Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Series: The Others #1
Published by ROC on March 5, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
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No one creates realms like New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop. Now in a thrilling new fantasy series, enter a world inhabited by the Others, unearthly entities—vampires and shape-shifters among them—who rule the Earth and whose prey are humans.
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.
*Trigger Warning* This book contains detailed discussion about cutting/self-harm as well as mentions of (but no descriptions of) possible rape.
I’ve had Written in Red hanging around the house for weeks – I checked it out of the library on a humbug and it wasn’t really in the lineup – Anne Bishop is a NTM author. I was getting close to needed to renew/return the borrow when I finally decided to crack it open and see if I’d like it.
I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised by Written in Red – I was pretty close to being blown away. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it wasn’t this at all.
Written in Red is the story of Meg, a cassandra sangue (blood prophet) and details her escape from her captivity and her introduction to the Others. As a cassandra sangue Meg receives both prophesies and euphoria when her skin is cut. Unfortunately for the cassandra sangues the euphoria is addictive (thus the cutting is additive) and the prophesies are lucrative so the cassandra sangues are “kept” and segregated from the population – cut against their will for profit. Meg manages to escape her captor and achieve sanctuary by working for and living with the Others.
Every cut brings you closer to the cut that kills you, Jean had said. If you keep using the razor once you’re free of this place, then you become your own killer.
From the beginning Written in Red had a different feeling than most books I’ve read with shifters. The Others (shifters, vampires, elementals, etc) are old and they think of humans as prey. In most books I’ve read that included shifters, etc. they (shifters, vampires, etc) had to hide who/what they were from the humans to keep from being hunted. In this series, humans are not the apex predators and they (we) technically live under the rule of the Others (the Others control the land the humans use) and if they step too far out of line…humans become food. Wow.
A change in the man’s breathing indicated a return to consciousness. Now it was time to eat.
Front toes elongated into strong, furry fingers with heavy claws. Simon and Elliot tore open the winter coat, ripped off the scarf, flannel shirt, and t-shirt, and shredded the jeans ad long johns from thighs to ankles.
A gasping breath. The man opened his eyes.
Baring his teeth, Simon bit into the belly while Elliot tore out the throat, cutting off the man’s scream.
Rip. Tear. Glup the hot, fresh meat. Simon pulled out the liver and gleefully devoured it, leaving the heart for Elliot.
— pg 21-22
He wasn’t human. Would never be human. “I want the heart. I’ll come by for it later.”
When Meg was asleep.
Almost every time Meg started to think in depth about her handling and treatment while being kept (enslaved) as a cassandra sangue, I would always start thinking about a scene from the movie 300.
In the movie 300 there is a scene where the priests and priestess are discussed. The priests – who were misshapen, inbred men – were still men who wanted attractive girls to have sex with. Sadly, [female] oracles were forced to slake the lusts of the priests in addition to their duties to the gods.
In Written in Red, the women who are cassandra sangues are are mistreated in similar ways as were the priestesses in 300. They are raped – especially ones who are not of high value and often in front of each other – and their handlers appear allowed to do what they wanted to the girls as long as their skin wasn’t harmed.
No matter what the Walking Names said about professional manners and being clinical while dealing with female bodies, when girls struggled against being strapped down for a cut, it provoked some of them into doing…things…after the cut and prophecy in order to relieve their own response to the girls’ distress. And as long as no useable skin was damaged, the Controller chose not to see what his people were doing. After all, some experiences provided richer details to the visions – especially darker visions.
– page 160
Written in Red is pretty dark, all things considered. Or, it discusses pretty dark subjects. There is the treatment of the cassandra sangue(s), the death and consumption of humans, etc. Normally I’d stay far away from stuff like this but…there is a shining thread of almost sickeningly sweet sugar running through Written in Red that really alleviates the darkness: it is the Mary Sue: Meg.
Meg is one of the most Mary Sue-est Mary Sues I’ve ever read. She is exceptionally intelligent, she is extraordinarily lucky, she is an extremely gifted cassandra sangue and she makes friends with amazing quickness. She is a sweetheart. She even dyed her hair red and she has grey eyes. Normally I run from the Mary Sue/Marty Stu as fast as possible but it worked for Written in Red. I.Did.Not.Care. that Meg was a Mary Sue. I.Did.Not.Care. in the least and I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I am already working on a re-read and I’ve ordered book two Murder of Crows. 😀