Book Review: The Shadow Queen, by Anne Bishop

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Theran Grayhaven is the last of his line, desperate to restore the land of Dena Nehele. But first he needs to find a Queen who 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. But when she is chosen to rule Dena Nehele, she must convince bitter men to serve once again.”GoodReads

 
 
Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop is the seventh novel in her Black Jewels Series. It’s one of three books in a standalone, offshoot set of stories, with The Invisible Ring coming before the events in The Black Jewels Trilogy. The Shadow Queen, and it’s sequel Shalador’s Lady, take place after the conclusion of The Black Jewels Trilogy. 
 
*****
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ SPOILERS AHEAD ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~FROM THE TRILOGY~~~~~~~~~~
 
***** 
A little look into the story:
 
Jaenelle Angelline has survived and recovered from releasing her Witch powers against the Dorothea SaDiablo and Heketah, and has cleansed the realms of their taint. Along with Daemon Sadi, they have settled down to live out the remainder of their lives in relative peace. However, when Theran Grayhaven comes along, heir of Jared and Lia, (The Invisible Ring), and the Grayhaven line, Daemon endeavors to help for the sake of Jared’s memory. 
 
Theran Grayhaven has fought against the tainted queens, and after they perished in the Witch Storm released by Jaenelle, he fought against the Landens, (non-Blood). There aren’t enough Warlords to protect the land and people, and there are even fewer Queens able to care for the land and hold the reigns of the dangerous Warlords. Theran sets out for the Shadow Realm to find one of the most dangerous and powerful Warlord Princes to ever live: Daemon Sadi. What is he asking for? 
 
A Queen. 
 
Someone to lead his people back from the brink of destruction, and to bring back the Old Ways of the Blood. A Queen who will inspire cynical and jaded men. The men want to serve, but they’ve seen far too much, and don’t trust easily. 
 
Enter Cassidy. A light-jeweled Queen whose court recently broke to reform with a more visually appealing, and a hair more powerful, Queen. She’s adrift, and doesn’t know what will come next for her. She’s never wanted to rule more than the two villages she’d been in charge of, but when Jaenelle comes along with an offer, she worries she’ll be in over her head. The land and people in it are nearly dead in body, and almost dead of soul. Can she be the Queen they need, despite not being what Theran wants?
 
That is essentially the premise for the book.  I fell in love with the Black Jewels Trilogy in high school, but when I want to re-read books from the series, this one and its sequel are usually the ones I grab. Why? Because despite some of the threats and posturing in the books, it is nowhere near as intense as the trilogy. It’s a lighter read in a series that can have some heavy topics. 
 
As much as I love the books, I also recognize they have their flaws. Which is why I’m giving it a 3.5/5 stars:
3-5-star
So first we’ll cover the pros:
  •  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. 

  

I know the con list seems a touch long, but overall it really is a good series to get into. It doesn’t one hundred percent need to be read in order, but some of the character interactions between the original characters might be confusing. 
 
If you’re looking for something to read in spare moments, when you don’t have the time to get into deep prose and contemplating the universe, this is a good choice. Someone said it’s “wish-fulfillment crack”, and I’m going to have to agree. Think of it as a fairytale where nothing too bad happens to the main characters, the bad guys get their just deserts, and the good guys live happily ever after. 
 
 
“We know how it ends practically before it starts. That’s why stories appeal to us. They give us the clarity and simplicity our real lives lack.” — Anne Bishop, Daughter of the Blood

Author: lotwordsmiths

Hello, there! I'm Toni, and I've been writing and reading primarily fantasy stories most of my life. What really set me on the path to be a writer was my 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Thomas, who told me she could see me as an author some day. I made Legends of the Wordsmiths to share my stories, and hopefully, (someday), the stories of others, too.!

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