Monday, November 24, 2008

The Daughter of the Blood/Kushiel challenge!

A very sad state of affairs recently came to my attention: Kati (Adventures in Katidom) had started Kushiel’s Dart, then cast it off as a DNF! How could it be? I was dumbfounded.

Of course, Kati felt the same way about my having discarded Daughter of Blood by Anne Bishop as a DNF. She could not abide. So we set up this challenge – I’d read Daughter of Blood and she’d read Kushiel’s Dart and we’d blog on the same days, a midway post, then a finished/summing up post.

Poor Kati, actually Kushiel is well over twice as long as Daughter. I felt a little bad until I pulled my dusty copy of Daughter out from under my bed and remembered why I’d DNFed it.

Why I originally DNFed Daughter
I see I didn’t actually give Daughter much of a chance. I put it down early out of a combination of violence and boredom.

The violence occurs right away: chapter 1 opens with a fellow being shackled into this boat thing and—uh, let me look it up, I hate even thinking about it—okay, his genitals are smeared with bacon grease, and rats gnaw them all night, and then a fellow mercy kills him.

The boredom from passages like this in the beginning:
“There’s a Web for each rank of the Book Jewels. The darker the Web, the more tether and radial lines there are and the faster the Wind is. You can ride a Web that’s your Jewel rank unless you’re traveling inside a Coach being driven by someone strong enough to ride that Web or you’re being shielded by someone who can….

Memphis was a Gray-Jeweled Warlord Prince and almost unshakable. Prothvar was a Red-Jeweled Eyrien Warlord, a warrior bred and trained. Andulvar was an Eyrien Warlord Prince who wore the Ebon-gray, the second darkest Jewel…

In fact, as I was re-reading and hit one of these jewel-explaining passages I knew that’s where I put the book down, and if it wasn’t for this challenge, I would’ve put it down again. It felt to me like an unpleasant and complicated role playing game.

Okay, okay, now I’m enjoying it.
Now that book has taken off for me, I see why people love it. There are a lot of things I’m enjoying and admiring about it. For one, Anne Bishop does such an amazing job of loading good and evil forces and raising stakes. It’s like, if the book was a windup toy, most authors would wind it a few turns, but Bishop just doesn’t stop! More awful injustice, more danger for the vulnerable important heroine, crank crank, more pent up sexual desire, more longing, more characters with cause for vengeance, more evil acts, more hope, more danger. I’ve never seen a book like this.

Did anybody out there see the Joy Luck Club movie? It’s this really sad movie about mothers and daughters, and it makes you cry about every 20 minutes, and after a while you feel totally manipulated, like your emotions are being manually stimulated. You see how the movie is operating, but you’re powerless not to react. I would highly recommend it if you have clogged tear ducts.

Anyway, Bishop's artistry with this “wind-up” effect alone would propel me forward at this point, but if that’s all there was, I would feel as manipulated and manually stimulated by this book as I did with that movie.

What makes all the difference is a handful of really good characters, Saetan, Daemon and Surreal. Particularly sex slave Daemon, who is the picture of patience, endurance and pent-up love and rage. There is this one scene where he wishes he could “paint the walls with blood” but instead he smiles and carries on, biding his time, so to speak. He gives the book a kind of soul.

Will these characters get their resolution?
Okay, as I near two-thirds in, I get nervous about this being a TRILOGY. Will Daemon’s desire for freedom and for union with his lady be realized in this book? Will Saetan be okay? He feels kindly and vulnerable, and sort of expendable. I also worry about Daemon’s winged brother.

Maybe it’s this business of men being “shaved” or girls being “broken”- these are horrible things I won’t explain, but they make me not entirely trust Bishop. I don’t trust her not to kill off a character I care about. I can come to trust her, but I don’t yet.

Also, will she give the characters I care about satisfaction here in book one, or do I have to read the next and next?

Don’t think I’m not enjoying the book. I’m finding it powerful and involving and I’m really glad I’m reading it. I would continue forward without the challenge, for sure. In fact, I find it increasingly hard to put down. However I won't know what to make of it until the end.

See Kati's midway post here.

Come back Monday, December 1st for the thrilling conclusion!


KT Grant said...

I am jumping on the Bishop bandwagon. I am not sure if I will be all gung ho because I could barely finish The Invisible Ring. But I keep hearing how Daemon rocks everyone's boat, so I will give it a chance.

Renee said...

Great post. Since I loved Daughter of the Blood, and Kushiel's Dart is on my TBR bookshelf, I'll be looking forward to see how it turns out for both of you.

