Sunday, March 21, 2010
Over ten years ago Anne Bishop's first entry in the Black Jewels trilogy was released and many readers were captivated by her rich fantasy that cast Saetan, the High Lord of Hell, as a heroic character. But time has mellowed Bishop's characters and Shalador's Lady, the eighth book in Bishop's Black Jewels series, reads more like a Harlequin Romance than a dark fantasy. The Black Jewels series is based on a unique mythology that uses familiar names from The Bible-- though they are given their own twist for this particular fantasy. The original series followed the story of Saetan, his sons Daemon and Lucivar, and Jaenelle-- the most powerful Queen to ever live-- also known as Witch. The society is caste based and much of the hierarchy is drawn from the jewels each witch or warlord wears in addition to their birth rank. The original trilogy was a dark, Gothic fantasy that could be both violent and romantic. But once the story reached its climax, it also lost most of its tension. "Shalador's Lady," the eighth book in the series, is the second book the follow the story of Lady Cassidy; a light jeweled Queen who has been chosen to rule the land of Dena Nehele. Cassidy has never been a powerful Queen and suffered the abandonment of her first court due to the machinations of a younger, darker jeweled Queen. And though she has settled into a new life in Dena Nehele, she doesn't have the full support of Theran Greyhaven, the heir to the territory she currently rules. And when a former rival shows up unexpectedly, Cassidy is sure she will be abandoned by her court once again. There isn't a lot of real excitement or drama to "Shalador's Lady." It's a sweet book with likable characters, but it's like a "light" version of the original series. Many of the same characters are brought back, including Saetan, Daemon and Jaenelle, but you get the feeling that they're really there for nostalgia's sake. In fact, the whole book seems to have been written for the fans, and perhaps the author, who are loathe to leave the world Bishop created. Most of the book is taken up with a series of minor misunderstandings and manufactured drama just so we can see Cassidy finally have her happy ending. It's fun to revisit old characters, but I miss the bite of the earlier books.