But books! Books are the soul's salvation, the fire's warmth, the cat's pajamas, you get the idea. And yet. It's been a week and I still don't know how to talk about this one.
Writers can really be dicks about their worlds. This isn't to say they don't have the right; you can do things in your rights and still be dicks. Anne, like many an author before, is following the well worn path of being tired of her characters/world/fans and burning that shit to the ground, but at least with her, it's not like most of it wasn't pretty much exactly what you kind of saw coming anyway. And I will give her this; she gave me closure on Surreal, even if I never did get anything with Wilhelmina.
While Twilight's Dawn looks like a set of four long short stories (or short novellas), they're actually following the tradition of a long-form series--highly integrated and related, with an overarching theme set beneath the surface plots of each one. I'm sure this is done in professional works (I know it's done in professional works, I've read it), but it's something I noticed more intensely in fanfic and how we like to approach the long form (I have a theory about fandom and novels, fandom and novellas, and fandom and long series, terribly boring), and so that settled me for what I knew was going to hurt, since I like familiarity and I love the long-form series.
It--didn't. Hurt, I mean.
[Full disclosure: I knew from hints in the summary what was going to happen and went straight for the last story first so I could get rid of the dread and could enjoy the earlier stories. I never do that but I love this series--this is my special series, and by God, I wanted to enjoy it if it was going to be the last. This actually worked really well for me and I appreciated the earlier stories much, much more as themselves as well as leadup to the ending, and re-reading the last story after that made it even better. YMMV.]
Winsol Gifts, the first story, and Shades of Honor, the second, are basically two stories that should have been integrated but weren't due to the theme problem and time period problem; she was working off Tangled Webs and the Cassidy timelines, and I was really glad to see the story of Falonar picked up, but Winsol Gifts only worked as a standalone and felt off when I got to the second story and realized what she was doing with these as an arc.
Falonar turning out to be a dick was depressing, but interesting in that, like Kermilla, he doesn't fall into the black/white spectrum of evil versus good; he's not tainted or evil, just ruthless, ambitious, narrow-minded, and prejudiced, with hints of racism and hard classism. You can be all of those things and not be evil (though I will argue his thoughts about how the Eyrien women would be treated leans uncomfortably close to tainted behavior, but the Blood also have a vague Darwinian thing going on with survival sometimes, so YMMV). A part of me thinks Bishop is trying to say something about human--or humanesque--nature, in the difference between things about people that are 'evil' as opposed to misguided, and Falonar and Kermilla fall into the misguided category, but also how those things can be a slippery-slope to evil (see Theran the What the Fuck Are You Thinking? for an example of how that could happen).
[There's a part of me that thinks that the tainted Blood were actually those that were unable to change or without the ability or desire to, whereas Roxie, Falonar, et al weren't tainted in that they could change, but just went with their worst instincts even when given the choice. The novels really have a thing about personal choice. Kartane is a good example; totally evil, rapist and murderer of Surreal's mother, but also a badly abused child as well. While we're led through the reasons why he went evil, he's not excused for it or not punished for it, and he's a good example of why the Blood had to be decimated like they were, because the victims were perpetrators as well and the cycle had to be stopped at the root.]
Family was awesome, just--just awesome. With the trademark "Here is a new way to give you nightmares" with what almost happened to Sylvia's eldest son (Anne Bishop does not lack ways to wake me up at night twitching at the horrifying implications, thanks, didn't need sleep anyway) with sweetness and sadness and hope mixed in, Sylvia joins the dead and she and Saetan get married, which made me so happy it's ridiculous. I mean, it really is ridiculous, but goddammit, I wanted that for them so much. I like how the Hall in Hell now has some of the cildru dianthe (I'll check my spelling when I get home tonight) and Saetan (of course, of course, of course) being their father and offering Sylvia the opportunity to still be a mother to these children even though now she couldn't be that to her own. I do get why they had to separate from her kids, and why he was so strict about the visits, even though it feels inconsistent; on one level, it is, but on another, it's not, if Morton in Queen of the Darkness is any example. The dead are dead and their priorities change; it's one thing to interact with people who have always known you when dead, but another to do so as both the living and the dead.
[I'm also unreasonably attached to Mikal wanting to live with Tersa; there were earlier hints of how deep their friendship was, but just--that just made me kind of whimpery. Just. Oh, Mikal, you totally recognize her awesomeness. And a part of me thinks nothing quite stabilizes her as well as the concrete world needing her.]
The High Lord's Daughter was the wipe-out--Anne Bishop methodically went through getting rid of pretty much the entire current cast. To my shock, I liked it. I mean, I liked it a lot.
Surreal Is Awesome
Okay, the thing about Surreal is, I had a prediction that it was going to be Lucivar or Daemon. I mean, I couldn't see it working any other way.
