Dreams Made Flesh (The Black Jewels #5) by Anne Bishop Review

dreams-made-fleshI loved the first three books and I loved the characters and I liked the way that arc ended. The trouble with Dreams Made Flesh is that ideally it should have focused on secondary characters, like the other queens instead of sticking with Jaenelle and Daemon. Allow me to explain.

I liked the first story about the creation of the Web of Dreams, it was interesting, like an origin story. Then there was the second story about the courtship of Lucivar and Marian and even that was enjoyable. But in that story, we met Luthvian and Roxie yet again. Luthvian may have redeemed herself at the end of Queen of the Darkness but here she was far from that version of herself. She was hateful and manipulative.

I liked Lucivar and Marian. They were a sweet pair and I liked that Marian wasn’t afraid of letting Lucivar know when he was behaving like a neanderthal. For his part, Lucivar tried to be patient and mostly succeeded. And perhaps, most of all I enjoyed their interactions with Jaenelle (the first time she, Marian and Saetan go shopping was hilarious) But then the irritants started piling on. I’ve already mentioned Luthvian. Then there was Roxie. She is so vile, like a disgusting insect, except even they serve some purpose. She was just vile and I couldn’t understand why Luthvian let her stay with her when she knew that she made her son uncomfortable. She knew what Lucivar had gone through in Terielle and she still let Roxie parade around him. Here she was even more outrageous, letting people think that not only was Lucivar sleeping with her but when that didn’t work, she planned to accuse him of rape and let him wear the Ring of Obedience. Thankfully that didn’t happen thanks to Marian.

I didn’t read the story about Hekatah making Saetan’s life miserable, I had seen enough of her in the first three books and I had no intention of reading more about her. The final story is about Daemon trying to help Jaenelle after the events of the Queen of the Darkness. She lost her dark Jewels but gained a new one, the Twilight’s Dusk. In addition to seeing Daemon try to reach Jaenelle and rekindle their relationship, there was also the additional (and unnecessary plot) of another aristo woman, Lektra trying to lure Daemon to her bed.

She spreads rumors of his infidelity and when that doesn’t work, she tries to sabotage the carriage that Daemon and Jaenelle were in and when even that backfires, she decides to insinuate to Daemon that Jaenelle had taken another lover. I mean seriously! Give me a break. Haven’t we already dealt with women like that? And of course, once again Roxie was back. Why wasn’t she dead? I thought all the Blood who had Dorothea and Hekatah’s taint had perished. If anyone in the Dhemlan had their taint, it was Roxie so why was she still alive. So she’s also back stirring trouble.

While it was fun seeing more of Jaenelle, Daemon, Lucivar and Surreal, that joy was undermined by the sheer frustration with regard to the plot. I’ll admit, I wasn’t very worried that the women’s hair-brained schemes would work just because by now, the reader has a very clear idea about just how deep Daemon’s devotion to Jaenelle is and that he genuinely loves her. Having said that, it was gratifying to see the women get what they deserve. They tangled with the Sadist and had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

The frustration stems from the fact that the plot feels repetitive. We’ve seen these themes before and not much has changed here. It was engrossing the first time but then it got dragged for three whole books. In Dreams Made Flesh (and in the final story to be precise) the plot just feels old. There was nothing new here, nothing exciting. Which is why I said that it would have been better to focus on secondary characters instead of going back to the original protagonists time and again. Their story concluded and concluded well, let them be. I would have liked to see Karla (one of my favourite characters from the first three books) or Gabrielle or some of the other Queens. But far from focusing on them, they didn’t even appear.

I’m going to give these books a break now, if at all, I’ll read Tangled Web but not anytime soon. I think I’m done with this universe and I want to leave while I still like the series.

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Queen of the Darkness (The Black Jewels #3) by Anne Bishop Review

queenofthedarknessThe Black Jewels Trilogy was every bit as frustrating and exasperating as it was amazing. I am going to refer to it as a trilogy because, for the most part, this will be a review for all of the three books in the series. I read Written in Blood by Anne Bishop and liked it enough that I wanted to read other books she had written. That Daughter of the Blood was her debut novel is truly astounding for the sheer scale of the world she had built and the richness of the characters who inhabited it.

Like the two books before Queen of the Darkness, this one too was told from multiple points of view. I guess I’m getting used to it because I didn’t hate the multiple POV quite as much as I normally do. It could also have to do with how the book and the different perspectives were structured and arranged. They fit well together with no disjointed chapters. They flowed into each other seamlessly so that, often the transition from one character to another was almost unnoticeable.

While reading this, there were a few days when I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue reading this, part of it was because the narrative felt too heavy and intense and the other was that the villains refused to die or give up (more on that later) But I decided to stick with it and I am very happy that I did. I loved Queen of the Darkness and its oddball list of characters.

