Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Review: Daughter of the Blood, from the Black Jewels Trilogy

 In keeping with my New Year's Resolution to read more books, I picked up a copy of Anne Bishop's Daughter of the Blood, the first book of the Black Jewels Trilogy. I'd never heard or read anything about this book when I bought it, but I'd read a short story of Bishop's in the anthology Black Swan, White Raven, and I'd admired her writing. I'm glad in a way that I didn't read any reviews of this book before I got it, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have read it, since I generally avoid books with extreme depictions of violence.

Daughter of the Blood is truly Dark Fantasy, and Bishop has created a world full of savage violence and cruelty, the result of a terrible war between the sexes with victims and vicious perpetrators on both sides. In the decadent world of Terreille, women of the Blood (the magic users) have enslaved the men via torture and terror. In return, many men have pledged to destroy young witches before they come of age, robbing them of their powers and their sanity through rape, sexual abuse, and torture. This bloody spiral has continued for so long it seems normal, even natural, and a young witch, Jaenelle, may be the only person with the power to stop the abominable cycle. But Jaenelle is only a child, and she's at the mercy of a family who doesn't love her and thinks she's mad. If something happens to Jaenelle before she reaches her potential, the Blood could destroy themselves in their mad quest for power. And there are many who are searching for her, for good and evil.
So why did I like this book even though it's darker and more violent than I usually care for? I loved Bishop's characters. Jaenelle is alternately joyful, vulnerable, and frightening. She seeks out the High Lord of Hell, Saetan, to teach her magic craft, and their encounters are surprisingly funny and touching. Saetan is a powerful undead guardian who's ruled Hell for thousands of years, but Jaenelle surprises him, exasperates him, and enlivens him. Meanwhile, Daemon Sadi, who's been searching for Jaenelle he longs to serve a good witch, manages to be tortured, brooding, and resentful without being annoying, which I would have thought impossible until now. I think it's because unlike most tortured guys, Daemon's actually as concerned about others as he is about himself. It's clear he would have abandoned Terreille long ago if it hadn't been for his brother, Lucivar, and a few other friends he protected and cared for.

Daughter of the Blood is an intense, entertaining fantasy novel. Still, I'd only recommend it for people who can tolerate a high level of violence and cruelty. If you think Game of Thrones is too gory, this is not the book for you. As for me, I'm already reading the second book, and I hope to finish the series.

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