Languishing in the Shadow Realm, Lady Cassidy is a Queen without a court. But when she is chosen to rule Dena Nehele, she must convince bitter men to serve once again.” — GoodReads
- The world building in the series has always been spot-on for me, and is the big draw for all the books. The different realms, how they’re connected, the various races, the powers and how they work, and so on. It’s detailed and incorporated into the story very well without bashing you over the head with it. It’s also why side stories work so incredibly well in this series.
- You can emotionally connect with certain situations the characters are in, and certain actions and reactions of the characters. Plenty of people have been in Cassidy’s shoes, where appearance is measured as more important than actions.
- Some of the characters show consistent emotional growth in the story.
Now the cons:
- I’d say the characters’ behaviors are bi-polar, but that’s not really how being bi-polar works. This is especially true of Theran and Cassidy. Theran almost constantly vacillates between outright disrespect of Cassidy, and doing his best to work with her; though that isn’t saying much in some cases. This can happen from one scene to the next, with little prompting as to why he’s feeling particularly dick-ish that day. Cassidy on the other hand hobbles and re-victimizes herself. I’m not saying it isn’t valid in some cases, particularly during an episode with Theran, but at some of the thoughts and dialogue you want to reach through and shake her a bit. Life sucks. Brush off the haters and move on. I think the Black Jewels world needs to invest in training some psychologists.
- All the conflict occurs between this small group of characters. This wouldn’t be too bad, but it never changes, and it does get tiresome after some time. You can only take so much of Cassidy and Theran butting heads. A little outside danger, from some of the mentioned more dangerous territories, might have been just what the story needed to spice things up and set them straight.
- The theme of personality over looks gets somewhat undermined by the relationship between Gray and Cassidy. He doesn’t fall in love with who she is over the way she looks. He notices her physical appearance, and likes it despite others finding her unattractive, before he’s even spoken with her. Yes, the mutual love of gardening follows his descriptions, but when he talks about her sunset hair, or her freckles, or her eyes, it overshadows him loving her for who she is over how she looks.
- The stories involving the SaDiablo family, but have nothing to do with the primary story, come off as fan service. They play no purpose, and don’t really bring anything new to the table for the original characters.
- This is more a personal quirk, but I can’t read Theran Grayhaven without also thinking of Theon Greyjoy.
Things that fall in the middle, and should be considered before buying the book:
- If you’re not a fan of gender essentialism, don’t buy this book, or any in the series. The roles and responsibilities of males and females in this book are rigid, and unchanging. The men are the protectors, and will even remain in abusive situations with Queens they ‘click’ with, because they have a biological drive to serve a Queen. The women are the rulers, but are weak and vulnerable during certain times, such as their ‘moontime’ (menstruation) and pregnancy. Men go into ruts, where they aggressively pursue a female for around three days and have marathon sex. The one inverse in the world is the premise for the trilogy, in that women have more potential to become abusers, simply because the way power is distributed. Queens rule all, and all obey the Queens.
- In The Shadow Queen there is a character, Grey, who was tortured as a teen by some Queens. One of the complaints I read in the comment section was there was a bad portrayal of Gray’s PTSD . This makes no sense to me, since all the instances of Gray’s PTSD pull from classic PTSD symptoms. We also need to keep in mind that people experience the same disorders differently.
- Yes, the side stories serve no purpose, whatsoever, but the original cast of characters do have legitimate reasons for being in the book. The author just needed to confine their role to the primary storyline.