While it thankfully didn’t end with a whimper, neither did it quite end with a bang. Etched in Bone ended with a cozy little slice-of-life scene, which was the perfect way to end the series. Because it’s the end of a series, this will be more of a review of the series as a whole than a review of this particular book.
A little bit about The Others Series by Anne Bishop:
If this version of our world we have shapeshifters and vampires and more otherworldly creatures, the basis of many UF series. But these shifters aren’t humans who can take on the form of an animal. No, these shifters can take on the form of man, but they are most definitely not human; their true shapes are closer to the animals they identify with, be they Wolf or Bear or Crow. The shifters are a branch of the terra indigene or Earth Natives that populate Bishop’s world, along with an unusual breed of vampires, Elementals, and other, older breeds, more terrifying by far. These Earth Natives, these Others, once viewed humans as nothing but meat. They maintain that view, but are now interested enough in human goods and services to indulge them. However, should humans step out of line, they’ll be back on the menu faster than they can beg forgiveness.
Things changed for the terra indigene when a lost girl stumbled into the Courtyard, a community of Others in the heart of a human city. This girl was something more than human, something that didn’t smell like prey, and yet wasn’t one of the Others. She was a cassandra sangue, a blood prophet, and could foretell the future whenever her skin was broken and her blood was shed. Her name was Meg, and revolutionary changes in the relationships between humans and Others followed in her wake. The Others of the Courtyard grew to love her, opening their hearts to certain humans in response. The Others outside of the Courtyard heard tales of Meg’s exploits and of the changes in their fellow terra indigene, and their fascination brought with it curiosity and questions. The world would never be the same once Meg arrived on the scene.
Throughout this five book series, the stakes have been high. Whatever happened in the Courtyard would set a precedent for how the Others in the rest of the world handled humans. But these high stakes were generally encapsulated in smaller struggles within the Courtyard, and Etched in Bone was no exception. I often forgot that there was a bigger game at play here, instead focussing on the community drama unfolding within the Courtyard itself. This book wasn’t my favorite in the series, but I thought it was a solid ending to the series and didn’t feel at all let down. Meg grows so much as a character from the first book to the last, and it was wonderful to see the culmination of that growth from a terrified girl into a woman who could save herself.
My very favorite thing about Bishop’s world, besides the idea of Wolf (and others) being a shifter’s true form instead of human, is the community feel. This is a slice-of-life fantasy with a big-world impact, and I feel like slice-of-life is something we don’t get enough of in any subgenre of fantasy. Going to work, the market, the library, a restaurant…that’s all important here. Friendships and routine are incredibly central to the story. Not that there isn’t the occasional maiming and/or consumption of a bad guy and saving of the world just in the nick of time, because there is that. This series isn’t just fluff. There are stakes here, as mentioned earlier. But it shows life, and people actually living it, and that portrayal of real life amidst the fantastic is why this series will remain one of my favorites and will be reread again and again.