Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Title: Written in Red (The Others, #1) 

Author: Anne Bishop

Rating: 4.5 Stars

It has become an accepted rule among readers of Urban Fantasy that the first book in a new series is going to be the worst. When it comes to Written in Red, however, all I really have to say is that Bishop has big shoes to fill if she's going to try to write a sequel even better than this. Although this novel is a little tedious to get into, its unique lore, lovable characters, and exciting plot line will likely leave you bereft by the end, not wanting to leave this world Bishop has spun.

Meg Corbyn is a woman on the run. As a blood prophet - one who can see the future when she cuts herself - she has been locked up and held by a Controller all her life. Now, desperate for freedom, Meg flees to the only place she can think of: the Compound. The Compound is home to the Others, creatures who wear human skin but are anything but. Ranging from werewolves and vampires to beings that can turn into birds or control the weather, the only sure thing about the Others is that they are dangerous. The Compound isn't the most welcoming of places for a human, but even upon first sight, Simon, the head of the Compound, knows Meg is no ordinary human. When Meg applies for the position of Human Liaison at the Compound, Simon agrees to let her have least until he can figure out how much a threat she truly is. 

What makes Written in Red such a spectacular introduction to this series is the seamless manner in which the story is told. Bishop shifts from the third person perspectives of Meg, Simon, and Monty, a human policeman in charge of handling any crimes or misdemeanors involving the Others. Although multiple perspectives is often jarring for readers, Bishop handles this aspect of the story really well, only shifting the point of view when it is beneficial to the plot line and not because of a new chapter. Moreover, these different perspectives help build a more thorough picture of the world Bishop has created - through human eyes, through Other eyes, and through the eyes of a woman who doesn't quite belong in either worlds. 

Additionally, Meg is the epitome of a quiet heroine. While I admire a kick-butt female as much as the next reader, I appreciate the silently fierce heroines even more. When we are introduced to Meg, it is easy to see her as weak and frail. After all, she is thin, her skin covered in scars from her cutting, and nervous. Meg has had little interaction with humans or Others, which makes her an unpredictable character, but one whose journey it isn't difficult to become invested in. At her core, Meg is not only a good person, going out of her way to make friends and assimilate into her new lifestyle, but she is also strong, owning a hidden reservoir of courage and loyalty. 

Written in Red is difficult to describe in terms of plot, suffice to say that there are multiple plot lines at play. Simon, the head of the Courtyard, goes off for a period of time to investigate a series of strange occurrences outside of his compound. Meanwhile, Asia, a young woman relaying information about the Others in hopes of landing her own detective show, is snooping around the Compound with malicious intent. At the same time, however, Meg is witness to prophecies of her death, the kidnapping of a wolf pup, Sam, among other trouble. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the plot of this novel is involved, these plot threads subtly come together, never overwhelming the story line, and Bishop manages to still make this a character-centric book. 

For me, what made this book so irresistible to put down was the fact that it was comprised of relationships. Although there is a very understated romance in the novel - one that will likely gain more traction as the series progresses - the main appeal of this series is Meg and the manner in which she startles the Others, forcing them to change their lifestyles and acknowledge her presence. With Sam, Simon's nephew who has been an unresponsive pup ever since watching his mother die, Meg makes efforts to gain trust and open the child up to others, finally making him play, eat, act, and shift like a werewolf. Similarly, Meg maintains strong bonds with the humans in the Compound, delivers movies on time to the vampires, feeds the ponies carrots and sugar cubes, talks on equal par with Simon (no longer frightened of him as the book wears on), and amuses the crows. With time, she becomes part of the Compound and their culture, though different from that of the humans, soon grows to include her, which is the main highlight of this novel. It is, for all its deceptive appearance, a feel-good story through-and-through. 

Ultimately, I cannot recommend Bishop's latest enough. Not only does it introduce a vivid and original new world, not to mention a set-up of paranormal creatures that has them all living together instead of snarling at one another's throats, but it also sketches characters that worm their way into your heart. In my eyes, there is nothing better than a novel that can inspire emotion and Written in Red does that - in spades. 


