Vision in Silver
by: Anne Bishop
Series: The Others
While mostly known for her debut series, The Black Jewels, Anne Bishop has been a constant presence in the fantasy scene for over fifteen years now. She’s an author I’ve sometimes struggled with as she moves between incredible, hum drum, and sometimes painful execution. Overall, her Others series has been one of her stronger series, and a welcome breath of originality in an otherwise crowded and self-referential urban fantasy scene.
The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him. Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict. For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…
Before we get started, enterprising or passionate review readers may wish to check out my brief thoughts in 2013 on the first book in the series, Written In Red (part of my Top 5 of 2013), or perhaps my review of book two, Murder of Crows. Or, in summary, I felt that Written In Red was an unexpected comeback for Bishop while Murder of Crows was a solid 3.5 stars.
But what about Vision in Silver? How does it stack up. Overall, this is what I half expected the second book to be: a set-up novel for the world, future novels, and overarching conflict. These books are somewhat necessary, though never my favorites in a series as they can be slower paced, somewhat messy, and generally less entertaining. Sadly, Vision suffered from some of this. There are still some good points to the book, and it was certainly readable and enjoyable.
Much of the breakdown centers around the plot. For this installment in the series, Bishop has switched to a murder mystery for the center of the book. This was a gutsy move, and one that for me didn’t pay off. I like my murder mysteries on occasion, but I also don’t like to have everything given away before the end. Murder mysteries require very stringent care in handing out information. It needs to be enough information so that I can make some educated guesses, but not so much that I’ve solved the crime at least fifty pages before all the characters have (especially when those characters are police). Sadly, in Vision’s case, I was in the boat of dreading more people becoming ‘in the know’ as it meant rehashing ground again.
Another pitfall is that Bishop is starting to swap points of view a bit too rapidly, and between too many characters, to keep effective characterization going. We’re still following Meg around, but she’s really a secondary character in this book. Even Simon is somewhat in the background, with other characters' actions overshadowing his contributions. Now, this would be fine and dandy if we had well-rounded protagonists to take their place. We almost have this in Lt. Montgomery, who takes a great deal of the spotlight during the murder mystery portion of the plot. We met him back in book one as a secondary character. What held him back from protagonist territory is that in Vision he’s still more or less the point of view used when Bishop wants to deal with human government as seen by a human. Add in points of view from Tess, another cassandra sangue and wolfgard who aren’t in the Lakeside Courtyard, and the point-of-view waters get really really muddy. You can’t effectively characterize that many people in 400 pages in a way that lets all of them be fully fleshed protagonists. Well, maybe someone like Sanderson could, but now we’re talking about 800 pages.
In many ways, the waiting for all the characters to get all the information and get on the ball as well as the myriad of points of view kept me from fully engaging in this book. On the other hand, The Others have always read on the ‘lighter’ side of fantasy. They are ‘fluffy’ and fit in with paranormal romances in terms of tone and writing style if not in content. For a crowd who enjoys that end of the fantasy pool, Vision In Silver is a good choice for the spec fic version of a beach read. Those who like something a bit more engaging may want to pass this book by.