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books: the queen's bargain by anne bishop

Just finished Th Queen's Bargain by Anne Bishop, the latest installment of the Black Jewels series.

Okay, so.

So you know how in canon, if one half of your OTP gets with another character, even if you previously really liked that character, you sort of hate them, too, and you're conflicted as shit? And then you try to be fair and write fanfic about Member of OTP/Other Person to power through the conflict and as it turns out, your id gives no shits about fair but you don't realize that until you're in too deep but it's so satisfying you just can't stop and then you're writing your OTP again, the other character isn't recognizable even to you, and you just don't care, fuck canon.

Welcome to The Queen's Bargain.

Foreword

As a fanfic writer, it's my god-given right to write anything I fucking want when canon crosses me and I have feelings about it. I will malign whoever the hell they use to split up my OTP and enjoy it; granted, I usually don't do it (once in a while, one may become addicted to heroin, fine, it happens) but I will defend to the death that when we're working through feelings, nothing is sacred. The nuclear option of outright character assassination for the purposes of emotional processing and healing is not only our right, but our obligation to our fellow fans to aid their processing and help them heal.

That said.

When you're the original author of the canon who created both pairings, it does seem a little--mean? cruel? WTF?--to fuck with that Other Person when you're the one that killed off half the OTP and paired up the other half with that Other Person of your own free will. Bishop, no one held a gun to your head to make you kill Jaenelle and pair up Daemon and Surreal; you made this happen, with a happy ever after, even.

I'm not saying you can't do that, but it does beg the question of why?

Oh God, Surreal

No, Surreal does not fare well here. On the other hand, I do feel better about the 'hooked on heroin' incident when I was having feelings.

The part that kills me is Surreal's characterization is still consistent and fine in every way except her entire relationship with Daemon. Then she just--acts nothing like Surreal. Like, if the story had ended with it turning out Surreal is under a Black Widow's spell, that would have at least begun to make some sense.

Here is the gist of the relationship conflict: wait for it.

Daemon is too fucking sexy now that he's finally reached his prime; he's wafting sex all the time, and it's driving Surreal insane. She's afraid she's becoming a junkie for Daemon's cock and the endless series of mind-blowing orgasms involving edge play and some fairly mild D/s. She's turned on all the time, miserably masturbates to very poor orgasms every so often to avoid the horror of an amazing orgasm the likes of which even gods envy with the hottest man ever born who is her husband, and just is so very pissed how this is her life.

Wait. There's more.

Surreal is so upset wanting to have all that incredibly incendiary sex that's all incredible orgasms all the time--I can't believe this sentence now exists, Jesus--that she gets super angry, accuses Daemon of deliberately fucking with her head for funtimes, and Daemon tries to--restrain his sexiness?--and this, as it turns out, is super bad. Doing this, in fact, is enough to drive him literally insane and also cause damage to his internal organs (heart and lungs were named, in case you were curious about the least likely organs to be affected by being sexy) and Witch has to come back to fix him but for reasons, now his personality is going to change and he's going to be less in control of the Sadist and his temper and his sexiness for the rest of his life and will need to have safe words--yep, safe words--with everyone so they can tell him if he's becoming crazy and too sexy so he can go isolate himself.

This is Surreal's fault, by the way; if she hadn't been scared of Daemon's sexiness and also if she had made some seriously unlikely intuitive leaps about was happening and the consequences (like it was killing him to be less sexy and making him crazy and then he'd destroy the entire world, which apparently should have been super obvious and not completely wtf out of the goddamn blue) and if she had used different words when she told him what the problem was (no, really) with a different tone (no, really), Witch wouldn't have had to come back-ish. Everyone agrees Surreal is totes overreacting and should just stop feeling her feelings because they're obviously wrong--Lucivar, Marian, Chaosti (who is dead but comes in to give his opinion on the subject), Tersa, and finally, Jaenelle herself who, though dead, comes to explain how she (Surreal) totally fucked up and now she (Jaenelle) has to fix it. (I can't remember if Karla gave an opinion on Surreal's wrongness, but I'll read for that.)

