Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Daughter of the Blood

by Anne Bishop


In Daughter of the Blood, we are introduced to Daemon and his half-brother Lucivar. As you might imagine from their names, they are not human. Exactly what they are is hard to summarise, because Anne Bishop has invented a world which has little resemblance to our own, or even to any fictional world that has gone before.

There are three realms in Bishop's universe: Terreille, Kaeleer, and Hell. Ruling over them are the Blood, those who are able to use magic. The powers of members of the Blood are determined by which jewels they wear, the darker the better. This doesn't change a great deal during their lifetimes, and the whole hierarchy of jewels is very important on the political scene. The Blood is an instinctual matriarchy, and at the top of the tree is the Queen.

Over the centuries the Blood have become corrupt, and they are now led by the priestess Dorothea. She has purged many of the Blood who may have been a threat to her, spreading fear amongst the rest and scheming continuously. Daemon and Lucivar are two of those threats, who she has enslaved and kept in check using rings of obedience, rings which they do not wear on their fingers.

Daemon is none too happy about his enslavement, which involves his being a whore at various provincial courts. His resentment leads to occasional outbursts of murderous rage against the aristocratic females he is expected to serve. But he has to keep his anger in check, because the the threat is ever-present that punishment for his acts will be taken out on Lucivar.

Much like Daemon, Lucivar is sick of being subjected to the perverse whims and torturous punishments of his ruler, the Lady Zuultah. He wishes for a Queen he can believe in and respect, instead of yet another one he despises. His wish is about to be granted.

The daughter of the Blood of the title, Jaenelle, is only a child yet already very powerful. Her family think she is disturbed and send her away to a home for troubled girls to get treatment. But she is keeping her true powers from them because she is guarding something, and she has good reason to be deeply disturbed. Capable of travel between the realms, she takes lessons in magic from the High Lord of Hell, Saetan. Meanwhile Daemon is sent to serve at the court of Alexandra, Jaenelle's grandmother, where he gets to know Jaenelle.

Daughter of the Blood mixes sex and politics so that the two are usually inseperable. It often makes for uncomfortable reading. Anne Bishop's perverse imagination means this book has as much in common with the works of De Sade or The Story of O as anything by Robin Hobb or J V Jones. It's compelling, but sometimes in the manner of a car crash: horrific, but you can't seem to take your eyes off it.

The character of Daemon is magnetic, in some ways he is an anti-hero but you still find yourself rooting for him. This book is about him more than Jaenelle, who remains mysterious throughout most of the plot.

Using magic has its dangers, with the suggestive metaphor of the shattered chalice for when things go wrong, and madness or death awaiting those who go beyond their abilities. A great deal of the plot is concerned with sex, often being used as a weapon against other people. The point of this focus on sexual politics is not all that clear at this stage, although this is only the first episode in a trilogy so perhaps all will be explained later on. However it's compulsively readable and entertaining, if fairly weird. This is not yet another clone of Tolkien, Feist, or any other better-known fantasy authors that have come before. It bears repeating that there are some extremely gruesome scenes that will stay with you. If you don't have the stomach for torture and mutilation, don't read it.

Book Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Books

  Not For The Squeamish  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
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