Five months ago, I picked up the first book of the Black Jewels trilogy. It had been a while since I’d been invited into a new fantasy world, and I had simultaneous feelings of excitement and trepidation. A trilogy is a fairly big commitment, even to a voracious reader, and I wondered if it was going to be good, if it was going to capture my attention and make me hunger for the next books in the series. Well, to be honest, it took a while. The first book introduced a world and a society of deep complexity, and after a few chapters in which I struggled to make sense of the interlocking ranks, jewels, states of being and dimensions involved, I put it aside. The next day, I realised that I’d been caught up by the plot, and I wanted to know what happened next.
Three books later, I’m so glad that I persevered after the first few chapters. All the complexity serves to provide a rich background for a simple story – the battle between good and evil. In this case, good is represented by the need to serve the land, and the decent people of the land. Evil is represented by greed and the lust for power.
The power for good is Jaenelle, an immensely powerful Queen. From her beginnings as an unloved and abused ‘difficult’ child, through a dark period as a survivor of a terrible crime, we have seen her grow under the love and protection of powerful men, and the friendship of her peers. She has learned to extend her own power and protection over the Realm of Kaeleer.
Throughout this, the forces ranged against her in her home Realm of Terrieille fail to recognise her power, seeing her as a mere pawn in the hands of the men who are, in fact, pledged to her service. They want a war, a war that will discredit Jaenelle’s new family, and deliver her back into bondage in Terrieille.
Jaenelle understands that such a war will destroy everything that she loves. The challenge arises at a time when she is finally healed of her psychic wounds, reunited with her fated lover, the beloved Daemon, and outwardly happy and settled in her life. The pressure is on for her to use her vast power to destroy her enemies, but she knows that the only way to protect everything that she loves is to make an enormous sacrifice.
I’ve found the Black Jewels trilogy to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. It wasn’t an easy read at first, and in the first few chapters it was tempting to dismiss the characters as stereotypes, and many of the scenes as naked wish fulfillment, but I was drawn in, the ambitiously large cast of characters became real and sympathetic, and in the end I found the story irresistible.