No one creates realms like New York Times best-selling 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.
©2013 Anne Bishop (P)2013 Penguin Audio
"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges
I bought this after seeing it recommended on a list of credit-worthy listens by Audible and was not disappointed. It is hard to find a fantasy story where both the author and narrator are as good as the standard here. I would personally class this story as a fantasy romance but don't be put off by that if you are not a romance fan because the romance is mild, while the story and characters are strong. I wasn't board once in eighteen and a half hours and will be buying the squeal if it also comes to Audible.
There are many things I like about this story. The fantasy universe is well realized. The author has merged aspects of quite dark subjects and characters, with aspects of almost child like wish fulfillment, providing something new and interesting for her readers. There are several interesting plot's converging in the book and the writing is of a good standard in all the things that are most important to me as a reader: characterization, imagery and plot.
The narrator is also excellent. Time and again I am put of wonderful stories by the grating and robotic tones of a narrator. Alexandra Harris on the other hand, tells the story in a lively and engaging manner, voicing the different parts for the characters. She is one of the few American narrators of a fantasy book that I would recommend and I only wish there where more like her.
Why isn't it a five? Partly it's a four because I'm comparing against my favorite authors like Terry Pratchett, Patrick Rothfuss and Anne McCaffrey and if I give this a five, I have nowhere to go for them.
DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO READ THIS STORY UNSPOILED.
Another reason I haven't given it a five star rating, is that there is a vast and interesting background plot which, if given more focus in this novel, would have greatly improved the story. Instead the author appears to have chosen to tell it over a series and the story looses a bit of momentum and potential because of that. Also, it has to be said that the heroine is the typical outcast who quickly brings anyone of importance round to caring for her, sacrificing some credibility and potentially interesting plot developments because of this.
I am a Wife, a Mum and a Grandma. I am also strong willed and wilfil at times. I have worked all my life and drempt for wining the lottery
I really enjoyed this calm and smooth book - totally involving invented world. I didn't expect to like it but I loved it. I will now search for any other books I hope it's a series.
This is a YA book - that's not to say it isn't listenable to and enjoyable for a less than young adults, but it isn't a complex story, and can get a bit girly, with talk early on of "ponies tummies", and rather a lot of hot chocolate and cookie consumption, but these are minor complaints.
I was surprised to learn, a couple of hours or so in, that our heroine Meg is 25 (or maybe 24 - can't remember now) and not the 16 or 17 I'd assumed her to be. She is "read" very young by the narrator, and as the story progresses this apparent youth becomes understandable, but one of the "baddies" came over to me as about 18, while they were probably meant to be Meg's age or more, and they didn't have any reason to some across as a petulant teenager. So I grumbled my way through the first few hours of listening, feeling slightly misled over who the target audience for this book is, however... things got better!
This may be a straightforward and pretty predictable story, but it's also quite compelling once you get going. The world building is interesting and different, Meg is a good, kind, brave soul who grows on you - I was really rooting for her. The development of the relationship between her and the Others is allowed to progress slowly, showing the Others utter bewilderment at how to deal with humans, and Meg's complete lack of knowledge about human life in the real world. There's a host of supporting characters - decent human policemen, shifters of various species, vampires, elementals, the ponies (who have a darker side so aren't so cute after all) and Tess - and nobody knows what she is... The baddies are credible, and potentially quite nasty, although they stay mostly as shadowy background figures.
There are quite a few smile-out-loud moments, and I found myself impatient to get back to listening when I was otherwise engaged.
There's some swearing (the Others find swearing one of the few good things humans have thought up), some mention of sex, but nothing explicit and its all so vague you could easily miss it ("I'll let you do that thing you wanted to do last night" - if you have an adult take you fill in the gaps one way, if you don't ,you fill 'em another!), some violence and death - but again, nothing overt or nasty.
Well read, with the narrator managing to populate a wide cast. She gets a bit gruff when doing angry wolves, but what else could she do? There are a few jarring American pronunciations to my English ears, but not many.
The end leaves several (quite big) issues unresolved, so I imagine there's a sequel or two to come, and if the nasty, rather brutal Others become a tad nice and civilised rather quickly - responding to threats to withhold their cookies for heaven's sake - it doens't detract from what is a good, imaginative yarn about how plain honest-to-goodness decency wins through! I really enjoyed it and will look out for the sequel.
An alternate Earth where shape shifting 'Earth Natives' tolerate humans - barely - until a special human with prophetic gifts stumbles into their lives.
The story has glaring gaps and is never going to win any literary prizes but the story is novel, if a bit predictable.
It's easy to love the characters and watching an impossible love story unfold will have you desperate for book 2.
The narration is dreadful. It spoils a lovely story. She pauses in the wrong places, puts emphases incorrectly so that the meaning becomes unclear. It also undermines the building of atmosphere and tension.
