This review contains major spoilers.
Marlene: I read Bishop’s Black Jewels series a long, long time ago. And although I loved them at the time, my interest in the series petered out as she kept tacking on sequels. I’ll also confess that I tried her Ephemera series and absolutely could not get into them. So I skipped The Others until about a month ago. I had an assignment from Novelist about Anne Bishop, and decided it was time to finally read this series that everyone kept raving about. And of course, once I started I couldn’t stop. The Others are positively awesome.
Lou: I must be one of the few Anne Bishop readers who has yet to read the Black Jewel series. I think I’ve read the first book (I may have even DNF’ed it *gasp*) but for some reason that world didn’t capture me like The Others does. I am ADDICTED to this series. I talk about it with two friends of mine all the time, and after finishing Marked in Flesh, I sense the series is nearing its end *sobs.* Marked in Flesh was one effing epic story that blew me away. All of the hints from previous books about human extinction HAPPENED thanks to the Human First Movement. It was scary and heartbreaking but also inevitable because The Elders make Simon and company look like cuddly shapeshifters.
Has: I am a huge fan of the Black Jewels trilogy, although the latter books were hit or miss for me. But The Others has captured something magical with its worldbuilding and characters. And Marked in Flesh was one of the long awaited books that I have been hankering to read and it was definitely a fantastic installment. I so agree with you that it’s one epic entry in this series, with the heightened tensions between Human First movement and the Others coming to a head with major horrifying ramifications for both factions.
Marlene: Meg is an interesting choice for a heroine. In the first book, she almost seemed too good to be true, but as the series has continued, her place in the Others universe has come to make more and more sense. She is special. Not just because she can prophesy, but because her ability to do so comes with all kinds of special circumstances and caveats. Her sweetness is not just part of her charm, it is also part of her gift.
In Marked in Flesh, we also see much, much more of Meg’s role as the Trailblazer. It is up to her to find a way for the cassandra sangue to live outside of the compounds, and to live full and hopefully long, lives. Meg is kind of Moses. Everyone hopes that she will lead the cassandra sangue to the promised land of having real lives, where Meg is all too aware that while she points the way, she might not get there herself.
Lou: Meg is definitely an interesting choice for a heroine. At times in the beginning of the series she reminded me of a Mary Sue, with everybody loving her and doing no wrong. But as you say Marlene, she is special in the Others universe. It’s why I’ve never gotten irritated with Meg because her sweetness is because of the sweetblood, which is what Grandfather Erebus calls the prophets. Meg’s prophecy abilities manifest and turn into a different direction in Marked, with Hope also playing a big part. It’s a hint that maybe there is a way for the prophets to live without that one last cut which is predicted to kill them. Meg’s role in this series worries me because while we’re all hoping for a HEA (with Simon) it’s not guaranteed. We’ll all have to open up a support group if things turn deadly at the end!
Has: I really, really hope there is a HEA because I wasn’t entirely happy on how the last Black Jewels story ended. But I definitely agree with you both about Meg and her sweet nature and innocence–despite the horrible abuse she suffered at the hands of the controllers. I liked that she is stubborn and determined to forge her own path and discover what she likes and dislikes and live life fully. And I especially love how the Others, especially Simon, Vlad and Tess, sees and experiences what it means to be human through her eyes. In Marked in Flesh, we see her embracing and wanting to protect the people she loves, including her human friends by trying to use her abilities and channelling it in a way which isn’t self destructive.
Marlene: One of the things that Meg has to negotiate is her need to cut vs. her desire to cut. She is able to find other ways to prophesy, but not another way to replace the euphoria she experiences afterwards, and that is such a big part of the addiction. She is beginning to explore the idea of sex with Simon as being a potential alternative route to nirvana. And as much a I find Simon and Meg utterly adorkable, the undertone that he might become her alternate addiction makes me just a bit nervous.
Lou: Her ability that makes her special not only allows her to see awful visions but is also the vehicle for an addiction. And her need to cut vs. her desire is definitely an addiction that blurs the line between the two. That Hope is able to find another route gives me some hope that Meg’s ability with cards can be strengthened over time. Meg’s sl0w-burn relationship with Simon I adore. The two of them are so perfect for one another and how they interact makes me laugh because they’re so oblivious to each other in some aspects, especially the romantic side which slowly starts to burn in Marked, especially the last chapter.
Has: I am hopeful that Meg is able to separate her need for that high and not confusing it with the possibility of embarking on a relationship with Simon, which could replace that need. Although I loved how their romance was hinted strongly and so wonderfully in this book. That last chapter was amazeballs and I loved how tender and sweet it was, as well as the fun nature of their relationship. I hope that in the next book we see them exploring further into their relationship because while they’re so clueless about sex and romantic love, their scenes together are full of wonderful chemistry that is sweet and tender, which I adored!
