Review of QUEEN OF THE DARKNESS by ANNE BISHOP
(third in THE BLACK JEWELS trilogy)
QUEEN OF THE DARKNESS builds nicely. Even the opening echoes foreboding. Those who read HEIR TO THE SHADOWS will remember how wicked queens claimed Kindred territories by force and earned a taste of Jaenelle’s anger. At the start of QUEEN OF THE DARKNESS, Dorothea and Hekatah twist those actions and paint Jaenelle and her followers as the power-hungry villains - they claim Jaenelle viciously slaughtered innocent queens simply settling their own rightful territories. Dorothea and Hekatah’s strength may be weakened by the countless enemies they’ve made over the centuries, but if they can turn the Blood’s rage towards Jaenelle instead, they can build enough support for a war.
For all Jaenelle’s power, this magic system isn’t without sacrifice. QUEEN OF THE DARKNESS describes a phenomenon that in short amounts to magical whiplash. A lower jeweled warrior might have the strength to kill another person, but his magic will boomerang back to him after the task, so he better be strong enough to absorb that hit. A higher jeweled warrior might be capable of wiping out an entire army, but that doesn’t mean his own rebounding magic can’t kill him as well. Then add in the fact that it’s even more challenging to target one’s magic. Sending out a blast that will kill everyone in a certain area is much, much easier than sending out a blast of magic targeted towards only killing specific people. These two quirks present enough of a challenge to Jaenelle’s staggering power to keep things interesting.
Daemon’s also back in this book. While everyone else has grown comfortable and even peaceful after years in a kind queen’s court, Daemon provides contrast - he’s still on edge, unsure of his place, and uncertain who to trust. Although I was a little surprised by how abruptly Jaenelle and Daemon fall into a relationship. While I understood from the first book that Daemon always fantasized himself the born lover of Witch, I didn’t catch on that everyone else assumed as much as well. Jaenelle and Daemon work well together as they settle into a relationship, but the universal assumption that Jaenelle would want no other did startle me. However, it’s more to discuss. The author might simply intend the two to be viewed as soul mates, but I have another possible interpretation: Jaenelle asked that the consort ring be set aside for Daemon and no other and it wasn’t until she was twenty-five that he finally arrived to claim it. I wonder if it’s really a coincidence that a woman with such a traumatic childhood would choose as a sexual partner a man who won’t be around for years.
As the book hurtled towards a dramatic end, I honestly couldn’t tell if that ending would be happy or tragic, but one certainty struck me full force: I love this series either way.