Daughter Of the Blood is the first book in the Dark Jewels saga. Along with its sequels, Heir To the Shadows and Queen of the Darkness, it makes up the Black Jewels Trilogy, although there are other novels and novellas set in the same world. Anne Bishop can sometimes be confusing to the unwary, because while the books follow a logical chronological pattern, SHE doesnt. This means that in a single book, like Dreams Made Flesh for example, you’ll encounter events set many years apart, as she hops merrily back and forth with little regard for the reader’s sense of chronology. A seasoned fantasy reader will not find this much of a problem, but the unintiated should be warned, especially as the rest of this review is going to be how excellent a series this is, how gifted a writer she is, and why you should most definitely spend money on this. It’s well worth it.
This review will focus mostly on Daughter of the Blood and the rich and lavish world she introduces us to. Bishop’s greatest trick is in taking the well established and clichéd to fantasy and subverting them, turning them inside out and making them stand upon their heads. The idea of the three realms, for example. The Light Realm (Tereille), the Shadow Realm (Kaeleer) and the Dark Realm (Hell) are each separate but connected, and can be travelled by those who are Blood. The Blood are essentially the elite aristocracy that can wear the Jewels of Power. The Jewels are ranked in order of darkness, with White being the weakest and Black the most powerful. In between are shades with compelling names: Purple-Dusk, Summer-Sky, Tiger Eye, along with the more regular Opal, Green, Red, Gray and Ebon-Gray. The darker the jewels, the greater the power. Matriarchs and Patriarchs are as powerful as each other, and within the Blood there is a complex gender-caste hierarchy. Queens and Warlord Princes are the most powerful respectively, and the sociological interaction construct is defined by how the interactions between them work, whether it’s using the most formal sort of protocol in the most powerful courts, or stepping onto “Killing Fields” in order to eliminate an enemy.
Daughter of the Blood has four major protagonists. The most important is Jaenelle Angelline, who is WITCH, not a witch, but the WITCH, dreams made flesh, a creation of over fifty millennia of yearning. And the three most intense dreamers who shaped that dream, are the three who will be Witch’s father, brother and lover. The father is the High Lord of Hell, Warlord Prince Saetan Daemon SaDiablo, and his two sons, Lucivar Yaslana and Daemon Sadi the brother and lover respectively. Saetan is a particularly engaging character, he starts off as a tired old man, over 50,000 years old, tucked away in his lair within the great Keep on Ebon Askavi, the centre of power in all three realms. Daemon and Lucivar were both taken from him through the machinations of the two primary antagonists; Dorothea, the High Priestess of Hayll; and Hekatah, the Dark Priestess and Saetan’s ex-wife. There’s also the demon-dead, which is a wonderful concept and very novel. Essentially, when a member of the Blood dies, they don’t always fade immediately and become, as the book puts it, a ‘whisper in the darkness’. They can live on, so to speak, as demons, in the realm of Hell, of which Saetan is the High Lord, naturally. They do require fresh blood to replenish their power, and cannot stand sunlight. It’s a great take on the extremely worn -out Vampire theme, terrifically original and genuinely innovative. Some of the major characters are demon-dead, like Andulvar Yaslana, the Demon-Prince and Saetan’s closest friend. Oh, and Hekatah as well, and quite a few others. And I haven’t even begun to mention the kindred. There’s too much else to be explained here, so I’ll return to the actual review.
So when the Daughter of the Blood, the one who is dreams made flesh appears, it galvanizes everyone, none more so than Saetan. To him and his kin she is Dreams Made Flesh, the most powerful queen to ever walk the realms and the sole reason his sons endured unimaginable torture and slavery for centuries. To be with her. To serve her. But to her actual blood-kin, Jaenelle is nothing more than a troublesome, badly-behaved child who talks nonsense about unicorns and dragons and is hence a social embarrassment.
Read it to see how this triangle unfolds, as each one discovers their role, the limits of it, and what it will eventually take to save the greatest queen of them all. And considering that Jaenelle is still a young girl growing into her full strength, it’s great fun. How do you answer a twelve year old girl who asks the most embarrassing questions and is blithely unaware that she commands the power to annihilate the most powerful men in all the history of the realms with a single thought? Simple. You could do what the SaDiablo family does, adopt her, love her, serve her and protect her with everything that they are. Herein lies most of the warmth and homour and genuine family affection. On the other hand, you have her actual relatives, who think she’s nothing more than a troublesome, mentally disturbed child and so toss her into Briarwood, a mental institution for ‘disturbed young girls’ which revels in torturing and abusing them.
The book tells the story of the adolescent Jaenelle and her interaction with the two men who will most shape her life, and more importantly, the other way around. Her presence means everything has changed. The undercurrents of dark power constantly flow back and forth, and when Daemon Sadi transforms into the “Sadist”, capable of destroying whole territories and theirvcourts, the true nature of Black Jewel power emerges.
Most of the book is given over to establishing the personalities of the main characters, with sometimes tantalizing, sometimes blatant hints about where this greatest dance of all will take them. Then towards the end events escalate with such a rapid and terrifying pace that it leaves you literally flabbergasted. Not to mention downright disturbed and angry. It ends on something of a cliffhanger, but serves to grab your heartstrings and make absolutely sure that there is no way in hell that you won’t want to read the rest.
This series has quickly established itself as one of my favourites for a variety of reasons. Why? Because of the dance of the Blood and how the Blood sing to the Blood; the whirling shattered chalices and twisted kingdoms of the mind; and political intrigue laced with divine cruelty and polished subtlety; and unique magic in tangled webs and craft. And delivered with remarkable skill, bringing to life such a lavishly sensual world glittering with potent dark magic in a deliciously opulent and exotically charismatic setting.
From Bangalore but based primarily in New Delhi, India, Samir has variously been and continues to be a professional musician, a pub quiz host, a political campaign aide, and a student of the guitar, as well as history and international relations. He is currently Research Director for the Global Security Centre in India. He is also a freelance editor and research consultant, having worked for the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, the Public Health Foundation of India, and a McKinsey-IBM KPO, as well as Random House and Oxford University Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org