Friday, May 17, 2013

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

 The mind is the first thing to go, I guess. I cannot for the life of me remember where I found a review of this book that intrigued me so much I had to put it on hold at the library. Thanks, whomever. This is the most completely fresh take on the whole vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night that I've seen in ages.

Hmmm...the premise...The Others were on the Earth long before humans came on the scene, and for the most part humans were merely prey, but their rapid breeding and technology kept them around long enough to colonize the new world, where they found a whole new batch. The telling of the tale of the colonization and negotiations sounds very similar to what happened with the native Americans here, except that in this case the indians were not overwhelmed by the invaders, and turned out to be very shrewd negotiators, as well as having supernatural powers. I'm not quite sure, given the dynamics of the situation, how we got from point A to the setting of the story, which has telephones and automobiles and modern weaponry in the cities, while still being threatened constantly by what might happen if the humans irritate The Others, who actually include elementals capable of drowning a city or burying your civilization under a glacier, but if we just wave a magic wand over the whole history and logic thing and accept the situation as presented, it gets pretty cool.

Meg Corbyn (not her real name, she really only has a number designation) is a cassandra sangue - blood prophet. She, and other girls like her, are kept as property of very wealthy patrons who ration out their prophecies to those who can pay for them. Every prophecy is created by cutting a portion of the cassandra's skin somewhere, and eventually when all the untouched skin is used up, so is the prophetess. The public believes they are pampered servants, but they are actually abused slaves, and Meg risks her life one day by escaping from her compound and running away into a snowstorm. As her strength and hope begin to flag, she arrives at Lakeside Courtyard, a colony of The Others, and is rescued from the storm by their Wolf leader, Simon Wolfgard, and given the job of Liason between the nearby humans and the supernatural community, mostly to spite the other applicant for the job, Asia, who has been trying to worm her way into Simon's bedroom, and whom he just doesn't quite trust for some unknown reason.

Though her only knowledge of the world outside of the compound comes from books and other lessons she has been taught - just enough to let her interpret what she sees in her visions - Meg turns out to be a very conscientious and thorough Liason. Her primary duty is to receive shipments from human suppliers, and mail from the outside world, sort it, and make sure it gets to the right "people" within the Courtyard.

At the same time, there's a new sheriff in town. Lieutenant James Crispin "Monty" Montgomery has been run out of his last job for allowing a young Wolf girl to kill and eat the pedophile who had been holding her captive, after Monty handcuffed the pervert. The Humans First folks made life difficult for him, his fiancee broke up with him, and kept custody of their daughter. It did, however, make him nearly perfect for a job that opened up in Lakeside Courtyard, enforcing laws on the human side, and making sure the humans don't run afoul of The Others more immediate methods of justice.

In addition to getting used to their new surroundings, developing relationships and understanding their place among the Others, and learning new jobs, Meg and Monty must also deal with outside forces that threaten to destroy what they have. Meg's controller has hired mercenaries to recover his "property", Humans First fanatics are scheming to start a war between the races, and others with merely mercantile motives are snooping about for more information on the Others. Good, semi-twisty intrigue, the threat of violence and mayhem, and some slightly different protagonists make this a really good read. Hope Bishop writes a few more in this world.

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