Sep 17, 2008

The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop (and BBAW happenings)

Saetan, Daemon and Lucivar. A father and his two estranged sons. The father is the High Lord of Hell. The two sons have spent the past few centuries being used as pleasure slaves. The three of them are brought together when an old prophecy comes true, and a Dark Queen more powerful than anything any of the Three Realms have ever known comes into being. Not just a powerful witch, but Witch, a myth made flesh. But for all her power, Jaenelle is just a child, a child who is being brought up by an indifferent family that sees her as eccentric, difficult and emotionally unbalanced (and that’s really not the worst of it). Despite all her strength, Jaenelle desperately needs to be loved.

That’s really not much as far as plot summaries go, I know, but this book is over 1200 pages long, and the story is so full of twists and turns that I won’t even attempt to summarize it further. We follow Jaenelle as she grows from an uncertain seven year old into a powerful Dark Queen in her mid-twenties. The journey is full of intrigue, conspiracies, misunderstandings, power struggles, abuse, love, magic, heartbreak, healing, and hope.

Let me tell you how much I loved this book: it made me leave a brand new Terry Pratchett book that I had been anxiously awaiting for months untouched on my nightstand for days. I had just started reading The Black Jewels Trilogy when Nation arrived. I had to read the first few chapters right away, of course. But after that I put it aside. And believe me, it’s not that those first few chapters didn’t grab me (with about 100 pages left to go as I write this, I can promise that you’ll hear me rave about Nation soon enough). It’s just that I couldn’t bear to leave the world that Anne Bishop created. And a book that makes me put a brand new Terry Pratchett on hold for any length of time is a book that completely won my heart.

Anne Bishop created a rich, complex and very detailed dark fantasy world. Fantasy readers will probably know what I mean when I talk about the feeling of alieness you experience when you start reading a new book or series. That happens to an extent whenever you start a book of any kind, of course. At first everything is unfamiliar, and you have to feel the shape of the story, form your impression of the characters, make sense of things. But in a new-to-you fantasy world, there’s a lot more to make sense of. The best writers are the ones that ease us into it. For how many pages does The Fellowship of the Ring feel alien? One and a half? Tolkien does this masterfully, and so does Anne Bishop.

I was probably halfway into the first book in the trilogy, Daughter of the Blood, when I realized what certain things that were constantly mentioned meant. It takes a while to pick up the meaning of things like Blood, Black Widow, Ring of Obedience, etc. But you know, at that point it no longer mattered, because I was already completely hooked. I quickly became interested in the characters, and that made the alienness disappear. The rest came slowly, as the story unfolded. Some fantasy writers make the error of trying to dump too much information on the reader too fast. Anne Bishop avoids this completely. She gives you enough information to enable you to make sense of the story, and then she slowly gives you little glimpses of the complex world she created – little glimpses that make you envision a huge and ancient place, little glimpses that make you want more.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is dark, sensual and violent–even brutal at times. It's a story in which terrible things happen to undeserving people. But it’s not just a dark story. It’s epic, but it also has that personal, domestic feel that I love. We watch Jaenelle grow up. We watch friendships and love affairs begin. We watch the characters suffer and worry and wonder and be happy. We grow to truly care about them.

I thought it was interesting that even though the story is told from multiple perspectives, we never see things through Jaenelle’s eyes. We see her from the perspective of those who fear or hate her, and more often from the prespective of those who love her. This allows her to remain surrounded by mystery, but also by tenderness and love.

I cannot stress enough how much I loved these characters. Not just the main ones, though those were fascinating enough, but all of them. I loved the Kindred, animals with magic abilities that, through Jaenelle’s intervention, learn to communicate with humans. I loved the dragons and the unicorns, the wolves and the gigantic and temperamental polar cats. I loved Tersa, who made the prophecy. I loved Draca and Lorn and their ancient wisdom. I loved the fact that Anne Bishop completely subverts your expectations about certain characters.

