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.
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