Just last year, a friend turned me onto this great urban fantasy series, written by Anne Bishop of The Black Jewels fame, that was unlike any I'd read before. So far, there are four books in the series: Written in Red, Murder of Crows, Vision in Silver, and Marked in Flesh.
From the author's website:
As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.
Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.I love the world of The Others! I love the world, the characters, the entire premise.
I love it so much I want to live there ~ in the Courtyard, though, not in Lakeside proper where the humans live, thank you very much. In fact, I identify much more with the terre indigene residents of The Courtyard (no matter how fearsome and strange) than with the human characters, though I do like a few of the humans who try to work with Simon and the other shifters at The Courtyard to keep peace between the two groups.
Having said that, I should set out a few warnings for those who are more sensitive than me. The books include some uncomfortable scenes that entail torture, a few scenes that imply rape (though there are no graphic scenes of rape), and numerous violent scenes involving killing and maiming by and of both humans and The Others. Since I like dark fantasy, none of it bothered me except to make me cheer when the bad guys got their comeuppance.
As far as the cutting goes, self-mutilation is a difficult issue, but Bishop handles it pretty well, giving those who practice it a degree of dignity and the act of cutting a purpose and an allure that is pure fantasy ~ because it's definitely not alluring in real life.
I've read one review that accused Meg of being a Mary Sue, but I didn't see it that way at all, though I admit that, a few times in the first book, I wanted to slap her for seeming like she is TSTL (too stupid to live). As the story unfolded and I began to realize what was going on and why she behaved that way, Meg became a much more likable character. (A character can't be a Mary Sue if the back story warrants the behavior, at least that's how I see it.) I also read a couple of reviewers who were bothered by the way Simon and the other wolves treat Meg like a play toy, but I didn't have any trouble with that either. It wasn't at all the same as a human male treating a woman like a plaything.
One more caveat: I've read all four books in print and the also as audiobooks. The audio versions are okay, but I had a little difficulty with some of the voices. For instance, Simon always sounds annoyed, and Meg always sounds like an idiot. I just finished the last one, and I have to say I prefer reading them in print.
All in all, The Others series is up there with the Mercy Thompson and the Matthew Swift urban fantasy series, both of which I also love.