Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Murder of Crows: A Novel of the Others (Book #2) by Anne Bishop

I really enjoyed Written in Red, the first book in Anne Bishop's character driven, edgy an humorous fantasy (UF) series. Needless to say the second book quickly became a highly anticipated read and thankfully it did not disappoint. In Murder of Crows Bishop expands the overall story arc and world-building, continues to develop already established characters, and introduces fresh, interesting faces.

Meg has become an integral part of the terra indigene community in the Lakeside Courtyard. Loved and cared for by all, she is also more confident when standing up for herself. That potential I hoped for when I read Written in Red is slowly coming to fruition for this character and although she is still sweet, Meg is not as compliant. After the events that occurred a few weeks back, the Courtyard's leader Simon Wolfgard is not only an overprotective best friend who cares deeply for Meg, but her own personal bodyguard. He is there, in her bed, when her dreams bring an unexpected vision about death and blood.

Meg is having visions and those prickly feelings without the necessity of cutting her skin, but the urge to cut overwhelms her more often. She sees black feathers, blood, and snow. When crows and members of the Crowgard become targets, violence breaks out nearby between a human town and terra indigene Courtyard, and again in the Midwest. Investigations lead to the involvement of the Humans First and Last (HFL) organization and the two addictive drugs, "feel good" and "gone over wolf." The terra indigene from Thaisia won't take these attacks lightly, and as the incidents snowball, Simon, Meg, human policemen, Captain Burke and Monty, along with the rest of the crew find themselves in the center of the upcoming storm. Particularly after an incident reveals that the Controller and cassandra sague may be part of the problem. Simon won't stop until the evil man is found and his Meg is safe.

There is so much going on in this book! First, the relationship between Meg and Simon shifts from a caring to a deeper friendship that is quickly turning into more, but doesn't quite get to romance. I'm glad this relationship hasn't been rushed. I like the way Bishop handles Meg's confusion about what is going on with Simon -- after all she is pretty naïve and needs time to process new information. And, Simon's reactions and almost complete ignorance about his growing feelings for Meg are priceless. They are SO cute together. So cute!!
"Simon leaned against the back wall of the Liaison's Office.

Done. Simple enough since Meg had done most of the work of setting boundaries around a friendship that had had none before. He should feel grateful, but what he wanted to do was raise his head and howl the Song of Lonely."
The growing relationship between Simon and Meg is wonderful, but overall Murder of Crows is a darker than Written in Red. There is carnage interspersed throughout the story from beginning to end, and gruesome scenes with seriously horrific villains. And please note that the shifters in this story are not the worse "monsters" you will find. There is more tension and less of the humorous everyday life scenes that I so enjoyed in Written in Red. Don't get me wrong there are a few quiet scenes and fun, amusing moments that made me laugh, but for the most part there seems to be a shift in focus.

Having said that, one of the aspects of Murder of Crows that I enjoyed is that although the perspective of the Others -- Simon, Tess, Vlad, Henry, etc. -- toward certain humans have changed or are changing through daily interactions, they still retain that certain wild darkness that makes them unique among shifters in other books. However, with the latest human communities introduced by Bishop in this installment and Simon's plans for training terra indigene in the future, it is clear that already not all humans are just "meat." So I do wonder where Bishop is headed. Probably balance, but, will these shifters retain their uniqueness by the end of this series? We'll see.

The outcome of this book is not wrapped in a tidy little bow, but the way in which the most immediate threads are resolved work for me. I am certainly looking forward to reading the next book! There are more than enough threads left open to continue with the world and relationship building. Who was the man on the train? Will there be war? Will Monty get his daughter Lizzy? I hope so! I'm also hoping for more character growth all around, as well as more growth in Meg's and Simon's relationship. I want to know more about the human cities in the old world, the newly introduced Intuits, and even more about the cassandra sangue. Bishop addresses the cutting -- how it began and the consequences -- but I'm still hoping for possible resolutions. Placing all my hopes and questions aside for now, that final, sweet scene is definitely a winner. Sigh . . .

