This is a collection of 4 short stories from the Black Jewels Series. This world is a flip flop of what you typically find for fantasy imagery. The Darkness is good - in fact the darker something is, the better. Gender roles are turned on their head. Men have to protect their virtue and reputation. Women rule and men bow to their wishes - for the most part - and are happily sexually liberated. Unfortunately, men are also more vulnerable to sexual predators. The characters are named Lucivar, Daemon, and Saeten, High Lord of Hell. They're also the good guys.
These stories fall at various places within the series, similar to Dreams Made Flesh. So, here's a timeline:
As you can see, the stories in this book has stories that take place towards the end of the series. As with the Ephemera series, I definitely recommend starting from the beginning.
As for the current stories, I'll give a few thoughts on each.
Winsol is like Christmas or Hanukkah - a winter holiday involving lots of gifts. At the end of Tangled Webs Surreal and Rainier are both injured pretty badly. They're still having trouble. This is really just about family banding together over the holidays. It's Daemon's first Winsol married and running his province, so he's learning what his responsibilities are. A few tender moments, but mostly a happy, satisfying story.
Shades of Honor
This one takes place in Lucivar 's province. Lucivar, Daemon's brother, comes from a winged, warrior race and invited several of the same race to live in his province, under his rule, when he took over. But this doesn't sit well with everyone since he's a "half-breed." A group tries, stupidly and fatally, to try to rebel. They want to take over the whole province and be "given their due." They also want the women to "service" them. You can see what winners they are. As I said, it was a fatal plan - fatal for the rebels. The ringleader cowardly keeps himself away from any risk. Since Lucivar doesn't have any proof he was the leader, he's banished instead of executed. In the end, Daemon makes sure the traitor gets what's coming to him.
This story happens 10 years after the events of Shades of Honor. Sylvia, friend of the family and former lover of Saeten, Daemon's and Lucivar's father, is lured to a remote house and attacked - her son and the son of the family that lured her are friends. She's killed, one of her son's is injured, and one escapes. In this world, physical death doesn't mean true death. Sylvia manages to transform to daemon dead and get to Saeten who helps her. Turns out a nearby prince was torturing young boys. When he tries to kidnap the friend's younger brother, the friend uses the fighting skills he learned at Sylvia's court to fend him off. The prince ends up dying, becoming daemon dead, and attempting revenge. He's obviously dealt with in the end, and quite gruesomely.
I think my favorite part of this one is the return of Teresa. She's Daemon's biological mother and Lucivar's surrogate mother. Lucivar's biological mother was a heartless bitch, so Teresa stepped in. Tersa is the one who finally deals with the evil prince. It just goes to show you: do not fuck with a mother's children, even when they're grown.
The High Lord's Daughter
This story starts on the first anniversary of Jeanelle's, Daemon's wife and love of his life, death. It progresses to the birth of Lucivar's daughter, through death of Saeten. It even discusses Rainer's death. Daemon becomes more and more withdrawn. After Saeten's death, Daemon and Surreal find comfort in each other and she becomes pregnant. What starts as a marriage of convenience between good friends to raise a child, becomes love for each other.
Now, some have an issue with this. I see both sides. We all know Daemon and Jeanelle were meant to be - and we want to hold on to that - but he doesn't deserve to live however many thousands of years alone after her death. We always knew Daemon was of the long lived races, and Jeanelle was not. Jeanelle ordered him not to be alone, in fact. However, I think what rubs me wrong is that Surreal didn't get that epic love Daemon and Jeanelle had. If they had both loved someone like that, and both lost them, it would feel more satisfying. Now, as I said, it turns to love eventually, but only for Daemon. Surreal's loved him for years. What is completely satisfying is the daughter they have and the joy she brings to theirs.
I think what makes this story so difficult is readers are rarely forced to see the end of the characters they love. We get the "and they lived happily ever after," and don't bother with old age and the inevitable loss of loved ones. Bishop has forced us to see it. Of course, if she didn't we wouldn't get to meet their daughter.
I hope to see more of their daughter. My advice for this story? Grab some tissues, curl up, and make sure you have enough time to read the whole thing - you are not going to want to have to take a break.
Twilight's Dawn, Anne Bishop