Etched in Bone
(The Others #5)
Release: March 7, 2017
New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop returns to her world of the Others, as humans struggle to survive in the shadow of shapeshifters and vampires far more powerful than themselves…
After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…
As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.
With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.
We both set out to write a review for Etched in Bone, but it was one of those books that inspire not criticism or praise so much as a lot of things that make you go hmm. So we're calling this a review/discussion and we hope you'll share your thoughts in the comments.
Gretl's ThoughtsOther than "OMG! Simeg are so cute!" my biggest takeaway from Etched in Bone is that the politics in the series have become much more relatable. It's been there from the beginning but it's disguised enough that I think you could choose to ignore it until now. Things like the humans leasing the land from its original owners and therefore having an obligation not to abuse it are obviously about environmentalism. The Humans First and Last movement is about racism. (Those are both oversimplifications though.) The last book was focused global politics and you could view Namid's teeth and claws as the Others' nuclear option since whole cities are destroyed.
Going from that to crisis on a much more personal level gives Etched in Bone a slightly different feel. This book was about rulers who are out of touch with those they govern. It's a "Let them eat cake" situation. The Elders who have come to observe the Courtyard don't understand humans and their ignorance endangers people. Maybe because it's on a more personal scale, I find it much harder to ignore the politics in this book.
I think setting Meg and Simon's relationship in this smaller, more intimate context makes sense. The big, global events in Marked in Flesh might have overshadowed their HEA. This way we also see the results of the climax from the previous book. And it sets up the characters who are going to be in the spinoff series, which moves away from the Lakeside Courtyard.
It might be better to look at this book as a transition between story arcs, like Allegiance of Honor, rather than a series finale. The latter makes it seem like a really long epilogue showing the aftermath of events in Marked in Flesh, which is much less satisfying. (Goodreads also lists the next book as The Others #6, rather than first in a new series.)
I enjoyed Etched in Bone, especially Simeg, but wasn't blown away like I was with some of the earlier books in the series. It also gave me lots of food for thought, which is never a bad thing.
Rose Red's Thoughts
I agree with everything that Gretl said. The politics and the parallels that can be made to our current political situation hit a little close to home this time around. I especially agree with her observation that Etched in Bone felt like an extended epilogue for Marked in Flesh. As a continuation of the story, I was enthralled with the new details of the world and I loved seeing how the newest members of the Human Pack were settling into the Courtyard. I also loved seeing how the consequences of the Human First and Last movement were being handled.
One of my favorite things about this series, and it showed up in this book, is how Bishop presents evil and the bad guy. They're not like other big bads in the SFF genres. They're not out rightly evil. For the most part, the bad guys have an attractive face and can be seen as totally reasonable by the humans. Case in point, look at how far the HFL movement got in the previous books. An overarching theme we've seen in this series is that mistakes are made on both sides when you underestimate your enemy. This is definitely the case with the Elders in this book:
“They had needed to learn too much too quickly, and they had made a mistake. They would fix this.”
I found Jimmy to be a fascinating character in all of his horribleness. He acted as a foil that revealed sides to several of our main characters that we hadn't seen before. The thing is I knew as soon as he showed up on the page how his arc was going to play out and it felt like it took forever to get to the resolution. The pacing of the story was slow and felt off in such a way that the climax felt very anticlimactic.
As a series/Lakeside arc ender, this book fell incredibly short for me. I don't feel like the Lakeside arc was wrapped up at all. I didn't get a solid conclusion and it's messing with how I feel about the book overall. Like Gretl observed, this book felt more like a transition book and not a series ender. And this may be an unpopular opinion but there was not enough Simon and Meg in this last book of their arc. Don't get me wrong! What we do see of them is adorable and I loved all of their scenes but it felt like they were already getting brushed to the side to make room for the new arc and I didn't like that. Overall, I was underwhelmed.
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.