Humanity has been firmly rebuked by the Others. Towns have been depopulated, bodies have piled up, communication is splintered.
Humanity tries to rebuild in the aftermath and to face the new reality they live in, under new rules and under new restrictions.
And none more so than Lakeside – Meg, Simon et al have built a whole different way for humans and Others to interact and the Elders are curious. What they learn in Lakeside may decide the fate of all humanity.
And the appearance of Cyrus, Monty’s criminal, shiftless brother, risks upending all of that.
The Meg, The Meg is back! We love the Meg. We adore the Meg. This is known!
After last book, the whole land has been mauled by the Others. Humanity has been slaughtered and the conflict that has pretty much defined the last few books has been dramatically changed. The whole Humans First and Last movement is no longer a force to be reckoned with. The Others have revealed their claws and the whole idea of humans rising up and taking the land is now well and truly gone.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of humans who hate the Others – of course there is – but the whole idea of them as an institutional powerful force has slipped. Even the position of local government et al has slipped considerably towards appeasing the Others. Humanity is on survival mode now which makes for a very different tone overall for the books and characters specifically.
This book also carries on the tone of the Others being dangerous. That was always on the cards but as we saw more and more of the Others playing with the Exploding Fluffballs of the female pack, of the crows being endearing and curious – and even, in this book, Meg scolding the Elders for being insufficiently polite (and it’s moments of humour like this that really adds the peak to this book series). But this book not only presents the threat but reminds us that even the friendly, happy Others like Simon and the Crowguard are still vicious, dangerous and willing to eat humans who break the rules. The teeth is back in the series with this book.
The ongoing conflict is how the humans exist in this new Thasia. A world with more shortages, less communication, less trade and generally everything being so much more isolated than it was. It’s interesting how it touches on things like shortages – because that means “famine” or “starvation” to the Terra Indigene, but means “lack of options” to many of the humans. Obviously, The Others are less inclined to be sympathetic towards the idea of a monotonous diet being a terrible hardship (most of them are carnivores with a relative narrow prey selections) while at the same time being indulgent of the Female Pack
And, yes I love the women of the Courtyard. Because though Meg earned her respect and position among the Others with her unique abilities and nature first of all, the other women earned their place through personality, strength, capacity, courage and compassion (and attacking enemies with a teakettle). We also have some really excellent depiction of abusive relationships – but violent and non-physically violent relationships, how words have power and how people can be beaten down so completely in these relationships (and how domestic violence isn’t always between partners). It’s a meaningful and powerful storyline with some excellent characters. I’m also hoping for other women, including the women of the new frontier town, one of which is a police office resisting the sexist assumptions of humanity with the sheer bemusement of the others.
Twyla. Twyla gives me complex feelings. On the one side, she is the quintessential mother figure and no-one messes with her. The Others respect (and slightly fear) her, absolutely everyone obeys her. Everyone was wary of her and no-one argued with her because she was right and wise and excellent. She was loving and caring and patient but also stern and unyielding and wise and uncompromising and experienced and beloved, adored, respected by all. She was awesome with Simon, she was awesome with the young wolves. She was awesome in recognising both the strengths and weaknesses of her own children and really just being perfect in every way. No-one was better than her in making Simon forget who was the boss in his town.
I loved Twyla. I adored Twyla. I cheered every time Twyla appeared.
Buuuut… strong, wise, tough Black lady who acts as mother to everyone around her? Yeaaah that’s kind of central casting for a Mamy right there. Especially with book having one of her sons basically facing terrible circumstances and her daughter leaving while she acts as mother forgive for the whole district. Even her refusing to choose between her children’s “packs” and instead choosing Simon’s felt less, as it was explained, of Twyla asserting her own identity in the face of her family so much as Twyla deciding to become ur-parent of the whole of Lakeside. This includes her choice of where to live: ostensibly so she can have her own life and not just be a grandparent/childminder. All well and good and an excellent idea – but then she becomes mother figure to everyone.
This is an example of a character both being awesome… but kind of a stereotype as well.
Cyrus/Jimmy. I’m kind of torn on his character. On some level there is something passionately wonderful about having a complete arsehole character get his righteous comeuppance. So I revelled in how awful he is. I loved how terrible he was. I was properly HUNGRY for the terrible fate we knew was heading for him with joyous awfulness. I was viciously looking forward to it
But… he was also something of a caricature. I mean the whole idea that the elders needed to keep him around to study a terrible human? They learned everything the need to know within 5 minutes. He was made of awful. He was a caricature of awful. I was amazed he lived to adulthood, how did Twyla resist drowning him as a child? Again, it was satisfying, but subtle villainy it wasn’t.