This is both practical and personal; I love Surreal, and very few would be worthy of her. She's biracial from both the short-lived and long-lived races, so a partner in the short-lived was probably not going to happen, she's an assassin and former prostitute as well as a Grey-Jeweled witch, which makes her pretty much dominant to most men in all the Realms, but also, she's Terriellian by birth, and that makes a difference in the men who can interact with her and appreciate her awesome but also be partner and not doormats.
Very few men are going to understand her or match her for strength and will, and a big thing with Bishop's books has been the give and take of partnership, however weird she goes about it, and the dangers of inequality in partnerships or marriages where the participants don't respect each other's strengths and weaknesses are something she covers pretty thoroughly.
So that left pretty much the two men so strong that they a.) wouldn't be intimidated by her power and b.) also wouldn't even think of doormatting her (as she would gut them, dominant jewels or not). I considered the idea that Marian would somehow be killed tragically (which upset me; I'll be honest, I'm way more attached to Bishop's variety of women than I have been with any novelist), but unless Jaenelle suddenly turned long-lived (which I find myself thinking there's a reason Witch as Queen is born to the short lived races including Kindred, I'm betting that Witch has never, ever been one of the long-lived races for a lot of reasons), Daemon was going to be the one devastated by loss and still have thousands of years to live.
So twenty years after Jaenelle's death, Daemon and Surreal having a night together after Saetan dies (that gutted me, goddammit)--that made sense. Going with the accidental pregnancy thing irritated me until I read the first three stories and realized that they could both have been drinking all the contraceptive brews in the world and that kid was probably going to be born; she was both their dream. It's just,the only way they could have that dream was to do it together.
Their relationship--and the kid--was Jaenelle's dream for them too, and pretty much if this was anyone other than Mary Sue Jaenelle, it would be weird.
[And I say this again--this series is supposed to be Mary Sue because come on, Witch is like Jesus, if she's not a Mary Sue, the entire series fails on concept; there are a lot of faults in the storyline, but Jaenelle's Mary Sueness is not one of them; it's kind of the point. I'd argue this series is the entire argument for why Mary Sues are awesome when the author knows they're doing it and also knows why.]
Jaenelle is Witch, can weave the tangled webs that see the future, and is also intensely practical. She knows the type of man Daemon is, and more importantly, knows Daemon. He is not going to fall in love with someone else on his own. I mean, he just can't. More than that, he's not going to ever bond with someone new, someone that didn't know Jaenelle, didn't know his father, his demon-dead uncles, his entire past, that isn't a part of his entire long life. Jaenelle was the center of his universe, his family and what and who he is make the baseline of it. He couldn't fall in love with someone else, but he could fall in love with someone he already loved, and Surreal is right there. She loved Jaenelle, served her, loved his father, loved his family; she is is family. She's been a part of his life for all of her life. They rescued each other hundreds of times and like Lucivar, she's a foundation point for Daemons life, just like he is for hers.
The thing is, and this is just me, I didn't ever get the sense Surreal was in love with Daemon before Jaenelle's death so much as simply loved him. But it wouldn't be hard, or like, even not inevitable, that his grief and pain and need for companionship wouldn't let that love change, over time, and God knows it took time, twenty goddamn years before they got to that.
Like, I said, Jaenelle knows that, and knew perfectly well that Daemon would be High Lord of Hell when Saetan died, and that two trips to the twisted kingdom, a childhood and most of a lifetime with Dorothea, and his own grief after her death would kind of be a disaster for the Realms, but also, a disaster for Daemon, who lets face it, didn't get a lot of awesomeness in life before he got Jaenelle and that was so little time in his long lifetime before she died. He needed to be chained not just to life for the sake of the Realms, but for himself, so he wouldn't grow bitter, or more cruel, or just spend the next thousand years utterly miserable.
I think Jaenelle's last dream was that Daemon did find someone he could love with his whole heart, could trust, could have a life with, and while it wouldn't be like it was with her, the thing is, it shouldn't be, because she was wife and Queen both to him, and he couldn't give himself to another Queen, a wife, that he could do. She knew the difference between those two things; he didn't, not until the end. And I think she had that dream for Surreal, too, knowing Surreal's past had scarred her in similar ways, and that together, they could build a life that they really couldn't do as well with other people, if at all.
...okay, and I love their kid is named after Jaenelle and Saetan and friend of the Kindred and a tiny Mary Sue as well, not a queen, but maybe Witch (again, I have a theory on Witch and the long-lived races, but not Witch as woman, that Witch is born of need and sometimes the dreamers aren't dreaming of a Queen at all). Which is basically what the books have said before about Witch, so that's not new territory. Yes, Jaenelle Saetian is a Mary Sue--that's the entire point.
Keep in mind The High Lord's Daughter is jumpy timewise--we go from one year after Jaenelle's death all the way to the Birthright Ceremony for Daemon and Surreal's daughter, and that the long lived races literally are children for well over a few hundred years. So it's--confusing. This is my best guess until I reread, possibly tonight.
