Literature / Black Jewels

A "dark" fantasy trilogy series by Anne Bishop, involving high amounts of rape, torture, and other abuse. If you're sensitive to these subjects, steer clear. Largely notable for trying to invert a number of standard fantasy setting tropes - power is matriarchal, black is the most powerful color, the demons are the good(ish) guys, and so on.

The individual books are:

Original Trilogy:
  • Daughter of the Blood (1998)
  • Heir to the Shadows (1999)
  • Queen of the Darkness (2000)

Prequel:
  • The Invisible Ring (2000)

Sequels:
  • Dreams Made Flesh (two short stories and two novellas)
  • Tangled Webs
  • The Shadow Queen
  • Shalador's Lady
  • Twilight's Dawn (Four novellas)


This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Surreal, who is also a bit of a Knife Nut.
    • Jaenelle in the later books.
    • Titian.
  • Alpha Bitch: Kermilla, in Shalador's Lady.
  • Ambiguously Brown: All three of the long-lived races are stated to have "golden brown" or "brown" skin, along with gold eyes and straight black hair. Because the major racial tensions in most of the series are along different lines, it's hard to gauge their race against that of POC in real life.
  • Apocalypse How: In Dreams Made Flesh it is revealed that in his living days Saetan snapped and executed a regional/metaphysical annihilation on an entire island city-state, leaving memories but not a single scrap of evidence that it existed. This scared everyone, including him, so much that it is used to justify both his insistence on following the laws and the fact that his name is used to scare children fifty thousand years later.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Briarwood is the pretty poison. There is no cure for Briarwood." Explained to the reader, not to the victims of said pretty poison.
    • "Everything has a price." Typically said whenever an action or event occurs that deeply affects the plot or the relationships between the characters.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Particularly in Kaeleer and Hell.
  • Badass Adorable: Wee!Jaenelle. On the surface she's a shy, sweet girl with mega helpings of power. Then Briarwood "teaches her to hate" and she almost kills a stranger for approaching her handicapped Papa and develops a habit of splattering enemies all over the walls.
  • Badass Family: The SaDiablos. And they're in the habit of more or less adopting and teaching the new members to be badass, like Lucivar teaching all the females to use Eyrien weapons in book three.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit:
    • Daemon.
    • Saetan.
  • Badass In Charge:
    • Jaenelle as the Queen of Ebon Askavi.
    • Saetan as the High Lord of Hell and the Warlord-Prince of Dhemlan.
    • Later Daemon as the High Lord of Hell and the Warlord-Prince of Dhemlan.
    • Lucivar as the Warlord-Prince of Ebon Rih.
  • Berserk Button:
    • When Saetan finds out that it was Greer who raped Jaenelle, he almost destroys/kills everything in sight (and farther).
    • When they accuse Saetan of sexually assaulting her Jaenelle rips apart a room—only a room merely because Saetan is trying his best to contain her—trying to tear apart Council Members. Jaenelle is a sweet girl, but definitively cracked; after her childhood, it takes her a long time to bury buttons easily triggered by even the hint of threat to anyone she cares about or anything that evokes memories of her childhood sexual abuse. Given that she's way past demigod on levels of power, her instability could get quite dangerous.
    • A short story in Dreams made Flesh explains why Saetan never made more of an effort to get Daemon and Lucivar returned after they were taken as children. It's because when he lost a child earlier in life, he let himself get so angry at the presumed killers that he wiped out an entire country. Anything and everything that could possibly lay a claim to being a part of that culture was eradicated. The people, the artifacts, the documents, the island. The only sign that it ever existed is others' memory of it.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jaenelle seems like a nice, polite, adventurous girl...until you try to hurt the people she cares about.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Lucivar can only be considered the younger brother by maybe a few months tops. But Daemon will end you if you even think about hurting him.
    • Lucivar considers himself to be this to Jaenelle pretty much from the moment they meet. By extension, he also serves in this role to most of the First Circle, the way Saetan is an honorary uncle.
    • Rainier in Tangled Webs seems to have this for Surreal.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Lucivar attempts this at the smallest provocation, much to the annoyance of the women he serves.
    • Jaenelle hands out rings to her nearest and dearest whose purpose is to call in the cavalry.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The antagonists are unmitigated evil. The protagonists rack up remarkable body counts, indulge in some interesting torture against enemies, and the heroine commits partial genocide to save the world.
  • "Blackmail" is Such an Ugly Word: “Oooooh, that’s a harsh word. But I won’t quibble about it.”
