Book Review: Wild Country by Anne Bishop
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The World of the Others
Publisher: Ace Books (March 5, 2019)
Length: 496 pages
Author Information: Website
Wild Country by Anne Bishop is, bar none, my favorite book in the world of The Others to date. All my favorite elements have been brought back, while all the gripes have been either corrected or dealt with. Also, I am simply loving this spinoff format allowing the author limitless opportunities to explore the stories of other people, creatures, and places in this wondrous magical world of Thaisia.
Before I continue, because the events of Wild Country take place in the aftermath of Marked in Flesh and run concurrently with much of Etched in Bone, it may contain potential spoilers for the original 5-book series if you haven’t read it yet. This time, readers are brought to Bennett, a settlement in the wild territory known as the Elder Hills. At one point it was a thriving town, before the powerful Terra Indigene in the area killed every man, woman and child in retaliation for the slaughter of the Wolfgard pack. While the Elders have consented for Bennett to be rebuilt and repopulated, they do so with one stipulation: the town must be under Terra Indigene control, and any human living within its limits must agree to work with the Others and be subject to their authority.
As it turns out, a surprising number of humans are willing to make this bargain, though many are drawn to Bennett out of desperation. Whether it’s the need for work, a place to lie low and disappear, or simply a community in which to belong, they have all come with the hopes of making a new life for themselves. Soon, Bennett is up and running again, with a new deputy in town, a lively bookstore, and even an old-timey saloon. But even after the Elders’ show of power, some humans still have it in their heads that they can simply take from the Others what they feel is rightfully theirs. Many groups that have sprung up in recent years to take advantage of the lawless frontier environment, including a notorious gang of hustlers known as the Blackstone Clan. Unfortunately, these mobsters see the flourishing Bennett as an invitation to take some of that success for themselves, and their leader is also looking to settle a score with someone he suspects is hiding out in the town.
Without a doubt, the characters were the highlight of this novel. As thrilled as I was to make new acquaintances, I was even more excited to catch up with old friends, many of whom were introduced but only seen briefly in Marked in Flesh and Etched in Bone—names like Jana Paniccia, Barb Debany, Jesse Walker, Abigail Burch, and Virgil Wolfgard. A couple of familiar faces we’ve known even longer, like John Wolfgard, who worked at Howling Good Reads and has relocated to Bennett to run the bookstore (a staple in every Others novel), as well as Tolya Sanguinati, who has been tapped to lead the entire town. I loved getting the chance to catch up with these characters and see what they’ve all been up to, and apparently, the answer is a lot.
Much of this story involves the residents of Bennett attempting to get the town back into shape. Perhaps my only criticism of the book is that this process dragged on just a tad too long; there’s only so much description of cleaning, recruiting, hiring, and building I can take before it becomes tedious, but thankfully Bishop kept things interesting enough with the introduction of new characters and establishing their fascinating backgrounds. One example is Scythe, who is a particularly dangerous kind of Terra Indigene though she is no less enterprising because of it, hoping to set up a Wild West style saloon called the Bird Cage in Bennett. Then there’s Joshua, a young man who grew up with the Panthergard but whose origins and what they represent make him a troubling enigma for both humans and the Others. More great characters include a mixed family headed by Evan and his partner Ken, who have come to town with a group of Terra Indigene orphans they have rescued.
The result of all these different lives coming together gave this novel an incredible “fresh start” vibe that I found exciting and full of hope. Despite the town’s grim history, I loved Bennett for the same reasons I love Westerns and stories about pioneers settling on wild frontiers. This new setting also allowed for fresh situations and dynamics we’ve never seen before. One of my main complaints about Lake Silence was how similar it felt to Meg Corbyn’s story, containing a lot of parallels and reusing many the same ideas from her time in Lakeside Courtyard. Wild Country, on the other hand, felt more like a true departure, even with the return so many known characters. I especially loved the women in this book, like Jana and Abigail who despite their flaws are strong, resourceful and driven, setting themselves apart from Meg who I thought was too meek and always needed to be saved.
While some of the plot developments in the second half of Wild Country felt similar to the previous books—mainly those related to the Human vs. Others conflict—this is one area I didn’t mind where the tone and spirit remained the same. Besides, the stakes felt higher in this novel, with villainous humans who are more underhanded and devious, and likewise the Terra Indigene characters were also more ruthless and unforgiving.
Truly, Wild Country is my favorite book set in the Others world so far, and I hope Anne Bishop continues to branch out and tell even more stories about the denizens and communities surrounding the original Lakeside Courtyard. There are so many possibilities to explore, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Written in Red (Book 1)
Review of Murder of Crows (Book 2)
Review of Vision in Silver (Book 3)
Review of Marked in Flesh (Book 4)
Review of Etched in Bone (Book 5)
Review of Lake Silence (Book 6)