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Queen of the Darkness
Anne Bishop
Roc Books, 430 pages

Queen of the Darkness
Anne Bishop
Anne Bishop lives in upstate New York where she enjoys gardening, storytelling, and music. She is the author of the Black Jewels Trilogy (Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of the Darkness), The Invisible Ring, The Pillars of the World, and Shadows and Light.

Anne Bishop Website
ISFDB Bibliography
Interview with Anne Bishop
SF Site Review: Heir to the Shadows

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Anne Bishop's strikingly original Black Jewels trilogy concludes in this final volume.

The series is set in a world of interlinked Realms ruled by the Blood, a race of witches and warlocks whose power is channelled through magical Jewels (the darker the Jewel, the greater the power). Over time, much of the Blood has become corrupt, and the delicate mesh of tradition and loyalty meant to maintain stability among these powerful and often violent people has become fatally distorted. Into this period of decline is born a Blood female, Jaenelle. Jaenelle is not simply a witch, but Witch: the embodiment of all the Realms' dreams of power, the Queen of the Darkness who will lead the Blood back to the purity of the old ways.

But there are those who fear the coming of Witch, and Jaenelle has many enemies, at whose hands she has suffered rape and worse, in an attempt to rob her of her birthright. Despite these terrible trials, she has survived to come fully into her power. She now rules as Queen of Ebon Askavi, protector of the Shadow Realm of Khaleer, protected in turn by her loyal Court of human and non-human Blood and by her loving adopted family, to whose devotion she owes both her life and her sanity. Her world can't be complete, though, until she's joined by her promised Consort: Daemon, the great love of her life, who for eight years has been lost to madness in the mistaken belief that it was he who raped her.

Now Daemon, understanding the truth at last, has broken free of the insanity that claimed him. He and Jaenelle are reunited, and slowly, hesitantly, their love is fulfilled. But one of Jaenelle's enemies still hunts her: Dorothea, a powerful and sadistic Queen determined to rule all the Realms. Reluctantly, Jaenelle realizes she must fight -- not just against Dorothea, but against the corruption that has infected so much of the Blood, and threatens the stability of all the Realms. There is only one way to do it: she must unleash the full power of Witch. She knows that in the storm that follows, all the Blood in the world will die -- unless she makes a much greater sacrifice.

Queen of the Darkness doesn't, as many concluding books do, suffer from any sense of staleness or formula: it's as engaging, as strongly characterized, and as fully-conceived as its predecessors. While all the books in the series are dark, featuring intense elements of torture and sexual perversity, Queen of the Darkness is by far the most somber of the three. There are light moments to break the tension, and a strong theme of romance, alternately tender and fierce, as Jaenelle and Daemon overcome their personal hurts and differences to become the lovers they were meant to be. Overall, however, the atmosphere is one of impending tragedy. The question is not if sacrifices will be required, or whether they will be terrible, but which sacrifices will be chosen and how deeply those who make them will be damaged. (That's not to say that the book is heavy or difficult reading: not at all. Even at its darkest, it's never less than thoroughly entertaining.)

This theme is followed through to the bittersweet, ambiguous ending, which departs from the basic romance template (and there are many elements of genre romance in this series) in that it's not an unequivocal happy-ever-after scenario. Bishop has made a courageous choice here, following the demands of her story rather than bowing to convention and manufacturing a cheery finish that would have fitted very poorly with the rest of this powerful tale. As it stands, it's a perfect -- and very moving -- conclusion.

Queen of the Darkness isn't a stand-alone novel; as in the second volume of the series, Bishop makes almost no concession to backstory. To be fully appreciated, this fine trilogy must be read from the beginning. It's well worth the time.

Copyright © 2000 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

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