The Others rule the world; werewolves, vampires and more police the humans – and if the humans break the rules, the Elementals let rip. Entire cities have been wiped off the map when the Others have felt humans have stepped over the line. Humanity lives in a precious balance, maintained only by placating the Others
Meg is human and a fugitive. Hunted for her unique abilities she finds refuge in the one place humans have to tread carefully – a Courtyard, an Other’s community. Settling into the role as human Liaison she has a lot to learn from her sheltered life while she and Simon, the community leader, try to work together and she learns how to live with the savage and strange Others
But the ones hunting Meg are willing to risk everything to get her back – including the apocalyptic wrath of the Others
This is going to be one of those reviews where I keep having to come back to it to describe something else that is awesome, like a kind of highly excited monkey with attention deficit disorder – all the while smiling that very silly wide grin I get when a book turned out to be unexpectedly awesome
And it was, awesome – in so many ways.
Firstly, the concept. There are many books out there with mankind and the supernatural at war. Many with the supernatural hiding from mankind. Many with the supernatural being seen as dark and evil or scary. But this is the first book I’ve read where the supernatural unabashedly rules mankind! The Others control the world, humanity exists on sufferance. If humanity screws up, it gets eaten. If humanity hurts the Others, they get exterminated. If humanity is too much of a nuisance, they will be rendered extinct. The Others more than have the power to do it. The Others are also more than willing to do it – and humanity knows this.
This creates a fascinatingly unique world with appeasement as a constant worry for humanity. It’s reflected in the Others as well – humans are meat to them. Food. An irritant. Several times it seems they’re looking for an excuse and they definitely have little to no compassion for humanity and no tolerance or mercy for any who break their rules. They’re ruthless, they’re lethal, they’re terrifying – and the idea of them being romantic is pretty laughable. The whole world is dark, always on the edge of massive destruction with a constant pall of fear cast over everything.
Over this excellent new world we have some truly awesome characters – including making savage monsters thoroughly likeable, immensely relatable and great fun. While at the same time never losing sight of the fact they ARE savage monsters who are happy to wipe out entire cities if they are suitably provoked.
Into that comes Meg, another awesome concept: a blood prophet. Imprisoned, enslaved, exploited with a really well depicted sheltered mentality. The way she was raised gives her a very different viewpoint with a lot of interesting ignorance’s that really play out in her character. That difference also gives her an edge with the Others – but without making her super special or perfect. She’s still afraid, but she works through that fear because of her lack of real context and experience as well as the looming alternative.
Which leads us to another awesome element of this book: growth. The characters grow – and by grow I mean learn and develop naturally rather than suddenly mutating. The end result flows naturally from the experiences and developments of the story, leaving the character highly evolved but still, ultimately, recogniseable as the same person – it’s really well done. Through that it carries the whole story as Meg becomes more confident, fills her role among the Others, and through a series of highly natural and well written encounters, she creates friendships and relationships. I really can’t praise her enough – how she learns, how she adapts, how she faces her fear without becoming foolish or reckless, how she finds friendship with the others and even adorable scenes where she plays with them (and then works on how to set her own boundaries with the Others herself). She, in turn, shifts the stance and growth on the Others around her as they find their attitudes shifting in growing respect for Meg. And all of this is done without woo-woo; oh, Meg’s woo-woo status certainly opens the door, she’d never have reached where she did without it, but the relationships are built on experience and interaction as much as special powers.