This is the seventh in her The Others series and a lot better than the last but not very different.
The Others are those sentient native terran species that aren’t human. In this alternate earth, humans evolved isolated from the rest of the world and by the time they were ready to explore and colonize, they discovered the rest of the world didn’t belong to them. And if they encroached where they were not welcome they got eaten. But after a time, they learned to trade the things they made and invented with The Others and won land for their use. But The Others controlled all the natural resources and the humans could only use that which was allowed to them. This story is about how both the Humans and the Others try to work together. Please see the other reviews for more background.
Ms. Bishop continues to keep her story in Thaisia, which is our North America. We are introduced to the little town of Bennett which is out in the really wild country. The events take place shortly after the “Great Predation” which was the culling of humans after they attacked Others. An event with worldwide implications which should have made every single human on the planet more than a little aware of how precarious was their very existence. In keeping with her over-arching theme, this story is again about a place and characters brought together to examine if The Others and humans have any chance of existing together peaceably.
Bennett was a small human town close to the wild country where the Others live. The population was completely purged when the Elders came through during the Great Predation. The houses and businesses stand empty and the Others recognize that it will prove irresistible to humans looking for easy looting; especially since it has a regional train station. To forestall that and control travel and just which humans are allowed to live in the back country, the Elders ask some of their own to take human shape and recover the town. The Others most accustomed to humans are, of course, the Wolfgard and the Sanguinati. The Wolfgard sent to be Sheriff is not sympathetic to humans in the least since he and his brother are all that is left of their pack after the human attacks. But he will be fair in his dealings with humans so long as they are fair and honest; if not, well, they are also meat. It is suggested to him that he would do well to have a human deputy but few humans feel brave enough to take such an assignment. Jana Paniccia is a recent graduate of the police academy but finding it very difficult to be taken seriously in a male world; making her very interested in an opportunity such as this. Terrified, but interested.
Barbara Ellen made her way to Bennett by being recommended by Lakeside, since her brother, Michael, is a police officer in Lakeside. Barbara Ellen is charged with rescuing and providing for all the domestic pets left behind in Bennett. She’s a tender and sometimes clueless character who feels fairly comfortable around Others; although that does portray a certain willful ignorance.
The nearby town of Prairie Gold was spared the culling as the humans protected the terra indigene young during the human attacks. Prairie Gold is also home to many Intuits which are considered by the Others to be less human and therefore more trusted. Jesse and her son Tobias are working closely with the Others in both towns trying to keep the local ranches functional but they desperately need more humans and terra indigene to work the ranches and the businesses in the town. They are understandably anxious about what kinds of humans will make their way to the empty towns.
Parlan Blackstone is one of those humans that concern those trying to bring back Bennett. His family, maybe better described as a clan, are Intuits but are not nice people. They have made their living for a long time grifting and conning. After the Great Predation, they found themselves stranded in the less populated part of Thaisia and unable to return to the big cities. Their lifestyle is better suited to large populations; they tend to stand out a bit more in the back country small towns. But Bennett looks like a golden opportunity to Parlan; a place where the family could settle down for a bit and live mostly mundane and ordinary lives. But in Parlan’s mind, the only way it would work is if Parlan actually controls the town. He just has to find a way to get rid of all the terra indigene and he thinks he has a viable plan.
And finally, there is Abigail Burch. She and her husband came to Bennett as it was the farthest place in which Abigail could find to hide. Her husband, Kelley, doesn’t realize exactly what Abigail is or that she is hiding from both her past and her future. Abigail works very hard at maintaining the persona of a sweet, innocent, maybe a little stupid, young wife. She is none of those things. She truly just wants a peaceful and safe existence but it seems to be impossible for her to give up the skills and characteristics bred into her. And when a mixed family of humans and terra indigene comes to town looking for the same thing, Abigail sees opportunity. One of the family is not what she seems and knowing what the child is really gives Abigail a bargaining chip should her past catch up with her.
The story is about the town more than any one person. The book has a plethora of characters and no one is a main protagonist. This confused me for most of the book as I kept trying to find the main character. Almost everyone is concerned about controlling the town. The Wolfgard and Sanguinati who are tasked by the Elders to maintain control and only allow “good” humans into the town and nearby ranches; the humans who came looking for a new life and don’t want to be on the receiving end of another predation; and the Blackstone clan looking for the next con. The author also manages to bring a small hint of the blood prophets into this story but only at a distance. I enjoyed all the characters, even the bad ones. And I liked the plot although it feels a little too familiar; Others and humans trying to play nice together, and then the requisite dumb-as-rocks humans who missed the memo about how stupid humans get eaten. I did appreciate that none of her female characters were as weak and ineffectual as in her last story. Still a loyal fan. ~~ Catherine Book
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