This is a fascinating story with twists and turns that keep you interested all the way through. Strong characters for you to identify with, looking forward to listening to the next book.
Hard to pick a favourite as they are all unique.
All of them
This has to be one of my favourite audiobooks so far.
The way Meg looks at the world around her is totally fresh. A child's innocence inside the body of an increasingly strong woman.
I must confess to a fear of small scurrying things but the reaction of Meg combined with the Others was hysterical.
When Sam emerged in defence of Meg's use of the harness followed by Simon's joy at hearing his nephew's voice,
I had to purchase book two at full price because I was unable to wait three days for my new credits to arrive. I can't think of a greater recommendation.
The narrator fits the personality of the main character really well.
When Meg stands her ground
The narrator's voice is quite calming but it fits well with the main character and I got used to it.
I didn't find it massively emotional but I did enjoy it.
It was really nice to have a good urban fantasy where the romance takes a back seat.
I have also listened to the next in the series.
read the book and now have listen to the audio. The best book I ever read/listen to.
narration was great and the story was unique. it didn't move too fast or too slow.
love the characters and each of their personalities.
Definitely will recommend it for everyone to l
listen to this book.
I appreciate I am not the target market for this book.
The concept is good, but I found the characters lacked depth & the American accent didn't convey the sentiments in the words being used.
That said the story was engaging & I enjoyed listening to it.
I will be buying the next one in the series to listen to.
Overall I think this would be a great read/listen for 13-16yr olds & above.
"WOW!!!!! JUST WOW!"
This is truly a wonderful book, from start to finish, just outstanding. The book is 18 plus hours, I managed to listen to the entire book in about 30 hours. I did nothing else! The characters and the world that they live in are phenomenal. As events unfolded, I kept checking to see how much longer I had. This will probably be one that I go back and listen to again. And don't you just love it when the bad guys get exactly what they deserve?! It was really an outstanding performance with both Anne Bishop and Alexandra Harris. And you have got to be damned good to deliver such a fantastic performance without even one love scene!
This performance is worth BOTH of my credits for the month, so it was a bargain at only one credit.
"Original, emotion-driven alternative reality"
I listened to the audiobook version of "Written In Red" in December 2013. I didn't write a review because I was so blown away all I'd have been able to say was: "Best fantasy novel I've read in a long, long time." I needed a bit of distance to get some perspective on what I enjoyed and why.
Last weekend, I was in "Forbidden Planet" in Liverpool and saw that the third book in the series, "Vision In Silver" had just been released in hardback. It was an instant and joyful buy. So I figured it was time to review the books that have brought me so much pleasure.
In my view "Written In Red" is closer to classic science fiction than it is to urban fantasy. Anne Bishop isn't writing about supernatural creatures roaming city streets. She's created an alternative reality, imagined the way good science fiction should be: starting with two small changes to our familiar reality - humans are not at the top of the food chain and shapeshifters are not only real but dominant - while keeping everything else the same and then working through the consequences. She then delivers complex, credible, I'm-hungry-to-know-more world-buidling in simple prose. But what makes this book unmissable is the way she made her world real to me by creating characters I cared about and putting them in peril.
The back story to Anne Bishop's alternative reality is that humans evolved and developed their civilization away from the wilderness that covers most of the planet. Then they came into contact with The Others - predatory shapeshifters and fierce elementals - who dominate the planet and to whom humans are "clever meat". The two cultures clashed. The humans lost, again and again, over centuries. Eventually the humans negotiated the right to specific pieces of land in exchange for services rendered.
At the time of the events of "Written In Red", humans are thriving on their "reservations" and are being supervised by Others living in Courtyards from which they observe what the clever meat is up to.
The Others in "Written In Red" can be described as werewolves or vampires or even werecrows but Anne Bishop only uses the familiar tropes to twist away from them. The Others are not humans who shift into wolves. They are wolves who occasionally choose to put on human skin. The Others are fundamentally alien. They literally eat humans that displease them. They are fiercely loyal to each other. They have a strong sense of pack or flock or hierarchy. They are civilized but they are not at all like us.
Into this world comes Meg Corbyn, a homeless waif with a secret. A Courtyard takes her in as their "Human Liaison" and the history of the world starts to pivot. Meg is engaging vulnerable, empathetic, curious, kind, and dutiful. Her innocence is explained by her sequestered life as a cassandra sangue, a woman who can see the future if her is skin is sliced. That she is kind and extremely likable is explained only by the fact that she is Meg.
The interaction between Meg and the Others is one of the most enjoyable things about the book. They laugh at her and puzzle over her but they also give her shelter. They declare her to "Our Meg" and protect her even though they are unaware of her background. She becomes, in effect, a valued pet human.