  • Blessed with Suck: Jaenelle can do things no member of the Blood had ever dreamed of... and it makes her life hell. It alienates her entire family, causes her to be sent to an asylum periodically where she's sexually assaulted and tortured, her entire family as a child believes she's insane and more than halfway convince her of it, and it renders her completely incapable of a variety of basic tasks.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Jaenelle.
    • Della.
    • Wilhelmina.
    • Surreal.
    • Every girl who went to Briarwood.
    • Lucivar.
    • Daemon.
  • Brought Down to Normal:
    • Jaenelle's attack against the Big Bad leaves the Blood of Terreille either destroyed, untouched, or reduced to their most basic abilities. It also reduces her to the normal levels of power within the blood; she's the one that makes this happen. Recently they revealed that her power could potentially be restored by breaking the spell she put in place to restrict it, but since they had to rebuild her body it's doubtful she would survive being its vessel again.
    • On a smaller scale, other releases of dark power do this to various people, reducing them from their adult strength to their birthright powers.
  • Calvinball: The game Cradle. All we know about it is that it is played with a game board, colored stones, bone discs, a deck of cards, and sadistic ingenuity. We also know it has 27 variations, all but the last of which are totally incomprehensible to males; the last variation is totally incomprehensible to females and was devised (of course) by Daemon.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: The series is chock full of it. The Blood, the Craft, the Jewels, the Winds, and so on and so forth.
  • Constructed World: Terreille (the Realm of Light), Kaeleer (the Shadow Realm), and Hell (the Dark Realm) seem to bear no relation to our world, and the human races may not be human as we understand it.
  • Cool House: The Hall and its subsidiary estates. Which include but are not limited to: The Hall in Kaeleer, The Hall in Hell, the other three estates in Dhemlan, Jaenelle's cottage, Jaenelle's summer home in Scelt, the family's townhouse in Amdarh, and others mentioned only in passing. In some of the prequels this may also include the Hall in Tereille kinda sorta.
  • Crapsack World: Tereille.
  • Cultured Badass:
    • Saetan.
    • Daemon.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Albeit not physical fights. It's just that the villains are pretty ineffectual at achieving anything but traumatizing the protagonists. Their various evil plots tend to get introduced in one chapter and foiled within the next 20 pages...
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Darkness is associated with positive thing like comfort, warmth, and rich loam. It is also the color of the most powerful jewels in the series.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Several characters get forcibly thrown across it.
  • Dirty Business:
    • Saetan executes people and feels terribly about it, not least because their evil stench gets in his clothes and hair.
    • Daemon, while playing the Sadist one last time in a gambit to rescue his father and brother, admits that even he can't keep his lunch down.
  • Discard and Draw: Happens to Jaenelle at the end of the trilogy.
  • Discussed Trope: Tangled Webs has a couple of examples, mainly because the villain is a hack author. Two characters who had been making fun of the author's cliché-ridden writing are trapped in a house that's trying to kill them while the author watches from inside the walls and records it all as fodder for his next book. At one point, the characters comment that in a horror story, this is exactly when one of them would be stupid enough to go into the cellar. As they're saying this, the cellar door slams shut of its own accord — if they had gone down the stairs, they would have been trapped. Later in the book, the (gay) male main character remarks to the female main character that this is the point in the story where they're supposed to have sex. They look at each other for a moment, and then the woman says, "So what do you want to do in the five minutes that would have taken?"
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Daemon.
  • Eye Color Change: Jaenelle Angelline's eyes turn from "summer-sky" blue to "sapphire" when she's in Witch mode.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Brutally faked by Daemon at the end of Queen of the Darkness.
  • Famed In-Story:
    • The High Lord of Hell (aka Saetan)
    • The Demon Prince (aka Andulvar).
    • Daemon "The Sadist" Sadi.
    • Lucivar Yaslana.
    • Jaenelle herself, as of Queen of the Darkness.
  • Fan Disservice: Most of the sex scenes are ugly rapes.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: There are no weapons more advanced than crossbows. This is because every member of the society can shield, making them everything proof, not to mention the ability to kill people with a thought.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Jaenelle casts a spell that causes the "uncles" who visited Briarwood to suffer all the rapes and tortures they inflicted on the little girls there—and makes sure it doesn't kill them; death would be too easy.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kartane SaDiablo is an evil misogynist and rapist/pedophile because he was raped by his mother. Among other, mostly female-related reasons. In a flashback, it's shown that he wasn't actually that bad as a kid. He's a total bastard later, though. And he still gets an extremely Karmic Death.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Since Jaenelle is the incarnation of both human and Kindred dreams and is therefore part Kindred herself, she is the catalyst to the reconciliation of the humans and Kindred races.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Marian was trained to use one as a weapon by Lucivar, who was not happy until she could throw one accurately and break bones.
