Review of TANGLED WEBS by ANNE BISHOP
(sixth in THE BLACK JEWELS series)
This installment in THE BLACK JEWELS universe follows Surreal, to my excitement. As much as I love the characters in this series, some of them occasionally blend together with so many similar traits and interests. From her past to her personality to her dialogue, Surreal always stands out. When an enemy takes extreme revenge against the SaDiablo family, she feels the brunt of it by finding herself prisoner in a booby-trapped haunted house.
QUEEN OF THE DARKNESS paired up most of the characters into heterosexual romances. Surreal and Falonar seemed a happy fit for the brief snippet we saw them together in that book, but in TANGLED WEBS we discover things didn't exactly work out. Surreal knew her past as a whore and an assassin wouldn't make romantic relationships easy, but she's still crushed when she discovers that Falonar's interest lay more in casual sex with a skilled woman than a real relationship and that his ego cannot tolerate being with a woman who outmatches him in magical strength, physical strength, stamina, agility, cunning - you name it. To make the blow worse, he wastes no time picking up with the woman he really loves. This is all background to the plot about the haunted house, but that's yet another of Bishop's writerly knacks: working in plenty of plot threads, including mundane and/or non-magical issues that hit the mark. For example, there's also a string running through the story about Lucivar's shame at his trouble reading (since he comes from a race that values physical feats over intellectual) and his fear that his educated, cultured father and brother look down on him for that underdeveloped skill.
TANGLED WEBS has quite a different feel than previous BLACK JEWELS novels. The premise makes it more of a thriller story, for starters. Surreal and other characters find themselves trapped in someone's sick game and impeding obstacles will pick them off one by one until they find an escape.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT
My only qualm is that I wish Surreal played a greater role in rescuing herself and the others. There's so much talk in this book, and its predecessors, about Surreal as a competent, capable, and flat-out dangerous fighter that it's a bit of a let down when someone else comes along to save the day.