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WesternSFA
Written in Red
by Anne Bishop
ROC, $26.95, 433pp
Release Date: March 5, 2013
In my opinion, Anne Bishop has never written a bad book; heck, she’s never even written a mediocre book (well, maybe The Invisible Ring – but that’s the only one!). I’ve been addicted to her Black Jewels series and the Ephemera series was very intriguing. And now she has a new series: The Others.

The Others are those sentient native terran species that aren’t human. In this world, humans evolved isolated from the rest of the world and by the time they were ready to explore and colonize, they discovered the rest of the world didn’t belong to them. And if they encroached where they were not welcome – they got eaten. But after a time, they learned to trade the things they made and invented with The Others and won land for their use. But The Others controlled all the natural resources and the humans could only use that which was allowed to them.

So the story starts on one of the major continents where humans have lived for generations in an uneasy peace with the terra indigene. And the era coincides closely with our contemporary time. The terra indigene include were-wolves, vampires and elementals; plus some that cannot-be-named. Each large population area contains a Courtyard where the local terra indigene live and work. The Courtyard is there to monitor the human population. In one city, the werewolf in charge of the Courtyard is trying to forge more of a partnership with humans rather than just considering them meat.

One wintery night, a young woman wanders into his Courtyard in obvious desperate straits. She asks for a job and there happens to be one open – Human Liaison. With a long lack of job applicants, Simon Wolfgard impulsively gives the job to her. The job entails being the receiver of delivered goods – books, movies and anything else human-made that appeals to the residents of the Courtyard. The trouble has always been getting the delivery drivers to actually deliver into the Courtyard. Understandably, the drivers are concerned about being eaten if they accidently offend or just come on a bad day. This young woman, Meg, is distinctly different from any human Simon has met. For one thing, she doesn’t smell like prey; a fact that both attracts and confuses him. Meg is also strange in her innocence and naivety. As it turns out, this actually makes her ideally suited for this difficult job – finding a balance between prey and predator.

The story also has dark conflict – someone is hunting Meg, someone who is unhappy that his property ran away. But as long as Meg resides in the Courtyard – where human law does not apply – she is safe. The question is, though, how safe is she from the residents? In her innocence, Meg’s activities within The Courtyard turn everyone’s lives and perceptions of humans upside-down. And after a while, all the residents consider Meg to be theirs. So when several avaricious humans collaborate to take Meg, the residents take it rather personally. In addition, there is a mysterious illness afflicting the terra indigene and Meg just might have the answer to it.

This was a marvelous plot! And the characters were just perfect. The world-building was of the highest quality. I’d be hard-pressed to say what Ms. Bishop was best at: characters, plot or dialogue. Oh, wait! Maybe it’s her world-building… No, they are equally fine. She consistently turns out fine, professional work. I wish there were more like her. ~~ Catherine Book

Read the review of the next book in the series, Murder of Crows

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