Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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books: shalador's lady by anne bishop

I've been meaning to do a review of this one, because holy shit, this was awesome. Review for the prequel, The Shadow Queen, is here.

Required reading; you will need to know the universe and have read the first book to get everything out of this, which makes this my favorite book ever in terms of the depths we get of Blood society, non-superpowered queens, and landens.

Things that are new to me: landens can hear the Kindred psychically. No one seems to really--notice this? I did in the first book and it comes back in the second where the Kindred talk to the Landens and do work for pay for them. But let me start at the beginning.

Kermilla, the queen who displaced Cassidy in her home village and took her Circle comes to visit and Theran falls for her like the idiot he is. Ranon, who is literally the most awesome Warlord Prince ever, convinces her not to run away but takes her to Shalador, where earlier she nearly killed herself giving blood to the land, in a ritual called the Queen's Gift, to show how she is totes worthy of being a Territory Queen. Oh Cassidy, your awesome and insecurity are so sweet and I love you.

The rest of the First Circle, excluding Theran, go to join her, and we get to watch Cassidy and the First Circle take the idea of it takes a village to amazing literal heights.

This is, bar none, some of the best territory and world building I've read, as Cassidy, with the support of her First Circle, especially Theran and Grey, shows off what a queen can do when she's given free rein and determination. They start in a tiny half-abandoned village, adding landens from Greyhaven when Kermilla and Theran's actions scare them and they no longer feel they have Cassidy's protection--and that's all I'm going to say about the major plotlines, but it's a seriously fantastic look at Blood society from the ground up and how they build territories. The Kindred feature, we see Karla, Surreal, and there's a meeting of Jaenelle's First Circle which is fascinating to watch as well, and it's nice to see them again.

Cassidy is amazing--again, not being a superpowered queen, she can't fingersnap or overawe with power, which it never even occurs to her to do. She does everything as a well-trained and Protocol-taught queen, giving sensible commands, using her First Circle brilliantly, and inspiring the people around her to become her people by dint of hard work and sheer personality. She's a working queen in all ways, firm and sympathetic and stubborn and strong, especially in her attitude toward the landens, which I was thrilled to see brought in as partners and friends of both the human and Kindred Blood. Her confidence and certainty and her ability to get other people inspired to pitch in and do more than they think they can is kind of amazing. I can see why in the first book Jaenelle thought Cassidy was the best for this job, and what Saetan meant in the third Black Jewels book about a Queen's power not necessarily residing in her jewels; in this, power isn't a factor for these people. What they need is someone who is steeped in Protocol, ruthlessly ethical, intensely pragmatic, a workaholic, and utterly devoted to the people she rules. Interestingly, this may be also an example of where a lot of power would be counterproductive in the long run; Cassidy has to utilize her First Circle and other people a lot more than Jaenelle would have had to and build strong personal bonds of not only trust but protectiveness, and acting for her since she doesn't have a darker jewel is better training for all of them than her being able to finger-snap it. It's also in the short and long run an excellent court for training Blood in both the basics of Protocol and the finer points of a working court, where the expectation is everyone, no matter their caste or rank, is expected to work at anything that needs doing. She's going to build a really amazing Territory out of the people she's training to become the new generation of leaders.

Grey is incredible in his evolution that started in the first book and continues here, as a Warlord Prince, Cassidy's lover, and unsurprisingly, Ranon's best friend. Working hand in glove with Ranon, who is also incredible here, they help direct and build the Territory under Cassidy's guidance.

Ranon is wonderful. I would say more, but knowing how long he's been the unofficial Warlord Prince of Shalador and how much he's already held by Protocol he didn't even know but followed is awesome. Shira is incredible, and there's a new young queen in training with them that adds more interesting tertiary characters.

There is also naked dancing, in case that might inspire anyone. Naked dancing to inspire women to have sex with them. I seriously love Shalador traditions.

It has one huge FUCK YEAH moment which you will know when you see it, because I jumped up and went FUCK YEAH CASSIDY and was totally not ashamed at how my sister stared at me. And some smaller fuck-yeah moments as well. The entire book is built on hope for the future, and you can feel it in every word as they build toward something new and amazing and wanted so badly.

To me, this is the best of the books, but it really does need the background of The Black Jewels and earlier books since this delves a lot more deeply into the societies and assumes a lot of pre-knowledge, but for a reader of the books, it's simply amazing to get more than just hints on how everything works.

This is a little jumbled, but honestly, I've read it several times and enjoyed it more each time. Cassidy is probably my favorite queen so far by sheer personality and an incredible work ethic and showing how the most important thing about a Queen isn't her power, but her ability to lead by example, to put the interests of her people before herself, and have the ability not only to know what to do and how to do it, but to know how to inspire her people to want to do those things.

Totally a must read.

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Tags: books, books: anne bishop, books: the black jewels trilogy, crosspost
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