Backlist Burndown: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
As a book blogger, sometimes I get so busy reading review titles and new releases that I end up missing out on a lot previously published books, so one of my goals for this year is to take more time to catch up with the backlist, especially in my personal reading pile. And it seems I’m not the only one! Backlist Burndown is a new meme started by Lisa of Tenacious Reader. Every last Friday of the month, she’ll be posting a review of a backlist book and is inviting anyone interested to do the same. Of course, you can also review backlist books any day you want, as often you want, but be sure to watch for her post at the end of the month to link up!
The book I’m reviewing for this month’s Backlist Burndown has been on my TBR for almost a year now, but on top of that, it’s also part of my series catch-up challenge…
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 2 of The Others
Publisher: Roc (March 4, 2014)
Author Information: Website
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
This series is seriously great. There’s nothing out there quite like it; Anne Bishop is a talented storyteller and her characters are wonderful, but it’s the world of The Others that truly sets it apart. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Bishop brings a fresh and unique take on urban fantasy to the table.
Remember, in this world, the supernaturals are the dominant race and we puny humans are their food. Murder of Crows picks up from the first book Written in Red, following the story of the cassandra sangue or blood prophet Meg Corbyn in her new life at the Lakeside Courtyard. A few months have passed since she escaped her keepers to seek sanctuary among the terra indigene, and she’s viewed as somewhat of an oddity due to the nature of her powers. Meg isn’t exactly one of the Others, but she’s not quite human either and that makes her not prey. Slowly she gains the trust of her hosts, and her relationship with Simon Wolfgard, the shapeshifting leader of Lakeside Courtyard, also continues to grow.
There are a couple other major plotlines in this book. Someone is out there killing terra indigene, specifically targeting crows and creating drugs that would dangerously alter the behaviors of the Others. The fragile peace is further shaken as humans are becoming more and more disgruntled with their place in the pecking order (pardon the pun), giving rise to groups like Humans First and Last. Tensions are at an all-time high between the two groups, and while the situation is much worse in other parts of Thaisia, Lakeside Courtyard has not been able to avoid the effects of the conflict.
With this second book, Anne Bishop seems to have hit her stride. In my review of Written in Red, I noted that it seemed rather lengthy for an urban fantasy novel, especially for a series starter. The story felt bulky, padded with what I felt were quite a few unnecessary scenes. In contrast, Murder of Crows has a much more reasonable page count and therefore a lot less filler, which in turn improved the flow and made the story feel more streamlined.
I also like how the series has made a turn for the darker. Not that Written in Red wasn’t dark enough to begin with, but there’s still a noticeable shift here with the themes gradually inching towards grimmer and more disturbing territory. Violence between humans and the Others is nothing new, but the people who used to hold Meg captive are up to their usual shenanigans as well, and you can see how she’s one of the lucky ones for managing to escape. Bishop does not attempt to sugarcoat or soften the details of what happens to the other cassandra sangue girls who suffer all kinds of abuse at the hands of the sinister and depraved man known as “The Controller”.
However, the darkness is also countered with moments of levity. An interesting but intentionally awkward dynamic starts to develop between Meg and Simon Wolfgard, due to the fact that their reactions to each other are so vastly different when the latter is in his human form versus his furry form. I doubt this shtick can continue for that much longer though, so let’s hope their relationship will progress a little further in the next book.
Also in the next book, I’d like to see more depth to the characters. The strength of the world-building seems to be overshadowing everything because it’s the most unique aspect at the moment. While Meg’s blood prophet powers are pretty cool, I’m not getting much of a feel for her personality. She’s meek and comes across slightly aloof, perhaps due to the style of narration which keeps her somewhat at arm’s length. A better balance between setting and characters would be nice, because I’d like to feel a stronger connection to the protagonist.
All in all though, this is definitely an interesting and enjoyable read. I’ll be jumping into Vision in Silver very soon and I’m really looking forward to it.
Other reviews in this series:
Written in Red (Book 1)