Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Black Jewels Trilogy; reread

Although I said I will write a post after first book in trilogy, I'm writing this after whole book. That is mostly because Sunday was a day for hangover (a friend celebrated his promotion) so I spent 11-12 hours on couch reading. During that time, I've read whole second book and first half of third, so I decided to finish it all before a new post.

Since I've already read the book, I generally remembered characters and plot, although I forgot most of the details (which I'm grateful for because there wouldn't be point in reading it again).

I'm somewhat at loss how to generalize this book. First, let me stress if that I like it. It's not one of my favorite series, but it's solid, with no big flaws or boring parts. I liked characters (Saetan was my favorite) and especially the world. There are no long, unhappy parts that I don't like, like in Farseer Trilogy. There is no skimping with violence or sex, but on the other hand, they are not too exaggerated.

First I would like to shortly describe the world (with no spoilers): dominant race are humans, who live in a realm of Terreille. They are divided on landens and Blood; Blood (a minority, but not uncommon) have natural magic abilities and are differentiated by strength (color of their Jewels); dominant gender is female. They all worship Darkness, but are not evil (e.g. not like Drows); they are just a bit more temperament and prone to violence, but there is love, families, etc. Then, there is a realm of Kaeleer, where live humans, races similar to them and Kindred, who are animal races with ability of Blood. Last there is Dark Realm or Hell; this is a realm where dead Blood, that are too strong to die or have unfinished business with living, go before they return to Darkness. They are not ghosts; they become demon-dead, keep their memories and strengths, but usually can't go to Sun and have to drink blood to retain their vitality.

When books start, Terreille is corrupted by influence of ambitious Queens (Queens are strong female Blood that rule; there are ranks between them...), Kaeleer still live by old Blood traditions, and Hell is rule by Saetan, a 50.000 years demon-dead Blood male. Book then follows events connected to Witch and her companions; Witch is a super-strong Queen that is superposed to rule over all Blood and is born every few thousand years (50.000 years passed between this and last one).

Book has many comic scenes, many of them based on motive of hard individual with a soft spot. They are done very well and I didn't feel stupid or childish laughing at them. As I said, characters are very good, and there is no evil-by-definition. We have a great number of "good" characters and then there are others, who are ambitious, cruel or emotionally cold, but they are not evil by standards that this world live by.

Language is nice, very easy to read. There are not many invented terms that can be confusing for reader. Also, swearing is practically nonexistent. That, and general niceness of character can sometimes lure reader that this is a children book, which I don't think is the case. There are many adult and serious themes in these books: child abuse, rape, torture...

Few weeks ago I've read this article, where author explains how romance in Robert Heinlein's "The Door Into Summer", between protagonist (an adult) and preteen girl (who later grows up) creeped him when he read it as an adult. This book contains the same theme. I must say that if I haven't read this article previously, I wouldn't even notice it here. Personally, I didn't find it repulsive, because it was logical and natural thing in course of this book (not that I would approve it in real life).

Also, I notice that landen, who after all, are majority, are completely ignored. I can't say I noticed any landen character, except when they are referred in general. And this book revolves mainly around wealthy people, who don't have to do anything to earn their living. Note that I'm not saying they are having it easy; they have their own problems. I just realized that while in real life I don't usually respect rich people who inherited their money and never had to work for it, I don't have a problem with them as characters in books or other art. Actually, most of the time I admire them. This got nothing with this book, it just something I realized while reading it.

In general, I recommend this book, especially this omnibus edition (it has around 1200 pages, which is not too much). This is actually a book that I would recommend for someone who is just starting to read high fantasy. It contains many classic fantasy elements (magic, demons, etc.), but it's not naive and character are not one-dimensional. And it's not too long, so it won't scare anybody like some 10-volume series.

Yesterday I started reading Claymore manga. After reading some more volumes, I will decide to make one or more posts about it. But since I think I will finish it to the end of the week, it will probably be one post.

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