Monday, December 1, 2008

Daughter of the Blood - Final thoughts!

Oh, what what what to say about Daughter of the Blood??

This was part of a challenge I did with Kati over at Adventures in Katidom - to each finish recent DNFs (Did not finish). She read Kushiel's Dart; her final Kushiel post is here. I read Daughter of the Blood. My mid-term thoughts on Daughter are here.

Okay! First, a description: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop is book one of a trilogy that takes place in a wonderfully inventive, complex, fabulatory world that has mostly gone dark and twisted and is ruled by a cruel strata of women and their families.

The action revolves around Jaenelle, a powerful Witch-child prophesied to take over and kick ass, but she’s just 12 in this book, hugely vulnerable in spite of her power, which she has to hide from her family, who thinks she’s insane. She has helpers who are enslaved or else live in hell, where many of the good guys here seem to live, and therefore their power is limited.

I developed what I would describe as a love-hate relationship with this book.

On the love side, I found this tale to be absolutely riveting, mesmerizing. Bishop kind of takes hold of a reader and drags her through the book; you have to see what happens next—the stakes and passions and questions are ratcheted up that high. Sometimes the stakes feel so high, it’s excruciating.

Daemon Sadi is also one of the most compelling characters I’ve read in a long time. He’s this angry, jaded, sadistic sex slave; people drawn to him and frightened of him. He luvs Jaenelle. Chastely, at this point.

I also enjoyed the ballsy narrative style, where Bishop just sort of drops a reader into a scene without preparation, and you sink or swim, but you very much want to swim, and there are rich payoffs in understanding when you do.

I’m a read in bed gal, and one of my measuring sticks of a book is how eager I am to get back to reading it, and how late it keeps me up. By that measure, this book would get an A.

But then we come to the other side. And finishing the book, I still had a problem with the violence and cruelty.

First off, let me detour and fully disclose here that I may set the “reasons cruelty should be in a book” bar high, because I am a faint-of-heart reader. I literally RAN OUT of the theater during the scene in Silence of the Lambs where that killer is wearing night goggles and chasing the girl around. Though I have seen Wizard of Oz countless times, I have no memory of the flying monkey scene. Because I ran out of the room every time. And frankly I didn’t finish the last BDB book because it gave me nightmares. So, just as a note to the people who I may be turning off to this book: mileage may vary. I’ll accept gratuitous sex in a book and not demand a reason for it. Horror I'm not so lenient with.

Honestly, this book forced me to ask some interesting questions about reading, and why I read. At times I felt emotionally manipulated by the horror and cruelty, sort of forcibly inflamed with fear and stoked with eagerness for the tables to be turned.

I don’t like to feel manipulated like that, but doesn’t all fiction sort of do it? What is a book for? I love to be compelled. How did this turn from compelling into manipulative for me? What is the line?

Ultimately I think the line here was because the cruelty felt gratuitous, by which I mean I sensed no story-reason for it beyond the effect on the reader. The Omega in BDB is cruel, too, but I would accept the Omega as doing any one of the horrible things in this book because I accept the Omega—and the lessers, too—as pure evil. I accepted yucky violence in the last Lara Adrian book, because that being is a terrible monster. I’ve also accepted cruelty by characters who view themselves, however wrongly, as victims. (By accept, I don't mean it's okay, but it makes sense as part of the story's world.) Here the cruel violence felt alien to my reader mind. I simply didn’t get it, and it made me not trust the author or the world.

In the comments last time, Meljean and Kati suggested that the evil here in DOTB was systemic, a spreading taint, and that there is a greater plan behind the story world. While I think it's possible to find evidence for that, it somehow wasn't enough for me, and it didn't feel earned. I wanted it to be enough, but it wasn't. For some readers, I think it would be. But honestly, OMG, [roll over rest of para for spoiler]: in the last scene, where we learn the final horrible detail of what was done to Jaenelle, you know, that was, to me, the ultimate gratuitous and disturbing detail. Even now, I want to claw it out of

That said, there is still a lot to like here, and I may well go on the read the next two books. Isn’t that weird after what I just said? It’s a testament to the power of the story. I don’t like to be manipulated, but I have been, and now I sort of have to see what happens!

I'm really grateful Kati and I challenged each other to finish these DNFs!

Because honestly, for all my griping here, it really expanded and challenged me and made me grow in my thinking. But again, I DO want to finish, but please, can some of you readers give me some assurance that the yuckiness will taper off? That would help me so much!! Or maybe I need somebody to make me a special edition of the book where the bad parts are blacked out.

20 comments:

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I will be starting this series shortly. I wonder if I will have to fight some of you ladies off for Daemon?

Kati said...

Great, great review, CJ! I wish I could allay your fears. The world is one where violence is rampant and systemic. And it doesn't abate. If anything, it gets worse.

