Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: The Shadow Queen

Title: The Shadow Queen

Author: Anne Bishop

Published: March 2009

Genre: Fantasy

Stand Alone/Series: Black Jewels #6
Book 1: Daughter of the Blood
Book 2: Heir to Shadows
Book 3: Queen of the Darkness
Book 4: Dreams Made Flesh
Book 5: Tangled Webs

From the Book Jacket: Dena Nehele is a land decimated by its past. Once it was ruled by corrupt Queens, who were wiped out when the land was cleansed of tainted Blood. Now only one hundred Warlord Princes stand... without a leader and without hope.

Theran Grayhaven is the last of his line, desperate to find the key that reveals a treasure great enough to restore Dena Nehele. But first he needs to find a Queen who knows Protocol, remembers the Blood's code of honor, and lives by the old ways.

Languishing in the Shadow Realm, Lady Cassidy is a Queen without a court, a castoff. She is not beautiful. She thinks she is not strong. But when she is chosen to rule Dena Nehele, she must convince bitter men to serve once again.

Theran's cousin Gray is a Warlord Prince who is damaged in mind and body by the vicious Queens who once ruled Dena Nehele. Yet something about Cassidy makes him want to serve - and makes him believe he can be made whole again.

And only Cassidy can prove to Gray - and to herself - that wounds can heal and even the whisper of a promise can be fulfilled...

The Cast of Characters:
Theran Grayhaven, Green-Jeweled Warlord Prince and last of the Grayhaven line, the last that can claim Jared and Lia as ancestor. As the strongest living Warlord Prince and the last of the Grayhaven line, it is his duty and dream to see Dena Nehele restored. Having grown up in a warrior's camp, he has few manners and is bitter that only Queen he has is a Rose-Jeweled and, in his eyes, unattractive one to try to rebuild Dena Nehele with and not a powerful and stunning Queen that would impress and attract others to his cause.

Jared Blaed "Gray" Grayhaven, Purple Dusk-Jeweled Warlord Prince and cousin of Theran (on his motherside and not truly of the Grayhaven line). When he was fifteen he was captured and tortured by the evil Queens because he was mistaken for Theran. The torture has left both mental and physical scars that done have been able to heal. In his mind the Grayhaven estate is a prison and Queens are those that only cause pain. Even though Cassidy is a Queen living in Grayhaven, Gray can't stay away from her and slowly finds that he wants and needs to be more than he is, to be more than a broken Warlord Prince. To become someone that Cassidy would want as a friend and lover.

Cassidy, Rose-Jeweled Queen from Dharo in Kaeleer, the Shadow Realm. Her court had just abandoned her because she did not come from aristocratic family, does not wear a powerful Jewel and is not pretty. She is gentle coerced by Jaenelle into accepting the "temporary" position as Queen of Dena Nehele in Terreille. As Queen of Dena Nehele, she faces challenge after challenge. The first is to set up her court, which she must do if she is to rule and there are only bitter men who have only known war and pain all their lives to choose from. Then to try to rule using Protocol and the old ways of the Blood that has been completely forgotten in Dena Nehele and is constantly running into roadblocks placed in her way by Theran.

Review: Another fabulous book by Anne Bishop set in the Black Jewel world. This story takes place approximately two-years after Queen of the Darkness and focuses on the territory of Dena Nehele. The main storyline, of the struggle to rebuild Dena Nehele, is woven with the continuing storyline of Daemon Sadi, Jaenelle, Lucivar and Saetan. Although it was interesting to see how they were all doing, it took away from the main story and at times was distracting.

The story in Dena Nehele, falls into two story lines. The first is the rebuilding of Dena Nehele as a territory and Theran's desire to lead this restoration. In order to do this, Theran needs a good Queen. And he gets Cassidy, an unattractive and not very powerful Rose-Jeweled Queen, of which he is embarassed. So he spends his time trying to hide her from the rest of Dena Nehele. Thus hampering Cassidy's ability to rule the territory. The interaction between Cassidy and her new court is spare at best. I wish there had been more there. The struggle of these men to learn Protocol and the old ways is completely lacking as is Cassidy's attempts to teach them. I felt that this storyline was not taken to completion. Only the surface has been touched and there is definitely more that needs to be told.

The second storyline is that of Cassidy and Gray. Gray has been so wounded that he has stayed an adolescent in order to protect himself. To hide from the past instead of facing it and learning to live with it. With the appearance of Cassidy, Gray finds himself wanting to be more than he is so that Cassidy will want to be with him, first as a friend and later as a lover. His struggles and triumphs come through clearly and you find yourself cheering for him. Cassidy has taken a bitter blow and has been basically told that she is both undesirable as a Queen and as a woman. It does not help that Theran's reinforcing these beliefs. But she runs into Gray and knows that he is hers to protect and perhaps more. With each of Gray's triumphs, Cassidy finds herself struggling with new and exciting feelings for Gray. It a love story of acceptance from both sides. This story, while satisfying, wasn't taken to its completion. There is definitely more there to explore.

The Kaeleer storyline, that of Saetan, Daemon and Jaenelle, was interesting but it probably would have made a better short story on its own rather than as a thread in this book. These interludes about characters we've come to love did not add anything to the main storyline, they were a distraction. Bumps in an otherwise smoothly flowing story of Dena Nehele's restoration and a budding romance.

Overall it was a great read. It was nice to catch up with our old friends and see how they are faring. And it was nice to meet some new friends and learn about their stories. I just wish they hadn't interferred with each other. In addition, I hope that Anne Bishop will pick up where she left off because there is definitely more to these stories than what is presented in this book.

Keeper?: Yes

Recommendation: Although this is book 6 in the on-going Black Jewels world, it can be read as a stand alone. But I think to fully appreciate the whole of the storyline the reader should read the first three books (Daughter of the Blood, Heir to Shadows and Queen of the Darkness) prior to reading this one. In addition, The Invisible Ring (Jared and Lia's story) could be read for additional background information but isn't necessary to fully enjoy this book.

Rating: B+


Sarai said...

I hate to say this but I don't think anything she writes after the trilogy will be nearly as good as the original. I will still pick this up when its in paperback so I have the whole collection in one size. But I just wish she could do a book on our old characters by themselves.

orannia said...

*thinking of Daemon* *SIGH*

Aymless, I'm currently half way through reading The Shadow Queen. Once I've read it I'll be straight back here to read your review :) So far so good.

Aymless said...

Sarai: I agree. Nothing she's written since the trilogy as been as fabulous as those three, though Dreams Made Flesh was nearly as good. I want Surreal's story.

Orannia: Can't wait to what you thought of it.

orannia said...

I snuck back in and read your review, although I still have about 80 pages to go :)

The struggle of these men to learn Protocol and the old ways is completely lacking as is Cassidy's attempts to teach them.

I want more of that, and considering where I am in the book I don't think I'll be getting it. It's funny, I actually got more about Procotol from Daemon and Saetan...ahhh, Daemon *SIGH* Still one of my favourite characters ever!

And I want more on Surreal too. I really like her...fingers crossed she is on the list! Aymless - did you know there is a sequel to The Shadow Queen? Should be released this time next year. I think (IIRC from the DA review) that it is called Shalador's Lady.

Tracy said...

I skimmed your review as I'm planning on reading this very soon. A B+ is still very good! :)


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