Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: Heir of the Shadows and Queen of the Darkness

After reading Daughter of the Blood, I was excited to read the next two books in the series, Heir to the Shadows and Queen of the Darkness. The books continue to follow my favorite characters from the 1st book, Jaenelle, Saetan, Lucivar, and Daemon Sadi, yet Bishop also develops and expands her world and introduces new characters who are as compelling and original as the ones in her first book.

Some of my favorite new characters are the Kindred, who are animals and mythological beasts with the same powers and intelligence as humans. While they have the intelligence of humans, their perspectives are different and unique, making them fascinating, both familiar and alien. I loved the way they saw humans as well, which was often humbling, touching, and occasionally frightening. For example, far from worshiping or admiring humans, many of the Kindred saw them as weak. One type of Kindred, the 800-pound Arcerian cats, refer to humans as "meat," and only refrain from hunting them because of their love of Jaenelle. Bishop also creates a race of unicorns as noble, beautiful, and mystical as any other I've read in fantasy literature, yet with all the ferocity and killing prowess you might expect from creatures with a spear attached to their heads. 
As for the human characters, we finally get to see Jaenelle grow into the Queen she's meant to be, with Saetan as her wise counselor and Lucivar as her lovably annoying older brother. I loved reading about Jaenelle's development, which was often as hesitant and tentative as any young girl making her way through adolescence and young adulthood would be. Even her touching naivete about relationships rang true for me. Lucivar gets much more time and attention in these last two books, and I enjoyed his spunky, rebellious character. If in the first book I wondered that Bishop could make a darkly brooding character that wasn't annoying, in these books I'm impressed that she makes an arrogant jerk lovable and touching. 

If there's one disappointment Heir of the Shadows, it's that Daemon Sadi spends much of the book in the "Twisted Realm," which to the Blood means he's gone insane. It made sense for his character, but it kept him from being the cold, savage monster with a heart I enjoyed in the last book. It's true that he's back, to some extent, in the last book, but I did wish he would have returned to his senses earlier. 
As for the ending of the series, I can see why some fans were disappointed. The cost of victory was so high, it almost felt like defeat. I've heard that Bishop continued the story in Dreams Made Flesh, which is four novellas set in the same world. I've downloaded the book because I'd really like to see how the story continues. But whatever problems I found in the last two books, I still loved Bishop's characters and her overall story. She's created one of the most unique and compelling worlds I've read in fantasy, and I'd recommend these books to anyone who enjoys dark fantasy and can tolerate depictions of extreme violence. 

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