Written in Red

15711341by Anne Bishop
Fiction/Paranormal fantasy
3 of 5 stars

This is a frustrating book on several levels. The main issue for me is the fact that the world and characters are interesting but they never DO anything. 80% of this book is Meg sorting the mail, or Simon having meetings and doing paperwork to prove he’s running a business. I guess if the author never worked in an office she’d think sorting mail is fascinating, but it isn’t. The world also doesn’t provide concrete details outside of the mail room….the rudimentary map has a note saying the “geographically challenged author only included the bits needed for the story” and this becomes painfully obvious. We are given no idea of the state of Thaisia (America, I think?) or the surrounding countries/continents named, or how anything is working or even how far apart referenced cities are. I wanted so badly to know more or to have the characters do SOMEthing but it never happened.

To go along with this, many characters reason away strange or bad decisions with a reiteration of “we do this to keep the Others from eating us” and “we do this because we want stuff from Humans” but the whole balance of government and economics is nonsensical and flimsy. I don’t encounter truly dumb characters very often, but there are several in this story and it’s bad enough to be distracting. The plot moves at a glacial pace and the only event happens in the last 80 pages or so – and that only because of horribly bad decisions. “He needed to figure out what was wrong about this [obvious suspicious activity] before something bad happened.” I wish that was more of an exaggeration.

This doesn’t touch on other issues that can problematic for readers – cutting yourself portrayed as useful/pleasurable/just an addiction, and misogyny between ALL male and female characters (literally “If you don’t do what I say Meg, I will eat you! Stupid female!”). Women are in this story to be mysterious/dumb and make bad decisions that they later endure harsh punishment or lectures for. Also something I don’t notice often in stories but here it’s hard to miss. Stranger still that it’s written by a woman…

This is a series of 5 books but I don’t think I’ll be hanging around for the rest of it. I went to a signing by Bishop where she read an excerpt of Vision in Silver and yep, we are still sorting mail and dealing with the same issues from the first one. No thank you. The characters and concept (and nice cover art) are the only reason I give it 3 stars, but I’m being generous.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Written in Red is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Apparently Bishop and Patricia Briggs write in the same vein and have a lot of books out, so if none of this put you off, there is plenty more out there!
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black features vampires living among us with more action and suspense.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor also has magical beings sharing our space with zero mail sorting. See my review here.
  • If mysterious worlds don’t bother you then try Neil Gaiman or Diana Wynne Jones – they know how to do it in such a way that you won’t be annoyed.
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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Courtney
    Apr 08, 2015 @ 09:26:13

    I’ve seen you suggest Neil Gaiman before. Do you have any suggestions on where to begin for someone who hasn’t ready anything by him?

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    • Amanda
      Apr 08, 2015 @ 09:49:36

      With someone as prolific as him it’s hard to choose, but these are my top picks:

      The Ocean at the End of the Lane – It’s his most recent novel (novella, really) and it has his trademark style perfectly polished. If you enjoy it, you’ll love all of his stuff. I would start here. Next try Neverwhere – it’s longer but still has the whimsy and creepiness I love about him. Also Stardust – it’s an excellent more “traditional” fantasy.

      Personally, I first discovered him when reading his short story collection M is for Magic and moving on to Neverwhere after having it rec’d to me several times. I know another popular award-winning novel is American Gods, and many other people enjoy The Graveyard Book. They’re on my list for when I do a second round sweep of his work.

      Coraline can be a popular choice but if you’ve seen the movie and you didn’t grow up on the book, I feel there isn’t much else to it. It wasn’t my favorite.

      Lastly, he is also famous for The Sandman graphic novel which I have been assured is weird, confusing, epic and awesome–again something on my list to try.

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