Synopsis (from Goodreads):
For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. Now that their land has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore it and prove her ability to rule.
But even if Lady Cassidy succeeds, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land-and Lady Cassidy-forever…
Ehem…who is to say that you can’t jump right into the end of a series and feel good about it? Nobody, right? Especially that this novel was reviewed and recommended by Aurian on her lovely blog and it came with the best rating possible.
The story of Cassidy, a witch queen as plain as dirt but with a golden heart, was easy to follow and soon enough I knew everything the was to know about the world build. Cassie was given one year to restore Dena Nehele, a Territory that had been ruled by twisted Queens for centuries. Just as her Court, consisting of twelve hunks…er…Warrior Princes is settling down to work at demonstrating that they intend to restore honor and fair dealing to the Territory, Cassidy’s old nemesis returns. Kermilla is cute, aristocratic, and wields more powerful magic than Cassidy. Years before, she stole Cassidy’s old Court and Territory from her. Now, she seems poised to do so again. And the visions of the Black Widows say that if Kermilla takes power, Dena Nehele will be plunged into war once more. Still it is just an empty threat.
The story is mostly comprised of Cassidy running the country, setting up shops, fertilizing the soil, growing plants, and maintaining her court – lovely and sweet but also a bit boring. Bishop did good job of making the mundane details of everyday life seem interesting, and having them told by compelling characters doesn’t hurt. Unfortunately, the novel was largely details, and there wasn’t a strong plot around – not really. The jacket mentions tangled webs that predict doom and gloom for Cassidy’s realm, but the novel really didn’t have the dark feel I was looking forward to. The magnificent Warriors just talk and talk, never even drawing blood. Theran, one of the most important Princes of Cassidy’s court, is making an ass out of himself, being led by Kermilla on a short leash until almost very end. Nothing special, right?
Of course, there are some other interesting characters, the scelties. I adored them and they provided the much needed comic relief along with, believe it or not, one of the best fighting scene in the whole book. There were 13 of them and I would gladly take 13 more. They put some people in line admirably well, and they did make me chuckle – what else can you demand from a talking and thinking dog?
The character development for the three central leads (Gray, Theran and Cassie) was solid and believable. I had some issues with the names of some secondary characters and the language, though. The Black Jewels series is based on a unique mythology but it uses familiar names from The Bible. Although they are given their own twist for this particular fantasy they are a bit misleading. The original series followed the story of Saetan, his sons Daemon and Lucivar, and Jaenelle– the most powerful Queen to ever live– also known as Witch. Still those characters are not as black as their names might suggest and it made me wonder – if you are so imaginative that you can invent the whole complex fantasy world, why not to invent some nifty names as well? I also winced, literally winced, each time Gray said “ok”. I might be oversensitive but I felt it was a wrong word to be used in this kind of fantasy.
I’ve read some opinions that Shalador’s Lady is not the best novel to start if you are new to this series and this writer. For me it worked just fine when it comes to the world build but the tension…I’ve also heard that the original trilogy was a dark, Gothic fantasy that could be both violent and romantic. It seems that once the story reached its climax, it also lost most of its tension. Pity. I might be tempted to try one of the earlier books though.