For some, it’s the moment you walk out of customs in a foreign airport. For others, it’s the studio signature music that heralds the start of a film. For me, it’s the slow turn of the page, the march of black marks on white paper that become a new world of experience and thrills.
I was looking forward to Daughter of the Blood, the first of a dark fantasy trilogy. It’s been a while since I enjoyed a new world, new characters, and I expected to like this book.
I admit that within just a few pages, I was tempted to turn my back and leave. Anne Bishop has built a world filled with magic, power and beauty, but so many of the early scenes portrayed the cruelty of power, and the privilege of perfection, that I felt repelled. There was, additionally, a lot to take in. Three worlds, between which some travel is possible, by some people. Two classes, the landen and the Blood. Many levels of magical ability – measured and displayed by the colours of the jewels worn by the Blood. Four levels of existence – the living, the Demon Dead, the Guardians, and the ghosts. The mad and the sane. Above all, two sexes of the Blood, engaged in a power battle that stands in the way of love, and poisons sex.
I left the book on the table, and decided to get back to it the next day.
Overnight, something happened. The characters had their hooks in my brain, and I found myself eager to get to grips with the story. By the mid point of the book, I was in the state that a reader loves – I resented every moment that wasn’t spent in the company of the Demon Dead, Witches, and Princes of the richly woven, connected worlds of Terreille, Hell and Kaeleer.
The characters are, in the main, stereotypical, but this is a work of dark fantasy, and in a strange world, of strange powers, it’s a relief to have familiar figures to guide us through the story. It’s a fast moving book set in a complicated world, and it took me a few chapters to get to grips with the workings of magic and power, and the relationships between the main players. I’m glad I made the effort, and trusted the author, because this is a good story, well told.
This is a book about magic, hope, strength, patience and love. It is also a book about blood, torture, murder, child abuse and rape. Because of that, it isn’t an easy book, but for me, it became a compelling read, and I look forward to the sequel, ‘Heir to the Shadows’.
Originally published in the US in 1998, and now published in the UK. ‘Daughter of the Blood’ is the first book in the Black Jewels trilogy. Available now as ebook from Jo Fletcher Books, the paperback edition is released on 6th March 2014.