Tensions flare over Thasia. The Human First and Last Movement is upping their attack – not against the Others, but against humans who work with them. The human pack, the friends and allies the Others have gained in Lakeside are being driven out of human society as the hatred raises to new heights and the rhetoric has become sharper and more heated.
The humans don’t know how close they come to destruction as the elder terra indigene have started paying attention and are looming over them. But the HFL has their own schemes – and they may care little for the wrath of the Others
At the same time the rescued Cassandra Sangue are trying to adapt to the outside world without the limited, sensory deprived homes they’re used to. It’s a steep learning curve and not many of them will survive.
The Meg is back – and that is always a cause for joy for us – and this book is no exception.
I just love this world so much – as we delve more and more into the Others, the terra indigene, animals and elemental forces barely mimicking a shell of humanity. They are mighty beings, incredibly powerful creatures capable of throwing the weather and land itself at the human interlopers (we also have an introduction of the elemental Ocean. Ocean. Yes). They rule the continent of Thasia and, unlike other places in the world (like the human alliance of nations, Cel-Romano), the terra indigene have decided that humans don’t belong on Thasia. They exist there on sufferance – and the humans are rapidly becoming more and more insufferable
But the human reaction also seems very real – in a very depressing fashion. Humans consider themselves persecuted and unfairly treated by the terra indigene because they can’t have everything they want. Them demanding more from the terra indigene and being told no is considered a deep injustice while the terra indigene consider it grossly entitled – and consider humanity’s constant hunger for things they don’t need to be deeply dangerous, wasteful and likely to lead to deep issues in the future.
There’s also the issue that most humans on most of the continent (especially in the main city of Tolund) don’t see the terra indigene very often and don’t have that immediate fear of them – in fact the prejudice drives them away from interacting with them. They don’t realise just how dangerous the terra indigene are and, in very typical arrogance, they assume they will win.
The way the prejudice is depicted is well done as well. No direct movements, few direct attacks against the terra indigene – but attacking humans who are friendly with the terra indigene; an excellent depiction of societal shunning of people who don’t buy into the hatred. There’s also some excellent media spin to venomously attack the terra indigene (which the terra indigene themselves are pretty unable to deal with because they don’t understand the power of these words).
And the whole underlying plot of the Humans First and Last movement is not only very crafty but it is so evocative of how politicians and people in power use prejudice and hatred. They use hatred of the terra indigene and scapegoat the terra indigene to push through their own agenda – and this is so evocative of politicians who constantly push policies through that, for example, disadvantage the poor but then distract with homophobia, racist or anti-immigrant rhetoric. The scapegoating and distraction of hate speech is a long established tactic and I think we saw that done very well in part of a very twisted and crafty scheme.
I love the terra indigene as well – that underlying struggle NOT to wipe humanity out. It’s not “how do we defend ourselves from humans” it’s a case of “how do we stop humanity pushing us so far we have no choice but to annihilate them” especially as we see the elder terra indigene raising up and paying attention. It also brought in another excellent concept for world building – the terra indigene don’t just keep humans around for the shinies but because of the whole concept of what they are. They’re beings who constantly adapt and have since the time of the dinosaurs – and humans are beings, predators to study and, perhaps, adapt to. This brings a whole new aspect to the experiment of Lakeland with Simon and the other terra indigene wanting to learn from humans – and other terra indigene being interested in learning more about them.
This book did a great job of expanding on what the Cassandra Sangue actually are, what defines and controls the blood prophets and the ways both their mind works and how the damage inflicted on them by their controllers has affected them. We have an excellent exploration of what it actually means to be a blood prophet and how their minds work and how they have to adapt to the real world. It’s fascinating from a world building perspective and also desperately needed from a character development focus as well. It helped us see so much more about what these girls can do and what they are but also a lot about what Meg has achieved and what she has overcome
For me this was sorely needed as well to develop the consequences of what has happened to Meg and the other blood prophets. After all, we have these women who have been locked up in almost complete sensory deprivation for so long that that must have consequences. Trauma leaves scars and while we’ve focused a lot on the physical scars the prophets have suffered, now we’re seeing that there are far more emotionally damaged and hurting than we’d seen before
It’s also one of the few times when we have a comparison with real world marginalisation – in this case mental illness – in a way that works. The parallels are close, there’s no direct comparisons made and it helps that the blood prophets are not hyper able and not blessed with super powers. This makes the comparison respectful – and powerful. We had Meg and Hope exploring the extent of what they can endure or manage and testing those boundaries and coping with the consequences. They’re slowly feeling out their triggers and working through them and what is safe to explore – occasionally pushing too far and having set backs but slowly expanding their experiences, establishing their limits and recognising their triggers. There’s also an interesting scene with the Other’s anger with Meg when she fails to handle her triggers – when she ends up cutting herself and putting Nathan at risk because she completely failed to handle her own issues, because she put herself in a place she should have known would have been a problem and didn’t extricate herself when she knew she should. This is a whole complex issue because there’s an element of blaming and being angry at Meg for her own disability, but at the same time when you have a mental illness managing it is part of it – especially when not doing so can really hurt those around you. It’s one thing to have a terrible moment and fall apart, and another to carelessly drive yourself to that falling apart. It was an interesting scene.
I would say this book is probably less FUN than previous books. The previous books made me giggle. They had Nathan in a giant wolf bed smugly saying “mine” when Simon expressed an interest. They had wolves running around being bemused by the exploding fluffballs. There were numerous silly and ridiculous moments that were hilarious and funny and so much fun and I think so much of this was missing from this book. It was more serious. It was more epic. There was a constant sense of everything about to finally come to a head but it wasn’t silly. And I liked the silly. I think the humans were more integrated as part of the Courtyard human pack and part of the community but, again, there was less of the fun interaction that so characterised them
In terms of diversity we have 3 POC – though one of them is dead before the story starts. We had Monty, the police detective and his daughter Lizzie and she is present in this book. Their relationship is definitely present and Monty is probably best cast as the instigator of a lot of official co-operation between the terra indigene and human authorities. I also like that after several books of being demonised we got to see a much more human side to Elayne, his wife, which was a very sweet little insight that was a bonus. Monty isn’t a minor character even if he isn’t one of the most influential and powerful of the characters there
Unfortunately, despite the very large cast, these are the only POC and there are no LGBT characters at all. It’s a downside in an otherwise perfect book
So, in the end, I probably didn’t enjoy this book as much as the last one. But it was still excellent – that’s a comment on the very high bar the previous book had set more than anything else. This series is definitely one of our all time favourites and even if this book isn’t quite that high up, it’s still holding the series high