Heir to the Shadows

by Anne Bishop

Cover image

Series: Black Jewels #2
Publisher: Roc
Copyright: 1999
Printing: December 2003
ISBN: 0-451-52901-4
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 423

Buy at Powell's Books

The publication information (except for the page count) is for the omnibus edition that includes the complete Black Jewels trilogy. The books do not stand alone; you don't want to read Heir to the Shadows without reading Daughter of the Blood first.

Despite suffering somewhat from being the middle book of a trilogy, Heir to the Shadows is smoother and better-written than Daughter of the Blood. The opening is a bit frustrating, as Bishop starts the retrenching that's so common in the second book of a trilogy, undoing some of the alliances of the first book, building suspicion between the good guys to add more tension, and setting up the plot for a long struggle. Jaenelle is the scene-stealer of this series in part because of her unpredictability, and Bishop is wise enough to not overuse her, but that also makes for some plodding as she stays off-camera while the plot gets set up. Once things start happening, though, I was entranced.

As mentioned in my review of Daughter of the Blood, I have a weakness for a storyline with frightening lows and triumphant highs driven by strong character emotion, and Bishop delivers that quite well here. While she does seem to blunt the lows a bit, never letting them get quite as dark as they could be (something for which I was occasionally grateful), there's sufficient contrast to let me thoroughly enjoy the triumphs. It's not a storytelling style that works for everyone, and it can be a bit ham-handed in its application, but it works for me.

More concrete details of healthy gender roles and behavior for the Blood surface in this volume and reveal that for all the superficial role reversal of Bishop's female-dominated world, feminism this isn't. Early on in this series, I started thinking of the Blood as something human-like but not human (with, I think, some encouragement from the author, particularly given the demon names of the characters), which blunts considerably how much gender role stereotypes bother me, but there's a fair bit of sexism underlying this world. Women may not be stuck in the role of wives and nurturers, but men (particularly powerful men) are always aggressive and territorial, women have a softer and deeper power and are more dangerous when angry, and these gender roles are firmly cast into biology. If I thought the characters were human, this would get annoying pretty quick; as is, the descriptions and world background support and encourage treating them all as some near-human alien race with stricter gender roles than humans would have.

This is the sort of thing that I mostly think about after reading the book; while reading it, I was too busy enjoying the banter, feeling the characters' affection for each other grow, and waiting for Jaenelle to get angry enough and positioned correctly to do something spectacular about a problem. I was most reminded of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books or Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series. (There's more sex than the former but less than the latter, and Bishop mostly keeps sex off-camera.) Both feature a similar plot structure, emotional characters, and an edge of political intrigue that's mostly there to get you angry at the villains. And in another similarity to Lackey, this book introduces the telepathic animals in more depth, albeit with a significantly different spin and a more animal-like treatment.

This series is not going to lead to a deeper understanding of human nature or awe the mind with subtle skill, but this is a fast read, good emotional fodder, and a lot of fun.

Followed by Queen of the Darkness.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-04-04

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21