Review: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Vision in Silver by Anne BishopVision in Silver on 2015-03-03
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
four-half-stars
The New York Times bestselling author of The Black Jewels Trilogy transports readers to a world of magic and political unrest—where the only chance at peace requires a deadly price…   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…

This book is a lot of fun and is also deadly serious. Anne Bishop’s books are almost always layers of rainbow-colored confection hiding a sharp blade edge beneath.

Her Black Jewels Trilogy (which became much more than a trilogy, let’s be honest) was a magical coming of age tale filled with unicorns, dragons, and flying men. And if you looked closer, it was a cautionary tale of what a binary, divided notion of gender could do to a society**. It also had a lot to do with anger, fear of the different, and how the cycles of physical and sexual abuse can perpetuate themselves across generations.

Well, those same shades of fear, hatred, anger and their repercussions, are here in this series. This time it is about those things that make us human. What are the characteristics that make us what we are? At what point do our actions make us monsters instead of people?

These questions do, of course, stand out starkly when stood up against a dozen or more races of what we would consider real monsters. Vampires, werewolves, Elementals, and other shape-shifters — things that would eat us not only without problem, but who would enjoy the meal. Yet in this series, it is a small group of monsters, led by one wolf with a love which he refuses to admit for a human prophetess, who embody the most human of traits: kindness, courage, tenderness, and charity.

It is the Humans First group that become the monsters. They are willing to lie, steal, kill innocents, and even starve millions to get what they want. And what they want are the untapped resources in the natural wilds that the Others (the ‘monster’ races) control. They are willing to enslave generations (of which our protagonist is one) of prophetesses, rape them, breed them, chain and abuse them, to get what they want. {Note that, 3 books into the series, there has been no on-screen sexual assault, but we certainly feel and see the effects of it. And there is plenty of regular old violence besides.}

Now on to our protagonist.  Meg, our heroine, is one of the aforementioned women with the gift of prophecy. She is young, strong, and willful, which allowed her the strength to escape from her captors in the dead of winter and to enter a place where the rest of humanity feared to go — namely, the Courtyard, the single place in a human city where the Others live and humans survive on sufferance alone.

The place where I get squicky is that Meg’s gift of prophecy only appears when she cuts herself. Each prophetess is nameless while they are captive, known only by a serial number engraved on their own personal folding razor blade, which is used to cut their skin enough to scar. This triggers the prophecy. If they speak it aloud, they feel a euphoric orgasm of sensation. If they don’t – or can’t – speak, then all they feel is agony. Legend has it that each woman has only a thousand cuts — a thousand scars — and then she will go mad and die.

It’s not the blood that gets me, it’s that it almost feels like we are glorifying self-harm here. Bishop has enough of a track record with me that I’m so far willing to go along and see what the message is, but it’s honestly going to have to be a good one. Meg doesn’t want to die, so she tries to refrain from cutting, but she is addicted to the sensation, so we find her making excuses to justify her actions. It isn’t really until this book that Meg starts to understand that she doesn’t have to cut to get the warnings of the future she needs. It takes a lot of outside pressure from her new non-human friends to get to this point.

It was only in this 3rd book that I started to feel like maybe Bishop’s point wasn’t to glorify self harm after all. That is a long time to be unsure. It’s a lot of text devoted to the pleasant sensations for readers with a history of their own cutting to get through to see that message. I know I am getting older because I worry about this. Yes, young people mostly realize that media =/= real life. No, seeing something in fiction won’t lead to someone following in Meg’s footsteps. And yes, this is a subject that needs discussed. This is something that needs dragged out into the light so that we can all see. I still find the subject squicky and uncomfortable.

Some fiction is supposed to make us feel uncomfortable. I just hope Bishop is pointing our discomfort in the right direction. I hope so. I think she is. We’ll see.

I really enjoy being in this world. I love Tess and Simon and Meg’s struggle to find her own way. I love the Elementals and the ponies. I am as repulsed by the Humans First group as I am with a lot of real-life headlines these days. This series throws light into shadowy places of the human condition. A condition that is afflicting us all pretty badly right now. Do I know that I agree with Bishop’s message? Does she have one? (Note: Authors always have a message, even if they don’t know it.) I’ll be waiting in line to find out.

**The whole thing, to me, read as a cautionary tale of the divisiveness of binary anything (dark/light, male/female, good/evil). But that's a whole 'nother essay.

four-half-stars