Review: Heir to the Shadows, Anne Bishop

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Book: Heir to the Shadows, Book Two of the Black Jewels Trilogy

Author: Anne Bishop

Published: Roc, 1999

Genre: Fantasy (dark fantasy)

This book had been recommended to me by several friends. I actually picked up this book along with several other debut fantasy novels including Kushiel’s Dart, Rhapsody: Child of Blood, and The Bone Doll’s Twin. I bought these several years ago and then life intervened and I didn’t read any of them, until last year. I decided to read the first chapter of each of them and based on which one grabbed me, finish that one first.

Anne Bishop’s first book in the Black Jewels Trilogy hooked me. It actually hooked me hard enough to read the first book and rush out to buy the second.

There are some elements of the book that I didn’t like as much. There are a lot of places and names, and it took me a long time to get everyone and every place straight. I really wish there had been a map for reference. Also, this is a very dark book with a lot of graphic violence, particularly sexual violence and rape. While this book is not as dark as the first one was, the elements are still there. This is not a book I would recommend for anyone under legal age.

What I did like was the intriguing magic system and the deep emotional ties between the characters. Bishop sets up a father/daughter, brother/sister, and lover/lover pairing between the main character and three very powerful, very broken men. She is unbelievably cruel to her protagonists, and the reader can’t help but root for them to get better from their injuries and pay back those who have hurt them. Jaenelle is also a fascinating mixture of childlike innocence and very disturbing, almost godlike power. My favorite was probably Saeten, the lord of the undead and also unlikely caretaker not only of Jaenelle but a whole host of her friends from wolves to unicorns. I found echoes of “Despicable Me” which made me smile. Fluffy!

Daemon, who carried the reader in the first book, is trapped in a literal madness in this book and does not play as large a role, but he’s still there in the sidelines waiting, like Han Solo trapped in carbonite, waiting to break free. More of the book is led by his half brother Lucivar, who I really didn’t like in the first book, but who redeems himself in this second book of the trilogy. Lucivar is of a race called the Eiriens who have wings. Who doesn’t like wings?

There are a host of baddies in the book as well, and when I say bad, I mean really, really, bad. Child predator bad. Sadistic torturer bad. Some get their comeuppance, but I’m afraid I’ll have to wait until the third book to see others get what they deserve.

Please be aware that I rarely give five stars to books; only my absolute favorite get that rating. On Amazon I give this a four and a half stars, so it’s pretty close. With the caveat that you need a strong stomach for Bishop’s handling of violence and rape, I’d definitely recommend this.

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