If I were feeling picky, I would say that the only thing I didn’t like about this world was the fact that even though it’s about a matriarchic society and it’s full of strong female characters, it emphasizes the differences between the sexes a little too much for my taste. But you know what, I don’t care. I was happy to put my own ideas about gender identity aside for the duration of the story.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is a book you can completely lose yourself in. Reading it reminded me of reading The Mists of Avalon, The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter books. These books aren’t exactly similar, but they all provide the simple pleasure of being told a great story, a story that makes you forget yourself and everything around you. Therefore, it’s joining those books and others on my list of comfort reads. After 1200 pages, all I could think when I reached the end was “Nooooooooooooooooo! I want more! I need more!” I really didn’t want to part with these characters or leave this world.

Fortunately, there is more. Three more books, and a fourth in the works. I think I’m going to skip The Invisible Ring for now, since it’s about different characters, but I’ve already ordered Dreams Made Flesh. And when I noticed it was 450 pages long, I was sad that it wasn’t even longer.

Other Blog Reviews:
Just Add Books (Book 1)
Just Add Books (Book 2)
Reading Adventures (Book 1)
Reading Adventures (Book 2)
Reading Adventures (Book 3)
Books & Other Thoughts (Book 1)
Books & Other Thoughts (Book 2)
Just One More Chapter (Book 1 )
Just One More Chapter (Book 2)
Literary Escapism (Book 1)
Literary Escapism (Book 2)
Literary Escapism (Book 3)
Stella Matutina (Book 1)
Stella Matutina (Book 2)
Stella Matutina (Book 3)

(Did I miss yours? Let me know)

I wanted to thank the wonderful Chartroose at Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage! (how cool a blog name is that?) for awarding me this Kool Kids Klub badge. Like Chris said in the comments, this is probably the first time I've ever been considered cool :P And you know who most definitely is cool? Chartroose herself. I love her sense of humour and her unflinching honesty.

Today's BBAW activity is to talk about blogging. Amy asked:

What is one thing you wish you knew about blogging when you started or what advice would you give a newbie blogger?

What is your best blogging tip?
I'm not sure if there's anything I wish I'd known from the start, because I kind of enjoyed learning as I went along. I only discovered Google Reader some 5 months after I started blogging, but then again, it was about then that the number of blogs I follow began to be too large to be manageable without a reader.

And as for tips, what can I add to Michele's wonderful "be genuine"?

A lot of great advice has already been given. Things like comment on other blogs, get involved in community activities, be friendly and responsive, post regularly, etc. To this I would add: take your blog seriously, but not too seriously. Remember to have fun. And don't take yourself too seriously either. I don't think this is a tip that book bloggers need, because I've never come across a book blogger who does. But I've seen it in other blogging niches, and nothing sends me running out of a blog faster than a self-important tone.

Sometimes it's good to forget about the big picture. Yes, when we write a blog we are putting our thoughts and a part of ourselves out there for the whole world to see. A favourite author could come across our blog. Anyone could come across our blog. But if I thought about this constantly, I'd probably be tempted to find a nice, dark, unreachable hole to hide in. When I write my posts, I don't think about any of that. I just imagine myself addressing a group of friends, or at least of like-minded, receptive acquaintances. A lot of the time, that's really what I'm doing. And that's what makes it such fun.


  1. well dang!......... this sounds like something I might like! Just a tad huge though lol.. and i see it's only out in paperback! how did you manage to hold that book open in paperback????!!!

  2. You ignored Terry Pratchett for it?! Wow! If I ever have time to read for fun again (lol...j/k...mainly), I'll definitely be on the look out for this one!

  3. In the past, I wouldn't have looked twice at this type of book, but I've found that I do enjoy them quite a lot after trying some thanks to great reviewers like you. This sounds really good, except for the length of the book. I can get antsy with something this big unless it's absolutely mesmerizing. It sounds like you think it was. Maybe I'll give it a try.

