The Black Jewels Trilogy: Joy and pain, rage and celebration

fantasy book reviews Anne Bishop Black Jewels: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the DarknessTHE BLACK JEWELS TRILOGY by Anne Bishop

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsImagine a fairy-tale heroine. You know the type: beautiful, kind, able to charm all the beasties of the forest into eating out of her hand. On the astral plane, she even has a unicorn’s horn. Now imagine that she has enough magical power to move mountains. (Literally.)

You might think this is a recipe for the worst Mary Sue in the history of literature, but in Black Jewels, it works. There’s a reason Jaenelle is the way she is. One of her titles is “dreams made flesh,” which means that Jaenelle is the embodiment of the desperate hopes of all the downtrodden people and animals in the realms of Terreille, Kaeleer, and Hell. She is impossibly powerful because she needs to be, and because she was created to be. It also works because Jaenelle is not the point-of-view character. The story is told through the eyes of the three men who, each in his own way, love her.

As the story begins, Terreille is ruled by cruel and brutal Queens. The social structure was originally meant to work according to chivalric principles: Queens would rule, and men would serve and protect them for love’s sake. But over centuries, power has corrupted the Queens. The most powerful men are kept as slaves and controlled by means of sexual torture. Young witches with the potential to become powerful are often raped at a Queen’s command, so as to break them of their power and eliminate them as threats. Jaenelle’s destiny is to cleanse the realms of this corruption.

I should probably warn readers about the heaps of sexual violence in Black Jewels. Rape, child molestation, castration, you name it, it’s here.

If the whole series were like that, I probably would have stopped reading partway through the first book. What kept me going was the tenderness that developed among the principal characters, even in the midst of horror. That, and the humor. (I loved it when Jaenelle accidentally moved an entire fortress while trying to use magic to summon her shoes!) These bright spots give the reader an idea of what the characters are fighting for, and what a Queen’s court should be. Black Jewels would not have been half as effective if it had just been one gory scene after another. I keep thinking of Janine Cross‘s Touched by Venom, which was often compared to Black Jewels, but which didn’t have any brightness to balance the nastiness.

It can be difficult, at first, to navigate the complex universe Anne Bishop has created. I spent the first few chapters scratching my head over Queens and witches and Warlords and Warlord Princes and Gates and Webs and so on. I also had trouble getting a grip on what time period the setting of Black Jewels might be analogous to. There were times it felt like a medieval setting, and times it seemed almost modern. After a while, though, I was able to figure out most of it and to chalk the rest up to “it’s magic, it works somehow” and sink into the story.

Black Jewels follows Jaenelle’s friends as they attempt to keep her safe and sane until she can claim her full power. The story builds to a dramatic, moving climax that isn’t the stereotypical Big Fantasy Battle. The plot sags a bit in places, especially in Heir to the Shadows. However, I enjoyed Black Jewels enough that I’ve reread it a couple of times.

The Black Jewels — (1998–2009) The invisible Ring is a prequel. Publisher: Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her web of dreams and visions. Now the Dark Kingdom readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence — and corruption. Whoever controls the Queen controls the darkness. Three men — sworn enemies — know this. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love — and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining…

The first three are the original Black Jewels trilogy

The Black Jewels, Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness, The Invisible Ring, Dreams Made Flesh, Tangled WebsThe Black Jewels, Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness, The Invisible Ring, Dreams Made Flesh, Tangled WebsThe Black Jewels, Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness, The Invisible Ring, Dreams Made Flesh, Tangled WebsThe Black Jewels, Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness, The Invisible Ring, Dreams Made Flesh, Tangled WebsThe Black Jewels, Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness, The Invisible Ring, Dreams Made Flesh, Tangled WebsThe Black Jewels, Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness, The Invisible Ring, Dreams Made Flesh, Tangled WebsAnne Bishop Black Jewels 6 7 The Shadow Queen 9. Shalador's LadyAnne Bishop Black Jewels 8. Shalador's Lady 9. Twilight's DawnAnne Bishop Black Jewels 8. Shalador's Lady 9. Twilight's Dawn


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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