The treatment of the cassandra sangue by humans is far more monstrous than anything the Others do. When the Others sell human flesh as "Special Meat" it is an honest, malice-free act. When humans exploit the cassandra sangue, their actions are both fundamentaly inhumane and realistically human.
Anne Bishop's alternative reality is as dark and threatening as an ancient forest. Immediately after reading the book, I might have said that the darkness came from the constant threat the Others pose to humans, but the darkest image lingering in my imagination is Meg's razor: the one with her number on it, the one that was used to slice her skin to force her visions, the only thing she carried with her to her new freedom. The razor is a source pain and pleasure, a sign of slavery and a badge of honour, a bone-deep fear and a heart-felt desire. The razor and all it means, makes Meg Corbyn much darker than she first appears to be. In many ways it brings her closer to being one of the Others and makes her disturbing as well as engaging.
In "Written in Red", most humans who have power or are seeking it, are not mentally equipped to accept a status quo in which they are not at the top of the food chain. They are constantly plotting, looking for an edge that will enable them to become the apex predators. This seemed realistic to me, although I think the human evil-doers would have been more interesting if they had been a little less irredeemably venal.
Alexandra Harris does an excellent job as the narrator, particularly with the voice she uses for Meg.
"Written In Red" is original, rigorously thought through, passionate and written in deceptively simple prose. I believe it is the start of an outstanding series.
I have already listened to this twice. It takes a little while to get used to since it is a different twist on the shifter human relations then you see in most paranormal books, but that is what makes it so good. The characters are excellent, well developed and likable. Bishop does a good job of establishing and explaining the world for these characters. The story is engaging and keeps you listening and wanting more at the end. I already cannot wait for the next book to come out.
I absolutely adored this book. This is my first exposure to this author and all I can say is that I'm just blown away. The book covers are gorgeous and I can be lured in by beautiful graphics. I'm a book slut that way.
I didn't enjoy the narrator as much. I much prefer deeper voices and the voice seemed too young adult. However the voice was consistent and smooth. I could get past those slight annoyance and enjoy the story.
The premise of the story, based on a person who cut themselves (because they were a blood prophet), didn't appeal to me when I first learned of it and even though I had several recommendations by book friends, I resisted until now.
Finally in desperate need of a good book and looking for new authors I took the leap. Talk about rock my world. The best way I can describe this is an alternate reality story that is similar to our own world, but imagine instead that humans were the minority. Think of white man coming to America and finding indigenous natives that could and would readily eat you. It took a while but human finally negotiated a foot hold with bartering with the Others. Then after several hundred years as what rings strongly with our own society, humans forget what they should be grateful for and how they should be beholden too and starts creating trouble. They should let sleeping wolves lie as if they rouse they can not only eat you, but crush entire cities.
The main protagonist, Meg (who is the blood prophet), is actually an escaped slave who gets a job with the Others, and unknowingly starts changing the world of Others and Humans in her efforts to learn to be human and learn to coexist with the Others. She is not the strong fighter, and in fact scared a lot but she is brave in her own way. I didn't find this annoying because she wasn't whimpy/whiny. Even though the story is dark and violent as all the best Urban Fantasies are, there is so much charm and humor and the relationships and points of view of the different story lines are intriguing (other than one I didn't enjoy to much). I adored the elemental ponies, 'wolf' beds and cookies and Simon in his gruff/rough way was seriously too cute. Major hugs and scritches to Sam too.
Don't expect romance or sex - in fact I found it refreshing to see the development of relationships without it. (Reminds me of the lovely slow/strong relationship building of Kate and Curran over many books in the Magic series by Ilona Andrews) This story is NOT regular tame shifters that are just fury people. These are truly MONSTERS and the world building is just awesome.
My only little grumble was not liking the point of view of female baddie - she was just too annoying for me, rather than scary or worrisome.
As soon as I finished this I jumped on the next "Murder of Crows". I"m already jonsing for book 3.
"Excellent - Solid and Well Written"
Written in Red is a solidly written urban fantasy of an alternate universe (or alternate planet) Earth. Most of the modern trappings are there - cities, cars, etc., but the cultural references are missing (in a good way) and instead we have a very different set of humans and humanity in a supernatural world.
Megan barely escapes the prison she has been raised in her whole life - a place where women who are able to read the future are trained solely to that purpose so their 'minders' can profit from their visions. Megan knows nothing of the outside world except what her handlers felt she needed in order to give the best prophecies/to translate their visions welle nough. But she will have to make her way if she is to survive. She ends up being taken in by the Others - werewolves, elementals, vampires and more who live in enclaves in the human cities but outside of human law. She must earn their trust: for the men who owned her are powerful and she represents a staggering amount of lost investment and clout if she remains missing.
