Monday, February 18, 2013

THE SHADOW QUEEN

Review of THE SHADOW QUEEN by ANNE BISHOP
(seventh in THE BLACK JEWELS series) 

Yes, one can argue that Bishop might be milking the success of her BLACK JEWELS novels, but I for one am thrilled that the books keep coming! (I hope she never finishes with that world!) With each installment, she adds further layers to the characters and the universe. In the case of THE SHADOW QUEEN, Bishop takes a step back from the glamour and immense power of most of her characters and follows someone new: Cassidy. 

At the start of this book, Cassidy's still hurting from the loss of her first court. She's a good person and a good queen, but she isn't the type who dazzles people. She's isn't attractive. She wears a Rose jewel, a light jewel low on the spectrum of magical power. She isn't wealthy and she doesn't promise valuable connections to those who serve her. So when a gorgeous, young queen with a darker jewel comes along, her court, even her Consort, betrays her without hesitation and declares, with hurtful wording that burns in Cassidy's memory, that they would rather serve the new queen. 

Then there's Theran of Dena Nehele. Before Jaenelle's Witch storm wiped out all the evil queens, his was a war-torn land of bloody battles, terrible tortures, and hiding for survival. He's also the descendant of Lia and Jared from THE INVISIBLE RING and now he's ready to reclaim his family's estate. Except Dena Nehele has no queen to rule the land. So he goes to Daemon and begs, in memory of Jared, for a queen from Kaeleer. Daemon confers with Jaenelle/Witch and she sends - that's right - Cassidy. 

I detest Theran as a person, but I relish him as a character. He's an antagonist to be sure, but one with a good heart buried under superficial, misguided layers and genuine concern for the land, its people, and his cousin, Gray, a victim of the vicious queens who ruled before. Theran has the same shallow reaction to Cassidy as most people. After visions of a beautiful, powerful queen, he's disappointed - by her appearance, by her magical strength, by the fact that she loves digging around in the dirt (non-pompous people usually pronounce this hobby as "gardening"). Regardless, he's a complex character who could easily become an ally or an enemy but either way adds intriguing layers to the story. 

It's always interesting, as well, seeing the same characters through new eyes. Jaenelle's usually described in larger than life terms by those who love her and cherish her for what she has done for them, but Theran's initial reaction's a little different: he notes her less than appealing appearance and considers it odd that a man as handsome as Daemon Sadi would settle for such a woman. It's a little tidbit, but it emphasizes the age-old adage that beauty's in the eye of the beholder and whenever someone treats Jaenelle with such disinterest it diminishes her faint Mary Sue quality. 

Kindred also play a larger role in THE SHADOW QUEEN. *Big grin.* Since Kindred refers to animals with the same intellectual capability, not to mention magical power, as the Blood there's plenty of potential for humor, potential that Bishop doesn't waste. As one example of many, when Theran tries to ignore the little dog Vae, she uses craft to float herself on air so she can bark right in his face. Yup, if real dogs could, they would.

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