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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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books: lake silence by anne bishop
children of dune - leto 1
I reviewed the first three books of the series The Others, which was Anne Bishop's third series, unconnected to the id-tascular beauty of the Black Jewels which if you haven't read, I don't know what to say, it's insane with canonical cock-rings used to control and torture men OR they wear because it honors their queen.

This has nothing to do with that series, but I take every opportunity to try and get more people to read Black Jewels (did I mention some of the main characters are named Lucivar, Daemon, Saetan, and Surreal? And leather pants for men to show off their goods are canonical? CANONICAL LEATHER PANTS).

Okay fine, getting back: The Others series is her third series and Lake Silence is a one-off in this world. I liked the series--though with so many wtfs, but I also like that, too--but this is one of those times if you're not feeling 'read a five book series first' then go to wikipedia because this is really fun.

Lake Silence has everything I liked about the series and all the stuff that got on my nerves isn't in here. Specifically, it minimizes Bishop's weird and inexplicable desire to make the reader believe superpowered terra indigene (earth natives who were created before humans and who take many forms like werewolves, elementals, and vampires) who own all the land and water and feed on humanity and mass kill them not infrequently are super, super oppressed by the bad humans because they...get made fun of and sometimes, humans fight back?

It's more complicated than that except everything I just said is also true. In other words, you have to be willing to go with it, and it's worth it, but you do at times stop and want to explain to the terra indigene what 'learned helplessness' is and also, where they learned it because it wasn't from humans. Because yeah, the humans do shitty things to the terra indigene but so do the terra indigene and also eat humans add to that do mass extinction events on human groups so really? Like, in book it makes sense for short periods of time and then you just stop and go "...oh come on."

Lake Silence does not make an effort to convince us of the non-existent institutional oppression of the terra indigene (they..are the institution for fuck's sake), but instead scales this back to one area and group and plots within plots and crime and so much fun stuff with what should have been the point: the coolness of shapeshifters and humans and human-adjacent living in towns, running businesses with names based on puns, and solving murders, wheee.

Victoria "Vickie"

Our heroine is Victoria, we meet her early in first person pov and that's just fine, you're going to like her. Victoria, as part of her divorce settlement, got a large property off Lake Silence called The Jumble, which is a large house and about twelve cabins for rental, and a private beach, not luxurious or anything but nice for vacations, which is a plot point.

She walks into the kitchen of the main house, where one of her boarders, Aggie, is microwaving a fresh eyeball (yes), at which time she discovers, a.) her boarder Aggie (Agatha) is a terra indigene, specifically Crowgard (shapeshifter, Crow), and b.) there's murder afoot (not by Aggie) OR IS IT MURDER OR MUCH MUCH MORE???????

Victoria's kind of a mess personally: her divorce was terrible and her marriage was a nightmare, and she came out of it with the property, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, a fear of men, shitty body image due to her ex just because she is a little overweight, some tragically bad hair days (I mean, I felt those), and an unbelievably strong desire to succeed if it kills her because this is bullshit.

She's also a surprisingly acute observer, makes fun of herself and her situation because sometimes, her lot in life just blows her mind, and I don't say this lightly; she's probably one of the single likable characters I've ever read. And she kind of rolls with the weirdness with a kind of 'okay, this happened'; in the course of a few chapters, she deals with: asshole law enforcement (who personally go after her for Reasons), Dominic Sanguinati, an uberhot vampire who is her lawyer (she discovers unexpectedly both at the same time) that sets off both 'fear' and 'fantasy life' (no one will not relate to that moment), Grimshaw, the uber-calm new temp sheriff (kind of?) who is like a Clint Eastwood stand-in except kind of does get that and tones it down, Julian, the uberhot bookstore owner/former cop part of an actual oppressed-by-humans human-adjacent group known as Intuit and the name follows their superpower, and various werejaguars, werebears, werecrows, were-insert-animal-here, elemental ponies, elemental Fire (his name is Aiden) and the elemental of Lake Silence. And also the Sproing, which my viualization is something like bunny-rats but with happy faces attached? You try and tell me?

Unlike pretty much any of Bishop's other characters, and I love them all, Vickie is ruthlessly normal, which kind of is her superpower. She's literally the reason I want people to read this book, because she navigates the world and overcomes obstacles through the unheard of powers of common sense, thinking things through, and not being a dick. Her personal problems she represses, but if something is going hinky, she reasonably tells someone so they can help and/or give advice. She takes that advice often enough for me to notice because how often does that happen in a book? Or in real life?

(Which means I did not spend vast, vast swathes of the book screaming "TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THE THING" while everything gets worse. In other words, human stupidity does play a part, but not that kind.)

The Jumble

Here I give an infodump: all the land in the Americas is owned by the terra indigene. You lease land for various periods of time (centuries?) but it is a lease and there are rules and reversion clauses out the ass. So. Keep that in mind.

