Duel Review: ‘Murder of Crows’

17563080Murder of Crows (The Others #2) by Anne Bishop
Roc, March 4, 2014 (Urban Fantasy)

The Book…

After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

The Conflicting Opinions…

Stacey

I have mixed feelings about just about everything in this book. So, my rating is a “beach read” to “I’ll go there again!” rating (a 3.5 in star equivalents). To be honest, given that the second book came out so recently, and anticipating a lengthy wait for #3, I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to Thaisia.

Starting with the characters, Meg really stands out (obviously, but keep reading). Meg continues to blossom in this novel, although the results are understandably less dramatic than in the first novel. She has more or less adapted to her new community and environment. Although I loved watching her grow and become more and more her own person, my favorite part about Meg is her determination and ability to stand up to the Others – the ones with which she has already built relationships, and even a few strangers. Several times, she backs down an affronted or protective or angry Other as she defends her territory or argument. Over time, though, I began to find her exceptional qualities too exceptional. She is unique in everything, she is one of the most sensitive blood prophets, she probably only managed to succeed in the real world because she’s so special. Her character would feel more authentic if she weren’t the only one that could escape and live outside.

Merilee, one of the human employees of the Courtyard, quickly became one of my favorite characters. She and Meg are very similar in some ways – they both have “wolf” in them, as Simon tells it. They both have the courage to stand up to the Others when necessary, and they both fit well into the community. Merilee made Meg seem more normal, more realistic.

Simon, fearless and dangerous leader that he is, becomes even more conflicted by his emotions and his reaction to Meg. I wish that this had been explored a bit more, instead of just mentioned often. His connection to Meg changes him unavoidably. He worries about it. But every time he comes to a solution, he rejects it out of hand. Will Simon retain his essential, innate Otherly qualities, or will he give that up for Meg? The thing is, I want him to be as fierce as he was before. I want him to be scary, and Other, and dangerous.

The plot felt a bit hurry-up-and-wait and then suddenly, the Final Battle occurred – and ended, almost off-set. The prophesies that foreshadowed the conflict sort of ruined the suspense at the end, and the action seemed to flow unevenly. Of course, most of the plot involves the interspecies relationships and politics that develop between the humans and the others as they learn to cooperate with and trust each other. And that piece, I did enjoy. Different species interacting with and learning from each other is a favorite subject of mine, and this book has that in spades.

The worldbuilding seemed to straddle a small regional scope and a continent- and planetwide scope. I liked learning more about the other nearby communities in Thaisia, and about the continental politics and geography, but the two pieces never fit together seamlessly. I found the disconnect distracting at times, especially the current events that happened overseas.

Finally, many things about this book were comfortingly, and at the same time disappointingly, familiar. Characters, gender dynamics, and plot were very similar to The Black Jewels trilogy: A uniquely special heroine with unsurpassed talents/abilities finds refuge from terrors and abuse in an enclave of dangerous, powerful creatures. Her former abusers keep hunting for her, because she is worth power and money to them. Good and Evil get flipped so that the “evil” beings are the ones who take care of the heroine with compassion and loyalty (mostly). The dark, dangerous lover. The world that begins to disintegrate as direct result of the power struggles and cultural clashes between the heroine’s protectors and her hunters. The untrustworthy and greedy natures of the very people who should have protected and defended her. Even the gender dynamics, the relationships between males and females in this book follow the pattern drawn by Bishop’s earlier works.

All that written, I will admit that I re-read that trilogy several times. So I do like these plot lines and characters. The problem is, this time I didn’t want to re-read her Jewels trilogy. I wanted an entirely new story built from the very unique foundations of Written in Red

I liked this book, and I read it straight through. It is laugh-out-loud funny in places, moving in others, and all sorts of entertaining. I definitely recommend it if you liked the first book, if you’re a Bishop fan, or if you like urban paranormal romantic fantasy.

My thrust completed, read on for Jaclyn’s riposte.

Jaclyn

My rating: Outstanding Adventure (5/5)

Let me begin by saying how disappointed I am that Stacey didn’t like this one as much as me. But, we can’t always like the same books and some of the problems she had are the very things that I enjoyed.

For me, Murder of Crows was a great read. I was thrilled to return to this urban fantasy, which is surprising because on the fantasy spectrum, an urban setting is generally something I avoid. However, I think it’s the fact that Murder of Crows has so many elements that I like in other genres, as well as the fact that I get an old-world feel whenever I read this series. The “Brief History of the World” that opened the book had a fairy-tale vibe as does the mystery surrounding the Others. Like Stacey, I could use more background, but I certainly don’t mind that it’s going to come in nuggets throughout this series.

I also really liked Meg’s growth in Murder of Crows. Unlike Stacey I don’t have a problem with Meg being too exception because on one hand I can see how she is such an innocent after being “cared for” by the Controller for her entire life. I loved watching Meg as she comes to terms with her new life and how she learns to cope in the world. I would really like it if we get further exploration of whether the cassandra sangue can survive outside of a controlled setting. It’s heart breaking what those prophets are subjected to in the homes they are kept prisoner in, and this abuse of women is another common theme in Bishop’s work. And oddly enough, this leads me to the one thing I felt dissatisfied with.

Admittedly, it’s been awhile since I read Written in Red so I may be forgetting details, but I would like more information about what Meg’s gone through when she was in the Controller’s care. I was surprised that I had this reaction as I’m a little afraid of what Meg’s gone through considering what we learn about the places that purportedly protect the blood prophets. However, I feel like something is missing from Meg’s character development without more information and I think what did or did not happen to Meg will have an impact as her relationship with Simon progresses towards a romantic relationship.

As for Simon, I have to admit I loved him in Murder of Crows. I loved the awkwardness that he had now that he recognizes that he has feelings for Meg and the fact that he questions the implications if he were to  pursue that relationship. Frankly, I have questions about the possibility of a relationship between Simon and Meg, but I’m confident (in my little romantic heart) that Bishop will make it work.

All in all, I will be back for book three despite that fact that I’ll probably be waiting forever! I have too many questions that I want answered for me not to read the next installment.

Final Verdict…

Despite the fact that we disagree, we do recommend the book. But you be the judge and let us know who’s side you’re on.

Read-alikes

Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series has a few things in common with The Others: in a slightly altered North America (still with cars, and modern-esque technology), three races (species? subspecies?) of people live in … some kind of harmony. The Psy are genetically different from humans in that they have telepathic and telekinetic abilities; the Changelings are animal shapeshifters; the humans are, well, human. Heavy on the romance, each book in the series tells the story of two main protagonists, often from different races. The worldbuilding is thorough, interesting, and convincing. The changelings are still dangerous, but more protective.

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1)

If you liked the characters (especially Simon), the gender dynamics, the flipped Dark and Light, and the plot, you should definitely check out The Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop. Set in a completely different universe, many of the elements are similar. Highly recommended, and there are spinoffs and further stories if you really like it.

Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels #1)

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