Spoiler Review: ‘Twilight’s Dawn’ by Anne Bishop

Before I start I just have to say that this is an ironic post.  I knew about blogs, but I only started really getting into them when I googled for early reviews of this book.  So in a way this is the book that started this blog. 
After reading the book, I do think ‘Twilight’s Dawn’ is good. It had a lot of guts in it. Anne Bishop was really brave in my opinion to go where her characters took her. I do not think that this is a series breaker. I actually think that ‘Twilight’s Dawn’ hearkens back to what the story was always supposed to be about – the price of happiness. 
I think that, from reading a lot of reviews on ‘Twilight’s Dawn’, most people who talk about this book need to use spoilers.  I’m going to do the same, particularly with ‘The High Lord’s Daughter’.  I don’t think you can review that story without spoilers.  I also will be a bit different in this review from my other, usual reviews, because I, like a lot of fans read the spoilers before publication.  Many fans refuse to read Twilight’s Dawn or even acknowledge it.  I want to explain my opinions of the book before and after I read it.  This could be a long post (in fairness most of mine are).  You have been warned. 

What did I think of the book before reading it?  Honestly, when I first came upon the review over on Dear Author I was shocked.  I suppose you could say horrified.   I just couldn’t believe what I was reading, about Jaenelle being dead, more importantly Saetan being dead, and Daemon and Surreal being married and having a kid.  I felt like I was reading a fan fiction that I would have dismissed as absurd.  I agreed wholeheartedly with the comments, on that site and others that ‘Twilight’s Dawn’ would be a series breaker, and resolved that I wouldn’t get it in hardback for that reason.   I love Surreal – seriously she is one of my favourite characters, and just couldn’t believe that she would want to be second best, and compared to Jaenelle for the rest of her life. 
To clarify, I am not a romance reader.  I came to the books as a fantasy reader, as well as someone who loves books that make you think such as the classics.  The Black Jewels series was a bit of dark horse for me – but I liked the fact that it was a ‘happy ending’ yet gritty type of story.  I had noticed that Surreal had a thing for Daemon though, and so, after a couple of days… or weeks more like… I wasn’t as shocked.  I was more shocked that Anne Bishop had gone there with that storyline. 
I did want to read the book though, because I wanted to know about the other characters’ conclusions as well.  Jaenelle and Daemon are not my favourite couple – Lucivar and Marian are.  A lot of fans noted that ‘Shades of Honour’ is a really good story.  So when I got my kindle a few weeks ago I purchased ‘Twilight’s Dawn’ on it. 
I am very glad that I did. 
What do I think of the book now? 
‘Winsol Gifts’ was an okay story/novella.   I think that it highlighted something that had been lacking from most of the other books of the series – the loss of family that happened during the purge.  Andulvar, Prothvar and Mephis weren’t really mentioned after the third book, and so I found it bittersweet to read about how the characters loved and missed them, especially Saetan and Jaenelle. I always felt that the characters mentioned were arbitrary – they kind of shuffled in together a lot throughout the trilogy so it is touching to see them in this way.  Other than that, to me this was not much of a story.  Like many I would compare it to a bit of fan fiction – this is just the characters on a day off. 
‘Shades of Honour ‘ was my favourite part of the collection.  It was the longest, and it contained a lot of the early spirit of the Black Jewels books.  ‘Shades of Honour’ brings the focus back to the eyrie and to the Yaslanas.  It also deals with Surreal’s mental state, and as the premise states – Falonar’s betrayal.  The story is strong and builds up to its climax in a believable way.  I loved it when Surreal gave Falonar a piece of her mind and it was great to read about how Lucivar and the eyrians worked together.  The battleground scene was awesome too.  The ending?  I thought it was a bit too typical of the later Black Jewels books – Daemon overstepped the line.  I haven’t read the Shadow Queen or Shalador’s Lady yet, but I know that Daemon has a habit of taking over.  Even when the story is about Lucivar.  I wish that ‘Shades of Honour’ was a book on its own though – I thought it was good enough to warrant that. 
‘Family’ was kind of good.  The beginning was very exciting and the premise morbid enough to separate it from ‘Winsol Gifts’.  However, I felt that it was too short and kind of cannibalised itself by the end.  I found myself doubting the actual climax to this story but I thought the story was good in its conclusions – what happens to No Face had my mouth open.  One of the sickest moments since ‘Daughter of the Blood’ definitely.  The title also hints at the subtext of the story – family is important here.  An important conclusion is also made for Saetan, after his sacrifice in ‘Queen of the Darkness’. 
‘The High Lord’s Daughter’ was not as hard to read as many reviews had suggested.  So much is happening that you have to wonder why this isn’t its own book.  It is very choppy and, since we the readers haven’t really been told much about the early development process of the long-lived races, I found it hard to picture the children with all the jumps.   I thought that the romance element was… very stressed.  It felt like all the characters were trying to justify it, including Daemon and Surreal.  Together they make sense, but they don’t work together the way Marion and Lucivar do.  Even Lucivar and Marion mention this fact right after the baby is born.  Certain things I felt would have been smoothed out if the story was longer – such as Jaenelle 2.0’s irritating character.  Other things, such as Surreal’s development seemed to quickly dissolve.  I found that disappointing – she went from self-appointed bitch to worrying wife after the birth, and I just wanted it to be over once that creeped in.
I am not one of those people who scorn those that wanted the Happily Ever After. I’ve read countless reviews and other things where people rip into those readers and I don’t think that that is fair. Ideally I would have liked to see Surreal get her one true love, like all the other characters got. I don’t care much about Daemon’s romantic storyline, because he already got that. I’ve already concluded on the book in my second paragraph but as someone who has enjoyed most of the other books in the series, I am glad I read this one. It was nice to read a book that was not as fluffy and domestic as the ones that came after the trilogy. There is a sense of endings and new beginnings in ‘Twilight’s Dawn’ and in a way I find that akin to ‘Queen of the Darkness’ in more ways than one.  Hopefully, like in that case, this isn’t the last time we see these characters.   

