Next disclaimer: This is book two in Anne Bishop's The Others series. I didn't read the first one, Written in Red, before I picked this up at ALA Midwinter. I think I got the hang of the world well enough.
Meg Corbyn is a blood prophet living among the terra indigene, or the Others, in the Lakeside Courtyard. Blood prophets see prophecies when they are cut, and it's believed that they can only be cut so many times before they die or go insane. But the urge to speak prophecy is coming to Meg more frequently, and two drugs are beginning to spread throughout the cities leading to the deaths of both humans and Others. Meg and her friends must juggle the need to keep her safe, both from cutting more than necessary and from the man who owns the compound from which she escaped, the need to stop the violence caused by the drugs, and the need to keep the fragile peace between the humans and the Others.
What I liked about this book, and what kept me reading, was the history of the world and the relationship between the people in it. There are a lot of series in which the paranormal races like vampires and shapeshifters live in secret among the human race and some in which they are known to the human population, but there are very few in which the vampires and shapeshifters (the Others of this series) rule the humans. The different societies and even the humans with some supernatural abilities or other human subcultures interacting with each other, or trying to avoid interacting with each other as much as possible, was a fascinating exercise in worldbuilding.
However, I was less comfortable with the concept of blood prophets. A race whose only power requires slow self-destruction (assuming they are lucky enough to be able to make their own decisions about when to cut, and not held in a compound where customers can buy a cut) and that craves the euphoria of speaking prophecy makes me uneasy, especially considering that they are all women. Men can only be carriers. The emphasis on Meg's sweetness and innocence, although she seems perfectly likeable, also doesn't exactly make her come across as somebody with strength and agency aside from what she is able to do through self sacrifice.
There was also quite a bit of will-they-or-won't-they between Meg and Simon Wolfgard, the head of the Wolves, especially in the first half of the book. I'm rapidly losing my patience with will-they-or-won't-they, especially early in a series. I think I accept it in Dresden Files because 1) both major examples of it didn't come up until well into the series, when there was lots of history to explain why it wouldn't be settled quickly 2) in both instances, Harry and the woman in question have actually talked about the issue. This is the second book in a series, other people are wondering if Meg and Simon are having sex, and there are a large number of characters including Simon who can smell if somebody is feeling "lusty," and the two of them are ignoring it because of... reasons. This is a major plot thread of the first half of the book and in the second half nobody is even thinking about it, and I think that will-they-or-won't-they that moves backwards in intensity might even be worse than ordinary will-they-or-won't-they stretched out over a series unnecessarily. I'm also wondering if people who read Written in Red will be disappointed in this element, since several reviews that I read on LibraryThing for it praised the lack of romance as one of the things that they liked about it.
I liked most of the world except for the magical race to which one of the main characters belongs, and I'm not so sure about her story, either.
Overall grade: C
Murder of Crows will be available March 4