About two years ago, it occurred to me that I’d been writing a fantasy novel for a long while, and yet I’d somehow forgotten how to read fantasy. Sure, it was there in the back of my mind—a very young Eva devoured sci-fi and fantasy books, while the adult Eva had developed an addiction to urban fantasy vampire novels. Still, I’d ventured somewhat from the roots of the genre.
So, a friend of mine—a gal I often refer to as the Fantasy Queen—shared a few recommendations. I spent that summer reading many good books she’d pointed out, but none of them were as sensational as Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels Trilogy.
Published yearly from 1998 to 2000, the trilogy follows the powerful young Jaenelle Angelline as she learns to wield her magic and eventually rule as Queen. The story travels through three worlds—essentially dimensions—introducing us to characters both living, dead, and in between. Across the levels is a definitive caste system, based on specific jewels that each character holds as his or her birthright power. While there is some ability to increase one’s strength, those born into the darker jewels hold the highest ranking in power and usually in society.
There are some conflicts in the jewel system of course, many of which have led a group of upper-level women to retaliate for the horrors wrought upon young girls of power—but to explain this further would give away far too much. Here’s what you really need to know: the trilogy contains a brilliant storyline rich with masterful themes of greed, love, power, domination, and a general hope to save humanity.
Perhaps the most beloved aspect of the series is the love story between Jaenelle and Daemon and the father-daughter relationship between Jaenelle and Saetan. While the former share a gripping, addictive chemistry, the latter display a charming familial bond; both of these relationships tend to carry you rapidly and enthusiastically through the books. However, for many fans—myself included—the end of the trilogy left several questions about the complexities of Daemon and Jaenelle’s relationship, as well as the entire jeweled family. In response to this, Bishop ended up crafting a more conclusive story that she published in a collection of trilogy-based short stories. It is clear through perusing the many fan blogs and reviews about the story that this last addition delighted most everyone. (I myself read it on vacation, likely driving my friend insane as I stopped every other page to gush about the series, and about how amazing I found Bishop to be in writing it!)
If you’re aching for more thorough summaries, I would recommend those at the Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatales, and Fantasy blog. They devoted the entire month of March to Ms. Bishop, starting with the first book of the series, Daughter of the Blood. You can also find numerous websites focused on the trilogy thanks to a plethora of enamored fans, so a quick Google search will find you most anything you want to know…short of the awesomeness of reading the trilogy, of course. 🙂
After reading the series, I realized that not only was I thrilled to be writing fantasy, I was exhilarated to be writing in a genre with someone as gifted as Anne Bishop. Her talent is extraordinary, and I haven’t found myself so inspired in a while. If you haven’t already checked out The Black Jewels Trilogy, I highly recommend that you do—and I hope that you find the series as truly phenomenal as I did. I’m certain I will read it again myself…if not once, than two or three more times!
Happy reading, everyone!