Review: Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop

Following on from my review of ‘Heir to the Shadows’ I will go ahead and review ‘Queen of the Darkness’ as if the reader has read the first two novels in the series. 
Character growth is probably my favourite thing about ‘Queen of the Darkness’.  This is the book where all the characters come together and start to form a real family.  It is a joy to read about how the three main narrators – Saetan, Daemon and Lucivar – have changed from the first instalment ‘Daughter of the Blood’.  Lucivar especially has grown into a man in a way that he wasn’t before (spoiler) he is now married, has a son and has his own ruling responsibilities as well (end spoiler).  Jaenelle and Daemon also reunite (I don’t think that really needs to be forewarned as a spoiler) and it is really fun to read about their awkward yet cute early beginnings in their relationship.  The most touching and laugh-out-loud relationship in this book for me is Saetan and Daemon – they both begin to understand what being each others mirror truly means.  They are both supportive and wary of each other. 
It isn’t surprising that with all this character growth and family bonding that ‘Queen of the Darkness’ also contains a lot more risk factor.  The characters have a lot more to lose when the baddies start making some moves as they now not only have Jaenelle to protect they also have their new family.  I think that the level of sacrifice is high but it also makes the story swerve away from the cheesiness that sometimes it goes into.  Everything has a price after all, and that price is pretty extreme.  Daemon and Saetan are probably the ones who make the most personal sacrifices, but also do a whole lot of other characters, many of which are characters that have played a relevant role in the earlier books. 
 The baddies – Hekatah and Dorothea – are still pretty bad.  We don’t see the same shocking displays of evil that characterised ‘Daughter of the Blood’ but there are still hints of who they really are.  I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to villains though – the only series that really satisfies me in these terms is ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.  Overall though, I think ‘Queen of the Darkness’ has its share of dark and disturbing moments – what certain characters have to do to play the nasty game highlights the standard of evil in the series, and as always some of the things included are pretty graphic. 
The climax of the trilogy  for me was okay.  I wasn’t overly sold on it despite the fact that ‘Queen of the Darkness’ is a strong book.  I think that the way the conflict was resolved was a little out of nowhere – obviously the reader wasn’t supposed to know what is about to happen, but even the way the main characters (the ones who set it up) come up with it is a bit off in my opinion.  I still think that it was a decent, and logical solution, I just also thought that it smacked of a cop-out.  Just a little bit.  Also, it basically advertises ‘The Invisible Ring’ as an explanation of what the characters here do.  I know ‘The Invisible Ring’ came out after the trilogy, but still it feels a bit like a way of getting out of really fleshing out why Jaenelle does what she does – she just simply gets inspired by characters that haven’t made an appearance in the story thus far. 
 After the climax the story is still good.  We see the rebuilding of many things, and also see that the emotional toil of what went down is something that the characters will live with for the foreseeable future.  There are some heartbreaking moments, but also a couple of happy ones that many readers have been waiting for.  
‘Queen of the Darkness’ is a heartbreaking read in some respects but it is also heartwarming in others.  The entire trilogy, which can be bought in an omnibus version, is something that to me is special.  I bought the book on a whim, and I believe that I would have never have read it at all only I was doing the fifty book challenge that year.  I was very unsure of it, because it is the type of series that is both very unique but also very hard to get an impression of based on reviews or summaries.  I know that I found the book an easy read but also one with a very rich world and fascinating characters that I couldn’t help but root for.   I think that the best way to recommend the trilogy, or the rest of the series for that matter, is to say that the books are cult.  They do have bits that are a bit out there, but the characters and the world are always believable at their core, and the people who like these books tend to really like them perhaps because of this. 

