This is the third book in a paranormal saga about a world mostly divided into humans and the terra indigene, commonly known as The Others. (The previous two books are Written In Red and Murder of Crows.)
These Others include shapeshifters (such as werewolves), vampires, “elementals,” and “harvesters,” inter alia. There is also a third sort of in-between species with extra-sensory perceptiveness, one of which is the cassandra sangue or blood prophets, females who can see visions of the future after self-mutilation. These girls were kept in compounds, tied up, and often raped or brutalized in other ways. Sessions offering their prognosticating services were sold to interested (and wealthy) parties. But a criminal consortium arose which sold the blood of the cassandra sangue as a street drug to make people go on insane homicidal rages, which was a threat to all species; the Others set the girls free wherever they could.
In addition to this threat to world harmony, a new political movement has been growing – Humans First and Last (HFL), which seeks to challenge the hegemony of the Others.
The story focuses in particular on Simon Wolfgard – handsome, mid-thirties, and the dominant Wolf and leader of the Others’ Lakeside Courtyard, where humans and Others mix in an uneasy but mutually beneficial detente. In Book One, Simon gave the job of Human Liaison to Meg Corbyn, 24, a cassandra sangue who escaped her compound. Meg quickly became beloved by all the Others, and in particular, Simon, although he doesn’t quite understand his reaction to this non-wolf.
This book, third in the series, begins four and a half months after Meg arrived at Lakeside Courtyard. As with Book Two, Bishop does an excellent job in beginning the story by filling in the background for this alternate world and what has been taking place in it.
In this book, the Humans First and Last Movement is gaining ground, and the rescued cassandra sangue are having trouble learning how to cope with the outside world. Meg too, while more well-adjusted than any of the others, is trying not to cut herself as much; supposedly a cassandra sangue only has a thousand cuts before she dies or goes insane. But the girls are driven to cut themselves. Simon wants to protect her, but isn’t sure how to do so.
Moreover, Simon faces yet another danger, this one from the Elders. The Elders are the oldest and most powerful of the Others, and do not interact at all with humans. But they enforce the integrity and sanctity of the Earth, and are watching Simon carefully. They know he, inspired in part by Meg, is experimenting with a new way for all kinds of Others to live together, and in addition, for them to live in peace and cooperation with humans. But the Elders have been appalled by the actions of humans such as the HFL and those who have abused the cassandra sangue. Simon knows if the Elders get pushed too far, all the humans will be annihilated. Which fire will burn the world, he wonders: hope or hatred? And if the Elders destroy all the humans, can the Others replace what the humans have provided without losing who they are?
Discussion: As usual, Bishop adds a delightful amount of humor to her story. For example, one of the vampire administrators, faced with a request by a gaggle of excited human women, sighs and reflects, “And humans think vampires are scary.” Or there is Simon’s lament: “Humans. Couldn’t be satisfied with being considered not edible, they also wanted to talk to him. And talk. And talk.”
The romance between Simon and Meg is proceeding very slowly, and while that is disappointing in a way, it means the series will last all that much longer. But they are both adorable, neither one knowing how to define their feelings or how to express them. Everyone else in the Courtyard understands what the two of them feel, however, and finds them as amusing as the reader.
In this book we also get more of Tess, in many ways the most interesting character. Tess is a “harvester” – one of the most ferocious predators of the Others. But Bishop makes her a fully “human” character with heart and perhaps even the beginning of happiness, in spite of her lonely role that makes even the Others fear her.
Evaluation: It’s kind of embarrassing/pathetic how much I love this ongoing series about a young woman and her seeming soulmate and would-be paramour who is a werewolf. But I am not alone in my love for these books; you will find that most reviewers are ecstatic over them. Really, who wouldn’t like a hero, who, when he isn’t being a sexy handsome great big guy, is an attractive great big doggy, whose fur you can run your hands through and against whom you can cuddle up and sleep.
Anyone who liked the Sookie Stackhouse books until that author sort of went off the rails will appreciate the skill of Bishop in bringing her paranormal world to life, and in making characters about whom you can’t wait to read more.
Published by ROC, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA), 2015