Review: Etched in Bone (The Others #5) – Anne Bishop

etched in boneAfter 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.

Rating 3/5

This series started out as one of my favourites, but Etched in Bone was a let down for me. My first complaint is similar to that of many other reviewers who read this book – this final installment feels more like a long, drawn out epilogue, where the plot really had nothing much to do with the arc of books 1-4. There was very little action, and it felt more like a character study of sorts. In short, it felt disconnected from the rest of the series, seeing as the great defeat, as it was, occurred in book 4.

I could, however, have put up with that – since I really do enjoy the characters and this particular urban fantasy world – if it wasn’t for the whole ‘traditional gender roles’ thing. I mentioned it in my review for book 4, when it finally came to my attention, but it was really prominent, front and centre in book 5, and grated on my nerves no end.

Of course, it’s the author’s book and she can do what she damn well pleases. But when you are creating an amazing urban fantasy world, where you don’t have to conform to the conventions of our current society…and you bring in the same old tired gender dynamics? Quite frankly, that’ s just bad craft.

Of the ‘powerful’ characters, we have an entire cast of men, and only two women – Nyx and Tess. (On my review of the previous book, a Goodreads commenter tried to refute my issue with the lack of representation of strong women by pointing out these two – congratulations for pointing out the exceptions THAT PROVE THE RULE?!)

And of course, ‘strong’ doesn’t necessarily mean physically strong. Plenty of the human women display qualities of mental strength, for instance. But when they are all cardboard cutouts of the other, in need of protection, squeaky and shrieky  and constantly chattering, with one lone soul going against the grain…well, I’m less than impressed. I did think I was reading too much into it, but the author makes it explicit in this book that her world conforms to the ‘women’s work and men’s work’ paradigm. And there’s really no reason for this? When you’re in a world with beings who could crush you with a breath of air, and we’re still saying women should do the cooking?

It may have been cute and funny in the beginning to have Meg’s crew of female companions described as ‘exploding fluffballs’ or whatever, but 5 books in and it’s a tad insulting. There are just so many examples here:

  • When Officer Debany finds out his sister may be living with a guy, and he freaks out, asking Simon and co to investigate
  • The men being the only ones who are capable of offering protection
  • “Twenty-four men to work on the ranges and deal with the horses and cattle, and five women who will tent the ranch houses and cook”;
  • “Simon breathed in her scent and thought she might be in season. That would explain the snappishness.” Because haha, women are cranky on their periods, get it? We can’t have any rational reason for our bad moods.

Also, “This could be nothing more than a somewhat introverted child wanting to feel settled. Or she could be in real danger of being pimped by her own brother.” But yes, we’re totally going to wait for a child to be sexually assaulted before we intervene because the higher powers want to observe dodgy human behavior. I can’t even.

So yes. My issues with this book detracted from my enjoyment. I thought this series had so much potential, and I was really invested in the supporting characters, the fantasy elements and the relationship between Meg and Simon, but we got very little of any of those.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Etched in Bone (The Others #5) – Anne Bishop

  1. My thoughts on this finale also went against the flood of 5 star reviews. It was a good book, but I thought for a series ending it was underwhelming and a bit of a letdown. I also have huge issues with Meg’s character. She’s always struck me as a helpless woman-child and I didn’t get why everyone in Lakeside Courtyard is always bending over backwards trying to please her for some reason.

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    1. YES! Totally agree. There could have been so much more character development in terms of Meg. I think she did become more capable in the course of the series, but everyone around her insisted on treating her as helpless. Gah. The first three books were fantastic, but I am fairly disenchanted with this one.

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