Review: ‘I – Empire’ by Angels and Airwaves

In my previous post I explained the basics about Angels and Airwaves, so I’m not going to do much repeating here.  You can check out what I said here if you want to.   There was a slight line-up change around the time of this album because Matt Watcher replaced Ryan Sinn as the bassist.   I remember reading once – I think in Kerrang! Ages back – that the ‘I’ stands for ‘Imaginary’ Empire but I’m not too sure.  The ‘I’ could stand for anything. 
I really liked the single ‘Everything’s Magic’ in a way it sums up the band in terms of its cheerful, upbeat sound and lyrics.   I have to admit that this isn’t my favourite album by them.  However I do like many of the songs on the album – and none are so bad that I wouldn’t listen to them.  Some of the songs on ‘I Empire’ are gentle and delicate love songs – like songs of this nature should be.  Examples are ‘Breathe’ and ‘Sirens’ – they are both very sweet songs.  There are also some real anthems such as ‘Secret Crowds’ and ‘Heaven’.
‘Heaven’ is an important song for Angles and Airwaves, not because it closes the album, but because it is a prominent example of how the band re-use riffs.  ‘Heaven’ echoes ‘Valkyrie Missile’.  Angles and Airwaves are after all a multimedia project, so it could be suggested that they re-use riffs and sound bites for effect as opposed to laziness.  The way I see it is that they use instrumental themes like they do in musicals. 
 ‘I Empire’ is a decent album.  I do recommend ‘We Don’t need to Whisper’ over it in many respects, but I do believe that ‘I Empire’ does contain some real gems that shouldn’t be missed. 

Review: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

“The horror! The horror!”
Marlow, a seaman and a wanderer, recounts his physical and psychological journey in search of the infamous ivory trader Kurtz.  Travelling up river to the heart of the African continent, he gradually becomes obsessed by this enigmatic, wraith-like figure.  Marlow’s discovery of how Kurtz has gained his position of power over the local people involves him in a radical questioning, not only of his own nature and vaules, but those of Western civilization.  A haunting and hugely influential Modernist masterpiece, Heart of Darkness (1899) explores the limits of human experience as well as the nightmarish realities of imperialism. 
Before I start I just want to say that, even though I’ve read and reviewed a lot of fantasy since I started this blog, I’ve always loved Classics.  Seriously, until I started university I read more classics than anything else.  I read old books usually out of curiousity, because I want to know why they are classics and why they are so loved.  Usually I end up loving them too.  Just not ‘Heart of Darkness’.  I’ve really stalled in writing this review, because I just did not get into the text.  ‘Heart of Darkness’ is supposed to be a short text.  It’s ninety seven pages seemed to me more like nine hundred.  I know it is a modernist work, and this was my first modernist read I expected some problems early one.  I mean really the secret to reading older books is to just stick with it until you get a grip on the prose.  Now, I’m not saying Conrad’s prose is bad.  At times it is beautiful and insightful but it is damned hard to follow.  It’s one of those books that you really should read fast, perferably in one sitting.  Hardly any of the characters have names.  Usually Marlow, the narrator (actually he’s like a narrator narrating to the unnamed narrator of the novel), provides basic information of the people he meets – such as their role.  He then goes on the refer to them by their role e.g. the manager, but weirdly this can change in an instant, and suddenly I’d find myself scrambling to figure out what has just happened because I couldn’t fathom who was talking or doing something.  I would figure it out eventually, but it would have been great if some of these characters had names. 