  • Gargle Blaster: Gravediggers. The Blood have very high metabolisms, especially when their power is deep; this makes it difficult for some characters to get drunk without making use of a Gargle Blaster concoction. Or two. Or seven. On the other hand, if a more mid-powered Blood gets any in them, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Genre Savvy: Surreal and Rainier in Tangled Webs. Justified, since the spooky house they're trapped in was explicitely made in-universe after all the classics elements of horror stories, and the characters are well-reads.
  • Good Is Not Soft: One of the major themes of the series, taken to Anvilicious level.
  • Gullible Lemmings: Dorothea tries to pass off a lifetime of unrestrained evil as her having been the victim of manipulation by the High Lord of Hell... and people are willing to believe it.
  • Had To Be Sharp: Daemon and Lucivar's backstories.
  • Hammerspace: The Blood can explicitly 'vanish' and 'call in' items from a private pocket dimension. The amount one can carry seems to depend on the character's power level — the black-jeweled Saetan doesn't have any trouble 'vanishing' an entire houseload of furniture and carpets, while less powerful characters can have trouble with a few large or heavy items.
  • Haunted House: Invoked as the setting of Tangled Webs: the book's villain specifically created one to trap the SaDiablo family in.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Falling into the Twisted Kingdom is a magical form of this, but characters have the normal type as well. Tersa, herself a permanent denizen of the Twisted Kingdom, disappears for weeks at a time. Daemon's BSOD lasts for eight years. Both characters have to be corralled for their own protection, but have a knack for slipping away.
  • Heroic R.R.O.D.: Jaenelle, when trapped in the landen village with Lucivar, the villagers and insufficient supplies. Her power begins to consume her body as it is used. Then one of her friends dies... After she kills the attacking jhinka, she can't even walk under her own power.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pretty much every character at least tries to. All of the demon-dead do this at the end to assist Jaenelle's final release of dark power.
  • Heroic Willpower: What Daemon and Lucivar use to fight the Rings of Obedience.
  • Humiliation Conga: What happens to Theran, when he tries to convince the other Warlord Princes to make Kermilla the Queen of Dena Nehele.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: The more combat-oriented characters like Lucivar and the assassin Surreal explicitly use the Blood's Hammerspace ability to stash a supply of weapons, healing and food supplies, etc.... just in case.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Male characters are frequently driven to this by the antics of female characters. Female characters also—as evidenced by Marian after trying to teach Jaenelle (whose excessive power has odd effects on this particular mundane task) to boil eggs.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Hekatah is reeeally happy with the Sadist.
  • Kaleidoscope Eyes: a minor example, as they technically stay blue, but Jaenelle's eyes turn from summer-sky to sapphire when she's in Witch mode, and it is apparently quite noticeable to everyone.
  • Karmic Death: Villain deaths tend to be very messy. (Given the amount of Moral Event Horizon crossing, this is also pretty necessary.) Your Head A-Splode is used in the sense of "Splortch means No!" by Daemon and then later Jaenelle, who are both plagued by violations of their respective sexual boundaries.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Daemon and Lucivar in the third book.
  • Lady Land: Terreille is the bad kind, Kaeleer is a more enlightened kind.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In Shalador's Lady, both Theran and Kermilla. Theran gets the powerful and dazzling Queen he wanted, but she's a Green-jeweled Sceltie Queen who happens to be Vae's aunt, while the narcissistic Kermilla is allowed to survive, but is trapped for over a year in the illusion of a decidedly ugly woman.
  • The Lifestream: The Darkness is the benevolent source from which the Blood draw their powers, as well as where their souls go when they die and come from when they are born. It is occasionally appealed to similarly to a deity, but without any anthropomorphic representation. Interestingly, the series never addresses whether the non-Blood landen come from the Darkness, or somewhere else.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Daemon wears a black suit and white silk shirts for apparently most of his 1,700 year lifespan. Lampshaded by his valet, under duress, to Daemon's dismay.
  • Long Bus Trip: Cassandra disappeared, only to be mentioned in the finale as dying with the rest of the demon-dead.
