Written in Red
by Anne Bishop
Series: A Novel of the Others, book 1
Published by: Roc Hardcover, 2013
Synopsis: 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.
I read the Black Jewel books by Anne Bishop ten years or so ago. I thought they were very good, but her books have kind of fallen off my radar since then. When I saw she was beginning a new series I was interested and I finally bought the book last week and read it quickly. For me this is fantasy at its best–fast paced, heroic characters, evil doers, good world building.
The world Ms. Bishop has built is very imaginative…the culture of the Others, the human government, the world of the cassandra sangue. We find out quite a bit about the Others and the human government. The world of the cassandra sangue is still somewhat mysterious.
“A Brief History of the World” at the beginning of the book sets the tone as it talks of humans:
They learned to build fires and shelters. They learned to farm and build cities….They bred and spread throughout their pieces of the world until they pushed into the wild places. That’s when they discovered that Namid’s other offspring already claimed the rest of the world.
The Others looked at humans and did not see conquerors. They saw a new kind of meat.
There is still sharp-toothed tolerance on one side and fear of what walks in the dark on the other. But if they are careful, the humans survive.
Most of the time, they survive.
In some of the cities built by humans the Others have Courtyards–fenced parks where they live in the cities and observe humans. Even though humans have populated settlements and cities it’s the Others who control everything and only allow humans to live because they like some of the things humans create. The Others have a moral code they expect the humans to follow. If the humans step out of line they find swift justice.
When this book opens Meg Corbyn is on the run during a fierce snowstorm. The reader gradually learns about Meg’s life before her escape. She’s a cassandra sangue or blood prophet. Her life has always been very cloistered. She lived with other blood prophets and had no freedom. They watched training images so they could identify images in their prophecies and their prophecies make lots of money for their owners.
They weren’t allowed to actually experience life and they were told it was for their own safety, but Meg managed to escape. She knows she has to find shelter from the storm and escape from her pursuers. She finds herself outside one of the Courtyards, realizes human law doesn’t apply inside the Courtyard and that they’re advertising for a human liaison. She gets the job and is at least temporarily safe from the humans.
Meg has never been free in her life and now she relishes her new life in the Courtyard even though there are so many things she doesn’t know how to do. She’s great at observing others though and learns that way. There is a naive innocence about her that the Others respond to. However, Simon Wolfgard who’s in charge of the Lakeside Courtyard realized Meg was hiding something when he hired her and he’s even more puzzled by her since she doesn’t smell like prey as other humans do. He isn’t sure she should be allowed to stay, but she does a great job as a liaison between the humans delivering mail to the Courtyard and the Others receiving their mail.
She meets many different types of Others and discovers some of their secrets, but she’s just glad to have some freedom and some friends. I thought a good touch was that the Others have taken on some of the characteristics of the animals they mimic. For instance, the Ravens like sparkly things!
Even though Meg is now safe inside the Courtyard the people looking for her to return her to her owners haven’t given up. She’s property and worth a great deal of money. A number of attempts are made to retrieve her. From the very beginning of the book Asia Crane shows she has an agenda of her own. She wanted the human liaison job and isn’t pleased when Meg is hired. Asia was hired by a mysterious person she calls Bigwig to find out the Others’ secrets and she tries to seduce Simon, but he instinctively doesn’t like or trust her. However, the Others don’t really understand human motivations very well and don’t take her very seriously.
Even though Meg is naive she has good instincts and her innocence and good will are noted by the Others. One of the outcomes of Meg’s introduction into the Courtyard is that the Others begin to see at least some humans as individuals.
This is a great beginning to a new series. Unfortunately, the publishing date for the next book isn’t until next March 🙁