Take a moment here to absorb that. Got it? Okay.

So, because Surreal caused Daemon to almost go crazy, she's now effectively secondary partner in the equivalent of--I think technically consensual semi-spiritual multi-planar polygamy? For Daemon to remain sane (yes, you read that right), he needs Witch, his (dead) first wife, who is (sort of?) back in magical ghost form and now the primary partner. She isn't providing any sex (being dead and not on this plane of existence) but is going to get pretty much all of the emotional intimacy because she's the only one that truly understands him and with whom he can be his true self.

Surreal gets the sex (but she has to explicitly ask for it and Daemon will dutifully do it but won't really let her know if he wants to do it, wants her, or even likes it), still lives with him (except a few days a month where Daemon will go live in the Keep in his primary (dead) partner's bedroom and bed to commune with her or some shit), and while Surreal is wife and partner,that's only because his primary is--again--dead and on another fucking plane. And as literally everyone tells her, it's all her fault, so deal or divorce. For reasons I literally do not understand, she goes along with it.

Yes, that happened. Per Captain Awkward, Surreal has been polyfuckeried.

Lucivar also needs desperately to explicitly tell Surreal that while he loves her and everything, she's just not as important as Daemon and Daemon's feelings and whose side he'll be on if anything goes wrong. Are such feelings normal and natural? Yes, Daemon's his brother. Is there any earthly reason to tell Surreal that because she and Daemon are having problems with their marriage that she doesn't want to talk about? I mean, other than to make her feel even more vulnerable and isolated and tell her that she's only conditionally family and it can be taken away if Daemon stops liking her so don't make Daemon sad? With the awareness that if she ever want to leave Daemon, she'd have to lose her daughter, not because she did anything wrong, but because Daemon is more powerful than she is and can do whatever the fuck he wants and that's okay? Kind of like what he did when she got pregnant?

Everyone is such a dick to her, God.

Jaenelle Satien Didn't Escape This Shit, Either

In case you were wondering if anything survived from The High Lord's Daughter: nope.

For reasons--I literally don't know why Bishop did this--Jaenelle Satien is now a brat and no longer has animal friends despite all the hints this was a plotline that might go somewhere. Even Scelties stop liking her, and she causes one to be traumatized (god, Bishop, why????). This does not in any way advance the plot, by the way; Bishop just wanted to burn down everything good, cute, or sweet from The High Lord's Daughter piece by piece and salt the earth while she was at it, leaving nothing standing.

Now to Something Not Utterly Depressing

1.) Seeing more Marian was awesome, and I loved getting to know Jillian. There was also a--subplot?--about a bad guy using love spells to manipulate women but as it turns out, he's not bad, just wounded and all the women were bad. Honestly, this plotline and the others were so utterly unrelated it was like she had this one written and the rest was written in some kind of id-fueled canon-defying rage except her rage is at her own goddamn canon.

2.) Canonical confirmation that if Daemon goes darkside and insane, Lucivar will--go help him be insane and evil. No, it makes no sense but I don't care; it totally works for me, thank you Ms Bishop.

3.) Lucivar's and Jillian's father/daughter relationship being made explicit to them both was goddamn adorable. It's like the family version of best friends to lovers, complete with the catalyst of someone saying 'No matter what you let people think, he's not really your father' to Jillian and her understandable response is to beat the living shit out of him, because despite him having a darker jewel, because fuck yeah Lucivar's her father and assholes get kicked in the balls (after shielding, just like her father told her).

You Were Lying About the Incest, Weren't You?

Now, what we've all pretty much wondered through all the books: have Daemon and Lucivar actually fucked? Luckily for all of us, Surreal is the catalyst for enlightenment.

Let me set this up for you. To summarize: Daemon's sexiness is out of control. He's being followed around by women everywhere--soooo annoying--and no one is excluded from being overwhelmed with lust for him.

