By Anne Bishop
“There would be a spike in the number of girls who went out for a walk in the woods and were never heard from again. There always were when stories came out portraying the terra indigene as furry humans who just wanted to be loved.
Most of the terra indigene didn't want to love humans; they wanted to eat them. Why did humans have such a hard time understanding that?”
― Anne Bishop, Written in Red
This book is a little hard to categorize. I was expecting a typical urban fantasy, but this was anything but typical. It was more like a fantasy world built on top of ours. TVs and cars were still a thing, but the names of the week, countries, and cities were all different. The background to the story is that when the humans were created, the Others were created, too. The humans were kept separate so they could thrive, but when they started venturing out, they discovered that they weren't alone. While it's not explicitly said that it was early American colonists who met with the Others, Bishop describes colonists coming to the New World and getting eaten by the natives/Others before a smart leader decided to trade shiny baubles and ask for permission to use the land.
In the present day, the Others (which are a people group that are able to change shape and can choose to take human form) are basically running things - they control all the natural resources (considering that elementals are included among their numbers, this makes sense - that having Water around means they control the water supply, and so forth), and they're far more powerful than the humans and could easily wipe out humanity, but they like human inventions, so there's a sort of truce in place among the Others and the humans. Enter Meg, a human on the run from some shadowy group, who finds shelter among the Others. And considering the fact that the Others look at humans as Meat, finding herself feeling safer among them than the humans she's running from makes for an interesting story.
I love what Bishop did with the characterizations. Many of the others have an animal form - one they took on for themselves a very long time ago - and because they've had this form for so long, they've taken on many of the attributes of that animal. So the crows like shiny things, wolves occasionally sniff crotches, and the horses like sugar lumps.
The mystery of Meg, what she was, who she was running from, and what she could do, was intriguing. And like Kaylin Neya of the Chronicles of Elantra series, she finds herself being liked by and under the care of some very powerful creatures, creatures who normally have little patience and even less respect for humans.
I found myself fascinated with Bishop's world and her characters, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series, Murder of Crows.