Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop is one of those fantasy/horror books that you see blogged about all over the place. I've known for a while that I should read it as usually the reviews I see are from people whose taste mirrors mine or whose opinion about books I respect. And this, btw, is typical of the way I now choose the books I read. I used to do an awful lot of stabbing in the dark when choosing what to buy or borrow from the library; these days I read book blogs and discuss a lot with my daughter... and then create lists which go everywhere with me. Am I a saddo or what? BUT, the end result is that I like nearly everything I read and waste far less time on mediocre books or abandoning them after 100 pages because I just can't get into them. Anyway, I'm waffling. It was time to read Daughter of the Blood so I put it into my pool of books for Carl's Once Upon a Time III challenge and it's my seventh book for that particular challenge.
The universe that this book is set in is split into two parts - the land of the living and, below that, the land of the living-dead: Hell. The land of the living is ruled primarily by female witches of the incredibly cruel variety who specialise in torture, and the colour of the jewel you wear dictates your place in society - black being the most powerful kind. The witch, Hekatah, rules over all, with Dorothea as a sort of second in command, and together they've created a world where no one is safe.
But things are about to change. Someone is coming - a witch so powerful that things will change forever. But will she be good or will she be evil? Daemon Sadi, one of Dorothea's sex slaves, himself a powerful warlord and son of Saeton, who rules Hell, knows instinctively that he was made to follow and love the coming Witch. But where is she? When will she come? The one who can eventually answer this question is Saeton. He is visited in Hell one day by a young girl, named Jaenelle, who has found a way to bridge the gap between the land of the living and Hell. She shouldn't be able to do this but she can and thinks nothing of it. The one known as 'Witch' has arrived and Saeton is very soon in thrall to this beguiling child.
Jaenelle asks him to teach her basic 'craft', a sort of magic, at which she is very poor. Saeton soon discovers that the girl's powers are so strong that she can do things way beyond her age and thus, basic craft is below her; he has to start at an advanced level and work back.
Meanwhile, Daemon Sadi has committed a heinous crime and has been sent off to the island of Chaillot; the Angelline family who rule the island are the only ones willing to take him in. Here Daemon discovers three generations of women, grandmother, daughter and a grandaughter, Wilhelmemina. It doesn't take him long to find out that Wilhelmina has a sister who has been sent away to an institution for the mentally disturbed. Something drives him on to discover who this girl is, but before long the girl returns in a pretty dreadful condition and Daemon Sadi experiences a profound shock. Where the girl has been and what happened to her is the central theme of this book and estranged father and son, Saeton and Daemon, find themselves working together to solve the mystery and to try and ensure that the girl survives.
I should probably start with a warning and that is to say that this book might not be for everyone. Some of the themes within are extremely adult in a sexual manner and I've seen a couple of reviews on Amazon where the reviewer has found the book deeply unpleasant - and I can understand why. That said, I have to add that 'most people' seem to love it and I did too. Likely as not Daughter of the Blood will be one of my books of the year in fact. Why? Well, amazing world building for a start. Bishop has created a universe which is totally believable. And characterisation - I adored Daemon Sadi, he's wicked but good if that makes sense and the same goes for Saeton, his father. Both characters are beautifully drawn. I *did* feel slightly that the female witch characters were almost caricatures... a bit too evil with all the cliched wickedness you can think of, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment at all.
I will say also that it did take me a while to get into the book. It's complicated at first with many new characters appearing in a few pages and I must admit to being a bit confused at times. In fact it wasn't until about 100 pages in that something suddenly clicked and *then* I knew I was reading a little gem. Or perhaps I should say a *big* gem because really I have to admit to being blown away by it. Such fantastic writing, a plot that's pacey and very much edge-of-your-seat stuff, and characters that you really find yourself rooting for and wanting to win out. Brilliant. Book two is on the way - I wish it was here already to be honest. If you're going to read Daughter of the Blood I'd say make sure you have Heir to the Shadows on hand before you start. I'm as enthused with this series as I am with Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson books and that's saying something. Both series have that certain something that make me love them... and if I knew what it was I'd bottle it and make myself a fortune!
Also reviewed at:
The Written World