Meg has built a life for herself among the Others and with Simon – and even has her own human pack. Not that it’s going particularly smoothly, the Others don’t understand the humans, the humans don’t understand the Others and the werewolf Simon has no idea why he can sleep in her bed while wearing fur but not as a naked man. They’re all confused – but they’re learning and they’re trying.
The rest of the country, not so much. Tensions between the Others and the humans are reaching new peaks, especially with the new drugs on the market that seem almost designed to help humans kill the Others. Bodies are piling up, human rhetoric is getting more and more extreme – and the Others are becoming more and more impatient.
The tensions need to be defused before the Others finally snap – and more human cities are reduced to body-littered wastelands.
To me, what really makes this book beyond it’s excellent and well developed world and it’s exciting and engaging story is the characterisation. The way these characters interact and engage with each other is what truly makes the books. Simon’s constant confusion around Meg and her new developed human pack (the Exploding Fluffballs) and the whole community of Others all trying to understand these Humans-Who-Are-Not-Food is delightful to see and adds so much to the world. I have an incredible sense of how the Other culture works, how the different creatures work from the alien Elementals to the fun Crows to the Savage Wolves and the enigmatic Sanguinati by watching how they navigate around these confusing humans. This book also takes a step in showing how really weird Lakeside is, with the close relationship between humans and Others and adds another sense of how even these confused Others are super-well informed compared to most
But we also see Meg and her own confusion not just with the Others but humanity in general. The more we learn of her story, how the Blood Prophets are abused and kept in captivity, how insulated they are, the stranger and more incredible Meg seems. Not because of her super powers or fighting skills – but because she has endured and learned and grown and built her own life despite overwhelming odds. And, if anything, Meg’s incredible achievement pales next to Jean – defiant while helpless, determined to engineer the downfall of her enemies with a willpower that is awe inspiring. On a much lesser scale, we see the Exploding Fluffballs proving their worth and determination and intelligence over and over again (even if we do have the Others calling periods “female craziness” which does Not Amuse them).
And we have female Others being dangerous and powerful – just so that all this female strength isn’t just the ability to endure and be crafty; in fact Tess is probably the most powerful Other there, excepting the Elementals who, again, are female and terrifying.
And this is definitely a romance I’m enjoying – long, slow burn, full of denial and cluelessness on both parts with lots of very reasonable confusion and cuteness. It really works.
In among all this complexity and humour there is a lot of nuance going on in this world that has some powerful parallels to issues in the real world without any express appropriation. Like the Other’s going to universities and not doing well because the basic building blocks of education aren’t taught to them to the extent of them not even knowing about note taking – and being unable to ask about them because so many humans have deliberately taught them the wrong answers out of spite. Or because not knowing how to correctly use a fork is seen as savagery or stupidity and derided with contempt – because anyone who isn’t brought up knowing exactly how humans do things in Thasian culture is considered ignorant and foolish. Or there’s the criticism of humanity’s anger at the Others for not giving them what they want – enough resources for convenience rather than need, enough land to be wasteful, enough resources for luxury. What’s most powerful about it is when you read the human viewpoints – complaining about rationing, complaining about the water tax, it seems so reasonable because we’ve become so used to excess being regarded as basic necessity; but then you see the Others asking questions and it’s hard to answer them – why should the Others give up more of their land? Why do the humans need more space? Why should the humans take more resources than they need? Why do they need to be wasteful? Why is conserving resources bad? Why should they be allowed to pollute the land and waters? And I’ve got no answer beyond “I wanna”