Science fiction and fantasy
Heir to the Shadows
by Anne Bishop
Although things look bleak to begin with for the main characters, Heir to the Shadows is a gentler book than the first part of the trilogy. There are still episodes of violence and death, but the action is less sexual and sensationalist, with less in the way of perversion and depraved torture.
Although the first book is a compelling read, you are left wondering whether some of that interest was down to the extreme nature of a number of the scenes. But in Heir to the Shadows it becomes clear that the characters are people you can care about and want to know more about. Here we find out that Anne Bishop is a writer who can sustain interest without having to resort to breaking taboos.
The middle of the trilogy marks Jaenelle's coming of age and growth to womanhood. It is centred on the realm of Kaeleer, which is a less vicious place than Terreille. Hekatah continues to scheme against Jaenelle and Saetan and those they care about, so they are far from safe. In this universe the dead can rise again as demons, and they do more than just haunt the living. Magic is all-pervasive, to the extent that nobody except the landens, those without magical jewels, seems to walk anywhere. Rather than just being something to use in dire emergency, it colours all aspects of life in the three realms.
Daemon, Saetan, Lucivar: if you can get over the uninspired names, this is a refreshingly unusual read. It may not break a great deal of new ground in fantasy, but nor is it hackneyed. The Blood are more than just a caste above, they are born to power and the care of the land is their responsibility. So the main characters are struggling against those who have allowed power to corrupt them and lead them to decadence, cruelty and endless politicking.
This isn't exactly a serious novel with a deep and meaningful point to make. It's holiday reading, enjoyable and slightly offbeat fantasy with plenty of action and a few romantic touches. Anne Bishop's standard of writing has not slipped and the second installment of the Black Jewels trilogy is lively and engrossing.
If you like this, try:The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
In the first book of the Tamir Triad a young prince is haunted by an unquiet spirit.
Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Anne Bishop
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