I’ve raved about Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels in several other entries already, so it should be no surprise that one of the books has finally made it into a Book of the Week entry.

Shadow Queen is the fifth (or sixth, if you count The Invisible Ring) book in the series, and is the first full-length novel to not follow Daemon, Lucivar, and Jaenelle. Oh, they’re still there, but as side characters, not the main protagonists. And, as much as I love them, I think Bishop made a good move taking them out of the spotlight for a few books – it prevents them from becoming stale and gives new depth to the world she’s created.

The main character is a relatively weak Queen named Cassidy who goes to rule a nation that has been ripped apart by years of civil war and devastated by the magical purge that swept through all the Realms in one of the earlier books. As she tries to put the land back together, she has to prove that, while her magic isn’t the strongest, she’s got the courage and the heart to rule.

Several things need to be said about this book:

First, in order to get the full impact of the world, you need to read the books that came before. Seriously, even with the amount of back story that Bishop puts in the book, it will be really hard to follow (and be hardly as much fun) if you just jump into the series here.

Second, this is nowhere near as dark as the original trilogy of books, or even Dreams Made Flesh, so if you already love Anne Bishop and the Black Jewels world, but haven’t gotten to this one yet, you can expect a much lighter story – something I quite enjoy, but other fans find annoying.

And third, what I love most about this book is the interaction between humans and the Kindred (magically gifted animals). The other books introduced them, but the Kindred have a much more prominent role in this story and its direct sequel, Shalador’s Lady. Also, Cassidy is a rather unique heroine – neither pretty nor magically powerful, she’s determined and kind. She’s not even particularly sarcastic (which is usually a required trait for non-pretty characters), but rather is sincere and honest. It’s a nice mix, honestly – quite refreshing.

Anyways, as always, I highly recommend this series to all Fantasy lovers (beware of dark content in the early books though). Shadow Queen is a solid and enjoyable addition to one of my favorite worlds and is, in my humble opinion, actually a better re-read than some of its darker predecessors.

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