One of the things we discover is The Jumble isn't just a run-down sort-of resort on some seriously prime property because no one thought to develop it better. It was built and designed with a semi-secret purpose: for the terra indigene to interact with humans and learn about them in a their natural habitat in a small, comfortable setting. Specifically, we get more into a group I really wnat to know more about: the terra indigene who--for multiple reasons--cannot pass for human at anytime and sometimes make a nightmarish mess of it when shifting. The problem is, it never really got a chance to take off; the person who started it--the great-great aunt of Vickie's ex husband--either died before it got very far or something, but since her death, they've been unable to do much with it. The lease restrictions make it fairly useless for a fancy resort or large scale farming; the Dane family kind of ignored it. Which is why Vickie got it in the divorce; on paper it's worth millions, but not if you read the fine print.

Vicky's acquisition of The Jumble was a really big deal; it was hoped she'd be able to bring it back and do the job, so she was watched and tested carefully, except she had no idea anything was a test because again, it was all normal shit like 'read the contracts carefully' and 'follow the contract to the letter' and 'don't try to cheat anyone' and 'meet with contractors personally so they understand what to do' and 'take recommendations from people in the neighborhood', and 'not be a dick'. Aggie, her first boarder, was also a huge ass test which she passed by being a fair landlord.

The Others have really low standards sometimes, yeah. It kind of hurts.

Other Characters

Wait, there's more: we have Ineke, a single (maybe made herself single by means idk?) woman who owns a boarding house and is genuinely unsettling, abrasive, hilarious, and runs her boarding house like a kingdom and doesn't fuck around (this is not 'implied oooh scary', this is 'textual examples of some things she's done that make people genuinely nervous about pissing her off'). She has two employees (status: sort of relatives??? no one knows), a dog you do not ever feed prunes or God help you, and is first and foremost an excellent businesswoman who is also in the process of becoming one of Vickie's best friends through sheer force of deciding that's what they are and try and stop her.

Julian is a bookstore owner/former cop (as mentioned), who is human but also Extra: he's an Intuit (yes, as is 'intuition') whose people have like, a special feeling about nature and the land and some amount of limited precognition. He's seen some shit; he's been through some shit and has the PTSD to prove it. He's also an old friend of Grimshaw. He's very attracted to Vickie for the same reason anyone would be; she's funny and fun and likable and great to hang out with. He also make a concerted effort--and this is important--that never, ever comes to her attention because he wants first to be her friend and trustworthy and is aware she's really, painfully nowhere near ready for any male bullshit. Romance bullshit, it's board games, long walks, swims, and reading books, it's so nice, you have no idea.

Dominic Sanguinati (yes, that's his name, no, it's not supposed to be subtle) is a vampire lawyer who dresses couture and rides around in cars that cost more than like, everything. He's basically the terra indigene who is secret leader of the town and everything and watches over human bullshit in his domain. He's breathtakingly hot, like stop-traffic hot, like 'you don't care about living anymore' hot. He's also insecure because his cousin (from the Others series) was invovled in All The Big Things (and yeah, they were Big) and basically wants some drama of his own and feels guilty about that (kind of). Like most terra indigene, he professes teh party line 'humans are food, useful, annoying, blah blah blah never friends' and then meets the right one (Vickie) and is deeply annoyed by Feelings (not romantic). He has a wary sort-of not-friend thing with Julian because Julian's an Intuit and while is totally not a threat to the awesome terra indigene except--and this is just me reading between the lines--the Intuit make terra indigene a little nervous.

(Reader note: in the series there's a whole thing abut the relationship between the Intuits and the terra indigene that boils down to 'vague partnership sometimes not hostile'. I mostly blew it off but--I have an unsubstantiated theory that makes no sense that the Intuits are the descendants of some kind of unknown terra indigene/human crossbreeding, probably an extinct terra indigene species which is why the rest of them aren't sure what's going on. Like my sense is the terra indigene want to be considered the benevolent overlords who protect the Intuit from the rest of mean humankind for reasons but their approach is a studied attempt to not appear they're treating them as equals when they kind of are. The Intuits, note, are the raw breeding ground from which the blood prophets were born and they are extremely accurate, extremely powerful short and long term clairvoyants. So I think that particular isolated population has some seriously interesting shit in their recessives. (I made a DNA joke!))

Wayne Grimshaw is a highway cop who lives by his own rules (uh, actually the law, really) and doesn't play well with others. He's meticulous, intelligent, gruff, very kind, extremely intuitive (though not Intuit) and is very old friends??? with Julian and I'm not sure what goes here except they also sometimes act like exes who remained friends but are open to future developments? He's ungodly calm in teh face of everything, dislikes most of law enforcement (granted, most in this story are evil), and generally wants to Do Good in the World.

I'm not going to bother with the villains; they're all just evil and one-dimensional so you need waste no time caring about them and you'll enjoy what happens to them immensely.

Have fun.

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