This review is mostly to get this book out of the way so I can review the sequel, Shalador’s Lady. This latest book takes place a certain amount of time after the purge that wiped out most of the Blood in Terrielle in Queen of the Darkness, and the events of Kaeleer’s Heart from Dreams Made Flesh. (It’s also after the events of Tangled Webs which I didn’t really care for very much because there was a great deal of “stupid kids get axed by being stupid” slasher film mentality going on there. The Shadow Queen is really a lot better than Tangled Webs, and a notch above the original trilogy, which I felt tended to be a little heavy handed in regards to certain themes.)
Theran Grayhaven, a Warlord Prince of the family that used to rule Dena Nehele has regained his family home, but realizes there is now a problem; none of the young Queens in the Territory have what it takes to return it to its former glory. Believing that the only thing that can save his home is a return to “the Old Ways,” he convinces his peers that their best option is to go to Kaeleer and ask for a Queen familiar with the ancient traditions to come and rule them.
Sadly, it turns out what he’s actually doing is looking for a girlfriend. Cassidy, a young Rose-Jewelled Queen who has lost her court due to the machinations of another Queen and the treachery of her First Circle is the Queen Theran makes a contract with, to serve as First Escort. She is very plain, very practical, and not at all what Theran wants. Despite this, and because there aren’t any other Queens who might be willing to go, he takes her back to Dena Nehele. (Where he promptly obstructs most of her efforts at helping, and is in general an ass.)
While this is going on, there is some drama between Daemon and Jaenelle centered on the fact that both he and Jaenelle are both very broken, very messed up people. (Actually, this is a fairly accurate description of most of the cast…) There are also problems with Saetan, who very briefly goes batshit insane due to something that sets off a fairly impressive example of PTSD.
I feel that Bishop’s world building is improving, though there are a few things I found generally frustrating. (She tends to tell instead of show about the various races/ethnic groups. The “Blood” tend to be extremely homogenous, despite claimed differences. While this would be understandable and handwaved in Terrielle, which had been victimized for thousands of years by a imperialistic, colonizing culture, it shouldn’t be in the case of Kaeleer which supposedly has more distinct cultural boundaries.) She’s including more “landen” characters (who always seemed extremely marginalized, and “Jim Crowed” to me for various reasons) and is showing us “Blood” characters who aren’t massively powerful, which is kind of nice.
In this book, Bishop is tying up threads that had begun in her previous books and novellas, and also “cleaning up” the aftermath of the devastation in The Queen of the Darkness. This was a very entertaining book, though it really isn’t a “stand alone.” If you liked the previous books, you’ll most likely like this one.