(WARNING: This book contains graphic violence and sexuality. It also has, as a key plot point, a relationship between a grown man and a twelve-year-old girl. This romance is “sweet” by romance subgenre definitions. The romance between the man and the mythical personage who has taken on the form of the girl is not.
If this bothers you, definitely pass on this book. If not, read on.)
Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop is one of the more unique books I’ve read, and I mean that in the best sense. The first book in The Black Jewels trilogy, it’s been out for quite some time. Since 1998, in fact. That doesn’t change how fascinating and gut-wrenching the story is. In fact, it’s made some of the events even more of a risk for a writer than when it first came out.
To sum up, the Dark Kingdom is ruled by those called the Blood. They’re magical aristocrats whose power comes through a hierarchy of jewels. Every member of the Blood has a birth jewel, but you can acquire a more powerful jewel later when you make the Offering to the Darkness. (And by the way, all this talk of darkness is kind of misleading. Everyone who’s good is part of The Darkness while everyone who’s not doesn’t want anything to do with it or gives it lip service. And after a while I started to think that The Darkness was a reference to the beginning of creation, and that being in touch with The Darkness means you understand where you come from and your place in the vast “web of life” that was created.)
There’s a prophecy that one day Witch will show up and whoever controls her will control the world. So, that would seem to be a large part of this novel: watching the political plays once Witch shows up. And it is, but there’s a catch.
Witch is a child.
Bishop doesn’t shy away from the implications of this. Even when it gets weird. Even when it becomes heartbreaking.
This is a dark novel. There’s abuse of every kind, pain, torture, and a lot of it is more graphic than I expected after reading Sebastian (Book #1 in Ephemera) and most of The Others series. Those books are dark but not nearly as graphic as this one. I also have to add a spoiler after this review for those who are interested in the romance that’s hinted at early on in the plot. I’m adding it after my review so that those who don’t care won’t have read it.
Overall, the book works. I mean, it really, really works. The ending, in spite of itself (if you read the spoiler, you’ll see what I mean), was inspiring to me, and moved me to get my hands on the next in the series as soon as possible.
Again, for those who care, when I say graphic, I’m not kidding. Sex is just about everywhere, with characters using slang sexual terms as well as straightforward, more clinical terms for genitalia. Children are abused in this book. The profanity is fairly thick, and the violence is, at the very least, on par with Game of Thrones.
However, the ending, I think, was worth the time spent with all the garbage these characters deal with. Justice is done. Love wins the day. Hope returns.
So I read the next book. And I’ll post my review of it next week.
(Scroll down if you want my views on the romance.)
Daemon is one of the first characters we meet and he is friggin’ awesome. He’s a full-grown, um, enslaved escort, for lack of a better term, sent out by his “owner” to various witches as part of the book’s politics. But he’s always felt that he would one day be the consort of Witch, and has done everything in his power to be ready for that day when it comes.
It’s actually one of the strongest parts of the book, the moment when he decides he’s had enough of being a living sex toy and decides to follow his sense of Witch to find her. And he does.
And she’s in the body of a twelve-year-old.
So, on the one hand, he has this visceral desire flowing through him and on the other, he’s horrified at his response, especially since he was abused as a child. It takes a bit for him to figure out that, soul-wise, he wants her desperately, but physically, he doesn’t feel any desire for the twelve-year-old in front of him. And that’s also one of the best moments in this book because it really freaks him out until he makes that realization. Using that, he’s able to focus on her physical form, which keeps all the attraction far away. For the most part.
He even becomes her friend and their friendship is actually really cute. It was a great contrast to the many sexual situations he was in at the beginning of the novel. I was not squicked out in the least, watching those two. Very sweet. Very nice. In spite of all the situations where stuff could have happened, it didn’t.
And then the ending happened.
I’m going to skip a lot of plot and hope what I’m about to say makes sense. As part of the final events of the novel, Daemon has to go inside Witch’s head to keep her from becoming insane. It turns out she didn’t need as much help as he thought, but she’s decided it’s better to leave her body behind, as well as the world. This, of course, means she’s choosing death.
Daemon, in an attempt to convince her to stay alive, seduces her.
Granted, he seduces Witch, not the twelve-year-old, but her dialogue during the seduction, at times, felt a bit too child-like for my tastes, in spite of a form that, if I remember correctly, is full-grown within the mental space they share. I have to admit, I felt some squick during that scene.
Didn’t care for that.
I can appreciate that Bishop seemed to be trying very hard to write a true innocent when it comes to sexual matters, and that that might explain the dialogue. Plus, even after Daemon does what he thinks is right, both for Witch and the world, he hates himself for it. Which helped, as well. Kind of.
Anyway, in spite of the squick I felt during that scene, I would still recommend this book, especially after reading the final scenes of the book and especially after reading the next book in the series. Which I’ll talk about next week!
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