Marlene: Simon, however, is a terrific character and a great hero. While he thinks that the changes to the world are all because he let Meg into the Courtyard, I don’t think that is all it is. Meg’s arrival brought a whole lot of other factors to the surface. One of the surprising relationships in the series is the true friendship between Simon Wolfgard and Vladimir Sanguinati. In most mythologies, werewolves and vampires are natural enemies. Here, they do more than just unite for the common good. They are sincerely friends. And the world has changed enough that Tolya Sanguinati envies his kinsman Vlad for that friendship and mourns the loss of Joe Wolfgard, not just because a good man is gone, but because that man might have been the same kind of friend to him that Simon is to Vlad.
Meg has changed the world of the terra indigene, but only because Simon changed it first.
Lou: Simon and Meg are the reasons why so many humans survived the onslaught of The Elders. Meg was the bridge that taught Simon that not all humans are bad and that they’re capable of so much more than destruction, pain, and violence. The Courtyard has turned from one of the scariest places into a loving home that is now encompassing humans into one big family. I’m actually worried that somehow Vlad is not going to make it. Joe was a minor character and I was heartbroken over his death. Anne Bishop hasn’t created any major deaths in the Courtyard…yet. I’m worried we may be overdue for some in upcoming books. Vlad is such a big character that I’m surprised we haven’t seen him have a story-arc of his own. I can only hope that maybe it could happen in future with maybe another slow-burn romance of his own. I can’t help myself. It’s the romance genre reader inside of me. It’s been agonizing to wait for Meg and Simon take their few baby steps toward one another.
Has: One of my favourite scenes is the part when Vlad and Simon are discussing Meg and their concerns for her wellbeing. I loved how Simon became jealous and territorial but he was clueless about his jealousy which was so funny because Vlad was bemused by it. I also felt that we discovered a bit more about Vlad and I hope that if there is ever a spin off, we would have a book focused on him because I really like his character because he is so intriguing and charismatic.
Marlene: I love poor Simon’s confusion. He is caught in the middle of such a huge dilemma. He wants to protect Meg. He also cares for Meg in ways that he isn’t willing to admit, let alone deal with. At the same time he is under tremendous pressure – the Elders of the terra indigene have left him with the knowledge that human extinction may be on the menu, and that it is up to him to decide who lives and who dies. It’s way more responsibility than he ever expected. Or certainly wanted.
And his two steps forward, two steps back, very, very slowly developing relationship with Meg is cute and sweet and driving him crazy.
Lou: Simon is adorable for being one of the most dangerous creatures who enjoys eating human meat lol. I agree that he’s probably aware of his attraction towards Meg but he doesn’t want to deal with it–at least not yet when Meg is so far away from viewing Simon as sexual. From what I gathered the terra indigene don’t view sex the same way as humans do. For Simon, Meg is pack and home.
Has In a lot of ways I think Simon’s courtyard, and even the others dotted around Thasia, have changed due to their interactions with the blood prophets and Meg’s impact on their lives. This book really showed how much the Others who lived close to the humans/inuits evolved by learning from people who taught them that not all humans can be destructful or hate-filled. I was also intrigued by the Elders who are so much more scarier and powerful than the Others, and I have a funny feeling that their interest in Meg will be a huge theme in the next book and that will have some interesting repercussions to their world.
Marlene: I was completely absorbed in this book. Even as things get darker and darker, this is still a world that I love to visit and would want to explore. But about that darkness…It is a continual source of surprise that the humans are just so incredibly stupid, short-sighted and easily misled. That scares me way more than the bad things that are happening, because it feels all too true-to-life.
But this entry in the series feels like a whole lot of set up for a big showdown that isn’t going to happen until the next book. It also has overtones of a prepper’s dream as everyone is busy stocking up for the end of the world as they know it. And while that all works, I want to get past preparation and see what happens next already.
I give Marked in Flesh a B+ for being compellingly readable and utterly absorbing, even if it did feel a bit like “hurry up and wait”.
Lou: Marked in Flesh was one of my favourite reads out of the series so far. So much happened. The entire world changed and it was definitely one of the darkest books to date. The Elders taking revenge of the HOM was heartbreaking because so many innocent deaths occurred on a much larger scale. At times I did find it strange that there wasn’t bigger pockets of humans who tried to stop the HOM because surely they could see the balance was firmly on the side of the terra indigene? Anyhoo Marked in Flesh definitely has an apocalyptic tone that makes me wonder, what else can freaking happen in future books that tops the stakes more than Fleshed?
I give Marked in Flesh a big honking A+
Has I definitely agree that Marked in Flesh is the best installment to date, although it felt like the first part of an epic two-parter because while huge events and ramifications happened in this entry, there is still huge plot threads about the aftermath on how the Others and humans will have to pick up the pieces as well as Meg’s growing influence amongst them.
Marked in Flesh was a fantastic sweeping and pacey entry to the series. The action was nonstop but there were wonderful sweet moments between the characters, although I will warn you there are also scenes where you will tear up because of the fates of certain individuals. But this is a book that is filled with heart and soul and I wish I had a time-machine to read the next book!
I give Marked in Flesh an A!