Oh my. My my MY.
I don't quite know where to start. I devoured this book. I carried it around in my purse with me. I read it in restaurants and at work. And I'm reading the second book in the series much like I did the first.
In a lot of ways Bishop's writing reminds me of Guy Gavriel Kay's writing. Not necessarily in voice and cadence but in craftsmanship. I find myself as much involved with these characters as I was with Kay's while reading The Summer Tree. Though I hope I can manage to finish this trilogy as Kay's Fionivar Tapestry is still languishing on my bookshelf because I don't want to see the characters hurt any more!
One of the many reasons I enjoyed Daughter of the Blood is that while it is sort of high drama with intrigue and nefarious plots by people who want power, I found myself nearly laughing out loud many times. Jaenelle's exploits, whether we read them or not, are rather amusing, many times because of the reactions her adventures provoke in her guardians.
It was also nice to see the Bishop could take a thread and weave it through the entire book. Something you read in the beginning chapters would be fully understood only later on. It was gratifying to read the more in-depth reasons for something you had already gathered was important and find that it was not only important it was more important than you had guessed.
Several people recommended I try Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy based on my love of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. I can see why -- both books share a similar forthrightness about the act of love, particularly love tinged with sado-masochism. However, right off the bat it became obvious that while in the Kushiel novels sado-masochism was about trust, in Daughter of the Blood it is about power.
Every character in the novel except for Jaenelle is involved in power plays large and small; there is no trust to be had between any two individuals (again, excepting Jaenelle). This made the novel incredibly frustrating for me -- I hate it when the entirety of the conflict in a novel could be solved by a few of the people sitting down together, talking things out, and taking that (to me, easy) leap of faith that they aren't all trying to stab each other in the back. That that lack of trust meant that Jaenelle was being sexually abused (blindingly obvious to me from page one, though none of the men that supposedly loved her noticed) for almost 400 pages with no one to step in and rescue her made me very angry at times.
Many things in the novel created a low level of frustration. The magic system was too much like in an RPG; I never got any sense for the physical landscape; I could have used a cast of characters but none was provided; there were too many places where the most obvious choice was taken in a scene. (How many times do I have to see/read a character get offered a handkerchief, blow his/her nose in it, then wonder whether to hand it back to the person who offered it?) On a larger level, Daemon's rigidly controlled lust for Jaenelle left a bad taste in my mouth -- I don't care that her soul was Witch, and ageless; both her body and her consciousness were that of a 12-year old girl. Given Daemon's character as it had been set out prior to their meeting, his strong physical reaction to her presence didn't fit. I didn't accept their relationship until several chapters in, when Bishop showed Jaenelle bringing out his playful side and giving him a glimpse of the childhood he never had.
But that scene served as a sort of turning-point for me with this novel. At that moment I finally believed in Jaenelle and Daemon as people, and once I believed I cared desperately what was going to happen to them. I read the final quarter of the novel breathlessly, rooting for a happy ending with all my heart. Therein lies the real difference between the Kushiel novels and Daughter of the Blood: from page one in Kushiel's Dart, Carey treated her heroic characters like real people, showing their flaws and hesitations, showing their epic qualities, and always balancing those bits with their humor and lightheartedness and joy. That balance between the heroic and the mundane, the dark and the light, captured my heart immediately, while Bishop took almost 300 pages to do the same. I will be continuing the trilogy, because I finally did break through and love Jaenelle, but I certainly can't put it in the same breath as Jacqueline Carey's masterpiece yet.
This book was very difficult to get into. Because it is fantasy, and the first book in a series, there is just so much explaining about the way of the world that needs to be done and characters that need to be introduced. Even though I struggled with the reading, even 150 pages in, I found myself horridly fascinated with where the story could go. I kept reading, and the more I read, the more I found myself drawn to the book.
My biggest recommendation on this book is to keep reading. It was worth it for me. So worth it that the first thing I did when I finished the book was wishlist the rest of the trilogy.