Falonar - deceased, partially onscreen, Shades of Honor, before The Shadow Queen
Jaenelle Angelline - deceased, offscreen, after Family, one year prior to The High Lord's Daughter
Sylvia - demon-dead, Family, final death at some point prior to High Lord's Daughter*
Ranier - deceased, offscreen, after Family, prior to High Lord's Daughter*
Saetan SaDiablo - dead, High Lord's Daughter, actual goddamn death scene, dammit, about twenty years after Jaenelle's death.
Still Among the Living
Lucivar, Marian, Daemonar (Birthright Green), Tersa, Zhara (Queen of Amdarh), Surreal, Daemon, Beran, Mikal, Geoffrey, Draca, Beale, Mrs. Beale, Holt, Helene, Jillian, Nurian, Manny
Karla - Queen of Glacia, Gray Jewel (Winsol)
Della - Glacian, friend of KaeAskavi who lived with the Arcerian cats after her parents were killed in Queen of the Darkness, which hey, was always curious about that one. Adopted by Karla(Winsol)
KaeAskavi - Warlord Prince, son of Kaelas (Winsol)
Chaosti - Warlord Prince of the Dea al Mon, Gray Jewel, husband of Gabrielle, Queen of the Dea al Mon
Rainier - Damon's secretary and First Escort when Jaenelle Angelline becomes Queen of Halaway after Sylvia's death (Winsol, Shades of Honor, Family)
Jillian - the Eyrien girl who made her first kill in Queen of the Darkness when Marian and Daemonar were kidnapped by Dorothea and Lucivar went after them. (Shades of Honor)
Hallevar - Lucivar's old master who trained him and Falonar. (Shades of Honor)
Kholvar, Zaranar, Rothvar, Enar, Tamnar, Eyrians from Queen of the Darkness (Shades of Honor)
Nurian - Jillian's elder sister, also helped during the attack in Queen of the Darkness, became involved with Falonar at some point before Kaeleer's Heart, fourth story in Dreams Made Flesh; broke up with him for being an ass that hit her during Shades of Honor. Also appeared in Family and possibly The High Lord's Daughter
Manny - Daemon's childhood nurse, housekeeps for Tersa (Winsol, Family, The High Lord's Daughter)
Zhara - Queen of Amdarh from Queen of the Darkness and Kaeleer's Heart in Dreams Made Flesh (The High Lord's Daughter)
Geoffrey - Librarian in the Keep, Shades of Honor
Marcus - Daemon's man of business.
Hagen - Karla's Master of the Guard, Glacia
Yuli - halfblood child from Twilight's Dawn, special friend of Socks, Sceltie Kindred (Winsol)
Merry - owner of The Tavern from The Prince of Ebon Rih in Dreams Made Flesh (Shades of Honor)
Briggs - owner of The Tavern from The Prince of Ebon Rih in Dreams Made Flesh (Shades of Honor)
Ladvarian - Warlord Prince, Sceltie Winsol, Shades of Honor
Kaelas - Warlord Prince, Red Jewel, Arcerian cat, Family
Jaal - Warlord Prince, tiger Family
Graysfang - Warlord, Purple Dusk, Surreal's special friend from Queen of the Darkness (Shades of Honor)
Tildee - Sceltie, Birthright Summer-sky, Mikal's special friend (Family)
Socks - Sceltie from Twilight's Dawn, friend of Yuli (Winsol)
Titian Yaslana (Lucivar and Marian's second child, Birthright Summer-Sky)
Andulvar Yaslana (Lucivar and Marian's third child)
Jaenelle Saetien SaDiablo (Daemon and Surreal's daughter, no, no subtlety there, Birthright Twilight's Dawn (seriously, not subtle)).
Haeze, friend of Beron (Family)
Helton, Surreal's Butler (Winsol, Shades of Honor, The High Lord's Daughter)
Shuveen, Floyd, Boyd - Scelties (Family)
Nightwind of Scelt, Warlord Prince, Birthright Opal, horse (The High Lord's Daughter)
Kaele, Warlord Prince, Birthright Green, Arcerian cat, descendant of Kaelas (The High Lord's Daughter)
Morghann and Khary, Scelties, descendants of Ladvarian and from the Sceltie school Damon co-owns with Ladvarian's descendants. Yes, that's pretty awesome. (The High Lord's Daughter)
Moondancer, unicorn, descendant of Kaetien. (The High Lord's Daughter)
I'm being light on this, but seriously.
Wilhelmina - what happened to her? I really wanted her and Karla to get together. I mean, in my personal canon, after Karla adopts Della, Wilhelmina comes to visit and they fall in love and get married. I mean, it's just there.
Things That Kinda Annoy Me
I really, really wish Karla and Rainier had been shown to have long-term lovers--or any lovers at all. I mean, I'm glad she never went backward on their not-straightness (which I almost expected, but no, that's never in question), but just throw out a name in there.
And maybe more later, IDK, I need another reading to absorb. I didn't hate it, but she did some serious earth-salting there to get everyone moved on and everything. I think this world had tons of room for more growth, so it's disappointing to think there won't be any. Especially more Cassidy. God, I want more Cassidy and Gray.
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