I have been waiting for this moment for months: the moment The Queen’s Weapons was released. As soon as I signed off of work tonight, I immediately began plotting (heh) my review. I had the distinct honor and pleasure of receiving this ARC (thank you, Netgalley and Ace!), and it gave me the kick in the ass I needed to finish and review book one, The Queen’s Bargain. And now, Weapons is has come out and I can finally publish a review.
As with all Anne Bishop books, and most particularly Black Jewels, note that there are trigger warnings of graphic sexual scenes, violence, and references to rape and animal abuse.
From the Publisher:
Enter the dark and sensual realms of the Black Jewels, a world where power always has a price, in this sweeping story in the New York Times bestselling fantasy saga.
They are Warlord Princes, men born to serve and protect. They are the Queen’s Weapons, men born to destroy the Queen’s enemies–no matter what face that enemy wears.
Daemonar Yaslana knows how to be bossy yet supportive–traits he shares with his father, the Demon Prince, and his uncle, the High Lord of Hell. Within his generation of the family, he assumes the role of protector, supporting his sister Titian’s artistic efforts and curbing his cousin Jaenelle Saetien’s more adventurous ideas. But when a young Eyrien Queen, someone Titian thought was a friend, inflicts an emotional wound, Daemonar’s counterattack brings him under the tutelage of Witch, the Queen whose continued existence is known only to a select few.
As Daemonar is confronted by troubling changes within and around the family, he sees warnings that a taint in the Blood might be reappearing. Daemonar, along with his father and uncle, must uncover the source of a familiar evil–and Daemon Sadi, the High Lord of Hell, may be forced into making a terrible choice.
What I Loved:
- Daemonar. I am a sucker for Lucivar’s oldest son. He is the best of Lucivar and Daemon combined, with a dash of Saetan mixed in. Daemonar is the equivalent of what I feel is probably the equivalent of 17 to 20ish, but he is a great balance of young man and sweet boy. Also, his relationship with “Auntie J” and then also as a Warlord Prince to his Queen is so wonderful to see. I love that Bishop brought back the Triangle, even if I still miss Saetan. Some of my favorite scenes are Lucivar and Daemon both guiding Daemonar in the ways of being a Warlord Prince, while also deciding how he “fits” in the Triangle.
- Zoey and Titian. It’s about time this series has some more overtly gay characters. The Black Jewels books are very strongly character driven, and Zoey and Titian bring an adorably sweet element that is sometimes missing in this fairly dark fantasy world. Zoey sending reports to Daemon is literally the best thing ever, fight me. I also loved watching Zoey’s budding court as she develops into a young Queen. Titian featured well in the Queen’s Bargain, but here, she had a chance to shine. Titian and Zoey serve as the moral compass for young Witches, and set the stage for the next book better than any of the other characters do (that’s the end of my spoilers… all I can say is YAY!)
- The Premise of “History Repeating Itself.” I know this is a less popular opinion. A lot of other reviewers noted that it feels ingenuine that Witch cleansed the realm of taint only three ish generations ago. However, in this realm that is hundreds of years. I liked how Bishop showed fetishist “memorabilia” collecting from the evil times – it reminded me of people who collect Nazi memorabilia and reminisce about Nazi Germany. Evil will always idolize evil, and the weak will always be led astray.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
- The Pacing. Call me old fashioned, but the giant decades jumps in time drove me crazy. The beginning of Queen’s Weapons was slow, and was very much a reintroduction of the characters. The second half, which takes places decades/centuries later, felt like a mad dash by contrast. While I understand that all of the remaining characters in the book are long-lived (as compared to the original Black Jewels trilogy, when Jaenelle and most of her friends were short lived), but it was frustrating seeing these adolescents remain in adolescence for as long as they did. It makes me grateful we met Lucivar and Daemon when they were essentially in their 20s.
- Jaenelle Saetien. The little witch (and not in a good way!) has become more insufferable in this installation, with deadly consequences. While I can sympathize with feeling like you are in standing in someone’s shadow, her behavior is frankly inexcusable. I really can’t fathom this being two of my favorite characters’ daughter. It was also unfair that she never really got to meet her namesake Witch during her formative years, when she could have potentially been a better person/witch.
- The “Youngness” of it all. Honestly, the fact that the taint in Kaeleer is all from bored and evil teenagers, Mean Girls on steroids, makes Queen’s Weapons feel like a tamer installation than anything prior in the Black Jewels world. The teens are certainly evil, and they resemble everything wrong with the world before Witch cleansed everything, but I never felt like they were as much of a threat as the adults and systematic taint from the prior books. In one way, I liked it – I am a sucker for a good coming of age tale, and this is just that for Daemonar, Titian, Zoey, and Jaenelle Saetien. However, it isn’t quite what I search for in a Black Jewels book.
The Queen’s Weapons is in one of my favorite and original dark fantasy series. The Black Jewels world will always have a special place in my heart. With that said, this one was a little light for me. Much of what I loved in here was more nostalgic and less new. However, if you are a Black Jewels reader, you will love this because it is like coming home – if your home was filled with deliciously dark witches and Warlord Princes, talking dogs, and a tinge of violence and sex in the air. 3.5 waves out of 5! Get your copy today at Bookshop (on sale!)
For those of you who have not read the Black Jewels series, I highly recommend reading the first Black Jewels book, Daughter of the Blood. (or only $2.99 on the Kindle!!) Give it a look, and if you want to skip the formalities, buy the original trilogy as one volume here (saves money and time!)