One of the things I loved about Bishop’s writing was how easily she weaved in some truly hilarious scenes in situations that were downright volatile. There were a number of laugh-out-loud moments in the books that were a delight to come across because they provided a much-needed break in tension, for the characters as well as the reader. Also, Bishop knows how to build tension and keep it at boiling point. All of the three books so far have been so tense that at times I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read the next one immediately after finishing the previous instalment. I even took it slow with Queen of the Darkness and yet, as I got closer to the end, I finished it one sitting and I could not stop reading till I had reached the end.

I love how well Bishop writes the grey characters. This can be said for the protagonists too. But at the end of the day, they are wonderful characters that are a delight to read about. All of the protagonists in the series are grey characters. They are characters who have done horrible things and are still capable of doing horrible things but choose not to and when they did do them, they didn’t derive any pleasure from those actions.

Another thing about her writing, is that she writes amazing villains. The villains are truly despicable. And if the villains are hateful, there is another category of characters that is even more vile and that is the category of the ignorant fools. Fools who are so sure of their own power, knowledge and ego, that they often do more harm than the actual villains and are very convenient and even eager pawns in the plans of the evildoers.

The characters are wonderfully written. There are the human characters and then there are the kindred. Those who are animal in form but have the ability to use Craft and can communicate with the humans. I’m not going to get into the specifics, that would just take ages. But I loved the kindred. I noticed this even in Written in Blood, Bishop writes animals so well. Their way of thinking and seeing the humans is often hilarious and they are all so loveable! I loved them! I liked how diverse the various characters were and that they were distinct. The list of characters is long and for those many characters to be memorable and diverse is definitely no easy feat.

There were a tumble of characters that I loved. I loved Gabrielle and Karla. Especially Karla, I adored her, and her “Kiss-Kiss”. I loved that she treated everyone the same irreverence (literally, everyone from Saetan to Lucivar. She was funny and a lot of trouble. She was also the only one who always believed in Jaenelle and Daemon when no one else could see what they were planning. She was my favourite among the Queens. Then there was Saetan, the deadly High Lord and yet, his exchanges with the young Queens was nothing short of hilarious. I also really liked Titain and Sylvia. I would love to see more of Draca.

Of the men, I really liked Chaosti and Morton (I still remember the first time he met Saeten and delivered Karla’s letter, that was priceless). Of the kindred, I loved Greysfang (and his interactions with Surreal), Ladvarian and Kaelas.

Then there are the main characters, Saetan, Lucivar, Daemon, Surreal and Jaenelle. As far as main characters go, these five were amazing. They were such a mixed bag. One of was an assassin, the other two were powerful warlord Prices and extremely powerful and then there was the High Lord of Hell, the one who controls those cross over into the Shadow Realm. And then there is Jaenelle, the Witch, the most powerful witch in all the realms and Queen. These characters are so powerful that it would have been easy for them to turn into dull and stagnant. But that is so far from what happened. They grow over the course of the three books and become fully-rounded people, with strengths and weaknesses. They all had their blindspots and had their moments of of frailty but they rose above it. I like all of them but my favourite among them was Surreal. Surreal was an assassin and definitely a bitter pill. She wasn’t interested in being nice or polite. She kicked ass and was a worthy opponent. She was also a very deadly assassin so more points for that. I love Surreal and i definitely want to see more of her in the next books!

The antagonists were suitably repulsive. I hated Kartane and I was so pleased when he got what he deserved. It was very satisfying. As for Hekatah and Dorothea, few characters have inspired the kind of hatred these two did in me. They were absolutely horrible with not a single decent bone in their entire putrid bodies. But as awful as they were, there were others who were so blinded by their own ignorance, ambition and greed that they were actually worse. Jorvall and Hobart come to mind. And then there was Alexandra and Philip. Alexandra’s wilful ignorance was hard to swallow and in the end, I felt that she got what she deserved.

The only thing that was perhaps frustrating about the trilogy was that the villains were left too long to play their game. Sticking with Dorothea and Hekatah over the course of three books was a bit much. After a point, as a reader, you just feel irritated that these same characters were still around and kicking. There were new lesser characters in each of the three books to keep things a little fresh but it wasn’t enough. I felt that these two got dragged on for far too long.

There were also a number of deaths in the Queen of the Darkness, and even though most of them were secondary characters, I was still very sad to see some of them go. I hope that they didn’t all die and perhaps may return in one of the other books.

Before finishing this book, I had decided to take a break from this series for a bit, now I’m not so sure, there are characters that I want to meet again and see where they are what they are upto. But I shudder at what the new threat facing them will be and therefore, for the sake of my sanity, maybe a break is the wisest course of action.