I’m reading Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels Trilogy at the moment – and it’s been a little while since I’ve read fantasy quite as evocative and powerful (the last time I read straight fantasy like this was when I read the A Song of Ice and Fire series). The characters are truly interesting, the mythology and world she weaves around them horrible but fascinating, and there is this feminist undercurrent. I don’t know if the author is aiming for that. Maybe it’s my own perspective mirroring back at me.
Everyone reading a book gets a different experience: for me much of the brutality in the book stems from who is in power, why they are in power, and their intentions. Either way, in the books – whether it is women in power or men in power (and the fact that they all seem to enjoy sadism, violence and cruelty) – it seems unbalanced, and makes me think about who has power now in our different societies. A mix is the ideal – preferably an equal mix but in government often men outnumber women. Yet I think the point of the way she has portrayed both men and women in her books shows how power can be a corrupting influence, how different perspectives and world-views skew the balance of power.
Either way, this trilogy is making me think. All great fantasy often has characters who are ambivalent, who have flaws but are forced to choose whether they do the right thing or spiral down into darkness. Anne Bishop’s world building is incredible – I’m only on the second book so far but it flips the idea of Earth (called Terreille) and Hell and creates a lot of ambivalent, interesting moral dilemmas and flips. It’s a completely absorbing world, but also quite a triggering one (this book should come with a trigger warning for abuse and sexual violence). Her treatment of such abuse and violence is far better and sympathetic than some books I’ve read. I’m still reserving judgement, as I haven’t read the middle of the second book yet, but so far I’m hoping for a happy ending (as much of a happy ending you can get in such a dystopian world).
‘We are what we are. Nothing more, nothing less. There is good and evil among every kind of people.’ – Anne Bishop, Daughter of the Blood.