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WesternSFA


The Queen's Weapons
The Black Jewels #11
by Anne Bishop
Ace, $28.00, 530pp
Published: March 2021

Ms. Bishop has been writing stories in her Black Jewels or Realm of the Blood universe for twelve books starting in 1998 and, for the most part, they have been totally excellent.  It is a remarkable world and society and I love spending time there.  In this world, people are divided into two particular types:  ordinary humans and the Blood.  The Blood are those born with certain powers.  At a young age, each Blood's power is defined by their "birthright jewel", and when they attain their maturity, their power can be increased.  In addition to the levels of power, some are born with other talents such as healing or precognition.  Most of the stories have a very dark storyline, often dealing with how young Blood are 'broken,' losing their powers and, often, their very minds.  While such a crime is possible against males, Ms. Bishop particularly targets young female witches; raped both in body and mind.  So if this is a particularly distasteful subject, I might gently suggest this series isn't for that reader.

Most of the primary protagonists throughout the series are very long-lived…on the order of millennium.  Ordinary humans do not factor into these stories; they are simply part of the landscape.  This book and the one directly preceding it, "The Queen's Bargain" are a new story arc and the next generation.  In "The Queen's Bargain," Daemon is now the High Lord of Hell, newly married to Surreal and father to Janelle Saetien.  His Queen and beloved wife, Janelle Angelline is gone…but not gone.  It's a standalone story but does introduce key characters who grow more in "The Queen's Weapons."  The main character in "…Weapons" is Daemon's and Surreal's daughter, Janelle Saetien; named for the long-gone but never forgotten Witch. Janelle is now an adolescent with all that entails; angst, drama and high emotions….along with really, really bad choices.  She persuades her Papa and Mother to allow her to attend an elite school along with her childhood friends, Titian, daughter of Daemon's brother Lucivar, and a young Queen, Zoey.  But her desperate attempt to distance herself from the memory of the other Janelle who seems to always overshadow her causes her to fall under the influence of some very twisted witches.  The sort of twisted witches that Daemon and Lucivar know so very well from their own tortured youth; the sort of witches that gain the immediate attention of the High Lord and the Lord of Ebon Ri'h.  The sort of twisted witches so full of their own arrogance and power that they fail to heed the lessons history should have taught them and cause them to grossly underestimate the power of the two most dangerous men in the Realm; Janelle's father and uncle.

In some way, the plot felt like Ms. Bishop beating a dead horse; taking us back to the original story written back in 1998.  She is unapologetic in taking us into the same story line but it did make this reader wonder if there is anything new to be mined from this universe.  But even with that in my mind, I did enjoy the ride.  Ms. Bishop always manages to shock me and make me want to ask more questions.  She does a superlative job of characterizing people who are, most definitely, not human.  This is not a skill that many writers have; aliens tend to be very much like humans - just in costume.  But her characters exhibit unusual attitudes and reactions and I really appreciate that.  Probably the single most influential force in the story is the fact these people live for thousands of years and adolescence takes hundreds of years.  The fact that Janelle behaves like a fifteen-year-old having lived for hundreds of years gave me much cause for thought: what does a child do all that time and still remain a child?  In a world with little technology and no societal evolution, how many years does it take to absorb all the information that is?  In addition, since the most powerful people in the Realm had been around for most of recent history; and since everyone has so much time on their hands; I just couldn't figure out why who and what they were had been largely forgotten.  And how was it that the youngsters had no idea of their own history?  I had a lot of trouble with this concept.  And I realized, as I read this story, that Ms. Bishop had not been so blatant with the concept that so much time passed within her earlier stories.  Their lives seemed more humanlike and relatable. While I relished the violence and emotions of this story, that one concept disturbed the flow the story for me. 

I do hope there are more - and original - storylines to come; I still love this universe. ~~ Catherine Book

For more titles by Anne Bishop click here

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