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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.
    • Also, "Everything has a price." Typically said whenever an action or event occurs that deeply affects the plot or the relationships between the characters.
  • Badass: Daemon first of all, but also Lucivar and Saetan.
    • Jaenelle. Titian. Surreal. Also Karla; when fatally poisoned, she manages to cut her poisoner in half before collapsing.
  • Beware the Nice Ones : Inverted. Incredibly powerful, incredibly dangerous people are often shown to be vulnerable to emotional moments, physical weakness, and fits of hysterics. Saetan, stated to be one of the scariest motherfuckers out there, gets knocked flat a lot. Despite this, none of them are at all fluffy...
  • 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 and Daemon, for that matter.
  • 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 Berserk 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.
      • Not so much "wiped out" as "completely and utterly erased" a country. And not just the 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Likewise, 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.
    • Ranier 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.
  • 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. On a smaller scale, other releases of dark power do this to various people, reducing them from their adult strength to their birthright powers.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Most of the villains are 100% evil with no attempts at redeeming features or a full personality.
    • Largely the two main villains. Most of the villains are explored more—Alexandra, Phillip, Lord Jarvis...
      • Phillip and Alexandra aren't villains since they don't really do anything really evil. They're more the foolish and naive type, unwilling or unable to see what's happening in front of them. Phillip is especially pathetic because he doesn't have any real power or strength to do much. He's more "evil by inaction."
      • Phillip and Alexandra send a child who tells them she's being hurt back to the people hurting her. Alexandra is a rapist. They both plan to lie about their child's mental capacity so they can kidnap her. What part of this is not villainy?
      • Alexandra never actually raped anyone. She comments once or twice that she's "availed" herself of willing males in another Queen's court, but when she's at home she hasn't slept with anyone since Philip quit being her Consort because he fell in love with her daughter. The "willing" in front of the "male" kinda puts rape out of the question, although this troper does admit the definition of a "willing male" can be rather skewed in Tereille.
      • Alexandra raped Daemon. Or at the very least sexually assaulted him, if you're the sort of person who requires penetration to be involved for it to be considered "rape."
  • 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. That said variation is totally incomprehensible to females and was devised (of course) by Daemon.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
    • Averted by others, such as the Harpies, who perform executions as or more grisly than Saetan's with great glee. Arcerian-style executions involve the executioner playing around with the executee's still-living body and then defecating on it once finished.
      • And, of course, Daemon isn't at all bothered by doing nasty, nasty things to people who aren't his father and brother.
  • Discard and Draw: Happens to Jaenelle at the end of the trilogy.
  • 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.
  • Fan Disservice: Most of the sex scenes are ugly rapes.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Brutally faked by Daemon at the end of Queen of the Darkness.
  • Fantasy Gun Control.
  • 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
    • Special note goes to Marian, who 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
  • Gender-Restricted Ability : Women are explicitly far more powerful than men. Only two men, Saetan and Daemon, are Black Widows. Men cannot rule territories.
    • Daemon is a natural Black Widow. Saetan learned the Black Widow Craft from Cassandra. One does not have to be born a Black Widow to become one.
    • Actually, 'explicitly more powerful' is not true in the magical sense. It's a matriarchal society, but Jewel strength is about even.
    • Men actually can rule territories, it's just really, really unlikely; Saetan (and later Daemon) is the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan after making a deal with the Dhemlan Queens in both Terrielle and Kaeleer to keep Dhemlan safe. While the Queens might grumble about being ruled by a male, they aren't going to argue the perks of having the protection of a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince.
      • Especially since it is explicitly acknowledged and known by just about everybody that court or no, they serve Jaenelle.
    • It's pointed out in several instances that the Queens "grumbling" about being ruled by a male is usually less because of personal dislike of men, and more because males linked to the darker jewels tend to be overly hormonal doomsday devices. A Warlord Prince who has ties to a strong or intelligent Queen is easier to pull away from the killing edge.
  • 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.
  • Heroic BSOD : Falling into the Twisted Kingdom is a magical form of this, but characters have the normal type as well.
    • Walking the Earth: 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 RROD: 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.)
    • Ahem. Your Head A Splode : 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 trapped in the illusion of a decidedly ugly woman.
    • Mind you, Theran did get what he wanted. Kermilla got what she deserved.
  • 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
  • Mega Neko: Kaelas, the Arcerian cat. Described as "eight hundred pounds of feline fury".
  • 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.
  • Obviously Evil: Dorothea, Hekatah, Kartane, Greer...
    • 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.
      • This sort of falls in with a phenomenon in RL: i.e. "the devil made me do it!" The High Lord of Hell is pretty much a bogeyman.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Also Saetan, Daemon, and Lucivar, who 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 Muggle 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.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Make up almost half of the last book.
    • And the poor communication is plot-relevant and necessary.
    • Though less so in the sequels. Daemon and Jaenelle seem to have at least one instance of this in every book released after Queen of the Darkness. It's perhaps justified in Dreams Made Flesh since Jaenelle has had to recover from her Discard and Draw in Queen of the Darkness. After that one, it just gets tedious.
      • In The Shadow Queen at the very least, the only example I can think of was caused by consideration for Daemon's fragile psyche, and it was shortly hashed out with sensible conversations practically within a chapter.
    • Jaenelle has a habit of cutting this off at the knees by getting pissed and sensibly demanding answers from the source.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • The Sacred Darkness: The Darkness is the source of power, the Creator Deity, and representative of the Blood's most positive values.
  • Satan Is Good: Saetan (duh). And can be seen too with Daemon (demon) and Lucivar (Lucifer) if one wants to keep the play with words.
  • 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 suddenly becomes 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.
    • This is actually explained in the series, although not directly referenced in the story. Before being allowed to run free in Kaeleer, each immigrant is required to serve in a local Queen's court for a specified amount of time - in Falonar's case, as a Warlord Prince, it was 5 years. The length of time is explicitly there because with the Blood, their personality is so strong that it is impossible for them to maintain a mask or facade for the entire length of time. This is merely the system working as intended - Falonar (and the others that sided with him) true personality finally breaks through, and he is dealt with.
  • 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 walks 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.
  • 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?"
  • True Companions: Jaenelle's powerful but eclectic band of friends.
  • 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.
    • Tranquil Fury : If someone's tangible psychic manifestation of power should happen to "go cold", you may as well not even bother to run.

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alternative title(s): Black Jewels
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