Review: Black Jewels Trilogy

This is not my normal fare of fantasy. These three books by Anne Bishop; Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness. They are borderline romantic, without the erotic elements most romance novels feature. Reading these three books, it felt like I got dropped into a world without a lot of context. But since this was her debut novel, it’s not like I accidentally picked up a trilogy in a world she’s written other books in (I did that with Mercedes Lackey before).

I want to start here that I would not recommend this book casually. There is too much dealing with trauma and abuse to just say “everyone would enjoy!” and not in a “everyone would learn good lessons from her approach” way. A LOT of people would be made very uncomfortable with the issues it addresses. These issues are very interwoven throughout the three novels, although the most in the first novel. By the third novel I think Bishop does a much better balance between pointing out people can be traumatized without making it so central to the book.

I enjoyed the overarching plot of the novels. In a very real way, it was a coming of age story as one of the main characters, Jaenelle not only comes in to accept her powers, but to wield them responsibly. The first book revolves a lot around two of the males who feature throughout all three books. There is a lot of world building and some character building that gets looped back in during the later books.

I really felt Bishop found a better tone and stride in the second and third book, and the cast of characters gets expanded a lot and in very good ways. You can’t skip the first book, but I will say if you’ve wanted to tackle this series get through the first one and into the second book. Across the three books, the ramp up in tension is well done.

The Jewel magic system is very interesting, I really enjoyed reading this different magic system. It is both very simple and very complex. I actually in a real way preferred the way she did not explain a lot of the magic directly. You learn it in bits and spurts throughout instead of just a data dump early in. And there is a lot that isn’t explained very well, so you are left making some leaps of logic. Nothing that hurts the characters, the plot or the world – just things the characters assume everyone knows and understands.

As I started, this trilogy isn’t my usual fantasy fare. It was a nice break and by the third book I was pretty strongly invested. The first book I had to sort of muscle through, but since this trilogy had been strongly recommended I was stubborn. And I’m very glad I was so stubborn. It was absolutely worth the struggles through the first book to get to the rest of the story.