  1. While I do love the brash, kick-booty heroines, I adored Meg and her quiet strength. This was my top read for 2013 and, don't worry, The Murder of Crows, the second in this series, definitely lives up to the first one. I'm in awe with this series -- it's captured me!

  2. *immediately adds to TBR* I've come across this one before on GR, but I was never intrigued enough to really want to read it. It sounds, however, brilliant. The idea of this being an exceptionally emotional book, with a silently fierce heroine, makes this a must read. Thank you for putting this back on my radar, Keertana. Wonderful review. :)

  3. Oh Maja is a huge fan of this series and I have it on my to-read list. I do agree with you however! The first book in UF series are mostly the less favorite ones. I mean look at the first book in Fever series - I wanted to throw it out of my window. I'm so glad that this one doesn't fall under that category. Amazing review, Keertana :)

  4. Everyone seems to absolutely love this book Keertana, I really need to read it! My mother in law reviewed it for the blog and she was a huge fan, so hopefully I can make time for it sometime soon. Normally the multiple POVs would be frustrating for me (and jarring, as you said), but that's clearly not the case here and I'm so glad that aspect is well done. Beautiful review!

  5. I've been wanting to read this for quite some time, but I always have so much going on I never seem to get to it. I always take notice when you recommend a UF so maybe I'll check out the audio version. Wonderful review, Keertana! I'm wondering if there's a romance? :)

    1. Rachel, there is definitely a romantic couple that will be developing further along the series, but as of now it's very subtle. It's more of a friendship in this book as they build trust in one another, so it's more sweet than anything else which I enjoyed and I have a feeling you will too. It definitely has potential to become a full-blown romance soon, but not as yet. :)

  6. Fabulous! THis just made my day. I completely agree with you about the relationshps in this book, and in fact, Meg's tentative friendships with the Others and her gentle caring for Sam are my very favorite things about this book. Aside from the fabulous worldbuilding, of course.

  7. Multiple plots? Kind of sounds like it leans toward fantasy. Oh and the characters sound strong. Love that. Relationships can make or break a book. Oh I have this on my wishlist and I so need to move it up!

  8. It makes me so happy how much you loved this book! I agree and that's largely due to the relationships in this story, but also the rich world building, it's not high on action but it's compulsively readable. Meg is my favorite type of heroine as well. I love how you've described her inner strength, although that she's not outwardly what you'd consider a "strong" "kickbutt heroine." I was actually thinking about that today in conjunction with the sequel Murder of Crows, which I can't wait to discuss with you when you read it!! I really love that Bishop doesn't change Meg er to fit some ideal of what a heroine should be. For Meg, living a long but quiet life would probably be the ultimate success. I also love so much how she thinks differently and challenges the entire Courtyard to consider humans as more than food. I like Monty's role in this as well. This subtle change continues through the series in amusing ways. Of course this is another thoughtful, wonderful review!

  9. Personally for me, I always find the first book in any series to be the best, like films. I think its very hard to come by a sequel that is either equally as good, or surpasses expectations. But this sure does inspire me to read this. I haven't read anything by Ann Bishop, nor have I read many Urban Fantasy in a while. So if this is to get me started.. I will take it. Great review, Keertana! Really inspiring! :)

  10. I do love the sound of Meg's strength! Quietly fierce, you say? I don't come across those in my reading very often. Aside from Meg's appeal, I'm fascinated by the makeup of this world - with different creatures existing together. Of course, the slow-moving romance is an added bonus! You and Lauren both have me convinced; I need to start this series. I remember reading her positive review as well! Thanks for the rec, K! Lovely review, as always! :)

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

  11. Written in Red was my favorite read of 2013, and I can't tell you how many times I've re-read it (or re-listened to it, since I also have the audio book). Love the characters and the worldbuilding. Can't wait to read more about The Others.

    A friend just received Murder of Crows from the publisher and has been taunting me with little tidbits. Aargh! Just 16 more days.

  12. A strong start to a great series. If you're a YA reader who would like to try more adult crossover titles, this might work for you as long as you know it's not written in a wham-bam instant gratification kind of way. And if you're an urban fantasy fan, you have to check this out. I loved it--I hope you will, too!

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