Sunday, February 9, 2014

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: "Written in Red" by Anne Bishop

Written in Red (The Others, #1)
Written in Red by Anne Bishop; Narrated by Alexandra Harris
For Ages 18+ (violence)
Urban Fantasy
NAL -- March 2013
Audiobook, 18 hours and 32 minutes
Purchased from Audible

Magic, Vampires, Werewolves, Alpha Heroes

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.

"Half-blinded by the storm, she stumbled into the open area between two buildings."

I have heard nothing, but wonderful things about Bishop's Others series so I was excited to try it.  That being said, it is always a little nerve-wracking to start something that comes so highly recommended.  But, thankfully, my expectations were met within the first few chapters of Written in Red and I found myself on quite a ride.

The protagonist of this series is Meg Corbyn, a cassandra sangue or blood prophet, who receives visions whenever her skin is cut.  Written in Red begins with Meg having escaped from a mysterious persona known to her as the Controller who gained wealth and prominence through the hiring out of cassandra sangues.  Meg spends much of this book trying to forge a new life for herself in the unique setting of the Lakeside Courtyard, a section of town that is inhabited by powerful, dangerous creatures known as the Others.

I found Meg to be quite a different type of urban fantasy heroine.  She is not fiesty or street-smart or super-powered, but she has a certain something that I connected with.  She is naive, but not stupid and is willing to do anything to gain her independence.  Because of her lifelong captivity, this is Meg's first opportunity to experience things she only ever read about or saw on screen like music, driving, or even snow.  I found myself very interested in her journey because she is a gentle soul with a spine and I think that is very refreshing in this genre.

The inhabitants of the Lakeside Courtyard are the terra indigene (The Others) which are a group of species that have lived on the Earth since the beginning and often view humans as prey.  There are a lot of different terra indigene such as animal shifters, Sanguinati or vampires, and Elementals.  I have read many series that have a mix of supernatural creatures like this, but Anne Bishop's creativity really shines in her depiction of these species.  The Others are the dominant forces in this version of Earth and they allow humans to live among them because they enjoy the advances they bring.  These groups are violent and completely willing to rid the planet of humans if they feel like it and I enjoyed that suspenseful aspect of their characterization.

When Meg arrives at the Lakeside Courtyard, she is given the job of Liaison for the Others which has the important task of dealing with human delivery workers and insuring packages/mail are delivered in a timely manner.  This allows her to interact with a ton of the Courtyard's inhabitants who make up quite a large and diverse cast.  My personal favorites were Simon Wolfgard (the unofficial head of the Courtyard who hires and trains Meg), Sam (Simon's emotionally damaged nephew), Tess (the mystery woman with the ever-changing hair color that everyone else fears), and Vlad (the helpful Sanguinati).  I also have to mention the ponies that help Meg deliver the mail who have interesting powers of their own.

Written in Red does not have a romance, but there are definitely some hints of it especially in the second half.  Ms. Bishop spends most of her time developing the world and introducing readers to the characters.  The interaction between Simon and Meg is the one that I think has the most potential though this book primarily has them getting to know each other and developing a semi-friendly relationship.  But, I am excited to see if things progress between these two later in the series.

As an introduction to a series, I thought Written in Red was very successful.  I will warn potential readers that it does take some time to get used to the vocabulary of the series and figure out the different terra indigene species.  This world is very different from ours and the rules are not as clear cut.  Once everything is set up, I feel like the story really took off and never let off the gas.  The second half, in particular, was full of action and suspense.  I just couldn't stop listening especially when it hit the climax which is one of the most violent I've read in awhile.

This was my first opportunity to listen to one of Alexandra Harris's narrations, but I came away very impressed.  She has a gentle and easygoing voice that is especially suited for the times when she is narrating Meg's sections.  There were tons of characters that she had to voice and I think she did a good job with all of them even the gruff Simon and the smooth Vlad.

I know this review was pretty long and had some rambling moments, but it was such an amazing treat to listen to that I wanted to showcase what I loved.  Written in Red was so unique in this genre and I think Anne Bishop has a real winner on her hands.  I can't wait to see where she takes the story next and suggest anyone who likes dark, complex urban fantasy give it a try whether in print or audio.


--"It was easier when all we wanted to do was eat them and take their stuff,” he grumbled. And it had been easier when he hadn’t cared if he made any of them cry.

--"The other package has pieces of dried stag stick. The pups like chewing on those."
"What's a stag stick?" Meg asked, taking the packages.
He stared at her for a moment. Then he put a fist below his belt and popped out a thumb.

1. Written in Red
2. Murder of Crows (Coming 2014)



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