Pros: Odd and fascinating little murder mystery/haunted house theme!
Cons: Not as emotionally gripping; one thing I don’t understand yet
Rating: 4 out of 5
Anne Bishop’s Tangled Webs: A Black Jewels Novel tosses familiar characters Surreal and Rainier into the dangers of a haunted-house-gone-wrong together with a pack of children. Every time they use Craft one of 30 concealed exits closes, but there’s too much danger afoot for them to be able to go without shields, food, and so on. Before they know it, they’re battling for their lives against the dead, unable to tell what’s illusion and what’s real until it’s too late. Lucivar and Daemon were supposed to get caught in the trap, but for various reasons didn’t. They and Jaenelle need to figure out where Surreal and Rainier have gone, and find a way to get them out of the haunted house alive.
This book had an extremely different feel to it than the rest of the Black Jewels books have had. It reads like the literary equivalent of the ‘special Halloween episode’. That gave it the feel of an interlude episode, and perhaps contributed to the lack of deep emotional connection. That shows how deep and emotional the other books get, because this isn’t exactly light reading. There are children in danger, and Bishop doesn’t spare children from the darkness of her tales.
The room-to-room search, complete with the members of Surreal’s group getting mysteriously separated, provided plenty of thrills, chills, and danger. There’s a man behind it all who wants to take down the SaDiablo family, but he’ll come to regret that.
I have two things in this book that felt insufficiently justified. For one, the man who goes after Daemon, Surreal, and Lucivar, while obviously unstable, didn’t read as completely psychotic before people reached the haunted house. Also, given his low level of power, I had difficulty buying into the idea that he was able to kill two Black Widow witches, among others. He just isn’t that powerful.
Thus, while I did enjoy Tangled Webs, it didn’t pull me in the way all of the previous Black Jewels books have.
Note that there’s also a short story featuring Surreal at the end of the book, called “By the Time the Witchblood Blooms”. It’s a great little interlude that calls back to Surreal’s days as a high-end prostitute and assassin. It’s short but fun.
Of course, the usual rules of battle didn’t apply to a wife, which put him at a distinct disadvantage when it came to dealing with her.