Anne Bishop’s World of the Others
I love Anne Bishop books. She’s an expert at what a friend of mine calls emotional blackmail – she’s skilled at using the right words to make you care about her characters, her worlds, her mythology. It gets so bad that you’d give almost anything to spend just another few pages with the people she’s crafted, and her yearly jaunts into those worlds are always worth the weight.
We’re here today to talk about the World of the Others, Anne’s follow-up to the deliciously written Black Jewel Trilogy, which ran nine books long. Those books were about family and shifting societal paradigms, expectation and forgiveness and love. These books are about abuse, racism, expectation, and the three types of family: the one you’re born to, the one you choose, and (for the exceptionally lucky) the one that chooses you.
The World of the Others takes place in a modern-esque world where humans exist but are not dominant; instead, there are creatures that can take human form but are tied to nature. You get various animal shifters, Crows and Wolves and Bears, who can pass for human when they can be bothered to do so. Humanity knows that these creatures exist and struggle to live with them. The ones humanity doesn’t know about are the Elementals and the Elders.
Elementals have names like Fire or Winter and they are enormously powerful. As an Elemental is to one of the shifters, so the Elders are to the Elementals.
Collectively, they’re called the Others.
But humanity is not without its own gifts. Some humans are called Intuits and they have insight into people, places, or things. They hide their abilities because some humans are superstitious idiots with a fondness for burning what they don’t understand. A rarer breed of human are the Cassandra Sangue – young women who, when cut, can see the future.
The first five books are told from the perspective of a young woman who has escaped a factory that adopts blood prophets and then sells their prophecies in secret to those that can afford them. She’s taken in by the Others and, while building a life for herself, also builds a bridge between some humans and the Others that ends up kickstarting a political and social revolution.
Anne likes to explore a lot of heady concepts in her books and does it gently enough that you never really notice it until you take the time to feel what she’s written. There’s a lot in here about feeling and honest communication and the dangers of racism and idealogues spreading fear. There’s a lot about how expectation can sour a good thing and the lie of hope can be used to turn people into monsters. There’s… there’s a lot.
You won’t notice while you’re reading, though, and falling for characters that always feel honest and knowable. Even her antagonists – monsters in human flesh though they be – feel like people you will have met. The world that she’s crafted, too, feels like one that would have evolved in the circumstances that she presents, just different enough to highlight the realities of her world without taking away from the story.
Her latest book in the series is called Lake Silence, and it’s the first to veer away from the blood prophets and the single Courtyard where the others have been based. Instead, it does something that Anne has been hinting at since the Black Jewel Trilogy – it presents a murder mystery and how such an investigation is carried out in a world where (a) humans are mostly seen as tasty treats and (b) motivation is just as precious as forensic evidence, if not more so.
That’s the power of Anne’s writing, really: she focuses on emotional intelligence and firmly roots her stories in the emotional journeys of her characters. The worlds, as cool and well-thought out as they are, serve only to highlight those journeys and that growth. There’s nothing else like them that I’ve read, and that’s probably why I tend to snatch a new Anne Bishop book everytime I see one.
You should, too.