"Do you know the joke about what happened to the dinosaurs?"
"The Others is what happened to the dinosaurs."
Written in Red is the newest series by Anne Bishop. Meg Corbyn, an enigmatic human girl gifted with a rare type of power who comes into the employ of a group of Others (scientifically known as Terra Indigine)- paranormals who are the dominant species of the world- the ultimate predators- and humanity survives at their sufferance. Simon Wolfgard, pack leader of the Lakeside Community- which serves as a buffer between Others and local humans- takes Meg on as a liaison despite his misgivings, or perhaps because of them. Meg's presence doesn't go unnoticed and once her past is discovered, it threatens not only the Others but all the humans in the area as well.
Typical of an Anne Bishop novel, the intro is rushed and clumsy- dumping so much info your head's likely to spin. It's about halfway in that you're finally up to speed on things and comfortably enjoying the ride. There's also the dreadfully minimal worldbuilding. Bishop borrows liberally from actual history- the Manhattan purchase with beads, the Jamestown disappearance, etc- to give a semblance of context, but you've no real idea where anything is. One character takes a train ride to what passes for New Jersey- called Jerzy- but you've still no clue where they originally left from. And the naming conventions she uses are... laughable. The city where tv shows and movies are made is called Sparkletown. A character's tv producer connection is known as Bigwig. A rural location in the middle of nowhere is literally called Podunk.
Not to say WIR doesn't have a lot going for it. Bishop excels at creating sympathetic characters and Meg is exactly that- the very definition of a babe in the woods. Her struggle to find herself is a genuine, if slightly confusing, one. Simon has a lot of depth to him, but his 'attraction' to Meg is forced. He doesn't know what to do with it and neither does Bishop yet. What the Sanguinati family represents is obvious but their exact nature and abilities remain shrouded (pun intended). But the real 800lb gorilla in the room is Tess, the woman who runs an eatery in the business sector of the Lakeside Community, and is someone whom even the rest of the Others tread carefully around. Her true nature is hinted at, glimpsed upon and suggested- but not revealed. Nice!
The idea of The Others dominating the world to the point that humanity is almost marginalized is tantalizing: they control all the natural resources, so nothing happens in the world without their say-so, and they're reluctant to give it. Such a rich vein of storytelling waiting to be tapped into...
There's plenty of the dark humor Bishop's so well known for, as well as some quirky stuff to keep things balanced. As wolves, Simon and his ilk see human things in an utterly canine POV, referring to Meg at one point as a squeaky toy and fun to chase. Humans troll the areas of the community they're allowed to enter, trying to catch a glimpse, with the girls hoping for a walk on the wild side. Odd how no men are ever shown attempting this...
In many ways it has a similar tone as Black Jewels Trilogy. Despite Simon's presence, much of the real power in the complex is wielded by the females, especially Tess and the Elementals. And remember the Arcerian Cats, whose word for humans translated into 'stupid meat'? Well, they lent The Others their encyclopedias. It also doesn't help relying so much upon the same, tired PNR/UF conventions of wolves and vampires. Different cultural influences are handwaved as shifter types such as crows and owls are present, but again, they're the second-stringers. Yes, there are bears, but no lions or tigers. :)
While WIR is a new beginning for Bishop, it still feels much the same. But you'll be eager to see where she goes with it.