First thing first about this book: it is large. It's a coffee-table sized (the same size as a coffee-table book, I mean, not the size of a coffee-tabl...moreFirst thing first about this book: it is large. It's a coffee-table sized (the same size as a coffee-table book, I mean, not the size of a coffee-table) and HEAVY. Drop it on someone's head from a decent enough height and I daresay you'd do them a fair amount of damage.
Secondly, it is full-colour and glossy, jam-packed with illustrations and handwritten pieces from Emilie herself, photos, scans of appropriate...objects (I'm trying to stay spoiler-free here; chances are I won't be able to), so on so forth. Ms Autumn put a lot of heart, soul, and hard work into this book, and it really does show. There are a few typos here and there, however, which hopefully will be spotted and corrected in further editions.
There has been a lot of debate about what's true and what's not in this book; as I could be here forever if I tried to sort out my feelings when it comes to that, I'll simply keep this review focused on its merits as a story/book, and leave the detective work for another day.
We have two stories running parallel to each other: Emilie's story of her stay in a modern-day psychiatric hospital, and Emily-with-a-y's forced incarceration at "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls". The details of the latter are delivered to Emilie on a daily basis via notes that pop up in her notebook each morning.
Both stories are written so that you want to dig your teeth further into the story, it leaves you wanting to read more. The characters (especially in Emily's letters) are, for the most part, fascinating and well-rounded.
The ending, however...it sort of hit me like a slap in the face. "WHAM, DONE." ...really? After all that? It seemed tacked-on, urgently done with little lead-up. I would have like to read more about Emilie's stay, how she got on after leaving hospital, etc., etc. As a fellow bipolar sufferer, it really was wonderful to read the thoughts and feelings of someone who's very much on the same page as myself.(less)
I feel awful for not really thinking this trilogy is anywhere near decent, seeing as it's one of my best friend's favourite books ever, and that she w...moreI feel awful for not really thinking this trilogy is anywhere near decent, seeing as it's one of my best friend's favourite books ever, and that she was the one who gave it to me, no less.
But I can't help it. The Black Jewels Trilogy is basically a Mary Sue fanfic that got lucky.
There are some good things going for it -- the storytelling device of never having any of the events shown through the protagonist's eyes is truly fascinating. The world-building and magical system that Bishop has in place really shows she put a lot of thought into it -- it's very original. But everything else falls ridiculously flat.
The protagonist, Jaenelle, is insanely beautiful, all-powerful, and everybody (except for the BAD GUYS, natch) adores her. She has no flaws whatsoever -- she's a canon Mary Sue. She is so amazingly powerful that whenever the Bad Guys try to harm her in any way, it makes you shake your head and wonder why they even bother, because of course she will overcome them. There is no danger and no fear there. So really...who cares?
The overuse of "snarl(ed/y/ing)", "too softly", "midnight voice", "sapphire eyes", so on so forth, was amusing at first, then irritating. Being told that "women have all power!" and then seeing that no, they kinda don't (men can render a woman totally useless on her 'virgin night'; menses can make a woman magically weak. Yeah, right, real shift of power there) was a disappointment. The jewels the characters are born with are never explained beyond the vaguest "light jewels weak, dark jewels strong".
Basically this is Twilight for grown-ups -- pure fluff with a dash of (laughably tame) BDSM thrown in. Did I enjoy it? Yes. It was a fun way to while away the hours. Do I think it's any good? Not remotely.(less)