Pros: Interesting interactions between castes; lovely story
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Anne Bishop’s The Shadow Queen: A Black Jewels Novel occurs some years after the events of The Invisible Ring. It would help to have that background, but I think as long as you have a basic familiarity with the world from any of the Black Jewels books you’ll be able to keep up. I like that many of the books that came after the original trilogy each seem to pick a different part of the world to explore rather than providing a strict, book-by-book track to follow.
In this volume, now that the tainted Queens are dead, the heir to Dena Nehele–Theran Grayhaven–wants to find a new Queen. He wants to restore the old Protocol, and rebuild the court. Jaenelle sends him Cassidy. Cassidy isn’t pretty and isn’t powerful, so she’s had trouble keeping any kind of court. Unfortunately for Cassidy, most of the men at Grayhaven still don’t trust Queens. Cassidy is doing her best to assemble her court, but it doesn’t help that Theran is angry at getting a ‘lesser’ Queen and sees her as a burden. Theran’s cousin, Gray, on the other hand, sees something worth caring for in Cassidy. He’d been damaged–emotionally and physically–by the last Queen, but around Cassidy he starts to pull himself together. The two of them have a love of gardening in common, and neither is put off by the other’s supposed shortcomings. Keeping a hold of the other Warlord Princes, however, may break Cassidy’s resolve to stay.
I love Cassidy as a character. It’s nice to have a protagonist to identify with who isn’t stunningly beautiful, perfectly proportioned, and capable of making everyone melt at her feet. Those stories have their places, but this is nice too. I very much disliked Theran, so I was glad Ms. Bishop didn’t try to match him with Cassidy romantically as I had at first feared she might (I should have trusted Ms. Bishop, who understands character chemistry quite well). It’s fascinating to watch Cassidy interject Protocol and the old ways when most of the people around her don’t even know if they can trust her. They’ve lived under the tainted Queens’ rule long enough that it’ll take a lot to convince them that Cassidy is genuine.
I can’t say a lot more about the plot–it’s a relatively simple plot, but there’s so much interesting character development and interaction that I never felt as though the book were missing something.
We do occasionally see glimpses of Jaenelle, Daemon, Lucivar, and Saetan around the edges–they’re having difficulties of their own.
The Shadow Queen is lovely, frustrating (in a good way), sweet, and fascinating. Gray and Cassidy seem perfect for each other even though both need room to grow first. I’m really enjoying catching up on Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series!