Stars: 5 out of 5
I must admit that what attracted me to this book is the premise. In a genre with a gazillion books about werewolves, vampires and other shifters / supernatural beings, it’s really hard to find a books that stands out or offers something new. Well, Written in Red does exactly that.
What do we usually see in most books in this genre? A supernatural community that does its best to stay hidden from humans, that lives on the margins of society, hiding in the shadows. Or if they have already shown themselves to humans, they are usually marginalized and oppressed.
Well, not so with the Others. Imagine a world where the humans are not the dominant race. They were late to the party, in fact. By the time our ancestors climbed down that tree, the world was already inhabited by the Others, and they were not willing to share it… Millennia later, a shaky truce exists between the humans and the Others, and there are even some lands that humans can live in and cultivate, but they are not the owners of those resources; they are just lenders. And the Others make sure that the “monkeys” never forget that they can reclaim those lands any time they want, because for them, humans are just another kind of meat. Smart, useful in some ways, but still meat.
I loved this take on the whole humans versus supernatural beings confrontation. And Anne Bishop managed to create a very interesting and complex world around this idea. I could see how much thought and research went into it – the world felt REAL and logical. So just for that, I would already have loved the book, but there is so much more about it to love!
Meg became one of my favorite protagonists. She is a casandra sangine, a human whose blood holds prophecies. Any cut that draws blood brings them forward. As such, she spent all her life in a secure institution, where she was the property of the Controller, who made her bleed and prophesies for his wealthy clients, along with over 1000 other girls. She didn’t even have a name, just a number.
What I like about Meg is that despite her utter lack of experience with the outside world, she has an unbendable force of will. She saw a way out during one of the prophecies and she wasn’t afraid to take it. She can come across as naïve and even “simple” sometimes, but that’s because everything she knows about the world comes from training videos and pictures that often just gave her names of things without context. The controller just needed her to be able to recognize the things she was seeing in her prophecies and be able to name them, not know what they meant or how they worked.
So there are moments when Meg is lost and baffled by the new world she finds herself in, like when she is confronted by the training image #457 Coffee Machine. She knows it’s supposed to make training image #97678 Coffee, but she has no idea how it works. But Meg doesn’t just give up and wallow in self-pity when she doesn’t understand something. She researches, she looks for a book, or a manual, or asks people. And then she LISTENS and she LEARNS. I think, that’s what I like about her the most. No matter what life throws her way, she never gives up and she always learns.
The depiction of the Others is also excellently handled. They are not just human people that can turn into wolves, crows and bears, or drink blood and disperse into black mist. They are other, some of them utterly alien in their way of thinking and behaving. They have their own rules of interaction between themselves and with the humans that they allow to live on their land.
I also liked the fact that there is no romantic undertone in this book. At all. Yes, the Others come to care about Meg by the end of it, but it’s the beginning of a solid friendship based on mutual trust, respect and caring. There is nothing romantic about it.
Pfew, so what is the take away from this long and rambling review? If you want a complex new world and engaging characters – go buy the book! A must read.