It always saddens me when an author I thought was good turns out to be…well, not so good. I was willing to forget about Anne Bishop’s previous trilogy (Tir Alainn) and go into Sebastian with her original Black Jewels Trilogy in mind.
This just was not a good book. It was not a fantasy novel, so much as a romance novel with some fantasy concepts. And they are interesting concepts, as Bishop’s often are (although a bit confusing until you get far enough into the book to make the right connections). But she seems to have no idea how to truly utilize them. The balance between fantasy and romance is horribly off kilter, with romance winning out.
It’s your typical soulmates-meet-each-other-and-fall-in-love-without-knowing-each-other type of romance. The kind that makes my head hurt. If the characters were better one might be able to root for the romance, but they’re not.
First is Sebastian, your typical dark, brooding bad boy with a bad past etc, etc. Now, I am as much a fan of this type as a number of other women, but Anne Bishop has too many of them in her stories and they used to be a whole lot better than this. While not entirely unlikeable, Sebastian just isn’t terribly interesting. Been there, done that. Making him a half-incubus really does nothing to add to his appeal, either.
Lynnea is irritating as hell. I’m not asking for every female lead to be headstrong and tough as nails, but she’s SO sweet and SO innocent and SO naive that it made me want to puke. And then, somewhere in the middle of Bishop trying to balance her elements, Lynnea takes the time (largely “off screen”) to turn into this tough little sex kitten. Huh? That sure came out of left field.
Some of the other characters are mildly interesting. Glorianna Belladonna (a nominee for Most Ridiculous Name Ever in the Fantasy Genre) is just like Jaenelle from the Black Jewels Trilogy: powerful beyond all others like her, hated and feared by almost every other person, an outsider who takes the burden of the whole world on her shoulders. The only difference being that Bishop actually goes into Glorianna’s mind, making her motivations a bit easier to understand.
Teaser, Sebatian’s incubus friend, has the potential to be a lot of fun but that potential isn’t realized. Glorianna’s brother Lee is a source of some amusement, because the two of them have a decent dynamic together.
Overall, though, it was simply a mess, plagued by A Strong Need to Use Pretty Words: ephemera, aurora, sanctuary, belladonna, etc. Too romancy and slightly ridiculous, too. I’d read Belladonna (though I wouldn’t pay hardcover price; nor did I on Sebastian) out of curiosity. Which is more than I can say for her previous trilogy. But Anne Bishop will need to strengthen the fantasy aspects, spin deeper, more interesting characters, and write a romance that is actually believable. Otherwise I doubt I’ll ever want to read another one of her works again.