  4. I didn't expect to like this book when I read it, but in the end I loved it!

  5. Deslily, the spine is actually pretty flexible! I could have the book open over my lap without creasing it at all. But yeah, it's like a phone book...not something to carry around :P It's also available as 3 separate books, which might be a more practical choice :P

    Eva: I know! I couldn't believe it myself :P I hope you do have time to read for fun again soon! I finished Nation today, and it's brilliant. I'd say I liked it more than this book, and that'd be true, but mostly I liked it in a completely different way. Nation is...Terry Pratchett. And this is incredibly gripping in a I-really-want-to-know-what-happens-next-and-I-don-t-care-if-the-writing-isn't-exactly-the-best sort of way. Which is something I welcome too.

    Lisa: I tend to too, but in this case I wanted it to be even longer! The size is intimidating, I know, but the books are also available separately, so you could always try the first and see how you like it. Though to be honest I can't imagine not wanting to read the second, considering how the first one ends!

    Marg, I didn't know I would like it THIS much! Rhinoa did warn me, though :P

  6. Well, you've sold me on it!

  7. I am another person who is absolutely in love with Bishop's work. Dreams Made Flesh has four short stories that fill in some spots and Tangled Webs was also pretty good as a story of events after The Queen of Darkness.

    (I have reviews of the Trilogy, plus TW on my blog.)

  8. Lovely review, Nymeth! I've this book in my TBR pile, just haven't got around to reading it yet but it really makes me want to pick up the book after reading your review! :)

    Because this book is so thick, I went out the way to buy the three individual volumns as well, hehe.

  9. Hi Nymeth, since I'm leaning towards fantasy at the moment, this book sounds really, really good. You make it sound rich and the fact that it is somewhat similar to LOTR makes it even more appealing.

    I am with you on the blogging part. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  10. Ok...I have to go get this one NOW! It sounds incredible and the way you describe it reminds me quite a bit of The Bone Doll's Twin which is one of my favorite books of the year. I love this kind of fantasy, especially when you can just ease into it!

    And isn't it cool to be Kool? lol...

  11. Bart, hope you enjoy it!

    Aria, I can't wait for Dreams Made Flesh to arrive. And after that I plan on reading Tangled Webs. I added the links to your reviews to my post :)

    Melody: That was a sensible choice :P I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

    Alice: It's not so much that it's similar to LOTR, but that it's a book you can lose yourself in as completely as in LOTR. And I love that feeling :)

    Chris: It's funny that you should mention The Bone Doll's twin, because this book has a very enthusiastic blurb by Lynn Flewelling. It also has blurbs by Charles de Lint and Terri Windling, and we know we can trust them! And yep, it is :P

  12. That trilogy sounds fabulous! You are so bad for my tbr pile...

  13. wow, this sounds like an interesting read and over 1200pages long, its the kind of book i'd live inside of for a few weeks.
    great review. I'm adding this to my wish list.

  14. "I cannot stress enough how much I loved these characters."
    This is one of the traits that marks the difference between a good storyteller and a great writer - the things I remember most about Middle Earth are the people, not the stories - Tolkien made the people come alive. If your saying Anne Bishop has this ability, then I'm REALLY excited about reading her stuff...
    oh, and congratulations Kool Kid!!

  15. Okay, Rich is getting me this for Christmas or he's going to be in the dog house for a good long time! This truly does sound like a trilogy that I'll fall madly in love with (despite the fact that it will take me forever to read!). Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nymeth, for this incredible review! Man, I seriously am excited about this one...

  16. Cath: Sorry :P

    Naida: But it's a pleasure to spend a long time with this trilogy. I hope you enjoy it!

    Ken: I feel the same way about Middle-Earth. And Anne Bishop definitely has this ability! I think you'll enjoy this trilogy,

    Debi: lol, poor Rich :P Like I was telling naida, spending a long time with this book is such a pleasure! It's so much fun to read.

  17. Another Anne Bishop fan is born! I love this series. You summed it up so well why I like these books, Nymeth.

    One of the points you made in your tip portion hit home for me. You make a good point about forgetting the big picture. It's something I have to do consciously, at least in part, otherwise I will be overwhelmed.