Category: Fantasy (UF)
Series: The Others
Publisher/Release Date: Roc/March 4, 2014
Grade: B+

Visit Anne Bishop here.

Series:
Written in Red, Book #1
Murder of Crows, Book #2

8 comments:

  1. My book hasn't arrived yet, I've eagerly awaited every time the mail man came to my street but still no book. I have high hopes for the last three days of the week and will jump to it as soon as I have it, because everyone is loving the book and I want it now!
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    1. Ohhh, what torture! Waiting when you want a book so badly. :(

      I will probably re-read this book soon! I read it slowly, but there is so much going on that I still feel like I read it too fast. Enjoy Sonia!

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    2. The book arrived a few minutes after I posted here...I'm almost finished, only a couple chapters to go... I actually am loving it!

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    3. Yay! I'm so glad you're loving it, Sonia. Can't wait to read your thoughts. :)

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  2. Very nice review Hils :) I think you nailed everything... Although I have to say, I didn't love Murder of Crows as much as you did. I've been debating between a B and B+ and will probably go with a B.

    In ways, I thought a bit too much happened in Murder of Crows, splitting the focus... and I wasn't a fan of all those POVs.

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  3. Thanks Nath. I also debated between a B and a B+. But in the end, Bishop's expansion of the world-building and the measurable character growth were so good in this second book, I had to give it that +. I really loved Meg and Simon in this one. :) Bishop handled all those threads quite well, in my opinion.

    I didn't mind the different POV's, I liked getting those perspectives and thought they were important to the development of the story. The shift in focus, the balance of light to dark, took me by surprise. Let's see if that continues in the next book.

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  4. This was a B read for me as well. I loved the first book -- LOVED it, and can't tell you how many times I've re-read it -- so Murder of Crows was my most anticipated book of 2014. Sadly, it just fell a little flat for me. Now...that doesn't mean it's a bad book. It's not. I enjoyed it. But as a reader, I am primarily drawn to characters and relationships. Plots are almost always secondary. I like a good balance, but I always want the characters/relationships to play the bigger role.

    In Murder of Crows, I thought that the relationships took a back-seat to the plot in a BIG way. MoC starts with a bang and doesn't let up, and the plot is largely external, focused outward. There's some good insight and info -- about the Controller, the origins of the cassandra sangue, and other inhabitants of Thasia -- but I missed the characters so, so much. Even Meg seemed like a secondary character to me in this book.

    Meg and Simon's relationship is developing slowly. Rationally, I think that's good. It fits with her characterization, especially. Emotionally, as a reader, I wanted just a bit more. Not a whole lot more, just a little bit more.

    Ultimately, my test for whether or not a book was GREAT for me or merely good is whether or not I immediately start the re-read. I didn't feel the urge with this one to dive back in immediately. (Unlike with the new Mercy Thompson book. That one was a strong A for me, and I'm doing the re-read now.)

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    1. Nifty, yes. The first book was character driven and in this second book the focus shifted to plot-driven. The overall relationships (with the secondary characters) did take a back seat, except for the central ones between Simon and Meg and between the Others (Simon) and Monty/Burke -- I thought both those relationships moved forward rather well.

      I do know what you mean about Meg and Simon. We are all anxious to get that payoff. But I like that Bishop is going slowly. I think the timeline calls for it. However, like you, I can't wait for a little more, and more. I'm loving them together. :)

      When reading fantasy, I always look for growth in world-building, so for me, this installment is key in that respect. Bishop needed to expand outward, otherwise the overall story arc would stagnate. Although I found that the shift in focus was not gradual enough. I'm hoping that she will settle for a better balance in future installments.

      I will reread this book, soon. I read it over a whole weekend, slowly, but I feel like I need to read it again.

      PS: I really missed Sam and Jasper. And Vlad, Henry and Tess were there, but I would really like to know more about THEM rather than Mari Lee and Ruthie.

      RE: Mercy Thompson series. I haven't read that UF series yet! I began reading the Alpha Omega series by Briggs last year, and when I catch up with that one, I will begin with Mercy all in one sitting. :) I have all the books already (except for the latest). *g*

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