Jul. 8th, 2010

greek_amazon: (Malkar)
I really meant for this to be a review of only one book. But... then I read the whole trilogy, so I figured I might as well review that instead.

Title(s): Daughter of the Blood (Book I)
Heir to the Shadows (Book II)
Queen of the Darkness (Book III)
|The Black Jewels Trilogy|
Author: Anne Bishop
Publication Year(s): 1998, 1999, 2000
Were These Books Good?: Very

How I came to read these: I blame [livejournal.com profile] saehral and [livejournal.com profile] aymaera. It's interesting though, I'd been considering buying Ms. Bishop's work before either of them suggested this series - but only within the last year. I had thought the books were a lot more recent than they actually were; the publication years genuinely surprised me. I can't help but wonder how I never noticed or came across these books before, as they are delightful.

Thoughts?: Bishop's writing drew me into her work immediately, as did the characters that she wrote. I was so drawn in, in fact, that I had difficulty putting down the books to do necessary things like working. Or sleeping. (On a related note, this series has really made me appreciate the dangers of owning a kobo/ereader of any sort. See, normally I have to wait until I go out to a bookstore, so there's at least about an hour before I can grab the next one. But when I can finish a book at three am, boot up my computer, buy the next book in the series and have it in my hands in seconds? Oh god. I'm doomed.)

However, despite this immediate adoration for Bishop's style, it did take me a little while to warm to the actual story. I don't want to give the wrong impression here - I knew that I'd love the books, and that I was already really enjoying them. But I did have to work a little bit to accept some of the elements that appeared early in the first book, and indeed, remained a theme throughout the trilogy. Some of these elements included spoilers ) However, with a little acceptance that the world of the black jewels is not our world and a large helping of Bishop's amazing writing, these irksome things stopped irking me, and in fact, became well-established and well-used aspects of the plot.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is undeniably a dark story (or a series of dark stories) set in a dark world. It covers rape, child abuse, slavery, the crumbling and destruction of whole societies, war, genocide (of a sort) and insanity in its scope. There is almost certainly going to be something within these three books that will make you uncomfortable in some way - and that's sort of the point. Bishop tries to, and succeeds at, letting you know that this isn't the sort of dark world where only the pretty, attractive darkness exists (though it certainly does; Daemon Sadi, Lucivar and Saetan are proof of that). In the world of the Black Jewels, the darkness can be just as horrifying as it can be alluring.
In spite of the darkness of the world, however, the books retain a certain light-heartedness and a quirky sense of humour that balances out the darkness nicely, and that I appreciate greatly for it's strong subtlety - when a book makes you laugh aloud, it's always more appreciated if you have trouble explaining that same laughter to someone who hasn't read the rest of the book.

In fact, making the lightness and the darkness work together is not just the method that Bishop uses to write the books - it is a theme throughout them. The Witches, Warlords and other members of the Blood delve into the darkness to harness their power - the darkness is strong and it protects and defines them. Yet the darkest power of them all, Janelle, holds within her character more lightness than any other character in the books. It's fascinating.

These are brilliant books, absolutely worth the read... but with the caveat that they are not going to be everyone's cup of tea. I suspect that some of you would actually really hate these books. But a not-insignificant number of you would also love them - and perhaps love them more because Bishop isn't trying to please everybody.

I did find, as I said, that there were things that irked me, but Bishop often managed to write the story out of what I feared would become a story-destroying little hole. I was concerned, for example, that the second book would start by skipping over several years, not dealing in detail with the issues that arose at the very end of the first book - this was not the case, however. Bishop did deal with the issues she had created throughout her books, and she did so masterfully - for she never forgot them, even when they weren't at the fore. So in truth, I was not irked by what Bishop did or did not do, but by what she could have done. This series could have turned deeply stupid, or deeply insensitive, and every time I saw a chance for that to happen, I cringed. But the story would have only become foolish with a lesser author, and the fact that I was cringing without having to is a testament to Bishop's skill.
The one thing that might have bothered me was Bishop's habit of reusing certain phrases with regard to certain subjects. In the end, however, I came to appreciate it as a tip of the hat to classical storytelling*, except that instead of "Cloud-gathering Zeus" or "Fleet-footed Achilles", it's "Lucivar's lazy, arrogant smile" or "Janelle's midnight voice".

All in all, amazing books. I don't regret losing to sleep to them at all.

* - I don't know if it actually is. But it's how I'm choosing to think of it, and it makes me happy, dammit.

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