Desert Isle Keeper
Etched in Bone
In 2013, author Anne Bishop took the world by storm with Written in Red, the first book in what has fast become one of the most popular and unique urban fantasy series of recent years. I read and fell in love with each book as soon as it was released, so learning that Etched In Bone, the fifth book in the series, was going to wrap up the story arc concerning Lakeside Courtyard, was somewhat bittersweet. Obviously, I wanted to see how things would turn out for Meg, Simon, and the rest of Lakeside’s residents, but it was hard to believe this would be the last book to feature them.
Before I say more about Etched In Bone, it’s important for prospective readers to know this is a series that absolutely must be read in order and that starting anywhere but Written in Red will result in massive amounts of confusion. This review will contain some spoilers for earlier books in the series, so continue with caution.
After a human uprising is quelled by The Elders, a group of very strong and dangerous elemental beings who rule over the world, humans are in peril. Many of them have found ways to live in harmony with the shapeshifters, vampires, elementals, and other unnamed but extremely powerful beings who are stronger, smarter and far more resourceful than humans could ever hope to be, but others are determined to eradicate them. In fact, one group known as the Humans First and Last movement wreaked so much havoc that the Others are seriously considering wiping all of humankind off the face of the Earth.
Tensions are obviously high, even in the relative peace of Lakeside Courtyard, where humans and Others have learned to live side by side. Simon Wolfgard, the wolf shifter who is in charge of the Courtyard, doesn’t want the humans to come to any harm; at least, not the humans he’s come to consider part of his pack. He’s not sure he cares what happens to the rest of them, but he’ll do everything in his considerable power to protect those he holds dear.
Blood prophet Meg Corbyn has had several visions detailing how things will end for the humans. She’s hoping she can effect a change, but can she, who was recently so nearly broken by her need to cut herself and speak the visions brought about by her blood – be truly helpful? The residents of Lakeside are all extremely protective of Meg and even the fiercest of the Others hold her in high esteem. She has come to view them all as the family she never had, and so she’ll risk her life to keep her world intact.
Monty is a human police officer who has been working as a liaison between the Courtyard and the surrounding areas. He was initially terrified to put himself in such close proximity to beings he knows could kill him without remorse, but time has brought a clearer understanding of how the Others really live, and how it’s possible to deal with them peacefully. Of course, Lakeside Courtyard is a rarity, mostly because of Meg’s effect on its residents, but Monty is determined to make other humans aware that it is possible for them to continue to co-exist as long as they don’t directly oppose the edicts of the Others.
Unfortunately, Monty’s younger brother, Jimmy, brings his wife and children to Lakeside seeking sanctuary. Previous books have given us glimpses into the strife Jimmy brings wherever he goes, and I felt my stomach drop at the very thought of him causing more trouble for the people of the Courtyard. Jimmy is a very lazy and manipulative person who thinks nothing of using and abusing those who love him. His arrival makes the Elders quite curious. How can one very bad seed affect a place of peace? And so, despite Simon’s wishes, Jimmy is allowed to stay, and all hell breaks loose.
You might be wondering about the differences between the Others and the Elders. The Others are not human, but they have come to rely on some of the conveniences to which humankind has introduced them. So they dwell in cities, and take advantage of the goods and services found there. The Elders, on the other hand, dwell far out in the wilderness. They have absolutely no use for humans, and would much rather see them gone. Most of the Others have never laid eyes on an Elder, and those who have hope never to do so again. They’re quite terrifying, both in power and appearance.
Many readers have been hoping for some answers concerning the relationship between Meg and Simon. It’s been obvious for some time that they have strong feelings for one another, but what form do those feelings actually take? Well, if you’re looking for a definitive answer to that question, you might be slightly disappointed. Both Simon and Meg make significant progress in identifying how they feel, but there’s no true resolution to the romantic arc of the story and happiness is something that’s hinted at, rather than fully explored. Still, it fits well with the rest of what’s going on and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel.
Several books in the series have focused on characters outside Lakeside, but this isn’t so much the case here. Since so many communities were destroyed as a direct result of the uprising that took place in the previous novel, Marked in Flesh, Lakeside Courtyard is pretty insular and most of our time is spent with the characters who call Lakeside home. I loved this, as I’ve become quite fond of everyone who lives there and it was a real pleasure to spend so much time with them, even if Jimmy was causing a lot of trouble most of the time.
Some readers might find this latest installment a bit slower and quieter than previous books in the series, but again, this doesn’t take away from the story. Instead, it allows the reader to really explore the characters and their relationship to one another. There are still quite a few tense, action-packed moments, but they have a different feel from those I experienced in earlier books. I suppose part of that came from the realization that every scene was bringing the series one step closer to its conclusion.
If you loved the other books in this series, you won’t want to miss Etched in Bone and you needn’t fear that Ms. Bishop is abandoning this world altogether. Lake Silence, which is classified as book six in the series, is slated to release in the spring of 2018, and will feature new characters in a different region of the world. So, while I’m sad to say goodbye to the characters I’ve come to love, I’m excited to see what the author has up her sleeve.