That being said, I was 100% satisfied with the ending of the trilogy. In fact, I heaved "the sigh." I think because the stakes are so high, the love story for me is poignant. And the love that Saetan has for Jaenelle, the love she comes to feel for Lucivar and even more so, Daemon is the light that opposes the incredible darkness that Bishop draws. It's what juxtaposes the terrible darkness and evil.

It's interesting to me that the violence has had such an impact on you. There were a ton of "oh no you di'in't" moments in the book for me, but I was so mesmerized by Daemon, Lucivar and Saetan that it honestly didn't make in impression on me. I finished reading the book almost five months ago, and if I were asked to describe it, I would say "Dark fantasy with strong romantic elements." But it wouldn't occur to me to give the violence warning. LOL! And I'm totally like you, I run screaming when there's violence on film. But for me when reading TBJ, I saw it as a device, one that worked on all levels for me.

This was a fun exercise! Thanks for pushing me out of my comfort zone!

Sarai said...

I will be too Katiebabs LOL! I am not a little frightened but I will try to read it as well.

Carolyn Jean said...

KB: Probably NOT. You will see why.

Kati: I sort of want to heave that sigh, but without going through all the hell!!! Yes, this was so fun. Thanks for doing it with me!

Sarai: Good luck. Hey, have you even read Outlander? you have to read that first!

orannia said...

HI CJ!

Great review! I loved Daughter of the Blood (and all the books that followed it :) immensely; however, my best friend didn't. For her, it was not just what Janelle went through but also the tone of voice of the story. She found it rather childlike. All of that equalled icky to her, so she hasn't read any further. And I think Kati has explained the rollercoaster of emotions upon reading the trilogy very well.

KB - YUP, you'll definitely have to fight me for Daemon :)

Angela James said...

Funny enough, I spent my long holiday weekend re-reading this trilogy, along with some of the peripheral books. I've been recommending the trilogy for years but it's been at least five years since I last read it, and I'd forgotten just why I recommended it and loved it. Plus, I got an ARC of her 2009 release so I wanted a refresher before I dived in.

The violence really doesn't taper off. I think, in some parts, it gets stronger. I wish I could lie and say differently, because I think they're fabulous books, but I think it's only fair to tell you the truth so you know what to expect.

I'm going to review them for TBR day since one of the books (the prequel book) I hadn't read before. You should try reading that because I do think the love story is more central and the violence less. And since it's a prequel, it will give you some insight into the rest of the books and maybe prepare you to read the other two. I don't think you should give up!

Carolyn Jean said...

Orianna: DOTB has so many loyal fans! That is interesting what your friend said about the childlike narration.

Angela:Thanks for the warning. Yikes. I want to go forward...I need resolution, but oh, no more shaving. This is such a beloved series, I'm tempted to not give up.

Sarah said...

I read one of hers a few years ago called The Invisible Ring. I think I perhaps read the rest of the series 1st! It was ok. I kinda liked it but have not actually gone back to it. Might just have to over the holidays!

Sarah said...

Apologies, I meant to say I *should* have read the rest of the series 1st. :)

Angela James said...

Sarah, though Invisible Ring was published after the trilogy, it's actually the prequel, so reading it first is not a problem. It's set hundreds of years before the trilogy and gives you the background story for something that happens in the third book of the trilogy.

Carolyn, well, you could always start the second and see if it's better or worse for you!

Taja said...

I read this book several years ago. I don't remember much except: 1. I liked the trilogy a lot; 2. I liked the "reversal" of elements, 3. I sometimes felt uneasy about how violence was used in the story (it was not the violence per se that bothered me).

Maybe I should read the books again to refresh my memory and see what I think now.

Renee said...

Hang in there with the trilogy, Carolyn Jean. There really is a payoff.
I remember it as a compulsive read (I had an omnibus, and read them one after the other), but also very emotionally exhausting. I wanted to stop after book 2, but I just couldn't.
The violence doesn't really taper off, in fact, there is one scene that still haunts me in its brutality.
But, the connection Janelle has with Saetan and Daemon is so special, its beauty counteracts the violence. I think Anne Bishop's trilogy is very balanced that way.
It was great to hear your take on DotB!

little alys said...

I'm still hesitant about starting this series (don't hurt me). Violence, excessive violence, even parody violence are really hard for me to take. Example, I love Shaun of the Dead. I have the freakin DVD. I even love Evil Dead series, but you know what? Nightmares. I'm not even kidding. My friend, the horror freak, was showing me some awesome game previews. It really was awesome. Guess what happened that night: nightmares.

I'll probably end up caving and skim the book, but seriously, all the violence. Thank you for your great inputs. It really solidified what I've been hearing. Ugh, gory gratuitous violence. Bleh.

Angela James said...

It really solidified what I've been hearing. Ugh, gory gratuitous violence. Bleh.

