Review: Written in Red or a short maundering on the definition of Urban Fantasy

Written In Red - Anne Bishop

The stories typically categorized as “Urban Fantasy” have elves in Los Angeles, vampires in Toronto or Shreveport, or druids in Arizona. While Urban Fantasy may be set in the country, it is set in places that without the supernatural elements closely resemble the geography and culture of the world we live in.  In addition to the ubiquitous werewolves and vampires, they typically feature an ever-changing selection of wizards, fae, elementals, and other things that go “bump” in the night.


Written in Red is _almost_ an Urban Fantasy.  You have the city of humans with a community of supernaturals at its heart.  You have a spunky girl protagonist, and the tension between the humans and the supernatural.  You have hard-working policemen (human in this case), and a crime committed. You have a prophecy that may or may not be fulfilled.  But Anne Bishop has created a generic city in the middle of a world that is clearly not our planet.  So is it still Urban Fantasy, or just Fantasy?


I dislike reviews that say “the world-building” was the strongest part of the story, but in this case it is true.  I loved seeing not just the expected werewolves, but also were-coyotes, were-crows, were-owls, and were-bears.  The cassandra sangue blood prophets, girls who see visions of the future when their skin is cut enough to scar, are just fascinating.  The world also had an interesting twist on Elementals and vampires.  As others have commented, the antagonist, or villain is a bit thin and it is clear early on, that she will be meat before the end of the story.  But despite that, Written in Red caught my imagination and came close to being a 5-star book.