Anne Bishop is one of my long time fave authors; her BLACK JEWELS universe was one of the first truly dark sensual fantasies that had me reading the entire series (initial trilogy, side novel, and short stories – all that were out when I discovered her) within the span of a month and then eagerly awaiting each new story and anthology in that world. Her EPHEMERA series was another hit for me with the same sensual feel, but with a completely different world and characters.
Her newest series, THE OTHERS with four books out so far starting with WRITTEN IN RED, holds true to form. Now, before I get any further, I do want to give a trigger warning for cutting and self-harm – one that is actually the reason it’s taken me so long to finally let myself read the series.
Basically, the main character, Meg, is a blood prophet and sees visions whenever her skin is cut. She has a razor specifically for the purpose of prophecy, though if it is taken from her she’ll use any sharp edged object she can find. Also, the cutting is addictive for her, and it’s a known fact in the world that eventually the addiction and the cutting will kill her. This is a dark world, guys, and Meg’s abilities and subsequent scarring is just as dark as you’d expect it to be. That said, I think the topic is handled very well, both with others’ reactions to her cutting and with Meg’s own struggling against the addiction. It is not at all taken lightly, and I think that’s why I am able to read the series even though at times I do get somewhat uncomfortable.
That and the fact that the books are just utterly, stunningly written. The world Bishop had created for this series is one very similar to ours with one key difference: humans are NOT the dominant predators on the planet. That place belongs to the Others or terra indigene – creatures who were here long before humankind and who essentially “lease” land to the human population. Cue a fair amount of resentment on both species’ sides with increasing tension between humans who want to take control of all of the available land, the terra indigene who want to simply wipe out all of the “clever meat” who are slowly becoming more and more violent, and the few humans and shapeshifters who are trying to keep the tenuous peace.
Bishop does a fantastic job of keeping the plot both politically charged on a global scale while at the same time focused on the small community of the Lakeside Courtyard where Meg ends up living among the terra indigene when she flees the “benevolent owner” who kept her and other blood prophets essentially caged so he could sell their prophecies. Also, this is one of the books that does the best job I’ve seen in a long time of making the terra indigene main characters both clearly the heroes we’re supposed to root for, but at the same time still very monstrous in keeping with their inhuman natures. It kept me on my toes through all four books, wondering how far the terra indigene would be willing to go to protect their homes against the attacking humans, and considering they regularly kill and eat any trespassers, they are willing to go pretty damned far indeed.
Honestly, this is a series that I have a hard time reviewing just because of the sheer number of issues and characters we encounter. Really I’d flat out love to see a TV series made out of these books – with the dark undertones, I think it could easily appeal to fans of the Sookie Stackhouse novels & TV show. I’ll be crossing my fingers someone in Hollywood agrees with me!