I review any book that I’ve read before I start the next book, just to avoid forgetting details or getting things mixed up. In this case I just had to start reading the follow-on, Murder of Crows, before I could review Written in Red. While Red ended in a satisfying place, I desperately wanted to read more. While I already have the second book in the series, I just ordered the third because I know I’ll just have to read that one as well.

My only bit of confusion was in trying to figure out how humans have mass-produced things such as cars. My impression of how much land the terra indigene has allowed humans to cultivate doesn’t seem to leave room for mass-production factories. Maybe I missed a detail, or maybe that’s something that will be addressed in the other books. At any rate, I now have another Bishop series to which I am addicted!

Most of the terra indigene didn’t want to love humans; they wanted to eat them. Why did humans have such a hard time understanding that?

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