I don't think it's fair to call it gratuitous violence. I think of gratuitous violence as that done with no reason, doesn't add to the plot, the book (movie), etc but the author does it just because she/he can. In these books, the violence is an integral part of the world building. Without the violence, they would have been much different books, with a different emotional set, and an entirely different world, so I don't think you can call it gratuitous at all, as it's actually very ingrained in every part of the book and characters and necessary to the development of both.

Tracy said...

KB - you are NOT getting Daemon - I've already claimed him *blows cherry*

Great review CJ. I think that I have to agree with Kati and Meljean in that there is a greater plan in the story. I hope you choose to read the other 2 books in the story.

Carolyn Jean said...

Sarah: Daughter of the Blood as holiday reading!

Taja: My problem was the 'how' too.

Renee: Since I will probably continue, I am totally going to post on the question of where this is, so I can not read it.

LA: Hmm, there are three areas to skim, but I think with 2 of them you'd really lose something.

Angela: Well, I always think of gratuitous as meaning more than necessary. And that is really getting into subjective territory...

Oh, wait I just looked it up and it means without cause. Weird, I am making so many missteps on my blog lately. (last lecture anyone?)

Okay, I would not say the violence itself is without cause, b/c I can see it's integral to the plot, but it did seem excessive to me, and that's because the extreme excessiveness of it didn't feel rooted in character or circumstance. However, will I change my tune in hindsight?

Tracy: I totally have to read on, if only for curiosity.

Angela James said...

Okay, I would not say the violence itself is without cause, b/c I can see it's integral to the plot, but it did seem excessive to me, and that's because the extreme excessiveness of it didn't feel rooted in character or circumstance

Hm. Well, putting aside that the violence establishes the lengths the antagonists are willing to go to, in order to establish dominance and control (which I think roots it in character), without the violence, you don't have a...world? community? which seems nearly so bad to live in. The violence is part of the world, shows the fine line that people of certain parts of society must walk in order to stay alive, stay whole and stay sane. The threat of violence raises the stakes for everyone involved. Without violence (like shaving) do the consequences of actions within that world--the consequences of even living in that world--seem as high stakes?

This is a really interesting discussion, btw :)

Carolyn Jean said...

Oh, this is an interesting discussion, because I usually don't think so hard about a specific topic in a book. Really, I agree there needs to be some violence here. I'm not anti-violence, or really anti-anything in books.

My problem here was totally a matter of degrees and what seemed to fit to the world as created. It's like, these women have been in control for what, centuries? So I see their dominance as fully established. I could see them subjugating slaves with some harshness, but the horrific maiming of an innocent slave felt more in line with mental illness or a character who imagines herself to be severely under threat of revolution or victimized, not that that excuses it, but as a character reason. Or like, those men rape the little girls, that I buy here, but they use spiked instruments? I see it is supposed to be cultural, but I didn't have other evidence for that degree of horror.

For example, I think about the Klingon world in STNG, if you know that world; tweak that world slightly and I would buy this level of cruelty there.

little alys said...

Angela- In these books, the violence is an integral part of the world building. Without the violence, they would have been much different books...
I agree that a lot of stories wouldn't really be as such without certain aspects of violence. Since I haven't read the book, I cannot speak about it specifically, but for me, a lot of times, it's like a movie where someone is tortured and killed. There is a point where the violence is done for violence's sake. There are ways of showing and revealing said point without watching someone's head get chopped off and then never revisited again.

The violence is part of the world
This I completely agree with, but for personal reasons, I am not really capable of stomaching it as much anymore. Or in other words, I read/watch news daily, have actively worked with communities in this situations, and continue to have dealings in some rather ugly aspects of current events. So when I pick up a book or watch a movie, I tend not to want to 'see' even more than I'm capable of handling. Other times, I start rolling my eyes at the accuracy and realistic problems. The worst is when I'm trying to leave certain mentality behind as not to effect my everyday life, and reading something I'm hoping to be fun, educational, entertaining, etc., I don't want it to still remind of such things.

Am I making any sort of sense or do I sound like I'm really crazy?

CJ- My problem here was totally a matter of degrees and what seemed to fit to the world as created.
What you said. The degree. In this case, I've just decided to scrub out my brain with what you wrote, but I can see why in this book, certain parts are in there. Think U.S. slavery. It actually wasn't so horrific in the beginning because 'slaves' followed to traditional indentured servants roles. Where many were able to gain land, freedom and wealth. Yet when slavery became fully 'established' and turned into culture, the grandchildren and their decendents of the very very early group suffered horrendously at the hands of other American citizens. Horrendous. At the same time, I've watched countless documentaries (Unchained Memories had me crying really hard), read textbooks, essays, analysis, auto/biographies, and it's a little too much for me to read even more. Especially the graphic kind. I hate the graphic kind.

This is discussion has gotten really interesting. :D

CJ rocks. *hug*

naida said...

great review cj! this does sound like a good series.
awww...you ran out when the killer is wearing night goggles? that is a creepy scene.
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