Review: Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop

Marked in Flesh by Anne BishopMarked in Flesh by Anne Bishop (The Others #4)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Roc on March 8, 2016

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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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…

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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.

What is your favourite series right now? Are you reading The Others books? Tell me in the comments!

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  • I love this series, but I’m also one of those fans who feel that Meg’s lack of autonomy is a huge problem. Yes, she needs to take a more active part in this series, but for me it goes even deeper than the fact she just does what she’s told. Because it’s one thing to be a naive, childlike character, but it’s another to be coddled by everyone in Lakeside Courtyard. What really puzzles me is why Simon and all the Others give her a free pass and treat her like a queen, and at times it even feels patronizing because it’s clear she’s a big girl and doesn’t need her hand held. I feel like it’s high time Meg gets a reality check, but aside from that, I love where this is going! Finally nice to see HFL get what’s coming to them!

    • Yeah, I hear you. I don’t like the way some of the Others talk down to Meg. It’ll be interesting to see where she goes as the series progresses/concludes – is the next book the last one in the series? I think Anne Bishop is only under contract for five books at this point. Hopefully Meg comes into her own in the next book regardless; I especially want to see her take a more active role with the other cassandra sangue.

      Despite that gripe, I’m loving this series! I’ll be sad to see it end!

  • Lynn Williams

    This is a series that I will definitely pick up at some point – I’ve gone down the Seanan McGuire Toby Daye series for now though. But, it’s good to know that this is still going strong for you – especially as I’m fairly certain I bought the first book at the same time as McG!
    Lynn 😀

    • Probably a good idea to only have one major UF series on the go at a time! I wish that I could show that kind of self-restraint, haha. I hope you’re loving the Toby books (Toby, Quentin, and Tybalt are probably my favourite gang of characters from UF).

      I’ll definitely be interested to hear your thoughts on Written and Red when you get around to it, too!

  • Realistic growth in characters, and slow-burn romance? Those sound pretty neat. I keep thinking I need to pick up this series! Ahh hopefully soon! I’m glad to know it’s your favourite UF series right now. That may influence my decision 😉
    Great review!

    • I know, right? It’s kind of sad how rare that combination is, but when it works…it’s so good! Haha, well if you do pick up Written in Red (the first book) I hope you enjoy it! People seem to either love it or hate it, so either way it’ll be a fun review to write. 😉

  • I can’t believe this series is up to #4 already…I have GOT to get on board and start it! Everyone I know loves it:-)

    • Trust me, I know! That’s exactly how I feel about all these high fantasy or action-adventure fantasy series that people are reading these days, especially those Michael J. Sullivan books. They look good but there are just SO many of them! Haha. I hope you enjoy this series once you have a chance to get to it!

  • I know what you mean about wanting your ship to sail — I’ve definitely been in the situation of needing to read the next book in a series solely for that reason.

    • Oh trust me, I’ve definitely done the same! I also have a pretty good idea of what book series you might be referring to… 😉 Haha. At least it didn’t take five books for that one to happen!

  • I skimmed around your review, because I still haven’t started the series. But I’m glad that everyone has such high ratings for every book!!

    • I really love this series! It’s very unusual for urban fantasy, particularly since the protagonist isn’t at all badass despite being very powerful. It’s a refreshing change!

  • Mai Kale

    I’ve just finished binge reading the whole series and now I’m lost.
    This may be an annoying question, sorry if it is, but do you have any recommendations?

    • It’s not an annoying question at all! I’m a fellow UF lover and I’m happy to recommend some titles. Without knowing what you’ve already read, here’s what I’d recommend:
      .

      • Mai Kale

        Thank you!! I’ve read all of them and loved pretty much all of them. Stuck on ‘Raven Cursed’, Jane’s love life is killing me. So I might have to come back to that one. But thank you for the recommadations, they were all on point!