The DotB world is overwhelming. I tended to skim when things like the jewels/levels or "web weaving" got too involved. There was a jewels cheat sheet at the beginning of the omnibus I read, and I'd just refer to that when I'd need to. But you're right about the characters. Daemon, Surreal, Saetan and Lucivar are incredible. Stick with it. You'll be rewarded.

You are right, though about it being a trilogy. One book leads into the next for the big story arc. I read the omnibus in a week long obsessive haze, unable to put it down. It was emotionally exhausting, but worth it.

Good luck! Hope you get thru it. :-)

Kati said...

Cj - One of the things that TOTALLY helped me reading TBJ trilogy was the wiki. The good thing is that these books are loved *passionately* so there are some very handy dandy wikis to help. Particularly the jewels thing.

I think of TBJ as somewhat like Joss Whedon. No one is safe, but there is a greater plan. The bad thing is, I can't remember exactly how Daughter of the Blood ends because I zipped right into the next installment. Which I have this sinking feeling I'm going to be doing with Kushiel, mostly because I have to know what happens.

I'm glad you're enjoying it a little more and are giving it more of a chance. I really appreciate that. This exercise has tested my perseverance, but in a really good way. I hope Meljean pops by as we had a terrific conversation the other day about how influenced she was by Bishop. She's a huge fan.

Kati said...

Oh! CJ, I should have said, it also helped me when reading TBJ to think of it not just as a love story between Daemon and Jaenelle, 'cause let's face it, it takes a while for her to grow up, and Bishop puts Daemon through about 50 layers of hell before she's grown.

But focus on the love story between Saetan and Jaenelle. It's perfectly lovely and the way that he loves her, and respects her and nurtures her is amazing.

Carolyn Crane said...

KB: You haven't read it either? I thought you had!

Renee: I can see why the 3 would be read together obsessively.

Kati:Nooooooo! I can tell you're saying they don't get together at the end of this book. You know, I probably will read the whole trilogy. Thanks for the tip. It's not like I will hate it if they don't. Hell, I waited five or sex books with Anita Blake.

Yes, I totally thought of Meljean in the way both AB and she plunge a reader into scenarios without setup. It is a very daring technique.

Renee said...

Carolyn Jean: "five or SEX books"? Yes, that is how I've felt about the second half of the Anita Blake series.

Carolyn Crane said...

Renee: OMG! A total Freudian slip. How but how appropriate!

KT Grant said...

It is always sex with you people! SEX, SEX, SEX!
*Kate slinks away to start reading The Karma Sutra*

Voxy said...

I'm going to have to check out Kati's Kushiel post... 'cause I keep seeing those books at the store but I never pick them up.

To be honest, I may not check out Bishop. My eyes glazed over with those two paragraphs! :P

I do have to ask, though, what DNF means. Do Not Finish?

Kati said...

Nooooooo! I can tell you're saying they don't get together at the end of this book.

Um, yeah. No. They don't. Sorry. But please believe me when I say that when they do finally get together, it's so lovely. So tenderly written. It brought tears to my eyes and is the part of the book that I read over and over.

Carolyn Crane said...

Voxy: I sort of regret isolating those paras. They are the worst of it, and they go away. That's really not how the book generally reads.

Kati: I suspected as much! Drat! I may have to read the whole trilogy! But I am pulled in by it, so I'm sure I'll like it. Still, I need some bone at the end of this one.

Brie said...

I loved Daughter of the Blood, the follow up didn't really pull me in and I set it aside. But as for Daughter of the Blood, the ending is not a neat one. There are still many threads open and many more questions to be answered. But the lead up to the ending was fantastic. I was glued to the pages.

Marg said...

It took me a long time to get into Daughter of the Blood. I was not much of a fantasy reader, let alone a dark fantasy reader, but by the end of DotB I was there, and I just adored the rest of the original trilogy and the Invisible book. I have also read the Ephemera books and the other trilogy that she had out! I have Tangled Webs here to read, and will definitely be getting the next one when it comes out next year.

Did that comment make any sense? I really shouldn't comment until I am properly awake!

Nicola O. said...

I think the thing to remember about the Jewels trilogy is that it ISN'T romance, it isn't even high fantasy, it's horror. The romantic elements sort of add to the creepiness, IMO.

I like the trilogy well enough, and yes, powerful and engaging and immersive are the right words. But I don't love them. Too much explicit violence for me and Bishop does seem a little obsessed with cock rings. I mean, WTF?

Kati said...

