Written in Red - Anne Bishop [The Others]
Originally Reviewed on Goodreads: January 6, 2016
I've been a fan of Bishop's for years. I was introduced to her Black Jewels Trilogy back in 2002, and was hooked on that from page one. After I finished her first round, I went on immediately to The Pillars of the World of the Tir Alainn Trilogy, and following those, absolutely inhaled Sebastian of the Ephemera trilogy.
To say I'm a fan of Bishop's by this juncture would be a bit of an understatement. She has a distinct style that's apparent through all her books, and yet each series she produces is unique. She has either done quite a bit of research on all things Fantasy, or she's just an amazing genius.
Then again, some of the things she manages to tie together absolutely baffle me in their brilliance.
Take Meg, for instance. We quickly learn that she's got some seriously powerful blood. The kind that can make or break businesses - which is why she's running away from someone we eventually get to know as the Controller. What I wouldn't give to get behind that name and find out who our antagonist really was! But alas, he appears to be little more than a plot device. So sad.
Then we get into the fact that humans are considered little more than "meat" - at best, "monkeys." Yet somehow, this Meg manages to weasel her way into a very secretive, close community of Others. Even before they find out about her special blood, and the fact that she is very, very different from other humans. So, there's a lot to Meg. She kind of reminds me of Jarod, from The Pretender back in the day. Used and abused for her special abilities, and then used those special abilities to escape and forge a life for herself elsewhere, with a chosen family of people that would destroy everything they had built with the humans without a second thought, in order to keep her safe.
Aside from the Controller, there really didn't seem to be a clear antagonist. It's obvious that Meg is being hunted, that she has been bred/raised to cut to produce prophecy. She fought back against a system that treated her like a commodity, something to be sold. In fact, the true antagonist in this series doesn't really start to become clear until A Murder of Crows, and even then, it's very ephemeral, and you kind of have to read between the lines to get it.
I'm a picky reader. I read a lot, yes, but 90% of the books I start reading go unfinished (thank the gods for Amazon.com's sample feature!) Plus, Bishop set the bar pretty damned high with her the BJT. Her world and character building skills are second to none, and she skates the edge of the dark like one wrong step is the difference between the razor cutting and passing harmlessly over skin.
Not to Criticize, but...
Her world building in this group of books... lacking. Considering what she did years ago with the BJT, and Tir Alainn and Ephemera? It absolutely does not hold up to the intricate and delicate back and forth developed in the lands of those books. I get that this may have been simple creative license to help us focus more on the characters and events of the story - but after reading the second book, I just don't buy it. There simply wasn't nearly enough time invested in creating a world to support the story she wrote.
So far, the story seems fragmented. We do eventually start to understand the fierce protectiveness the Others feel for Meg, but it's glossed over by the characters almost as an afterthought. I mean, they're so secluded, so anti-human, and the fact that they would destroy an entire city of humans to keep her - another human - safe, doesn't seem to strike them as odd enough to give serious thought to. Very... "eh, it is what it is."
The culmination of Written in Red... what can I say? It vibrated. It resonated with something in me so hard my heart literally fluttered for a solid minute.