  18. Oo, sounds good. I'm a lady of leisure for the rest of this month, so now's the perfect time for me to become hooked on a trilogy of extremely long books. Must get back to the library!

  19. Literary Feline: It's such a great series. I can't wait for my copy of Dreams Made Flesh to arrive! And I guess that forgetting the big picture is an important coping skill for introverts :P

    Jenny, I hope you enjoy it!

  20. congratulations on being cool, which we already know you are, Nymeth! Very very cool. It is cool to read, you know!! lol at least in my world it is!!!

    As for Black Jewels trilogy, it is well-written, isn't it? I loved it when I read it, and I wanted to read more when it ended, too! I've forgotten bits so it's good to read your review and remind myself.

    I love what you say in the book blog thing too with Michelle. Everything you put for book blogging is commonsense, and yet we each have to find our way to that. I love blogging about books, and best of all is the people I've met who love books, like you.

  21. Susan: There's nothing cooler than reading in my world! The Black Jewels is a book I bet I'll come back to every few years. It's just so enjoyable and unputdownable. And yes, meeting other book lovers is the best bit of the whole thing :)

  22. You are cool, Nymeth!! :) I think a lot of us bookworms kinda feel that way, though--that we've never really been "cool." And how do you do it, Nymeth--how is it that almost every book you pick up you love love love. I'm envious!!

  23. I'd sort of been saving the third one to read, because I didn't want it to end, either. After reading your review I feel like I need to go out and get it immediately! (I've been reading the separate paperbacks from my library.) Great review!

  24. Trish: Yes, in my experience bookworms tend to have been the quiet kids lurking in the background, but I wouldn't have it any other way. And I do have good "book sensors", but I also come across a few disappointments now and again :P This month was especially great, though, because I read 3 of my favourites of the year almost one after the other: This, Nation and A Fine and Private Place.

    Darla: I completely understand wanting to save the third one. But fortunately it doesn't truly end there! I mean, the story is concluded in a satisfying way, but there's room for more. I can't wait to revisit these characters with Dreams Made Flesh. And I really look forward to seeing what you think of the third book!

  25. I LOVED the black jewels trilogy. Rhinoa got me hooked on this last spring, and she just gave me tangled webs which I keep angling towards though I have lots of other books I should read first! Ooooh. Luciver is definitely my favourite character though. I love the Eyriens!

  26. I am so glad you loved this as much as I did and even put down Pratchett to finish it. I read the whole thing on our honeymoon which tells you how much I enjoyed it! Like you I got to the end and was really sad. I gave it to Alex to read and then kept trying to steal it back off him. I have all of her other books and am pacing myself reading them so I don't get too upset at running out of her books.

  27. Reminded you the feeling of reading The Mists of Avalon AND The lord of the Rings AND Harry Potter?
    straight into the wish list it goes!

  28. ahah I just noticed that one book in the trilogy was already on my wishlist! I remember I picked it up one day in the shop and I saw the cover and read that some famous writer (don't remember which) said it was brilliant. The book is daughter of the blood. Of couse now I have to read the whole trilogy!

  29. I've read this book twice already. I share your opinion in basically everything. As for the differences between the sexes, I'd say that Bishop created a great balance of power.
    I love almost every character, but Daemon is by far my most favorite character of all times. He's just perfectly... bittersweet (I think that's the word)! I love him!
    I noticed that 'multiple perspectives' detail too, and I think it works perfectly in the story and for Jaenelle's mistery, although I'd love to know what she's really thinking sometimes.
    So, in my opinion this is a Must Read story, and I support everything in the review. Thanks for that, it was refreshing.

    P.S. - Sorry about the poor english, I'm portuguese.

  30. V!LMA: ha, that makes two of us :P I don't think your English is poor at all. It's very nice to find another fan of this trilogy "locally" :)I'm glad you enjoyed reading my post!

    (PS: Mariel, Rhinoa, Valentina, I'm sorry I didn't reply to your comments at the time! I don't know what happened. And Valentina, I think you might be thinking of Charles de edition has a very enthusiastic blurb by him.)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.