11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Anne Bishop crafts dark fantasy into a literary art form,
This review is from: Heir to the Shadows (Black Jewels Trilogy) (Mass Market Paperback)
I can't help but compare author Anne Bishop with this novel's main character Jaenelle, a long-awaited dark queen possessing a power no queen has ever seen the likes of before, and I would gladly serve in any literary court Anne Bishop chose to form. Just as Jaenelle establishes herself as the Queen of the Darkness in all her glory over the course of these pages, so Anne Bishop stakes a rightful claim to the title of Queen of Dark Fantasy. Heir to the Shadows accomplishes the impossible: not only is it a more impressive novel than Daughter of the Blood, it blows that first novel right out of the water with its intensity and extraordinary vision. I only wish I could convey in words the originality, genius, emotion, power, and literary magic that is Heir to the Shadows.
You really must read Daughter of the Blood before immersing yourself in this second novel of the trilogy. The realms of Terreille, Kaeleer, and Hell are not fictional worlds you can just drop in to visit, nor are the characters in this story at all comprehensible without your having made the journey to this point alongside them. The "good guys," by way of example, include Saetan, the High Lord of Hell, and his half-demon sons Daemon and Lucivar, as well as Jaenelle who is "dreams made flesh," Witch herself. The final set of events closing out Daughter of the Blood reach in and squeeze your heart dry, as you watch a beautiful and innocent young girl suffer dreadfully, and it is this emotional crescendo that breaks across the very first pages of Heir to the Shadows and carries you along with it, breathless, for close to 500 pages. You would think that such a powerful young queen as Jaenelle would lead a charmed life, but let there be no doubt that Jaenelle has suffered and continues to suffer terribly. As this novel opens, Jaenelle's guardians do not know if Jaenelle will even return to them. The horrors committed upon her body and mind, orchestrated by a malevolent witch queen and the power-hungry High Priestess of Hell, have forced her to retreat deep in to the black abyss; Daemon, an incredible character I cannot even begin to describe here, is himself lost to the alliance of protectors, having pushed himself too far in his effort to call Jaenelle back. Daemon towered above the pages of the original novel, but he is soon trapped in the Twisted Kingdom, tricked into believing he killed Jaenelle. Fortunately, another son of Saetan emerges to protect and guide the future queen, Daemon's brother Lucivar, a winged Eyrien who is himself initially tricked into believing Daemon guilty of killing the queen both brothers pledged themselves to serve.
In this novel, we witness Jaenelle grow and mature through her teenaged years and develop into full womanhood. We see traces of the Jaenelle who charmed us into loving submission in the first novel, but the intense suffering she has endured has irrevocably changed the young maiden. For a long time, she has no memory of the trauma that almost destroyed her, but she is terribly withdrawn and touched with a darkness her soul should never have had to endure. Now under the official guardianship of Saetan, she picks up the broken pieces of her life. She is greatly helped in this regard by the assembly of a number of her childhood friends: future queens of nearby lands as well as creatures previously known only in legends and myths. Jaenelle breaks down the magical barriers separating the world Saetan knows from the hidden realms of unicorns, centaurs, wolves, dream-weaving spiders, and other creatures known as the kindred. The kindred are also children of the Blood, but the Dark Council, under the control of Jaenelle's enemies, refuses to recognize this fact and begins a terrible campaign that forces Jaenelle to take steps she doesn't really want to take. There is much misery and sadistic exploitation in this story, but there is also great hope inspired by Jaenelle, Saetan, and the members of what will become Jaenelle's Dark Court. The forces of evil never rest, never stop scheming, and the amount of shed innocent blood is exceeded only by the impact of the continuing emotional and physical hardships inflicted upon Jaenelle. I was almost moved to tears by the powerful climax of this novel.
Plenty of unresolved problems and critical plot elements remain, and I can scarcely imagine the dark power that Queen of the Darkness, the third and final novel in The Blood Jewels Trilogy, must contain. I marvel somewhat at those who dismiss Bishop's work as romantic drivel. While this is dark fantasy of a sensual nature, there is more horror to be found in these pages than in many a standard horror novel; sex is in fact the ultimate weapon by which perverted women of the Blood control the Blood males and rule the lands. The romantic elements are actually rather subdued in this novel, largely due to the nature of Jaenelle's most hideous sufferings. There is no ambivalence on my part: the books of The Black Jewels Trilogy are the most impressive works of dark fantasy I have ever read.