Written in Red:
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.
Murder of Crows:
After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.
The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murder of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard – Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader – wonders if their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or a future threat.
As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now, the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet – and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.
Vision in Silver:
The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.
Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.
For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…
Marked in Flesh:
Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.
But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…
Etched in Bone:
After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…
As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.
With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave
I recently finished Etched in Bone, and I found it to be bittersweet. The ending was nearly perfect, but … it was the ending. At the very least, it was the ending for our time with Simon and Meg.
And since this is the last book, I’m going to review the series as a whole, instead of just the one book by itself. I’ll be honest, I found it very difficult to articulate my thoughts this go round — I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series as a whole, in spite of some of the (very few) criticisms I might have for this last book in particular (more on that later).
One of my favorite parts of this series is the concept of The Others. We’ve all read books with these kinds of characters in them (at least, I’m assuming you have, since you’re on a blog about fantasy books). Shapeshifts, vampires, and other random supernatural creatures are not exactly an original idea, by any means.
But Bishop took these ideas and made some unique out of them. There is a whole history behind how The Others and humans have evolved side-by-side, including how The Other came to take on human forms in some parts of the world but no others.
There are big exciting and interesting reveals about The Others in each of the first three books, at least. We get to know MANY aspects of The Others throughout the series, and it was quite enjoyable! Aside from the typical animal-based forms, there are also elementals, kick-ass ponies (with quite the personality), harvesters (they will melt your brains), and the Elders (most people can’t even see them).
And I LOVE that The Others are so intrigued by the silly things humans do. They try to apply their own logic to human behavior, and it results in some hilarious conclusions. It went to make the slow-bits of these books SO much more enjoyable 🙂
The relationship between the others and the humans
Also referred to terra indigene or Earth natives, the others have a unique perspective on the role that humans play. The humans provide interesting things with their science and manufacturing, but on the whole, are viewed as meat. And throughout the series, the “meat” begins to become more interesting as a result of the mixed community that forms in Lakeside. And the progression of this relationship is fascinating to me. It’s a slow progression, and very believable. But more interestingly, it comes in the face of adversity.
Diversity and acceptance, while not prevalent so much in skin color, is a huge theme
Part of the over-arching series plot is honestly a lot of hate. The Human First and Last (HFL) movement wants to erradicate The Others (a very dangerous stance to have). And they manipulate a decent portion of the human population to jump on their bandwagon. There are also people who basically enslave a certain type of human (the cassandra sangue, like Meg) through a concept called “benevolent ownership,” wherein these bad people make the argument that the cassandra sangue wouldn’t be able to take care of themselves otherwise because of their unique condition.
So much of the series is about overcoming these problems. Some through creative problem solving. Some through sheer blunt force. And Lakeside ends up becoming the template for mixed community living. The Others start defending “the female pack” of humans, and some of the terra indegene come from across the country to see what it’s like to live with humans. And the humans involved in this community become more understanding and accepting of the terra indigene and their interesting, if not brutal, ways.
Truly, the way that the hate versus acceptance in these books parallels the real world was scary at times, especially during the US election last year. I wanted to say that what I was reading could never happen the way it did, but I saw early signs in real life, and that terrified me. And, oddly enough, served to draw me further into the books.
None of that could have happened without exceptional character development
The characters really make this series. From Simon & Meg all the way to supporting characters like Steve Ferryman or small-time antagonists like Cyrus Montgomerry, EVERYONE (including the kids) is fleshed out and real. I fell in love with ALL of the “good guys” for one reason or another. Every single member of the Lakeside community had something to contribute, both to the story, and to my love of the world. It felt complete. I experienced the community feel. So often I read books with just a few characters of note, and others are really just filler. But not here.
And I can’t say enough about how (and how much) Meg and Simon each develop. Simon Wolfguard is incredibly wolfish (couldn’t resist ;)) in the first book, and over time he evolves into a gentle, protective, curious man. He’s less surly (unless you’re putting Meg in danger) and far more willing to give people a chance. Is that “too human?” Maybe. But I love him for the development.
And Meg … Oh, Meg. She’s so timid and shy in the beginning. And admittedly, she still is. But she goes from not knowing a thing about how the real world works to pioneering a new process that will prevent the cassandra sangue from having to cut themselves so much. And she’s the catalyst for the whole revolution of Others and humans working together.
The worldbuilding is spectacular.
Every single detail is thought out. The way the US map in this book (I forget what the country is actually called) is carefully considered, and little clues are left to help us figure out where we are all the time. And the economics are thoroughly explored. I mean, the whole relationship between humans and The Others largely developed as a result of trade: natural resources from The Others versus finished products from the humans. And when that balance gets skewed in one way or another, the balance between The Others and the humans gets skewed too. It was super intriguing to me.
That said, the macro-plot develops very naturally, and nothing is forced. It’s kind of as if the plot is a product of the world-building, instead of the other way around. And because of that, there is almost NO info overload like you get with some fantasy books. We get everything in nice little bite sized pieces 🙂
The one critical thing: the pacing, towards the end of the series especially
The one negative thing I have to say about these books is that the pacing was a little hit or miss. There were times I felt like things were just dragging. I loved the characters enough that this didn’t bother me a huge amount, but I could see it being a problem for some. And even when shit hits the fan, it doesn’t necessarily read FAST. The last two books, in particular, had some pacing issues.
What do you think? Have you read this series? What did you love about it? What did you not like so much?