Friday, March 16, 2012

HEIR TO THE SHADOWS


Review of HEIR TO THE SHADOWS by ANNE BISHOP
(second in THE BLACK JEWELS trilogy)

Anyone who read DAUGHTER OF THE BLOOD won’t be surprised to learn that HEIR TO THE SHADOWS opens with a depressing tone. Lucivar and Daemon switch roles in this book, in a manner of speaking. In the first book we opened on Lucivar, but then he all but disappeared from the plot while we focused on Daemon. Now in the second book, we open on Daemon and it isn’t pretty. Saving Jaenelle at the end of DAUGHTER OF THE BLOOD took all of his strength, leaving him right on the edge of tipping into that magical, dangerous insanity Bishop refers to as the Twisted Kingdom. He doesn’t remember what happened that night other than the feel of himself covered in Jaenelle’s blood. His enemies utilize this against both him and Lucivar, spreading the rumor that Daemon is the one who viciously raped Jaenelle. Combine that with Saetan’s decision that it would be best if everyone, especially her rivals, assumed Jaenelle dead while she heals and everything lines up for Daemon’s downfall. He doesn’t want to believe he could have raped a twelve-year-old girl, but here is what he knows: he remembers her blood all over him, he knows she was raped and he is told that she’s now dead, he might not have been attracted to the twelve-year-old girl but she was also Witch whom he fantasized about his entire life, and, last, he has snapped before. It’s enough to make him doubt himself and the thought that he could have destroyed the queen that might have set the world right tears him apart. When Lucivar buys into the lies that his brother Daemon raped and murdered Jaenelle, it’s the final straw that sends Daemon down into the Twisted Kingdom. Since he was ever strong and sexy in the first book, it’s refreshing to see Daemon’s vulnerable, helpless side. He becomes similar to Tersa, another Twisted Kingdom inhabitant, roaming and wandering and impossible to keep tabs on. Hence, Daemon fades into the background of this book while Lucivar finds his way to Jaenelle and the story focuses on the development of their sibling-like bond.

This book is lighter in tone than the first one, believe it or not from the paragraph above. Note, though, that I wrote “lighter” not “light.” Jaenelle’s trauma leaves a mess that will not be easily cleaned up. However, Bishop provides the readers with hope that at least Jaenelle is surrounded by countless friends who will love, support, and protect her. In DAUGHTER OF THE BLOOD, Jaenelle’s other friendships in unexpected places were hinted at, but now we meet the wide cast loyal to her. And it’s not just people! Jaenelle also bonded with several Kindred, animals with intelligence similar to human’s and magical power just like that of the Blood, with jewels marking their rank. It provides plenty of entertainment when a mob of teenagers and intelligent animals descend on Saetan’s home to cheer up his adopted daughter and wreck havoc of a more playful kind. I’ve heard some readers complain that too many characters start to crowd THE BLACK JEWELS at this point, but I’ve always preferred character heavy stories myself. Bishop does a good job of clarifying which names will pop up more often, and, though I don’t always remember every individual, the long list of names increases the sense that Jaenelle has formidable support backing her. 

Going back to the Kindred, this marks a turn in the series that I adore: the greater role animals play in the series from now on. Kindred can speak to the Blood telepathically, when they so choose. Bishop avoids middle book syndrome by stuffing the plot with an abundance of obstacles and climaxes, and quite a few revolve around the Kindred. Their existence has faded into myth, so Jaenelle shocks her fellow Blood when she introduces, say, Ladvarian, a small dog who wears a Red jewel (just three jewels lesser than Jaenelle!), and can be rather forceful about ensuring he gets his “walkies.” The problem lies, not surprisingly, with some of the crueler queens who do not recognize Kindred as anything other than animals. This problem escalates into violent wars when the Dark Council hands out “unclaimed territory” (Kindred territory) to Blood queens and gives them to permission to wipe out any “animals” who try to challenge their claim.

As she grows from a young girl of twelve to a young adult of nineteen, Jaenelle’s power shows more and more in its startling intensity. Some may find so much power in one individual annoying and overly dramatic, but it worked for me. In part, because regardless of how strong Jaenelle may be she does not work alone; she couldn’t do any of the amazing things she does without her huge circle of support, encouraging her, defending her, standing alongside her. And, as dramatic as it may be, one of my favorite moments in any book I’ve ever read is when Jaenelle tells the Dark Council “I’ll adhere to the Council’s decision when the sun next rises.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you for these thoughtful comments on a difficult question. I think there are many different views on this. I am an extreme realist,so I see plenty of darkness in the world. I have had many years to think these things through and now prefer to focus on lighter literature and plays. However, in my youth, I found fiction a very useful way to develop my own opinions and come to terms with difficult issues. I think this is where dark stories can be so important in young adult literature.

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