Why do I think people love this book? This is the question for me when reading books like this.  I think it is seen as a classic because Marlow looks into the darkness of colonization, and humanity in general.  I think that this was the only saving part of the text for me.  Marlow is a witness to the brutality.  He is also a victim to Kurtz’s power and power in general.  Marlow becomes more and more conflicted by the awful things he sees and his own, more innocent morals.  I won’t spoil how this works out in the end for anyone who hasn’t read it.  Personally I am still thinking about the text a few weeks later – it is one of those books that does stay with you.   My edition also came with Conrad’s Congo Dairies – to be honest I was hoping to see if Kurtz was real. The diary only really goes into the first chapter of the text and therefore is a bit disappointing.   

I believe that, despite the hard to follow prose, it is a book worth reading.  There is a surprising twist at the end of the second chapter that really makes the book worthwhile.  Even though I found it a challenging read, overall I feel like overtime it could grow on me if that makes sense.   I think it is a book that you really have to try to think about and engage with – which is a double edged sword to me.  Good plot, over the top prose with few names or things to plant the reader firmly in the story.   


Review: Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop

As with ‘Daughter of the Blood’ I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago, and so I’m not really reviewing it based on first impressions.  I’ve re-read it once, and did enjoy it a second time though, but that was a while ago as well.   In this review I am assuming that anyone who reads this has read ‘Daughter of the Blood’. 
‘Heir to the Shadows’ is the second book in the Black Jewels series – and at the time it was written it was intended as the second book in a trilogy.  It continues on the story from ‘Daughter of the Blood’ in the aftermath of Jaenelle’s rape and Daemon’s slip into the Twisted Kingdom.  It begins by establishing that Jaenelle has been in a coma for some time, and Daemon’s mental state is fully revealed early on.  In a way the book can be separated into two parts.  The first part of the book deals with the direct aftermath, and also how Saetan takes on the role he has waited thousands of years for – being Witch’s father.  The second part deals with Lucivar and his plight as a prisoner sentenced to death by decline.  I think this book is refreshing in the sense that Lucivar and Saetan really shine here – whereas ‘Daughter of the Blood’ spent a lot of time with Daemon. 
‘Heir to the Shadows’ is an enjoyable read, but to me, it lacks the action of the first book.  It is more of a in-between book, where important things happen, but mostly it operates as a general fleshing out of the cast and characters.  We meet a lot of new people here, and find out a lot more about the Realms.  Characters like Jaenelle benefit from the respite the book provides – by the end of the novel we know a lot more about her, and why she makes the decisions she does.  This contrasts with the first novel, because her actions there were not as well defined, or indeed explained. 
Sometimes it seems to go too fast – for instance the cast expands rapidly, and at one point it happens within the space of a paragraph.  Mostly the newbies are just names, and are never seen again or they get mentioned briefly and the reader is expected to know them.  If you’ve ever read ‘Queen of the Damned’ by Anne Rice that is the kind of thing that happens here.  Some of the names amount to cameos in ‘Heir’ and elsewhere.  In terms of the world building this book is a step forward – we find out about the Blood’s origins, as well as the extent to which the Blood exists and works with other types of people – basically, and this is a mini-spoiler, we meet the Kindred.
The humour increases in this book, and in a way it is more lighthearted that either ‘Daughter of the Blood’ or ‘Queen of the Darkness’.  ‘Heir to the Shadows’ is more fun and more about new beginnings and family than either of the other two.  It lacks some of the big drama, but there are dramatic moments.  There are moments when you feel nervous for the characters, and when you feel their anger and sadness too.  There are a few more time skips in this novel.  None of them are as drastic as the one in the first novel, but still it feels sometimes like you are reading a detailed summary.  That isn’t a criticism per say, because I think one of the selling points of the Black Jewels books is that the reader is always left wanting more. 
In conclusion, I do recommend ‘Heir to the Shadows’ to people who have read and enjoyed the first instalment of the Black Jewels books.  My only real problem with the text is that it seems too short – a lot of the later books (outside the trilogy) really refer to stuff that happen around the time of this book, but aren’t revealed until much later.  ‘Heir to the Shadows’ is a bit like an interlude and is more about story building than either of the other two books in the initial trilogy.  I think that potential readers should be aware of ‘Dreams Made Flesh’ and perhaps have a copy handy, but don’t read the very last story until after you finish the trilogy.   Furthermore, the short story Zuulaman really explains why Saetan let Daemon and Lucivar get taken away from him. He actually refers to that story in the middle of ‘Heir to the Shadows’ – but it is a vague mention which I feel should have been explained here rather than later on.  

