Published: January 30th 2001 by HarperVoyager
Format: Paperback, 456 pages
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The Once and Future Queen
Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch sees an ancient prophesy come to life in her dazzling web of dreams and visions.
Now the Dark Kingdom readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence - and corruption.
Whoever controls the Queen controls the Darkness. Three men - sworn enemies - know that. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love ... and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining.
If you are sensitive to themes of torture, sexual violence and other forms of abuse, then my recommendation is that to avoid this series.
Daughter of the Blood is set in a matriarchal world of magic, where one’s rank is determined by the colour of the Jewel they bear (the darker the Jewel, the higher their rank). The most powerful woman in a country becomes Queen, and her court consists of lesser Jewelled women and men. The men are Warlords and Princes and the women Priestesses and Healers, but these are just titles and don’t decide their roles at court.
The world Bishop has created is fascinating in its complexity. It took a while to really get my head around it, but once I did, it was easy to follow the political machinations of the story. When people of the Blood come of age, they undergo a ritual that gives them their birth-right Jewel, depending on how powerful they magic is. They can later undergo a further ritual, the Offering to the Darkness, where they can descend up to three levels from their birth-right Jewel, thus becoming more powerful. Almost every character we meet has made the Offering. Within this magical hierarchical system is a dangerous political game: each Queen wants to keep her power over her court and so kills or damages each rival female, but women are required to beget children of the Blood and continue magical lines. Similarly, men are kept around at court as consorts, but when they become too violent or too powerful, are given Rings of Obedience and kept as court sex-slaves. Each character wants to become ever more powerful without risking the wrath of those above them on the political ladder, and the world has descended into petty schemes and power-plays.
But the ambitious Queens of the Blood have forgotten one thing: the long-prophesied Witch is coming. Witch is the highest rank a Jewelled female can attain, but there hasn’t been a Witch born in hundreds of years, and the lesser females have gotten a bit carried away with no one to watch over them.
Daemon Sadi is a sex slave belonging to Queen Dorothea, the High Priestess of Hayll. Known in the courts as “The Sadist”, he is famous for the his skills in the bedroom and used by Dorothea as a political tool. Daemon is a hard character to like. Most of the book is told from his perspective and he is a compelling narrator, but I found myself mostly creeped out by him. He is prone to fits of range that often lead to the women he is meant to be pleasuring to die. He’s been waiting for the Witch to be born for seven hundred years: he’s convinced that he, as the only natural Black Widow to ever be born, is destined to be her lover, and that she will rescue him from the horrible life he leads.
Which I would understand, except that when he finds out that the Witch is only twelve years old, he still lusts after her. Every single time the Witch and Daemon had a scene together I found myself cringing. It was just too horrible to contemplate. However Daemon is slightly redeemed in my eyes by the love he bears his half-brother Luciver, and his willingness to work with his estranged father to ensure that the young Witch is safe and properly trained.
The training of the Witch makes up a large portion of the book’s storyline, and aside from the paedophilic nature of the relationship between her and Daemon, it’s also the aspect that frustrated me the most. Every single thing she does is terrifying and surprising to Daemon and Saetan, and it got tiring after a while. I know their fear was meant to illustrate just how powerful she is, especially untrained and so young, but honestly, it was a bit a pathetic how all the men fell apart every time she used her magic.
Which brings me to another thing that troubled me: where are the great female characters in this book? You’d think that a matriarchal society written by a female author would be full of amazing females, and yet almost all the ‘good’ and ‘strong’ characters we meet are male, with the notable exception of Surreal, who is a whore. Not that there’s anything wrong with what she does, but she’s hardly a person with traditional power in the world. So where are the good Queens? The Priestesses or Healers who stand up to Dorothea?
I know it seems like I may not have enjoyed this book much, but despite all my commentary on it, I did like Daughter of the Blood. It’s a début novel, so I’m willing to forgive its shortcomings in light of the amazing world and intriguing magic system. I think I’ll also like the characters, especially Daemon, better once the Witch matures and it’s not so icky that he lusts after her.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy high fantasy and are interested in reading a dark, blood-filled story that inverts common tropes of the genre (matriarchal society, dark powers and Saetan are good). A successful examination of what darkness in human nature really means, Daughter of the Blood showcases Bishop’s potential and sets up a highly successful series.