Last month during Thanksgiving weekend, I took about 4 days off from work–shocking, I know–and during that time I decided to re-read Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewels trilogy, but also read some of the additional books that I hadn’t read, because I’d gotten an ARC of The Shadow Queen , it had been years since I’d read the trilogy and I wanted it to be fresh in my mind.

Anne Bishop, and specifically this trilogy, has long been one that I’ve recommended to fans of fantasy and dark fantasy in particular. I find the books, even on the second reading, to be brilliant and captivating, with amazing primary and secondary characters, a rich plot and story and even romance! Score!

First is my actual “TBR” book, it’s the prequel to the trilogy, but released after the trilogy. The Invisible Ring The Invisible Ring takes place centuries before the actual Black Jewels trilogy, and the primary characters don’t show up in the Black Jewels Trilogy (though the antagonist–Dorothea SaDiablo–and the secondary characters are major players in the trilogy). Instead, this prequel gives a fantastic setup for the world itself, helps you get to know both as well as some background that’s especially pertinent for the trilogies conclusion.

The blurb: A prequel set in the “dark and sensual world”( 11th Hour) of the national bestselling Black Jewels Trilogy.

Jared is a Red-Jeweled Warlord bound as a pleasure slave by the Ring of Obedience. After suffering nine years of torment as a slave, he murdered his owner and escaped—only to be caught and sold into slavery once again. The notorious queen who has purchased him, known as the Gray Lady, may not be what she seems. Soon, Jared faces a difficult choice: his freedom, or his honor.

If you haven’t read the Black Jewels trilogy, you could easily start with this book. The story and characters immediately suck you in, and are fully developed and well-written. In fact, as I was reading the trilogy after this book, I found myself wondering about these characters, what had happened to them and their descendants, if they managed to stay “free”. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that I thought of them long after the story was over.

The trilogy:
Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Book 1)

Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her web of dreams and visions. Now the Dark Kingdom readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence-and corruption.

Whoever controls the Queen controls the darkness. Three men-sworn enemies-know this. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love-and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining…

Heir to the Shadows (Black Jewels, Book 2)

In this violently passionate, “darkly fascinating world,”** the Blood rule: a race of witches and warlocks whose power is channeled through magical jewels. Ambitions unfurl in this second novel of The Black Jewels Trilogy, as the realm’s dreams of a liberator have finally been made flesh…

Jaenelle, singled out by prophecy as the living embodiment of magic, is haunted by the cruel battles the Blood have fought over her-for not all of them await her as their Savior. Nothing, however, can deflect her from her destiny-and the day of reckoning looms near. When her memories return. When her magic matures. When she is forced to accept her fate. On that day, the dark Realms will know what it means to be ruled by Witch.

Queen of the Darkness (Black Jewels, Book 3)

Jaenelle Angelline now reigns as Queen-protector of the Shadow Realm. No longer will the corrupt Blood slaughter her people and defile her lands. But where one chapter ends, a final, unseen battle remains to be written, and Jaenelle must unleash the terrible power that is Witch to destroy her enemies once and for all.

Even so, she cannot stand alone. Somewhere, long lost in madness, is Daemon, her promised Consort. Only his unyielding love can complete her Court and secure her reign. Yet, even together, their strength may not be enough to hold back the most malevolent of forces.

I already said it, but I love these three books. I think they’re absolutely fantastic examples of dark fantasy, they have romantic elements, a whole cast of fascinating, well-developed characters, and they’re set in a fully realized world. One thing that should be noted is that the books do have violence. As I discussed in the comments of this blog post, I feel the violence is not gratuitous in any way and is integral towards both the world building and showing the lengths the antagonists will go to, the degradation the men/characters experience, and the disintegration of the world itself.

After I read the books, as I was thinking about them and what I could say in my review, something struck me. It’s something that’s incredibly unique to the books. The books, as you can tell from the above blurbs, feature Jaenelle as central to the story, and she is. But her story is told entirely from other characters’s point of views. Not once do we have her point of view, that I can recall. And yet, the skill of the author is such that her POV isn’t particularly missed. It does create a bit of a distance between her and the reader, but I think that only adds to the skill of the author, because it gives the reader much of the same feelings towards Jaenelle that the characters in the story seem to have. It’s very well done, and as such, helps the reader feel close to and empathy for other characters.

Last, I also read Dreams Made Flesh (which, interestingly enough, was named as a favorite re-read by someone in the Holiday Hell contest). I’m not actually going to review it here, except to say it’s a book of novellas that fill in some gaps in the trilogy, because I think to say more about it would constitute spoilers for those who haven’t read the trilogy. I didn’t love all of the novellas in the book, but I’m glad I read it and I did enjoy at least two of them very much, so I would recommend it to those who’ve read the trilogy (this is definitely not a book you’d want to read out of order).

I took a break after reading these five books back to back, but in the next few weeks I’m planning on reading Tangled Webs (Book 6) and then The Shadow Queen.

In recap, I (still) highly recommend these books by Anne Bishop to all fans of fantasy/dark fantasy. In fact, I don’t think you can go wrong with an Anne Bishop book

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