Review: Angels and Airwaves ‘We Don’t need to Whisper’

Angels and Airwaves (AVA) is the super-group founded by Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge.  Other current members include David Kennedy (Box Car Racer), former 30 Seconds to Mars guitarist Matt Watcher and Ilan Rubin from Nine Inch Nails.  When ‘We Don’t need to Whisper came out they had a slightly different line up – with Ryan Sinn on bass and Atom Willard (The Offspring) on drums.  Angels and Airwaves is more of multimedia project – they have released several films based around the albums – than a traditional band. 
‘We Don’t Need to Whisper’ was released in 2006 and is the bands first work.   I first heard it a year later, because I liked a single from their then soon to be released second album ‘I Empire’.   I suppose the best way to describe how AVA sound on ‘We Don’t need to Whisper’ is spacey alternative rock.  Their music is very uplifting, and I’ve always liked how it is both exciting and relaxing at the same time.  I found Angels and Airwaves refreshing, because at the time a lot of rock acts were writing dark, emotionally charged works.  I also fell in love with this album because it tells a story – it’s not just about creating hit singles.  ‘We Don’t need to Whisper’ is concise, and conveys the story of two people falling in love in the middle of a war.  There are no names given to the characters, but it is evident that there is a narrative in play for example in ‘Distraction’  


My favourite song is ‘Start the Machine’ because it is climax of the album, and is quite unique in the sense that the opening features the use of a piano for children.  The lyrics are about the human cost of war – such as children – and how the characters won’t give up with their lives just because of the war.  At least I think so… Angles and Airwaves leave a lot to be interpreted.  Which is as the Americans would say is ‘awesome’.   
‘We Don’t need to Whisper’ is a strong album, and a good introduction to Angels and Airwaves.  In my opinion it is an okay album, but is not as good as some of their more recent records. 


The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge 2012

Like I said in my ‘A Classics Challenge’ post, I don’t want to overdo the challenges I sign up for next year.  But this challenge is totally different.  This challenge is a work of genius.  I, like so many others love the Discworld to bits.  I like to read other stuff too, but I seriously have not gone a year without some Discworld since I learnt about them.  I can hardly go half a year, let alone a year.  I just love the Discworld so much.  I actually went through my library’s collection in the space of a summer. 
I always keep three/four Discworld novels around in case I need them.  I currently have – Thud!, Guards! Guards!, Carpe Jugulum, and Equal Rites on my To Be Read pile.  I also want to get The Wee Free Men somehow, and probably Snuff too – but I’m not much of a fan of the Watch books. 
I found out about this challenge through The Written Word.  It is hosted by Once Upon a Time.  As you can tell I am really excited.  Probably too excited. I can’t wait for this to start, so that I can get to reading, but also because it will be great to take part with a group, because I’ll get to read what other people think of the books and it will be a bit like a community (hopefully).

Anyways, I’m going to go and calm down now lol. 

