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Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
Not recommended
Read Melusine by Sarah Monette instead.

From the cover copy: Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her dazzling web of dreams and visions. Now the Dark Realm readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence -- and corruption.

Whoever controls the Queen controls the Darkness. Three men -- sworn enemies -- know that. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love...and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining.

This book is dark fanfiction for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading actual fanfiction. Which is a pity, because there's a lot of it out there, and some of it is considerably better than this book.

I will agree with those who said that this was a dramatic narrative of intrigue and sensuality. This is true. It was more dramatic than I liked, in fact. And while the story was certainly sensual, it wasn't particularly graphic; that is, if this were a fanfiction, I would expect to see it rated R, as opposed to NC-17. One of the things that I didn't like about this book was that the erotic scenes were generally gratuitous, doing nothing to further the story, and having very little emotional impact.

There is nothing egregiously wrong with Bishop's writing. If you have never read any other dark fantasy, this might be a good place to start. Of course, a better place to start is with Anne Borchardt's Night of the Wolf, or Sarah Monette's Melusine.

Part of what I disliked about this book was the language used to describe sexual acts and abuse. The romance cliche of using vague metaphor -- 'his throbbing member' -- is glaringly evident in every erotic scene. Of course, the book probably wouldn't have made it to print if every use of 'speared' was replaced with the more accurate f-word. There were a lot of those instances.

Another thing that I disliked about this book was that it felt like a Forgotten Realms spin-off about the Drow society. Or a fantasy novel ala Star Trek Mirror-Universe. No one has any level of compassion for anyone else -- they have a certain loyalty, but only because loyalty is mutually beneficial in the long run. The only reason any of the characters have to sympathize with another, is so that they can use each other in their personal intrigues. Women keep their men as little more than slaves, provided that they are powerful enough to keep their men subjugated. I was so convinced that this was a Drow society, that I kept envisioning the characters as dark elves. (Which made every mention of Jaenelle's golden hair and fair skin an interestingly disorienting experience). This was, however, another personal frame-of-reference objection.

Recommended only to those readers who have an interest in dark fantasy, and an affinity for extremely high levels of drama.

For more specific negative reviews, including a much more caustic view of Daemon's relationship with Jaenelle, go here: http://fantasywithbite.livejournal.com/198386.html
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July 2011

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