Anne Bishop did an excellent job of creating strong characters who stay consistent throughout. We don't have the cliches of strong minded girl, noble knight in shining armor, caring friends. Instead, we have a purposefully simple character (Meg) who wins over very jaded individuals because of that simplicity. She's not stupid but she hasn't been educated or experienced life outside of the institution in which she was 'protected' since she was born. Bishop gives Meg a humanity and the standoffish nature of the Others is well written. But without the fish out of water scenes that would get annoying.
I really enjoyed this first in the series. For once, the non-action scenes are as endearing as the fight scenes are exciting. Characters are very fully realized as is the world building. No one felt like one dimensional cutouts, which was refreshing. And there's no instalov and a very hinted at love story that will likely be built upon in further volumes.
The narrator did an excellent job.
"Mundane details killed this book for me"
I'd like to say I enjoyed the book, but I feel like I mostly mildly tolerated it just to know what happened as I don't like to leave books unfinished. The author fixates on extremely mundane details. There is so much fuss over putting on and/or taking off boots, moping up melted snow, and other things that I really just didn't care about. It slowed the book down tremendously, and while I can see how it fit with the naivety of the protagonist, it drove me nuts to listen to the repetition of routine tasks and how much concern everyone had over what nobody would even think about in their daily life.
She is a very slow reader, which made a slow story crawl even more. It added to the sense of mundane to this book, and I was honestly very bored through much of the book and I wonder how much had to do with the pace of the reading. Her voices were fairly good, other than Simon's voice (too hostile all the time).
Overall I enjoyed most of the characters. The female antagonist was highly annoying, fairly stupid for someone who is supposedly gifted at what she does.
As a fan of other worlds such as Jim Butcher or Faith Hunter where more action takes place in a vivid and brilliant world, I found Bishop's world laking somewhat in believability. I feel like the author could have done so much more with this book if the premise wasn't so... boring. I found myself not as engaged or enthralled by Bishop's world, I found it very simple and odd incongruences in the behaviour of the people in that world. If you are more action-based urban fantasy, like myself, this book may not be for you.
"Just TOOO Cute (for adults)"
Really, way too cute. I expected a dark adult urban fantasy. Instead this was beyond Disneyesque.
There are cute ponies, cute puppies, cute talking animals, lots of cookies & peppermint tea, shopping & catalogs, and making friends, as well as an unbelievable amount of mail sorting. Yes, there were some potentially dark themes of cutting, vampires, and were-creatures, but everything was so darn cute and simplistic there was little tension.
Even the antagonist is too cute to stomach.
The universe did not seem internally consistent to me. The internet exists, but humans are woefully uniformed about vamps and werepacks. The protagonist was raised without emotional sensations except those stimulated by ritual cutting, yet is just as cute as a button and peppy as can be. There are also direct inconsistencies like the protagonist sometimes knowing about wolves and sometimes not. I am also dubious that associating self-mutilation with psychic-powers for impressionable young females readers is the best of ideas.
The prose were weak, perhaps just ok for young readers, but too childlike for me. The universe is like 1990s US with the names changed to protect the cuteness. LA is “Sparkletown”, Wednesday is “Windsday”, and so on. Everyone and everything has a cute name. The masculine characters are all amazingly weak and PC considering they are mostly werecreatures and police.
The writing was also totally predicable. After the second chapter if you pause and ask yourself “How will this book turn out?” You will likely guess correctly on every aspect. There was literally not a single thing that surprised me.
The environment is not urban, instead it is like a friendly small college town where prey and predator learn mutual respect, how to understand each other and work together.
The narration is quite annoying with exaggerated cutesy-pie or gruff, but I find it hard to blame the narrator for this, as it seems that is how the characters were written.
My daughter really liked this series and recommended it to me. She loved the cuteness juxtaposed with darkness, and the characters and story, for her, made up for any inconsistencies. Nevertheless I would not even recommend this for young readers.
"Awesome take on urban fantasy"
This book was a surprising treat and a unique take on supernatural - human relations. I look forward to the rest of the series. It felt in no way formulaic.
This book exceeded my expectations, there are lots of bad to average fantasy novels around but this isn't one of them. The world Bishop has created is unlike other fantasy novels. It's not cheesy at all either. It's an intriguing story and I got sucked in right away and I'm looking forward to the second book. I hope Bishop is a prolific series writer, there's so much story to explore here!
"First of a completely enjoyable series!"
I love this series so much. They are the only audible books in my 700+ Audible library that I routinely re-listen to when I need some feel-good time! The narrator is EXCELLENT AND THE STORY is creative, well-thought out and utterly enjoyable. I just completed Vision in Silver and can't WAIT for book 4. Well worth your credit!
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