Review: Daughter of the Blood

In a sense this is a review in retrospect because I read this over a year ago, and then earlier this year.   ‘Daughter of the Blood’ is the first novel in the Black Jewels Trilogy.  It is set in a magical world known as the realms, which is composed of three parts.  It primarily follows three men – Saetan, Lucivar and Daemon- as they discover a young girl named Jaenelle who is Dreams made Flesh and basically has been created to save ‘The Blood’ aka the magical people, from self destruction. 
It’s one of those books that is a bit hard to explain but it comes under the genre of Dark Fantasy. 
‘Daughter of the Blood’ is a very original book, like the rest of the series.  It has everything from talking unicorns to the undead.  It is also not a book I would recommend for younger readers, because it is extremely violent, in more ways than one if you get my meaning.  The characters are probably the biggest selling point for me.  I think that they are great, and they all stand on their own.  They think in a different way to most other characters that I’ve read – they are both violent and loving, lost and hopeful, caring and bitter. 
I would say to a certain extent that The Black Jewels Trilogy (and the later books) are both some of my favourite books and also my guilty pleasures.  The prose is not the best ever.  Certain characters are explained with stock phrases all the time that never change.  For example  Luicivar has a lazy, arrogant smile.   Whenever I read that I call it the Lazy Comma Arrogant.  Daemon and Saetan have a habit of asking questions ‘too softly’ when they are angry.  Usually these questions are mundane.  But I actually find it amusing and quite charming that these phrases are used. 
‘Daughter of the Blood’ is very action packed.  It is also very sad.  As a series opener it is great.  I don’t want to spoil too much here, but basically the three mains discover Jaenelle in their own way and time, and because of the evil powers that be they have to protect her.  Unfortunately, they are limited (sometimes because Jaenelle deliberately limits them) and can’t protect her from awful mental and sexual abuse.  Throughout the book Saetan and Daemon gradually discover the harrowing truth that Jaenelle has been hiding from them, and the last hundred pages really keep you on the edge of your seat.  I just couldn’t believe it was happening. 
I would recommend buying the omnibus version of the Black Jewels Trilogy, because then you can go straight into the second novel ‘Heir to the Shadows’.  Trust me if you liked ‘Daughter of the Blood’ you will want to read the next one soon after. 

Today’s New Music Discovery

Earlier today I watched Glee, and for the first time ever it actually helped me discover an artist/song that I think is really good.  I love Glee – but usually they don’t do the type of music I personally enjoy, and so this came as a bit of a surprise.  What’s even more surprising is that this band is on Fueled by Ramen, a channel to which I am subscribed to on Youtube.
Without further adieu here’s Fun:
The video is super creepy, but not in a Lady Gaga kind of way.  The song is a real feel good, sing along, fist-pumping rock anthem.  
Here’s the Glee version:

A Classic’s Challenge

I’ve decided to do the ‘A Classics Challenge’ next year.  I’m new to blogging, so I hope I’ve not taken on more that I can handle with it.  I also want to do the ‘Once Upon A Time’ and the R.I.P challenges so hopefully I’ll manage to get them done.  It all sounds fun.
‘A Classics Challengle’ is where you read seven classic books throughout the year.  You are also given the option of answering a prompt once a month to further enrich the challenge. 
I’ve not fully decided what I’m going to pick for my seven but at the moment here are the ones I would like to read
  1. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – I want to read this because I tried to a few years ago, but found it too depressing.  I’d like to get through it so that my mam will stop saying I couldn’t do it. 
  2. Dracula  by Bram Stoker– I want to read this because I’ve just always wanted to but never got around to it.  Sometimes I pretend I have though (naughty me). 
  3. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – I’ve wanted to read this for a while now, because of how many read it as a warning on the perils of science. 
  4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – I’ve read a lot of this before, but it was a library book and it started falling apart so I want to finish it.  And also I liked where it was going with how crime is awful, but also has an element of elitism. 
  5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – Some would say that this is the heaviest hitter of the heavy hitters.  I’ve wanted to read it since I read Anna Karenina. 
  6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll – it sounds like fun, which I’ll need after getting/failing to get through the depressing lot I’ve selected. 
  7. A Surprise book! I haven’t decided yet.  I want to see how it goes.  I know I’m cheating a bit some of the best books I’ve read were bought and read on impulse.