“A Murder of Crows” continues on directly from “Written In Red” which told the tale of Meg Corbyn a cassandra sangue, on the run from The Controller who had held her, and others of her kind, prisoner to exploit her ability to see the future when her skin is cut. Meg took refuge in The Courtyard, home to The Others, apex predator shape shifters, vampires and Elementals who rule the planet, restricting humans to specific territory.
At the start of “A Murder of Crows” Meg’s cassandra sangue status has won her acceptance as more than human at The Courtyard. She is valued but she is also seen as vulnerable and in need of protection. Her need to cut herself to prophesy the future is understood as a harmful addiction that must be forbidden rather than as the price she pays for a rare gift. Meg sees this restriction as denying her the ability to be her true self and chafes against it. She wants the right to choose to answer when her gift calls.
While Meg is less central than she was in the first book, she still has an important role to play both in the plot and in helping us to see The Others for what they are and are not. I enjoyed the relationship between Meg and the Simon, the wolf shapeshifter who leads The Compound. Meg deals simply and effectively with the duality of Simon’s nature:naked wolf in Meg’s bed = good. Naked Simon in Meg’s bed = bad.
“A Murder of Crows” gives a deeper insight into the alien nature of The Others: helping us to understand their complex views on right and wrong and justice and revenge. We are introduced to “feral” Others, who rarely see humans and are intrigued by the rituals involved in using a restaurant.
The humans once again set out to attack The Others, using the drugs “Gone Over Wolf” and “Feel Good” as weapons. It’s as if humans are not psychologically equipped to accept that they are not at the top of the food chain. It reminded me of the attitude of politicians to the global warming debate. They can see the glaciers shrinking and the Alps turning green but they can’t take in that this is alterable by negotiation.
This book is a little slower and a little less personal that the first book but it is a lot grittier, provides a broader platform for continuing to build the world of The Others and to sustain a more complex plot.