Title: Written in Red
Author: Anne Bishop
In an alternate-America, the Others are the ones in control. Humans have to be careful around them, because the Others see humans as another form of meat. But they co-exist more or less peacefully.
Meg Corbyn is a blood prophet—someone who can tell the future when her skin is cut. She’s on the run from those who used to own her, from people who stand to lose a great deal of money if she isn’t recaptured. Even when Meg falls in with the Others, greed is reason enough for them to keep trying.
Simon Wolfgard is the leader of the particular Courtyard where Meg has taken refuge. He doesn’t like how Meg smells—something not-prey. But he offers her the job of Liaison, not knowing what she’s been up to but sensing this could lead to trouble. . .
After a somewhat stilted introduction, the story roars into full gear. The interaction between humans and Others (particularly Simon, but to some extent all of them) is at the heart of the book, and it’s often very amusing to watch the cultural differences play out. I like how much of the story is the little foibles of everyday life: Meg trying to get her pens back from the crow who would rather build things with them, or the ponies who complain about going back to carrots after they’ve gotten sugar, or the way the Wolves abhor “dog” things but are more than happy to partake of the dog cookies and dog beds. Actually pretty much everything about the crows was great (Sparkles and Junk…. or the way they can’t be trusted to man a cash register because of the coins).
But life never stays normal for long, whether it’s Meg trying not to get killed by another misunderstanding with the Others or the attempts to recapture her. That part felt a little slower to build than it could have, although that was part of what left room for the antics of everyday life.
I did like the police officers. I haven’t read many books which have officers who aren’t completely jaded and sarcastic—and the police focus is “keep the Others happy” as much as it is “stop crime.” In other words, they have more to worry about from their government than the criminals, as unhappy Others means lots of humans die. That said, I also wanted them to have a bigger part of the plot, rather than just hanging around. But that may happen in future books, as multiple plot threads have cropped up and only a few of them tied up this book.
I liked the variety of Others, too. There are shapeshifters: wolves, jackal, crows, owls, and hawks. There are vampires, who can turn into smoke and remove blood without a bite. And then a few different kinds of creatures to round out the mix . . . not to mention the blood prophets themselves, who seem to have at least a little of whatever it is that makes the Others “other”.
The only real disappointment for me was what happened with Asia Crane. It felt pretty quick for the amount of suffering she managed to inflict. But I was very happy her grand plans kept getting spoiled, and some quite badly.
Overall this was a good read. The characters had a lot of depth and quirkiness, and the humor balances out the more macabre aspects. (I hope Simon does teach Meg tug-the-rope.) I’ve already got the sequel on hold and anticipate getting to it soon. I rate this book Recommended.