Wow, Nicola, I couldn't disagree more. I think that Daemon's love for Jaenelle and the love that Saetan has for Jaenelle make this an epic romance. Possibly not the HEA kind, although that does happen, and yes, it's much harder core than any mainstream romance, but I'd definitely classify The Black Jewel trilogy as a romance.

But hey, that's the beauty of the expression Your Mileage May Vary.

Carolyn Crane said...

Brie: I'm feeling very glued at this point, too. And yeah, getting the feeling my character friends won't get theirs...get.

Marg: Yes, it made sense! Oh, so THIS is dark fantasy.

Nicola: LOL. Yeah, the rings. I kind of try not to think about them!

Carolyn Crane said...

Kati: I don't have an opinion on how to classify the book yet. What is interesting is, why is Kushiel one book and this is three books? Because in fantasy, you know, they go so long anyway.

My copy says fantasy on the back, but I see there are new covers on new editions. I wonder if they are reclassifying them as romance!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love both DoB and KD! But both are the first book in trilogies *confused*

And I would actually classify both as dark fantasy... just different dark fantasy.

Oh, and yes, I used the crib sheet at the front of the book to remember the order of jewels.

Carolyn Crane said...

Oh, right, Li, I guess I meant, why not three 300 page books instead of one 900 page book as the first one.

Kati said...

Hmm, now I feel like I should clarify my comment and perhaps my thinking about The Black Jewel trilogy. Yes, it's a dark fantasy with extremely strong romance elements.

I guess that's how I'd classify it. I'm gonna go ping Meljean and see if she'll come over and weigh in...

Carolyn Crane said...

Or make Daughter 900 pages.

Kati: Is the word Ping from a book? Where did I just hear it? T

Kati said...

You know, I dunno, CJ. I just meant it as "I'm gonna run over and leave Meljean a comment to see if she'd come by" but I'm sure it comes from somewhere. The movie TRON maybe? LOL!

Nicola O. said...

Maybe I need to re-read, Kati, because I felt like Saetan's feelings for Jaenelle were mostly paternal... ?

Kati said...

Nicola - Totally paternal. But still a love story nonetheless, IMO. Not romantic love, but a great and powerful love.

Or maybe, I'm just a sap. ;o)

meljean brook said...

I used to know someone who would stalk his ex-girlfriend by pinging her and finding out what location she'd last used her computer from.



My love for this trilogy is well-known, I think (Carey's, I love, but it's not the same overwhelming FANGRRL way, although there is some fangirlish elements to it. Carey hits all of my "by god, this woman can write!" buttons, whereas Bishop hits my soft romantic buttons, too.)


These books are hard to get into, I agree. Even as familiar with the world as I am, I STILL run through the caste/jewel ranks again before picking them up for a re-read, or when a new book comes out. I totally remember lying on the floor of my apartment, with my feet up on my sofa, reading DAUGHTER OF THE BLOOD with my index finger stuck in the Jewels reference page.

I still had my finger in the reference page when I hit book #2. (And then I had to wait a year before the 3rd book came out, which was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing, considering the way book #2 ends.)

There are repetitious elements to the prose that do make me cringe, just a tiny bit. On the other hand, I think the repetition helps beat the worldbuilding into your head.

I also think it's hard for me to talk about them without spoilers. I do think of DAUGHTER as Saetan's (the father's) book, HEIR as Lucivar's (the brother's) book, and QUEEN as Daemon's (the lover's) book ... but that's not too accurate. Saetan and Daemon are equally strong presences in the first and last books, and the first half of HEIR is pretty much all Saetan and the coven. I love his character, but there are times that the Saetan/coven sections drag for me, just a little bit -- but that might be because both Lucivar and Daemon have a ton of pain and rage that just energizes everything, and "family" scenes are not my favorite in ANY book.

It frustrates me a little that we never get Jaenelle's POV, but at the same time I understand it: it might humanize her too much, and we can only know her as super-powerful by seeing it through everyone else. If we *could* get into her head and understand her thoughts, she wouldn't be Witch.

I'd classify these books as dark fantasy/horror with a strong romantic element. FWIW, I do trust Bishop as an author. That isn't to say that everyone is with their loved ones at the end, but that I feel incredibly satisfied by the way things work out, and I think she stays true to her world and her characters.

I do think it's worth it to get to the end of the trilogy, obviously. Book #1 leaves too much open, and everything does continue to build through the second and third books (both Jaenelle's "family," the threat against them, and the violence.) Book #3 is easily, easily my favorite, when all of the elements come together, finally ... and I will say that I was shocked by the climax because the focus of the action is not where I expected it to be (though I should have seen it coming). And that it was painful to read on a couple of levels.