When Daemon comes into Lucivar and Marian's kitchen about midpoint in the story:

1.) Marian is totally turned on like whoa by Daemon wafting his heat about. She thinks this is a sign of trust and comfort in their home and is totes 'oh he trusts me so brotherly' while thinking how hard her nipples are and how wet she is getting between her legs. Yes, the word 'wetness' was indeed used. Inexplicably, she's super cool with this.
2.) Lucivar comes into the kitchen and realizes Marian is totally turned on by Daemon.
3.) They go to the laundry room, where they discuss how Daemon wafts sex and how he uses it for quite a few paragraphs. Marian happily explains the wafting is because he trusts her enough to be his true self while rubbing up against Lucivar.
4.) Marian realizes Lucivar's cock is totally hard due to Daemon, and very reasonably decides it's time for some sex. They fuck each other in perfect happy awareness it's because Daemon turned them on while Daemon apparently just--hangs in the kitchen?
5.) (For fuck's sake, why not invite him to join in? He's having a rally hard time, going insane from being too sexy. Which I remind everyone is a very serious issue and major plot point.)
6.) They're super okay with it and wander back out afterglowy to hang with Daemon and their kid and scelties in the kitchen.
7.) I may be understating how utterly wtf this was. My brain just didn't entirely recover from Marian's wetness while being sisterly.

This scene occurs after Lucivar--for reasons (Marian is in a surprise!healing coma)--crawls into bed with Daemon for full body comfort cuddling, I am not screwing with you, IQ points were lost, no regrets. Surreal comes in, stares at them, and...okay, I'm going to just quote and you be the judge.

Literal text:
Sadi and Yaslana didn't talk about their past--especially not their past with each other. She'd been a whore for decades before coming to Kaleer, had accommodated the kind of sex play that required discretion. As she stared at them, she didn't wonder what they had been to each other in the past; she wondered if they still...indulged...on occasion.


Yep.

Note: I can't get over how Surreal leaped to that conclusion. It's not that she's wrong, but:
a.) Incest. Not generally the first thought, even considering how terrible Terrielle was;
b.) unlike us, she hasn't read all the books or the making out scene in Book One to know incest was on the table and probably the healthiest part of Lucivar and Daemon's relationship;
c.) Even if she had, Lucivar and Daemon take their marriage vows seriously. For fuck's sake, Daemon has a body count when it comes to proving he keeps his cock in his wife or his pants, no exceptions at all. He stayed a virgin for Jaenelle (this also has a considerable body count) and is still on the fence on whether he's breaking his vows to his dead wife by having sex with his living wife;
d.) Marian is in a coma two doors down and they're only vaguely sure what's going on there and see c for 'marriage vows'
e.) They're fully dressed, asleep, and not in any way entwined in such a way one or more cocks could even accidentally come in contact.

Again, she's not wrong, but it's basically because Bishop wanted her to feel inferior to Jaenelle and Lucivar as far as Daemon's true feelings (and desire?) are concerned. Because when it comes to The High Lord's Daughter, everything must burn.

However, we did get our answer.

Lucivar tells Surreal: when they were slaves, Daemon used to seduce him and play with him until, unable to control his body and helpless, he came, as an entertainment for the Queens they served.

You're welcome.

Oh, Right, Almost Forgott

Daemon has an epic destiny, and though it's not clear what terrible thing will happen, he must stop it with his super Black (but not Ebony) power, hence needing Ghost!Jaenelle to keep him sane instead of his wife because she was the reason he almost went crazy. Also, Daemon has bonded with one of the Scelties that no longer wants to hang with Jaenelle Satien because she's turned into a total brat.

She made such an effort to make the The High Lord's Daughter both a bittersweet ending and new, fresh beginning for Daemon and Surreal and introduce their daughter and all these possibilities, and now this. Bishop didn't fuck around; nothing from The High Lord's Daughter was left standing.

I don't hate it and actually enjoyed it--though you couldn't prove it from this entry--but for the life of me, I can't work out why the hell happened. After I re-read, maybe I'll be less--wtf?--but I just can't get over the primary goddamn plot is one usually posted to AO3 three days after canon fucked your OTP and you had a lot of feelings to express about it and didn't sleep until you expressed them all.

Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1072846.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
Tags: books, books: anne bishop
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