I’m so happy I could cry. It’s been so long… too long since I’ve read a book that I’ve genuinely, thoroughly enjoyed. So much, that I was reading one night and suddenly it was three in the morning and I didn’t even care. That doesn’t happen often with me, Lover Of Sleep. And so I, with great excitement, am giving this book 5 STARS. ALL THE STARS!
I will be raving about this because I loved it, but before I officially start, I feel it’s only right to warn you that this book contains description of self-harm.
Meg Corbyn is on the run. Alone and desperate, she stumbles into the Lakeside Courtyard, where the Others reside. Meg knows entering a Courtyard is a dangerous risk – most people who tangle with the Others end up dead – but it’s the only place she’ll be safe from the people chasing her.
For Simon Wolfgard, leader of the Others residing in Lakeside, Meg is a puzzle and he has to decide if she is worth the fight to keep her in the Courtyard. It will be a fight not just with the humans hunting her down, but with some of the Others – as well as a fight with his own confusing feelings towards Meg.
For Police Officer Montgomery, Meg is the property he’s supposed to recover – and the spark that could start a confrontation with the Others that would wipe out the human city of Lakeside.
And for Meg, who has seen her own future, living in the Courtyard is a chance to have a life – for what little time she has left.
(Mini spoilers ahead).
I only have one dislike, but obviously, since I gave this book 5 stars, it’s more like a nitpick.
- Some of the world-building. The setting was obviously some kind of parallel, modern-day earth, but made up name days like Sunsday, Earthsday, Thaisday, etc., got me confused. Those aren’t things I associate with urban fantasies, but with any other fantasy not in an urban setting. Maybe I just haven’t read enough books yet? It didn’t distract me too much anyway because there were a lot of other things to love about this book.
- The greatest thing about this book are the characters. There are so many of them but they’re given distinct and lovable characteristics. In fact, my point of no return, the moment where I decided to sell my soul to this book, was on page 72, incited by a minor character who’d only appeared about twice or thrice thus far. I’d already been enjoying the book before this, but this character moment sealed the deal.
John was the first to reach the stockroom, but one look at Simon had him backing away. Tess came next, her hair streaked green and red.
“Simon?” Tess asked. “What’s wrong?”
Before he could answer, the back door opened again, almost smacking his hindquarters. He whirled and snapped at Jenni, who had shifted from Crow and was a naked, shivering human.
She ignored the cold and she ignored him, which was beyond insulting since he was the leader of this Courtyard. Instead, she focused on Tess.
“Simon was being mean. He made the Meg cry. I’m going over there to the store to see if I can find a sparkly that will make her smile again. The Meg smiles a lot–when the Wolf isn’t snarling at her.”
The buildup to that moment was just really sweet and got me smiling, internally sobbing, and thinking, “I’m done for.”
As for Meg, I admit to being lowkey bothered with her because she was coming off as one of those protagonists that seemed to be adored by everyone. I mean, her transition into the Courtyard was a little difficult at first, but once she gets the hang of things, even the species of Others that are considered the most dangerous felt the desire to protect her. And then I realised I was being ridiculous. Here we have a woman who, despite basically living in an abusive environment her whole life, is kind, empathetic and considerate. Even when the Others in the Courtyard find out she’s a blood prophet, which is more than enough reason to protect her, I never got the feeling that it was the only thing relied on. You get that all the time in fiction. Protect The Girl Because She’s Important. But in this book, it’s so much more than that. Yes, protect her because she’s important, but also protect her because she’s good.
- Monsters are unapologetically monsters. This was such a breath of fresh air. Werewolves… vampires… in fiction they’re often given more human characteristics which makes it easy to forget that they’re monsters. But in this book, you never forget. This is because they aren’t humans turned into [insert animal/supernatural creature of choice here], but they’re creatures who saw the value of learning a human form. They possess the very same instincts of their ancestors for hunting and killing. Sure, humans know of their existence and they live among them, but this doesn’t mean their diet has completely changed. Humans are allowed in the Courtyard because the Others make their business through them, but human law doesn’t apply inside. Someone tries to steal a book from the bookstore? Your hand gets chomped off by the Wolf on guard. Do it again? The next day, “Special Meat” will be sold at the butcher’s. When humans enter the Courtyard, they must accept the risks. This point is driven early on in the book, on page 18, through a scene where humans trespassing at night are promptly attacked and eaten. No fuss. Just how it is.
- Cooperation between different Others species. Another breath of fresh air. Werewolves and vampires are usually pitted against each other in fiction but in this novel, they cooperate. Not just them, but all the Others. Makes sense, seeing as humans are their only real enemy, and sticking together gives them a better chance at survival.
- No romance. *Gasp*. I KNOW RIGHT?! Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, a female protagonist…. that pretty much guarantees super sexy, angsty romance, right? Wrong! I was so happy. Obviously, in the blurb, it’s hinted that we may eventually get this in the next two books, but Written In Red was all about developing the characters, the setting, and the relationships between characters. Those relationships unfold so organically that I would be 100% down with any romantic fluff come book two.
- Fun abounds. Despite the dark tone of this novel, there are fun little moments that made me laugh out loud. Like a human employee trying to explain to a Crow working the register that yes, she knows the coins are shiny, but she must always give the human customers the right change. And a male vampire trying to figure out if it was appropriate to talk to a human woman about periods. And that gag with the Wolves’ chewy toy (read the book!). Also, there are wonderful, terrifying magical ponies.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. As I’ve mentioned before, it does have some dark aspects, but I felt that beneath it all, there was also something very human and encouraging about the story. If there’s anything else that I think people might not like, it’s that there’s a lot of description of Meg working as the Human Liaison. Some might find it tedious, but I think Anne used it well to develop her character.
Super excited to read the next book, Murder of Crows!