There are many books that have paranormal characters like werewolves, vampires, zombies and everything in between and yet in most of these books, the differences between the humans and these creatures is only superficial. They are often brooding and hungry for love, misunderstood and waiting for a human to come along and ‘awaken their humanity’. This is where Written in Red differs drastically from most of the books in this genre (save for a very select few)
The Others, which here include animals that can assume the shape of a human (Wolves, Bears, Coyotes to name a few) Sanguinati (vampires but no, these guys don’t brood and would only be too happy to snack on humans) Elementals who control the weather with their elemental Steeds and a predator so vicious that its name hasn’t been uttered in so long that no one remembers it anymore. What was really interesting about this book was that at no point did the author try to humanise the characters; they remained very much ‘other’. Every time, the reader got lulled into thinking of them as human or human-like, there was something that immediately got rid of that notion. And often, it was the small things that did the job.
The narrative alternates between different characters and yet this was one of the very few instances where it did not jar at all. It seemed to be very well suited to these characters who saw things so differently from humans that it was a welcome insight. Bishop has created a world that is at once, different from our own and yet very believable. This is possible, in part because just how well realised it is. It was easy to get lost in this world. It was also a nice change to know what certain character’s intentions were from the very beginning, to always know what the character was planning and yet not know if they would succeed or not. It was more suspense than shock, although there was plenty of that as well. The climax was especially satisfying, one of the most satisfying I’ve read in a while.
There were great characters as well and I am glad to say that there were very few that I wanted to see die painfully (those that did, deserved it twofold) Meg, the blood prophet was well written, and her awkwardness with everything when she meets everyone initially was also done well. It was convincing and yet also funny in places. Meg was also no pushover; she stood up to Simon when he tried to intimidate her. There was an innocence to her character that was believable and didn’t feel contrived. There might still be some mysteries about Cassandra sangues and I hope we find out more in the next books.
I liked Simon, and his interactions with Meg were often hilarious, usually because he had no idea how to deal with her. And yet, it was also a little endearing to see him playing with her. And coming up with strange exercises to make her stronger. He was entertaining and interesting. Sam was another favourite.
There are a host of other characters and most of them were interesting. Despite the fairly high number of secondary characters, most of them were very well conceived and memorable. They all had unique personalities and were very different from each other. I really liked Henry (the Bear), he was the most protective of Meg when she first entered the Courtyard and someone she could always count on. Tess was also notable, there weren’t many chapters from her POV but the few that were painted a very interesting picture of her personality. I actually really liked Tess. Vlad was also a great character. I also liked Grand Father Erebus. But my absolute favourites were the Elementals (most especially Winter) they were absolutely kickass and lethal. They were utterly devoid of humanity. They were terrifying and at the same time fascinating and beautiful to behold.
I loved Bishop’s take on these characters and I hope that doesn’t change as the series progresses. As it is, I am debating whether I should read the next book anytime soon or wait since the third book’s release is March 2015, which is quite far away. Written in Red was a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining read and one of the better books I’ve read this year.