Marked In Flesh, A Novel of the Others, Anne Bishop
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy.
This is such a hard series to review, hard to write just how fantastic it is without giving things away. It’s a series like no other, a world that is like ours and yet not like ours. Imagine our current world but with other groups of inhabitants, some of which interact with humans, and some of which you hope you never have to interact with…Naimid’s Teeth and Claws are a group you don’t want to mess with!!
The world was created by Naimid, and parts given to humans to live in. As always though humans grow, get greedy and grasping and instead of living peaceably with the Others, they see them as having land that Humans could use, that Others as a lesser species ( Humans ideas not mine!) should not have control over. There’s been attempts in the past to move past the boundaries Naimid set but Naimid’s Teeth and Claws have seen those off. This time the humans have made big plans. Those who remember and respect the Old stories are afraid, but the new group, Humans First and Last, dismiss them as old wives tales.
The trouble has been brewing through the books so far with small incidents, and the Others are wondering how much Human is too much Human. They’ve learned from them in the past, taken on parts that are beneficial, and since Meg came to the Courtyard things there have changed with more Humans getting intertwined in their everyday life. Humans aren’t all bad, there are many who are against HFL, who respect the Others and want to live peaceably with them. As ever though it’s minority but aggressive groups that stir up trouble, and the head of HFL is whipping up resentment against the Others, dismissing them as less than Humans and so should be kept in place. We can see disaster brewing just as well as the Others can but the only ones who can stop it don’t want to, won’t take note of warnings and don’t care about killing Others. They regard them as lesser when really to me its the Humans that are lesser, allowed to live by Naimid’s grace and that can be taken away and has been in times past.
I love the way Anne doesn’t anthropomorphise the Others. The Wolves are simply wolves that can keep human shape, same with the Bears and Crows, and there’s the Sanguinati, the Elementals and others such as Tess, all dangerous in their own way, all Guardians of the land who respect Naimid and her Teeth and Claws. So often in novels shape shifters are humans who take the shape of an animal, and this time its the other way, they are wolves, bears, crows first and human in shape only. They’ve taken the parts of Human that they see as beneficial, learned from them, taken on technology where they need it, mainly transport, power and energy supplies and communications. It could be such a perfect world *sigh* but much much like today there are humans who are greedy. We rip out Rainforests regardless of what species need them, put roads through huge natural areas and endanger more species, tunnel underground pumping deadly chemicals there in the search for more fuel, and poison the land and insect life in our attempts to control what grows where….and if it harms other species? Well, we say self righteously – we Need to do it, humans Need XYZ…Instead of making do, conserving, preserving we just destroy, and accept as our due the right to have what we want when we want, whether that’s strawberries in December, or roads through centuries old wildlife preserves. Anything destroyed in the process is just collateral damage, not our fault….
This particular story is really hard hitting in parts, and I actually had to put in down for 15 mins at one point when it gets so real and I felt really upset and emotional. I’m dancing ( pussyfooting – just for Simon!!) around what to say to express how I felt without giving anything away. I can’t think of another book – and I’ve read thousands – where I’ve felt so strongly that I had to put the book down just to compose myself. Its that real, that emotional, that draining and yet – its also full of light moments such as the pussyfooting one. One of the humans, Monty I think, says Simon is pussyfooting around something he needs to say. Simon is indignant, saying he doesn’t have pussy feet he has wolf feet. Then there’s the message from Naimid’s Teeth and Claws about them liking the Wolf cookies ( a bit of levity at a point where we really needed it), the skinny dipping, the constant wondering Simon has about Meg and human mating habits, the way the Female Pack announce “ girls issues” when they want the rest to leave them alone. Clearly that one crosses all species – mention female things to most men and they shudder and try their best to look away or go elsewhere. True love is a man who’s prepared to buy Tampons in a busy supermarket without flinching 🙂 In my Girls school back in the 70’s we had to sign a book with reasons if we wanted to go into town, and it would be checked by our male form teacher. Write “Female Necessities” and we were free to go!!
I love the world created, the characters we meet, the way small things build up – such as the whole story really, beginning with Meg entering the Courtyard so many changes have happened for the inhabitants. Simon’s always been progressive, but at first he was quite grumpy and unconcerned about Humans, and now through Meg he looks at them differently, sees that they’re not all the same, some can be good, do want to help and be part of the group. I love Simon, he makes me laugh, he cares deeply for those in the courtyard, respect their differences, is always looking to how he can make life good for everyone. He touches me with his emotions, and his patience and love for Meg. He wouldn’t call it love of course – that’s just my lack of any better expression, but to him Meg is His, he just has to wait for her to realise it 😉 Its a fabulous story, a series which just gets better and better, and draws me in so that the “real” world gets lost when I’m reading, there could be an earthquake next to me and I’d not notice. It does annoy Him Indoors at times when he’s talking to me and I just don’t hear, I’m not ignoring him, it’s just that nothing but the story and the characters are in my head. To me that’s the mark of a five star keeper series.
I’m including a poem here for Ocean – one of her comments reminded me of it, its one my kids used to sing, and I think she’ll like it.
A baby sardine saw her first submarine,
She was scared as she looked through the peep hole.
“Oh come, come, come,” said the sardine’s mum,
“Its only a tin full of people.”
Stars: the magic five for me, all the way and roll on the next book! .
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers for review purposes