As always, Bishop’s colorful language and rich description pulled me in right away and sank me into her highly immersive world. The book has a relatively slow plot, not the mile a minute series of encounters more common in genre fiction these days, but the focus on internal struggles and character interactions kept me engaged. This is definitely not a stand alone book. It relies heavily on the buildup of information from previous installment. As such, I’m going to be a little more loose with revealing details about the story. I won’t spoil anything from this book, but if you haven’t read the others you may want to stop here until you have (and I highly recommend you do as it’s a wonderful series).
The book’s narration is split between all of the major viewpoints in the story, allowing the reader to be where they need, when they need, to gain all the necessary information.
The story, and the Courtyard, revolve around a girl named Meg, a blood prophet who can see the future when she is cut. While Meg tends to be the pivot point, I see her as more of a catalyst than character in many scenes. Simon, the wolf shifter who leads the Courtyard, seems to be the most significant character, and we get the most chapters from his narrative voice. The next most prominent protagonist was Monty, the cop in change of interacting with the Others, and the brother of this story’s antagonist. Then there is the antagonist himself, a miserable excuse for a human being designed to personify all that is wrong with our race.
There are a handful of other perspectives, including some events as seen by the Elders, but those are the main ones. Together, the perspectives span the spectrum of human to Other and innocent to evil, and give a well-rounded account of the diversity of people. Most of the characters, especially the main ones, are unique and memorable, strengthened by the books that came before. I definitely would not have picked up on half so many cues if I hadn’t had several books to get to know everyone. There were however some characters that had similar enough names and personalities to become confusing, like Sandee and Sissy/Sierra who are both weak-willed products of abuse, and Denby and Debaney who are both human guys who help out around the Courtyard and are connected to the female pack. The new characters introduced were given more page time, understandably, and were quickly fleshed out into detailed and predictable personalities that blended seamlessly into the existing cast.
This series, and especially this book, takes character-centric story telling to the extreme. We spend a lot of time thinking about families and relationships as the bonds between characters are strained, snapped, or strengthened, with repercussions on both a micro and macro level. The interactions at Lakeside act as a microcosm that represents the whole of Thasia and the rest of the world. Can humans and Others coexist? Can they become more than friends? Can they be part of a functioning pack? If a single member is corrupt, will it spread and destroy the group?
While I’d heard some people say they were unsatisfied with the ending, I found it to be both fulfilling and appropriate. I don’t know if Bishop intends to write any more stories about the Lakeside Courtyard, but if she does I will definitely read them.