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Book Review of Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Bk 1)

Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Bk 1)
PhoenixFalls avatar reviewed on + 185 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5

Several people recommended I try Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy based on my love of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. I can see why -- both books share a similar forthrightness about the act of love, particularly love tinged with sado-masochism. However, right off the bat it became obvious that while in the Kushiel novels sado-masochism was about trust, in Daughter of the Blood it is about power.

Every character in the novel except for Jaenelle is involved in power plays large and small; there is no trust to be had between any two individuals (again, excepting Jaenelle). This made the novel incredibly frustrating for me -- I hate it when the entirety of the conflict in a novel could be solved by a few of the people sitting down together, talking things out, and taking that (to me, easy) leap of faith that they aren't all trying to stab each other in the back. That that lack of trust meant that Jaenelle was being sexually abused (blindingly obvious to me from page one, though none of the men that supposedly loved her noticed) for almost 400 pages with no one to step in and rescue her made me very angry at times.

Many things in the novel created a low level of frustration. The magic system was too much like in an RPG; I never got any sense for the physical landscape; I could have used a cast of characters but none was provided; there were too many places where the most obvious choice was taken in a scene. (How many times do I have to see/read a character get offered a handkerchief, blow his/her nose in it, then wonder whether to hand it back to the person who offered it?) On a larger level, Daemon's rigidly controlled lust for Jaenelle left a bad taste in my mouth -- I don't care that her soul was Witch, and ageless; both her body and her consciousness were that of a 12-year old girl. Given Daemon's character as it had been set out prior to their meeting, his strong physical reaction to her presence didn't fit. I didn't accept their relationship until several chapters in, when Bishop showed Jaenelle bringing out his playful side and giving him a glimpse of the childhood he never had.

But that scene served as a sort of turning-point for me with this novel. At that moment I finally believed in Jaenelle and Daemon as people, and once I believed I cared desperately what was going to happen to them. I read the final quarter of the novel breathlessly, rooting for a happy ending with all my heart. Therein lies the real difference between the Kushiel novels and Daughter of the Blood: from page one in Kushiel's Dart, Carey treated her heroic characters like real people, showing their flaws and hesitations, showing their epic qualities, and always balancing those bits with their humor and lightheartedness and joy. That balance between the heroic and the mundane, the dark and the light, captured my heart immediately, while Bishop took almost 300 pages to do the same. I will be continuing the trilogy, because I finally did break through and love Jaenelle, but I certainly can't put it in the same breath as Jacqueline Carey's masterpiece yet.

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