Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Roc on March 8, 2016
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
My thanks to Roc and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community…
Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.
But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs.
Meg Corbyn is a cassandra sangue, a blood prophet whose visions of the future bring euphoria at a dark cost: she must cut herself to experience these visions, and if she isn’t careful the process will kill her. After escaping from captivity, Meg found her way to the Lakeside Courtyard, a place where the Others reside and oversee the human population. A tenuous relationship exists between the Others and the humans; mutual disgust runs deep, and throughout the course of the series we’ve seen members of the Humans First and Last group commit many terrible hate crimes against the Others. They will tolerate this no longer. It’s time to show the “clever meat” why the Others are called nature’s teeth and claws.
The conflict between the Others and the HFL has been slowing building, escalating more and more with each volume in the series. I felt a great deal of satisfaction and relief finally seeing that plot line – at least somewhat – resolved in MARKED IN FLESH. It’s been a long time coming!
My favourite part of this series is how some of the Others and some humans are able to forge friendships even in the wake of all the violence and hatred. Despite sanctions, there are some humans who refused to join the HFL movement on principle, supporting the Others and their own right to free association. Clearly there are some real-world parallels here and while I know some readers don’t like their urban fantasies to get political, I for one love it. There’s something about diverse groups banding together to fight oppression and hatred that gets me right in the feels.
The world building in MARKED IN FLESH is on-point as always, with Bishop deftly adding more detail to an already complex universe. Her creativity is boundless, drawing on many traditions and cultures to add life to the supernatural system. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the tarot this time around. But of course, the real standout has always been the characters.
Many people have criticized protagonist Meg’s lack of autonomy throughout the series, and although I think in some ways it’s an integral aspect of her characterization, I can’t exactly dismiss those criticisms. Yes, Meg struggles to complete some of the most basic adult tasks. Yes, many (male) characters tell her what to do. But I think it’s important to remember that much of this stems from her naivety and inexperience resulting from the abuse she suffered and the lack of control and variety in her life at the cassandra sangue compound.
I think it’s in MARKED IN FLESH that we finally see a more competent Meg, one who refuses to be browbeaten into action, or more accurately, inaction. If Meg feels she should cut so that she can have a prophecy to save lives then she will, damn the personal consequences. Just because she’s shaken up and timid afterwards doesn’t mean she’s weak. Yes, her character growth has been almost painfully slow at times – but I think that’s what makes it realistic.
Those of you who read my blog regularly probably won’t be shocked to hear that I am desperate for my ship to sail. What can I say? I love love. But again, the slow and steady development of the romantic relationship between Meg and Simon is realistic and a large part of what makes it so swoon worthy. But for the love of all that’s holy, can we please have an on-page declaration at some point? My heart can’t take this!
Were my expectations for MARKED IN FLESH high? Sky high. Were they met? Not completely, but it was still a great book. If you’re even remotely intrigued by the sound of these books, I highly recommend them. The Others is my favourite urban fantasy series at the moment, and Anne Bishop is placed firmly on my “auto-buy authors” list.