Devourer of books with a preference for fiction. Quite good at competitive reading. Happily hoards books of all kinds. Gets stabby going too long without reading.
This is the second book in the series of The Others. While you get enough information to read it without having read the first one, you should really do yourself a favour and start with Written in Red. It's the best paranormal/urban fantasy book I read last year, and deserves to be read by as many people as possible. This review will also contain minor spoilers for the first one, so you may want to come back and read it once you've finished book 1.
Having survived the assault on the Lakeside Courtyard, and saved the lives of many of the Others living there, Meg Corbyn is now even more beloved of the creatures who live there. They are fiercely protective of her, none more so than the leader of the supernatural creatures, Simon Wolfgard. Their changing relationship is confusing both Meg and Simon, although most of the other inhabitants of the courtyard find it amusing to watch them try to figure each other out. The Lakeside Others and their Meg aren't out of danger yet, however.
Two new drugs are being distributed in towns across the country, with the intent of harming the Others, and further research seems to suggest that they are both manufactured from the blood of cassandra sangues, blood prophets like Meg. There are attacks against shapeshifting Crows in several towns, and Meg keeps having visions about worse to come. The sinister Controller, who used to hold Meg captive wants her either returned to him, or eliminated entirely, to prevent her visions from aiding the Others in any way. The other blood prophets around the country, all captive and exploited for their prophetic ability, seem to see chaos and destruction as a result of the increased hostility from humans towards the supernatural creatures. The Others of Lakeside realise that unscrupulous humans cannot be allowed to control and take advantage of these special young women any longer, and steps must be taken to liberate them.
As I mentioned in my spoiler warning at the top of the review, Written in Red was by far the best paranormal fantasy I read in 2013 and to say that I was excited to read the sequel is an understatement. I can't quite put my finger on why I didn't love this as much as the first one in the series, but for reasons that are too vague for me to be able to properly articulate (real helpful, I know), I don't feel like I can rate the sequel a full five stars. That doesn't mean that Murder of Crows isn't a great book, and I suspect it will be in the top three paranormal books I read this year, depending on how well other favourite authors of mine, like Ilona Andrews and Seanan McGuire, deliver on their next books, coming out later this year.
The very interesting dynamic with the supernatural predators of the world being by far the strongest majority in Bishop's alternate version of North America continues to fascinate me. Making the reader sympathise and side with dangerous, fairly ruthless shapeshifters, vampires and elementals against the humans is a wonderful twist. Not all the humans are bad, of course, there is far more nuance and complexity here. Most of the police officers in Lakeside are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the peace with the Others, if nothing because they have seen firsthand the devastation that the elementals and creatures like Tess can wreak if the humans keep upping their hostilities and attacks on supernaturals in other parts of Thaisia. While the first book was mainly confined to the Lakeside courtyard and the adjoining town, this book lets the reader get glimpses of the wider world, and the increasing tensions between the humans and the supernatural creatures. It's also obvious that most humans are unaware of that the Others don't just consist of shapeshifters and vampires, but also pretty much all the elemental forces you can imagine, and therefore have no idea what peril they are courting by provoking a war with them.
My favourite parts of these books are probably the smaller, quieter moments of the books with Meg learning to fit into the wider world, making friends with human women and Others alike, or trying to figure out why it's fine for Simon to share her bed as a wolf, but scary and unnerving to her when changes into his human form. There is clearly a romance building between the two, but it's a very slow burning one, with the relationship changing in small increments. Simon is confused and somewhat troubled about his attraction to a human, while Meg, having lived locked up and sheltered for most of her life, abused by her handlers, is having trouble even understanding why being close to Simon's human shape is more difficult to her than his wolf shape. She has so many new things to experience and become accustomed to, attraction just confounds her further.
I haven't been able to find out from Anne Bishop's website or other places online how many books she's planned for this series, whether it's a trilogy or if she has something more elaborate planned. All I know is that I'm completely hooked, and will be pre-ordering the next one as soon as it becomes available.