Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Well, that was a surprise: WRITTEN IN RED by Anne Bishop

I got a good bit of work done this weekend on my current revision. I really did! But it was no thanks to Anne Bishop, whose WRITTEN IN RED was a whole lot more distracting than I anticipated. I did nothing useful Friday evening because I HAD to keep turning pages! And the moment I finished it, I HAD to get the second book, MURDER OF CROWS, and start that one.

WrittenInRedMurderOfCrows

I also preordered the third book, but it doesn’t come out till March, which suddenly seems farther away because I WANT IT NOW!

Ahem.

Okay, I’ve been working my way through all those UF titles I’d accumulated, and they were all basically just okay for me. (I haven’t read the one by Jacqueline Carey yet.)

Then I got to WRITTEN IN RED, and despite the unnecessary infodumpy prologue, I was unexpectedly hooked as soon as I got into the story.

There are, I will just mention, also a handful of infodumpy bits of dialogue that are very nearly on a par with, “As you know, Monty, there are only four really big cities on the whole North American continent.” To which the only proper response would have been, “Uh, yeah, I do know, so why are you telling me this?” So now and then a bit of worldbuilding background really could have been worked in more subtly. However, this didn’t happen that often or take up that much space, so those bits of stiff dialogue didn’t really get in the way of enjoying the story.

This is a rare creature for a UF novel: third person with multiple points of view. It also has no romance to speak of, Others that are emphatically not human and not integrated into human society at all, and a world where history has unrolled in a quite different way from ours. I loved it, obviously.

I like Meg a lot, and her weird background makes her a good protagonist — she is naive about the world for good reasons, so when her take on something is out of the ordinary or when someone explains something to her, it seems natural. Plus she is just a nice person. I was so charmed by the scarf she got for Winter! I could actually almost buy into how central she becomes to everyone else in the story. If she’d been handled even a bit less deftly, she would have become a terrible Mary Sue-ish type, but I don’t think she did.

I like Monty a lot. I always like The Good Cop, and in this world, good police work takes on a new context, since Monty’s unit is basically all about making sure town authorities cooperate with the Others to avoid having their town wiped off the map.

I like Simon Wolfgard a lot, particularly how non-human he is. I like the background of the shapeshifters among the Others and the explanation for why they can take the different forms they do. I like how confused he is by the strange concept of a nonedible human friend. I like his puppy, and I love how Meg got that traumatized youngster out of that crate.

I enjoyed the interweaving of all these characters. This worked well for me

The worldbuilding is wild. Bishop sure let herself go when she designed the different types of Others and set up her world’s history. I almost kind of sort of believe in how she set it up, which is quite an accomplishment, because the Elementals in particular would turn into a complete mess in a less well-written book.

And this series does have good writing. I think Bishop has improved quite a bit since the Black Jewels series. I thought that series was amazingly catchy and readable, but I wouldn’t have called it flawless. I think almost everything about the Others series is better — writing, plotting, worldbuilding, characterization, all of it. The interaction between the human characters and the nonhuman characters is fun to read about; they really don’t understand each other at all. The day-to-day details about Meg’s life are fun to read about; it’s always interesting when an author makes ordinary life interesting. And then, of course, stuff starts happening and we find out more about why Meg is special and, well, as I said, it got pretty distracting. I’ve preordered the third book, and I hope Anne Bishop keeps going with this series for a while!

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