Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
So. Tainted Meat. Got it. It's a novel about making hamburger, right?
Okay, so I liked this novel a lot more than the first because it actually felt like an editor got a chance to flip some red at it. There was more mainline story and less of the mild and rather boring "getting to know you in such a mundane way" build. Of course, there was plenty of sitting around and watching movies and hoping that the doggie would get to lick her fingers, and while that has a fairly charming place to sit in a story, somewhere, I don't believe it really needed to be in THIS one. Repeatedly. At least I can be thankful that there was less mail sorting and more drama, even if it was bird watching. Bird watching? Oh, sorry, I meant crow.
*sigh* Believe me, I *want* to like this urban fantasy, but despite the fact that I *know* that the story really and truly has some actionable moments like raiding a compound or diving into a murder mystery or even just trying to find jobs for fresh meat that dared to be un-racist, well somehow we got a novel that managed to make all of even THAT boring. Action was muted and distant in favour of being in unsatisfied out-season heat, sappy friend-first-too-shy-to-try messages on phones, and endless pages and pages devoted to dog biscuits.
Is this charming? Are you not entertained?
I'm sorry, if I'm going to be diving into the close, close intricacies of a daily life, I want to at least get something like the Stephen King treatment, filled with frightful intimacy, warts and delusions and all, taking me on a path of deep character development for 4/5ths of a book to set me up for a huge metaphysical explosion. That would have been fine. I wouldn't have minded the mundane so much in that case. But no. We get all the cutting and some drug overdoses that were conveniently glossed over and made ordinary and acceptable and shall I say it? Yeah. Boring.
The bones of the story was fine. It suffered from being muffled and blanketed in mild cuteness and removed conflict. There were way too few moments of blind terror. The teakettle and broom was fine. The exploding trash can was fine. But where was the frantic and ever-present danger?
In exposition. Expect cities to be wiped out. Oh yeah, and do you remember when....? GAAAaaaaaahhhhh.... I wanted immediacy! I didn't want to have to pinch myself awake every 10 minutes in sheer daylight.
Fortunately, I did somewhat enjoy the care put into the worldbuilding, but because that was the only really interesting thing going on besides the Elementals, I kept asking myself really unfortunate questions. Like if the Others are a whole society of magical Native Americans in fact and feel, only with the entire upper-hand when dealing with the peeps from across the sea, and they treated and traded with the fresh meat for hundreds of years to make the alternate near-identical world we have in our reality, then why, in all the names that are holy, are we ignoring all the things that actually happened in real history that made the technological revolution not only viable but a necessity? From the gin mill to trains to the damn necessity of mining... if the Others had control over all the resources, then where was the pressure to build the trains in the first place? Let alone the advancements or the dreams required to build aircraft, cell phones, or movies? If normal humans were so smart, why didn't they take a page from the Romans and just find a way to control all sources of water and let everyone else believe they controlled what they controlled? Elementals could always ruin that control, but after they saw how everyone else relied on it, they'd hesitate out of fear of hurting their own kind, too.
I could go on and on and on, because I like discussions of power and societal pressures and history, but these world-holes are annoying, especially since the main tale relies so heavily on it to keep an illusory conflict going for us, the readers. If one domino is missing, the rest seems to all fall apart. Of course, this isn't the main focus of either novel, so I'm forced, reluctantly, to give it a pass. And then I return back to my first concern. Writing with Immediacy.
Where was the ongoing tension and conflict keeping the reader's interest alive. It was just too mild, and it didn't need to be. The story was there to be coaxed into high flame. Instead, it was banked low and kept behind a big finely-meshed grate so all we could do was get hints of some far-away lick of fire. The concern with the crows kept some of it going, but then the rains came and all interest in helping those idiots petered out. I got the impression that once they gave up their vigil and blew themselves to smithereens, the rest of the Others just threw their hands up and said, "Yeah, well, they got what they deserved. Let's hide that hand for a while and see what the other hand is doing... oh, look! Shiny conflict over there! Let's go rescue us some prophets."
Hmmmm. No, I'm not giving this a higher rating, even though it was superior to the prior novel. I'm also not going to drop a star, either, although I'm annoyed enough to want to. It's still a competent novel. I just wanted a damn lot more out of it.
View all my reviews