But I still trust Bishop :-)

Carolyn Crane said...

Kati: Okay, I just remembered, Nalini Singh's characters use the word.

MJB: I really appreciate this thoughtful analysis, and I'm glad to hear you trust Bishop as an author. I mean, I suppose she must be trustworthy in the end for so many people to love these books, but of course, everybody develops their own relationship with a tale. I sort of wonder if I'd come into this thinking it had one foot in the horror genre, if I would have been so put off by the bloody bits.

Though, Dorothea and Zuultah seem so mindlessly evil, I think that's sort of where my trust drains, because I can't make sense of it and I like my fiction to make sense. And what I mean by sense is a bit fuzzy, but I know it when I see it.

Of course the night is young. It all may make sense yet!

Kati said...

Yay! Meljean is in the house! I knew she'd come by and say things WAY better than I could. What with the whole professional writer thing and all.

Meljean, I do think what's so interesting about this series is the fact that there are very few missteps. It seems to me that Bishop is in no way, shape or form a pantser. I think that this series must have been SO thought out. Because every move builds upon the next and as the stakes ratchet up, everything falls into place, although not as we expected.

Thanks for stopping by, Meljean! You've really added to the conversation.

meljean brook said...

I agree that Heketah and Dorothea are Evil! and almost mindlessly power-hungry -- in this case, I can forgive it a lot easier (cuz I'm a fangrrl, heh) ... but also because I see them as the figureheads for the taint that is the real danger and spreading through the Blood. That is, it's the entire society that is becoming evil, and therein is the real danger. It's not just bad leadership, a charismatic Hitler who needs to be wiped out before he turns more people to his way of thinking; the society itself is just slowly becoming an ugly, tainted thing, and everything the heroes love about it (serving the Queens, the honor of serving in a good court, the meaning of service itself) has been twisted out of recognition so that everyone within that society, even if they want to serve and know what it means, is dirtied just by living in it.

I think that's partially what I love about it (especially as you get to book #3). Destroying Heketah and Dorothea is hugely important, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem -- and I do like how that is resolved.

Carolyn Crane said...

Kati & Meljean: Well, this actually helps me, esp. to know that the cruelty isn't just gratuitous pantster stuff to sort of get a reader's hackles up. I guess that's what I was worried about. I mean, I got the bit about the degradation of the old ways, but the fact that it relates to a larger arc and that there's a world of thought behind it is comforting.

And so, I'm guessing the underpinnings will emerge more strongly if I have a little PATIENCE!

I'm thinking about asking Santa for book 2 & 3.

Leslie said...

I haven't read either series but both sound intense. And the Whedon reference Kati made sealed it ~ I'll definitely read Bishop. And I love it when books have reference pages, family trees, guides and glossaries...

Thea said...

Ok, I'm gonna put myself out there and say...I really dislike this series. Intensely. I had the omnibus, and I read all three books in a go. By the end I was in 'dear God let it be OVER already' phase (this was back when I refused to mark books as a DNF), I understand where you're coming from with your original DNF status on the book.

And a lot of the problems you have with it are what turned me off to the books as well. There's too much snarling, the power imbalance is completely wacky (Dorothea and Heketah have the same power ranking as Saetan's butler o_O; whereas the good guys have innumerable gray and black jewels), and it's violent without purpose, gratuitous without payoff. Like it was trying to be dark and deep, but comes off as...trying to be dark and deep. Plus, I wasn't crazy about Jaenelle or Daemon at all.

Of course this is just my opinion, and I'm in the distinct minority!

I'm curious to see how you find the series once you've finished reading it!

(And Kushiel's Dart sooooooo rocks)

*ducks glares and missiles from Anne Bishop fans*

meljean brook said...

Thea!!!! *shakes fist*

Nah, joking. I never understand the "how dare you not like what I did" thing.

I think I remember you mentioning on your site how much you disliked these, but it was way back when so I couldn't remember if it was you or Ana. I *see* everything you dislike about it, and on an objective level, totally get it. And ask myself, in the seconds when I'm not totally caught up in everything, why it doesn't bother me more :-D

It's a crazy thing, responses to books. I'm so glad I'm not a reviewer.

Nicola O. said...

I would agree that both these books and Carey's can be slow starters. Same with Gabaldon. There is a lot of density to the world-building that eventually I come to really like, but I have sometimes felt that the beginnings are a slog. Or that I have to "save" the book for a time when I can have some really uninterrupted, quality reading time (extreeeeeemly rare, in my house).