  • The Magocracy: The Blood are powerful magic-users who effectively rule over the world, including the non-Blood (called landens). The Territory Queens, supported by their Courts (mostly male), control kingdom-sized areas, with the smaller areas (provinces, cities, villages, etc.) being controlled by less powerful Queens who answer to the Territory Queens. The quality of governance ranges from enlightened to vile corruption.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Daemon and Jaenelle. Daemon was about 1700 years old when Jaenelle was born, and can expect to live as long again, while Jaenelle has a normal human life expectancy.
  • Mega Neko: Kaelas, the Arcerian cat. Described as "eight hundred pounds of feline fury".
  • Mills and Boon Prose: Parodied in Tangled Webs, where Jaenelle is reading a bad romance novel and shows her husband a particularly purple passage. He responds, "Sweetheart, if my penis ever does that, you'll be the first to know. Not as my wife, but as a Healer."
  • More Deadly Than the Male: This is pretty explicitly part of the worldbuilding. The culture is matriarchal, with males serving females as guardians and protectors; but females generally have more powerful (or at least more deadly) magic, and one character even says outright, albeit half joking, that the reason males serve is because "you're deadlier when you're angry" and at least if they go down first the males won't have to deal with them when their tempers are roused.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: In Dreams Made Flesh, Daemon wants to impress Jaenelle by telling her how much she means to him in the old tongue. He plans to say this one phrase he has taught himself in a very intimate situation, but during a faked public argument, he utters it as it's the only one he knows that their listeners won't be able to understand. Lucky for him he did that then, as what he was really saying was: "I eat cow brains."
  • No Badass to His Valet: The relationship between the SaDiablo family and the Hall's servants is this. They prefer it this way.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted in that a female's moontime is a big deal. While witches don't lose their powers while menstrating, they can't use their powers without excruciating and debilitating pain. This leaves the females dangerously vulnerable to hostile males because males can detect the scent of moon's blood and know when a witch is unable to protect herself. So when a female is having her moontime, her male relatives become fiercely protective. There are extensive Protocol (social rules) for dealing with such situations, especially when Warlord Princes are involved because Warlord Princes, already extremely aggressive and protective, manage to became even more aggressive and protective at these times — i.e., strangers and non-family members run a very serious risk of being killed for merely being in the same room as a female in her moontime.
  • Not a Morning Person: Jaenelle Angelline is not a delightful person before her first cup of coffee.
  • Obviously Evil:
    • Dorothea.
    • Hekatah.
    • Kartane.
    • Greer.
  • One-Man Army: Lucivar.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The demon dead are a cross between this and Our Vampires Are Different; there's no biting involved, no healing, no super powers, they're just dead that reanimate when enough psychic power remains in the corpse, but they do drink blood, and sunlight drains them.
  • Panthera Awesome: The "kitties", Kaelas and Jaal.
  • Papa Wolf: Saetan is fiercly protective of Jaenelle.
  • Person of Mass Destruction:
    • Jaenelle. Initially she can't figure out how to lend her power to fighting the war because if unleashed she'd wipe out everything.
    • Saetan, Daemon, and to a lesser extend Lucivar, not only have extremely potent power, but also have seriously lethal tempers and protective male aggression up the wazoo hardwired into their psyches.
  • Politeness Judo: The easiest way to redirect any male, but especially an upset/angry one, is to ask them for help, as one landen girl proves. The setting's rules of protocol in general are designed to keep them all from killing each other as much as possible.
  • Portal Network: The Gates between the Realms, as well as the dark Winds. One of Jaenelle's rule-breaking abilities is to traverse the spaces between the ordinary Winds, jump back and forth between the Realms, and build a theoretically impossible bridge into Hell.
  • Present Peeking: In the extended story "Winsol Gifts", adult offspring try to do this with their Winsol presents, as well as youngsters. Saetan anticipated this attempt and used magic to make it impossible for even his more powerful son to open his present early.
  • Princesses Rule: Averted in the case of females; all women of the ruling caste are called Queens. Gender-Inverted for males, who are either called Prince or Warlord Prince even if they rule a territory.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy:
    • Lucivar, as an Eyrien.
    • Andulvar, for the same reason.
  • Purple Eyes: There is a brief mention of Alexandra Angelline's eyes being the color of Purple Dusk Jewels.
  • Rape as Drama: Just about every single scene featuring the villains (especially in the first book) involves either this or torture.
  • Red Baron: Daemon is also known as "The Sadist".
