Anne Bishop is a master when it comes to creating a universe a reader can disappear into for days. I’m a long time fan, so I know how to ride this rodeo: even though I got my copy of Wild Country the day it released (Tuesday 3/5/19) I set it aside until the weekend. I can report that the resulting anticipation did not make my week move any faster.
Cynics could say it’s a dangerous game, building the sheer want to read a book you’ve been waiting for since the last installment (a year before) by looking at it every day on the table and not touching. I had zero worries about over-anticipation for this one, judging by the previous Others books, and rightly so. I started Wild Country on Saturday at noon and finished it before bed, because I couldn’t put it down. Yet again, Anne Bishop got me completely lost in Thaisia and the often uncomfortable, sometimes funny, sometimes downright terrifying interactions between humans and Others.
Wild Country occurs during the same time frame as Etched in Bone, the last Courtyard book. As there is a detailed backstory prior to this book, I highly recommend reading the whole series. There are communications between the communities that will make sense to readers of the series, but Wild Country is its own story with its own array of personalities and could be read as a stand-alone, although to be fair the reader would miss out on many references.
The varied plot threads come together seamlessly over the course of the book as characters grow, sometimes toward their new fragile community, sometimes away, and the rest of the world (and other books’ timelines) changes around them. I adore the sub-plot around the frontier saloon and its proprietor, because Tess is my favorite character in the Courtyard and I’m happy Bennett has their own lonely predator interested in learning how to interact safely with town residents of all species.
The threat of violence and savagery is skillfully written: Bishop is an adept line-skater who strays close to horror on occasion but never crosses out of dark fantasy. She’s also not afraid to take out a character when a dose of real life (in her universe) kicks in, so Wild Country engages the reader on every emotional level at some point or another.
The worst part about this book is waiting until next March for another story in this universe, because every time I jump into this series it’s hard to come back out. If you like dangerous, dark fantasy set in a world five steps to the left of reality (absolutely recognizable yet totally different than the modern world) you need to get into these books. Wild Country is everything I wanted in a story of the Others: I recommend setting aside a chunk of time and snacks, because you’re going to be in there a while.