I had to duck out of the "romance or not" discussion earlier in order to do some actual, you know, work. I certainly didn't mean to imply that there is NO romance to the stories, only that the romance isn't really the main focus or "raison d'être" of the books.

It's a Good vs. Evil story arc, which AFAIC is not the most interesting plot device, but can be a decent backdrop for complex character development.

There's some really amazing characters in this trilogy but I think what keeps it from being FAN-GIRL-SQUEEE territory for me is that it's thin on shades of gray. The evil folk are REALLY TOTALLY, DEEPLY FUCKING EVIL. Everybody else is just trying to get by and whatever questionable stuff they do gets kind of a pass because of their traumatized state.

And I liked the last book best (though I haven't read the novellas) because Jaenelle finally comes into her power and starts re-arranging the furniture, it's not so goody-two-shoes.

Kati said...

LOL! Well, Thea you know I'm not gonna judge, usually it's me that either loves or hates book that everyone else does.

I thought about it alot last night. You know, I've read all of two fantasy series. Two. And one of them (Tairen Soul series), I think is classified as romance. So perhaps part of my deep fangrrl love of the series has to do with it's my first.

But like Meljean, I totally see the issues you'd have had with the book. But like I said, I think for me part of the allure of the series is that I'd never read anything so inventive and the incredibly dark nature of the stories completely appeals to me.

Carolyn Crane said...

Yes, it is inventive! I do appreciate the subversion of the hell thing, too. I wonder if that's part of the hyper violence and cruelty, that Bishop is trying to establish that switch, where the world of the living is the true hell and Dorothea and Heketah are the actual evil.

Anyway, guess what - I stayed up late and finished this book. I'm thinking about it for my FINAL post. But this morning I was laying in bed trying to decide if this book is more gory and violent than SEVEN, which for no particular reason is my measuring stick for violence.

PS Kati: You know, the Tairen soul was DNF for me, too. I couldn't understand why that fellow couldn't control himself! He seemed like a big baby. Maybe I'm not into fantasy, but wouldn't you classify Kushiel as fantasy?

Kati said...

Cj - Yup, definitely fantasy, but I haven't finished it yet, so it doesn't count yet.

I'm up to about page 630. But I'm expecting to have a ton of reading time this weekend. So I'll finish it and start thinking on my post. I think I'm going to end up buying Kushiel's Chosen, but I'm not sure I'll read it right away.

KT Grant said...

CJ: Wilson was a DNF for you? I love those books to peices!

Carolyn Crane said...

Kati: I think I'm going to buy the rest of the books in this. #2 and #3. Even though I'm coming in mixed right now on my opinion!!

KB: I sort of don't talk about it much. I know you and many other readers I respect really love that series!!

KT Grant said...

CJ: Don't be shy, we all can't like the same books. :D

Carolyn Crane said...

You will still be my friend?

KT Grant said...

Hey, I stuck with you all this time, after you stole the feather duster from me.

Carolyn Crane said...

LOL. At least I didn't publicly MOCK him and call him a fat walrus!!!

KT Grant said...

The he in question just needs a moustache and he will be singing coo coo cachoo!

meljean brook said...

Wait wait -- KB called the feather duster a fat walrus?

KT Grant said...

The fat walrus is someone else. I would never do that to the feather duster.
CJ, look what you started!!

meljean brook said...



Enchanted by Books said...

I never read Bishop before. Hmmmm. I'm curious now.

Sarai said...

UM alright, alright I shall try really really hard to read this series by the end of the year. *writes quick memo to remember to read the books this year!*

Ladytink_534 said...

I DNF this either and it was because of the beginning passages too. If I can't understand the first two paragraphs in a book then thats usually a no-go for me!

Marg said...

Ladytink, this is one series that it is worth persevering past the first couple of paragraphs!

LesleyW said...

Hmmm, I also loved the Black Jewels series straight away, but it took me over thirty tries to get past the first page of Kushiel's Dart.

I'd read the first two paragraphs get bored and go and do something else. So I can understand where Kati is coming from. And I never really got to like Phaedre as a character.

The Bookworm said...

sounds interesting...and OMG 'genitals are smeared with bacon grease, and rats gnaw them all night' I think that would grab my attention *cringe*

Tracy said...

CJ - this is why when I recommend this trilogy to people - as much as I love it - I have to tell them that it's VERY Dark. Very. But I'm glad you're enjoying. Bishop is an amazing writer and she just sucked me in. I love your wind up toy analogy. So perfect.

Yes, you'll want to read the next 2 books after you find DotB. So. Damn. Good.