  • The Sacred Darkness: The Darkness is the source of power, the Creator Deity, and representative of the Blood's most positive values.
  • Schizo Tech: The trilogy has cigarettes, cameras and bathrooms with running water, but no weapons more advanced than crossbows. This is because every member of the society can shield, making them everything proof, not to mention the ability to kill people with a thought.
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • The High Lord of Hell.
    • Cassandra.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Dear god, the entire main cast. For example, Saetan fantasizing about snapping the bones of a "slutty" teenage girl, an incredibly inappropriate response to a mild transgression. Or Daemon in general. The only reason none of the "heroes" are portrayed in a negative light is because the villains are worse. In any other series, Jaenelle and her cronies wouldn't be the heroes.
  • Sssssnaketalk: Draca and Lorn.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: A trait of the long-lived races.
  • Take Our Word for It: We never do find out what Daemon does to Cornelia. Most likely, it's better if we don't know.
  • Talking Telepathic Animals: The kindred.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Vulchera, in The Shadow Queen, for being foolish enough to try playing sexual power games with Daemon Sadi, a Black-jeweled Warlord Prince notoriously known for centuries as "The Sadist".
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Theran Grayhaven, epically in Shalador's Lady. He's stubbornly obsessed with getting a glamorous Queen because that's what he believes his land (not to mention, what HE, the last Grayhaven) deserves, which leads Theran to trivialize all of the unglamorous Cassidy's hard work and accomplishments because she doesn't fit his image of a 'proper' Queen. Instead, Theran falls for the vivaciously beautiful, but spoiled Kermilla, and ends up constantly making excuses for or trying to rationalize away Kermilla's blatantly selfish and inconsiderate behavior as he tries to make her Queen of Dena Nehele. Partially justified by his reaction to Kermilla. All Warlord Princes have an instinct to "belong to" and submit to a particular Queen. Unfortunately, Theran is drawn to the selfish and vain Kermilla. According to his new Queen, "Theran is not a bad human. He is just male and foolish. And confused."
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Falonar. In Queen of the Darkness, Falonar is depicted as a proud but loyal Eryien. But two years later, in the novella Shades of Honor, Falanor is revealed as a nasty, scheming, power-hungry class-obsessed Straw Misogynist and hardcore Eryien bigot who uses treachery and drugs in his attempts to manipulate and eliminate his much more powerful rival, Lucivar. This is all explained as Falonar hiding his true nature from everyone (including Witch, somehow) when he first came to Kaeleer.
  • Tranquil Fury: If someone's tangible psychic manifestation of power should happen to "go cold", you may as well not even bother to run.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Lucivar's wife and kid get captured. Lucivar deliberately walks into the trap. Saetan receives word that his son has been captured. Saetan deliberately walks into the trap. Surreal hears that these people have been captured and gets ready to deliberately walk into the trap, but is thankfully intercepted by Daemon, who makes plans before he saunters into the trap.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Most of the protagonists have this inflicted on them. It sometimes takes the form of Deus Angst Machina wrought by the villains.
  • True Companions:
    • Jaenelle's powerful but eclectic band of friends.
    • Saetan and Andulvar, with fifty thousand years of shared experience behind them.
  • Uncanny Valley: In-universe example. Jaenelle, being not quite human, disturbs some people when they see her as Witch. The darkness of her power also makes her relatives uneasy, even before one of them sees her true form. As a child, her eeriness is attributed to a disturbed mind, and her grandmother later thinks that she must go beyond that and into complete insanity.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The anger of male Blood (and Jaenelle) is a tangible psychic manifestation of power. Some unleash it more readily than others. Other witches as well, but they rise to the killing edge less easily and are much more merciless when they do, so the males make sure to take care of it. Jaenelle just has a whooole lot of triggers so she shows what happens when a witch gets that pissed off.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend:
    • Jaenelle.
    • Also, to a lesser degree, Marian.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman:
    • The Kindred.
    • Invoked by Lucivar in Heir to the Shadows, in regards to his wings: "What am I, High Lord? By the Council's reckoning of who is human and who is not, What am I?"
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Jaenelle Angelline is neglected all through her childhood because her role as Witch, the Chosen One, means she's not entirely human and her family, unable to reconcile their fear/horror of her with her relatively innocuous outside, decide she's insane.
  • You Mean "Xmas": Winsol (presumably meaning "winter solstice") is an obvious stand-in for Christmas, complete with tree and gifts.

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