Tangled Webs

by Anne Bishop

Cover image

Series: Black Jewels #5
Publisher: Roc
Copyright: 2008
Printing: March 2009
ISBN: 0-451-46222-X
Format: Mass market
Pages: 339

Buy at Powell's Books

Tangled Webs is an additional story featuring the same main characters as the Black Jewels series (which starts with Daughter of the Blood), but takes place after the short stories in Dreams Made Flesh. It's not one to read out of order.

The unfortunate problem with the Black Jewels series is that, as much as I love the characters and want to see more of them, their story arc reached a rather thorough conclusion with a satisfying aftermath, and Bishop hasn't yet come up with a new significant story. I do like her characters and their interactions, but minor stories in their life without a plot equal to the original series aren't quite enough to hold my attention through a full novel.

Tangled Webs is about, essentially, a Halloween idea thought up by Jaenelle, inspired by a series of horribly inaccurate novels about the Blood. The novelist portrayed the Blood as horror stereotypes, so Jaenelle decided to build a haunted house to make fun of the books and play with the ideas she found amusing. The twist is that the novelist himself is infuriated by his reception by the Blood and is plotting a complicated revenge.

This is okay short-story material, but there just isn't enough plot material here to flesh out a novel. It's heavily padded with extended encounter sequences that don't add much to the plot, a lot of posturing and threatening by characters, and quite a lot of rehashing of the emotional reactions the characters have to each other, except without the motivation of a strong plot. It feels forced and repetitive, and hence uninteresting. Also unfortunately, two of the main viewpoint characters are Surreal and Rainier, and Surreal is a bit one-sided and Rainier is almost entirely uninteresting.

If you loved the original series (as I did), it's still not bad light reading, particularly if you're short on concentration. Jaenelle (and Witch) make a few worthwhile appearances, Marian has a few delightful moments, and Lucivar gets some nice scenes towards the end of the book. But it's a disappointment if one is hoping for something with the strength and significance of the earlier books in the series. I started out not minding it and ended up rather bored of it.

The edition I read includes a Surreal short story as a bonus:

"By the Time the Witchblood Blooms": This is a fairly short Surreal story from her time as an assassin and prostitute. It retells a dinner conversation with a rather obnoxious potential client. It too is a bit slim on material, but the length of the story fits its material. It's straightforward vengeance with no twist other than some foreshadowing, but enjoyable for what it is. (6)

Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed: 2009-11-03

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