**spoiler alert** This stands as a review for all three book.
This series suffered from mismatched expectations.
One of the strengths of urban fantasy (**spoiler alert** This stands as a review for all three book.
This series suffered from mismatched expectations.
One of the strengths of urban fantasy (as opposed to epic fantasy) is that the worldbuilding doesn't need to be a huge job on the author's part. The world is much as we know it, only with werewolves, vampires, etc. This allows for the characters and the writing to shine through. And if an author wants to go deep with world building, there's plenty of room to do so. Look at Kim Harrison's Hollows or Patrcia Briggs's Mercy series.
Sadly, Ms. Bishop took that strength and turned it to a weakness. [SPOILERS FOLLOW]
When I picked up the first book, I assumed it was a standard urban fantasy. I was pleasantly surprised when it seemed to be somewhat deeper -- an entire re-writing of human history. How would humanity look if we'd evolved in a world with a different apex predator? That's an amazing premise and could have been a fascinating book.
But Ms. Bishop didn't even try. I mean, there's some broad and shallow world building -- a different dominant religion, calling Europe "Cel-Romano", etc. -- but really, it's our world. There's TV, oil-powered vehicles, jeans, pizza, burgers. How do we get jeans without the California gold rush? How do we get pizza if the terra indigene didn't bother cultivating tomatoes in the New World? Why would the all power terra indigene allow humans to use petroleum products at all?
Also, humans have JUST invented the airplane?
It was uneven and jarring, constantly pulling me out of the story, to consider what this world that she invented could have looked like. It could have been cool.
I know I'm a hard ass for world building, so I wasn't going to love this series. But I can usually settle in and get over myself and enjoy the story. But Ms. Bishop kept trying to make the story bigger and kept drawing attention to the weaknesses therein.
What started as one young girl's attempt to escape a terrible life turned into a total Mary Sue journey in which Meg Saves The World Through Her Innate Sweetness. We know she's sweet because that's the only word people use to describe her. Also because she's just always doing nice things for people. There may be some grit and spunk in there, too, but mostly she's a blank character and not terribly interesting.
(Let's just take a minute here to diverge into reality and point out that girls who were raised in this level of abuse would not be functional. They would have serious detachment disorder, among other things.)
But everyone just LOVES her because she's sweet. She's so sweet that the elementals love her and the crows love her and Sam comes out of his damages shell to love her and Henry loves her and Erebus loves her... and... and...
And that love for her literally saves humanity! Because through tens of thousands of years, no human and terra indigene have ever tried to communicate better, get to know each other better? Really? Seriously? Her mere presence is enough to evolve an entire community to a higher order!
Her shallow world building crumbles and falls as she keeps expanding the plot outward.
Particularly since she's invoking parallels in our real world. It so happens that I read this during the weeks when the news was full stories that seems to resonate: the anniversary of the Murrah Federal Building bombing, the riots in Baltimore, the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial, girls rescued from Boko Haram, the anniversary of Doctor King's speech to the Mass. Legislature.
The world she's written has humans living at a drastic disadvantage under a tremendous power imbalance. There is good material to be mined there, and she seemed to be TRYING to say interesting things. But if she was, the analogy felt sour.
The gender dynamics are not good either.
Women fall into a few categories. Most of them are like Meg -- young, not mothers, characterized as sweet and kind (but not bunny-ish, no, we sneer at bunny-ish girls, they have a little wolf in them!). They have little to distinguish them one from the other -- I honestly couldn't remember who was just married and who was engaged. Even the Crows falls into this -- there's no distinction between the Crow girls. They are all just interchangeable young things.
Some of them are grasping, damaged, stupid, manipulative, shallow, and status hungry monsters. (Asia Crane and Elayne Borden and Elayne's mom.)
Nyx is literally the embodiment of a cliche (and back to the bad world building -- why do their vampires look so much like ours?). We know nothing about her other than she likes to dress in long dark evening gowns.
Tess was the only interesting female in the whole book. Except, maybe, Jean. Who disappears entirely.
There weren't MANY females, though. The police department and seemingly all the Wolves, and Henry, and most the vampires, and all the political players, are all male. And they are doofus males, like some 60s sitcom characters who are all flustered by women crying and say things like "is it that time of the month?" and are so unsure of their own basic emotions that it takes three books for Simon to realize he is in love with Meg.
All that said, this series gets two stars instead of one for a single reason. I grew up with a girl who cut herself and this is the first time I've ever seen her represented in a book. As a hero, nonetheless. I can't pretend to know anything about the psychology the drives self-cutting but I can imagine this might an interesting book for someone who deals with that issue....more