Published by NAL on March 4, 2014
Genres: adult, urban fantasy
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After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.
The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.
As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.
The best sequels expand the world you know and make you fall even deeper in love with the characters, and Murder of Crows does all that and more in a story that’s just as interesting as its predecessor. Written in Red was one of my favorite books last year, so it is a relief to find that the sequel continues its winning combination of dark urban fantasy tinged with unexpected humor. This time around, a mysterious drug is causing trouble within the community, and Meg’s nightmares seem to signal impending danger for the terra indigene.
The relationships between Meg and all the other characters are so well-written, particularly in her interactions and histories with other women. I also appreciate how sensitive everyone is to potential threats to her well-being, and as well as the sense of protectiveness towards women in general. Consent and choice are huge themes here, from something as simple as a physical touch to the horrifying agony of cassandra sangues still held captive.
The thing I love best about this series is how the wolves are portrayed. The social hierarchy in the first book gives way to a more intimate feel for individual behavior, as the snarly, sometimes rude Simon finds himself more and more drawn to spending time with Meg in his wolf form. It’s only then that he’s able to relax with his head in her lap as she pets him to sleep, and where he can playfully demand her attention without feeling self-conscious. All the shifters are written with an affectionate understanding of animal behavior, from Meg’s Wolf guards who get distracted by cookies to the Crows, whose bright-eyed curiosity and single-minded focus put them at risk. I also liked the sanguianati, creatures whose other forms are smoke, which enable them to slip through keyholes and other convenient places.
Early in the story, Simon reluctantly decides the nature of his relationship with Meg has to change, however, and he’s admonished by a friend that, “You can’t take back the friendship you’ve already given without bruising Meg’s heart.”
But he would miss curling up with her in bed at night. He would miss that closeness. Would she still play with him, or was this friendship going to be confied to human form from now on? If it was confined to human form, would she let him lick the salt and butter off her fingers from the popcorn she ate on movie nights?
Probably not, and that made him sad because he really did like the way she tasted.
It’s unusual to see such a strong emphasis on male-female friendship in this genre, and I’m so pleased that their relationship is taking its time to develop. I think this is also the only series I’ve read where I might like the scenes where the shifters are in their animal forms even more than when they’re in human form. There’s an endearing connection between Meg and Simon as a wolf, one you’ll understand if you’ve ever looked into an animal’s eyes and felt a peculiar familiarity and closeness that transcends both words and reason.
I’m not sure how many more books there will be in this series (there’s at least one more), but I feel like we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of this fascinating and complex world that Anne Bishop has created. I’m dying to see where Meg and Simon’s relationship will go, I hope we see more of the terrifying Tess, and I just can’t wait to laugh and shudder over more fierce animal encounters in future books. If you enjoy urban fantasies, whether YA or adult, you should be reading this outstanding series.