The 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.