Monday, September 14, 2009

Exploring the Darkness to Find Mediocrity: Review of Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Triology

Just recently I picked up Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy. I finished Daughter of the Blood within a week, and found myself desperately ordering Heir to the Shadows because the former ended on a cliffhanger. All the while, I thought to myself this series isn't that great, Bishop isn't a very good writer, so why am I stuck on reading these books? What is so addicting about these stories involving the "Darkness" and "Witch?"

After I finished the first book, I was uncertain as to whether or not I liked it. I picked up the second because I hate cliffhangers and wanted to give the series a fair shot. I've officially decided I don't like the series, yet I ordered the third book, Queen of the Darkness. People have asked me, "How can you say you didn't like the series when you read all of it?" I've boiled it down to three things: I hate not knowing how things end, I hate cliffhangers, and I'm a sucker for an fantasy epic type romance.

To give a little background info for those unfamiliar with the series. These books are about a sort of Amazonian/matriarchal kingdom that has been twisted. A girl named Janelle is the prophesied savior of the kingdom, she is Witch--encompassing all the powers of the "Darkness" (the magical force of world). She meets with three men, Saetan, Luciver, and Daemon, influences all their lives. They all swear to protect and serve her. All the while there are multiple evil forces in the supernatural and the physical world all trying to take control of Janelle and thus gain power of the world.

I find this book series has a lot in common with another book series, I didn't like but plowed through quickly as well: The "Study" Series by Maria V. Snyder. I think Anne Bishop has a lot of the same issues as Snyder. Her main character is a Mary-Sue; she's perfect. Janelle is a prophesied messiah witch. She's beautiful, kind, compassionate, strong, powerful, and everyone loves her on sight. Her only flaw: she's measely at basic magic. Hmmm...sounds a lot like the supernatural equivalent of the physical clumsiness Yelena suffered from. While Yelena mastered super fighting skills in two days, Janelle masters advanced magic in a day.

The secondary protagonists (Luciver, Saetan, Daemon) are all pretty predictable. The over protective brother; the gentle understanding father; the passionate loyal lover. Yes they are all demons and all have personal issues, nevertheless FLAT. We're starting to get into Twilight territory here... However, I think Bishop's writing skill far exceeds Meyer's. Okay back on topic!

I think one of my largest problems with the series is that I had no real understanding of the world created. Most fantasy novels seem to take place in a medieval-esque period. Kaeleer, Tereille and the other locations seemed to want to be set in a Medival world with kings, queens, nobility and such. People travel in carriages and by horseback. However, I just could not get over how modern everything sounded; the characters wore button up "suits" smoked cigarettes; one of the characters had spikey, short blonde hair and wore spikey boots; and those "dark blue trousers" Janelle and many other characters wore seemed a cover for blue jeans. Furthermore, I still don't understand the magical and hierarchy system. It's really complex, and Bishop just throws you in the world with only a short list of the jewel colors and the different Blood (magical people) ranks. I don't understand the magical travel systems of webs and winds. The books just resound with modern influence. It suggests to me that Bishop doesn't have a clear idea of the world she created.

Bishop's books hold an interesting premise. She knows how to appeal to the emotions and get you invested in the characters, even though their personalities and actions are predictable. She does believe in writing strong, female characters. She throws in a major cliffhanger at the end of book one and finally states an official romance that has been brewing between Janelle and Daemon. However, her story drags like a twenty pound sack of flour. It takes forever to get to the action. You have to slog through more than half the book over 200 pages of exposition before you get to the action. I have to say my venture into her realm of "Darkness" was really "meh." I'm not impressed with Bishop's writing. I'll probably be finished with her after reading the third book in the trilogy. I have to know what happens otherwise it's going to bug me forever, especially now that there's a romance involved.

1 comment:

  1. Really well written review, Lan!

    I understand exactly what you mean about reading a series you don't like just to get to the end of it -- I was the same way with Twilight. "All the better to hate you with, my dear."

    I read the first book of Maria Snyder's series and was likewise unimpressed, so if this series reminds you of that's pretty safe to say I'll steer away! ;)