Publisher: Ace Books
Page Count: 496
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Series: THE OTHERS, Book 7; THE WORLD OF THE OTHERS, Book 2
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – REALLY Liked it!
Note: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
With any long-running series, a worry can set in that the next book is finally going to be the one where the author misses their mark. Excellence is hard to sustain and sometimes the warm familiar hallmarks of the series become less reassuring and more rote. Thankfully, that is not the case in WILD COUNTRY, the seventh book written by Anne Bishop set in the world of THE OTHERS and the second standalone entry in the series. Although it’s a little slow-going in the beginning, Bishop manages to infuse a fresh tension by removing the safety net that usually protected characters in the past.
For those unfamiliar with THE OTHERS, it is a series set in an alternate Earth known as Namid, where supernatural creatures known as terra indigene are the dominant predators and rulers of most of the world. Some of these creatures are vampire-like, others shift between human and a specific animal form at will. But the most feared of all are the Elders, beings that rarely interact with humans, and when they do, it is usually to inflict a deadly consequence. Such was the case during the recent Great Predation, when a human terrorist group slaughtered a pack of wolf shape shifters, causing a retaliatory massacre by the Elders that wiped out entire towns regardless of age or innocence.
The town of Bennett, which was the site of the wolf slaughter, is now at a crossroads. With the inhabitants of the town dead, the terra indigene decide, for various reasons, to allow a small, select group of humans to repopulate the area. The humans allowed into Bennett come to live in houses still eerily full of the previous residents belongings, trying to figure out how to reclaim what little space the Elders have allowed. As they excavate houses and re-establish essential services, they also have to be wary of the new humans arriving in town daily. Most just want a place to survive now that the terra indigene have “thinned the herd” and are willing to live by the rules established by the town’s ruling body. Those who thwart the rules, however, are a danger to everyone, as the Elders have made it clear: if humans step out of line again, the entire town of Bennett will be erased from the map.
Unlike previous standalone LAKE SILENCE, which stood almost entirely apart from the original OTHERS series, WILD COUNTRY is more of a companion novel, with most of it taking place at the same time as events in book five, ETCHED IN BONE. Bennett is a location that was often a fulcrum point in previous books, visited for a few chapters to provide key information or help to the mixed community at Lakeside. Now we see for the first time what Bennett is up to in between all those moments, and it’s clear they live in a much more precarious situation. Whereas the humans of the Lakeside Courtyard have allies among the terra indigene who will intercede on their behalf with beings like the Elders, the humans of Bennett don’t have that luxury. With the wounds of the Wolfgard slaughter still fresh, most of the Others don’t trust the newcomers, and are more than willing to stand aside to let the Elders deal with troublemakers. This indifference to the survival of the humans adds a layer of tension that I greatly enjoyed, because the humans couldn’t count on the terra indigene to bail them out. If there was a misunderstanding, or a human tried to skirt the ground rules that had been established, they were on their own when it came to dealing with the (often lethal) punishment that followed.
I also really liked new character Jana Paniccia, a human female cop who is sent to be the deputy to the wolf-shifter sheriff of Bennett. Jana, frustrated with constantly being overlooked and derided for being a woman in her profession, is at odds with Sheriff Virgil from the get-go. Virgil has a disdain for humans in general and expects the town to be run like a pack. Jana has to learn that for the first time, the dismissive treatment from her coworker doesn’t have anything to do with her being a woman and everything to do with her being a human who isn’t understanding her place in the pack hierarchy. Watching Jana struggle to figure out how to best deal with her new boss was one of the highlights of the book, and it’s her entry onto the scene that really engaged me into the story.
Which leads to my one real complaint, and that is that the story took a while to get going. I was honestly afraid for the first 20% of the book that this was just going to be another churned out Others tale, one that I would enjoy but not love. There’s a lot of setup as characters are introduced and the stakes are established for Bennett and the surrounding area, and it’s a good ways into the book before Jana becomes part of the main story. Once that happened, however, the narrative kicked into gear and I found myself actually a little nervous for the characters.
All in all, WILD COUNTRY is a rousing success. Fans of the series will find a lot of references and crossover to earlier book, and some of the tension that comes from knowing that a critical event from ETCHED IN BONE is happening causes a great layer of uncertainty in the atmosphere. The references aren’t enough to stop a newcomer from enjoying this book, but this perhaps isn’t the best entry point to the series. For the rest of you, welcome back to a world full of danger, but also found family, as bands of humans and supernatural creatures alike warily pull together to avert cataclysmic disaster.