Dreams Made Flesh - Anne Bishop (Black Jewels book 5)

What I love about Anne Bishop’s worlds is how intricate they are. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like the writing style or the characters (which has only happened once), the worlds are so well created that I’ll just keep coming back. The other good thing about her stories is that she doesn’t spend forever describing the universe before we get to any action – we learn about it as we go. Her characterisation is great too – I fell in love with most of the people from the start.

Dreams Made Flesh is set in the same world as the “Black Jewels Trilogy” and contains four stories that take place at various stages before, during and after the books in the Trilogy. With this in mind, I strongly suggest that you read the other books first (although in my opinion they’re not as good as this one). They are: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows and Queen of the Darkness.

If you decide to forge ahead regardless, I’ll give you a basic outline of how the world works. For those who have read the Trilogy, feel free to skip this section and read ahead to the actual review. Please be aware that this is dark fantasy. It deals with rape, violence and abuse – often with people having their internal organs providing new and fetching wallpaper designs. The sex scenes are not what I would consider to be pornographic, but there isn’t any hiding behind euphemisms in this book.

The people (and animals) of the Blood are segregated by caste and power (the two are not necessarily related). If you don’t have the capacity for magic, you belong to the “landen” class. If you do, you are referred to as being “of the Blood”. The Blood (especially the Queens) were created in order to be caretakers of the land, and Janelle (one of the main characters in the story) is the most powerful of the Blood – also known as Witch. Of course you have those who are going to try and twist Janelle’s power to their own ends, which is the basis of the events in the Trilogy.

If you are Blood, you are able to wield “Craft” which lets you cast spells. The level of power that you can invest in a spell depends on the strength of your Blood Jewel which is shown by the Jewel’s colour. The caste system is where Bishop’s characterisation shines. Your caste not only defines your specific abilities, but also affects your basic personality. You can find specific information on Jewels and castes at the front of the book.

Now for the reviews:

1. Weaver of Dreams
The first story in this collection takes place in the far past, before the creation of the Blood. It is about how the Arachnian spiders learned to create a web to capture dreams and make them into flesh (hence the title of the story). This flesh would become the Blood Queen known as Witch in various incarnations.

I have to say that I wasn’t really impressed by this. Whilst I did like how the Arachnian spider’s intellect changed throughout the story, I found that I didn’t really care about any of the characters, despite knowing some from reading the Trilogy. If this story hadn’t made it into the book, I wouldn’t have been devastated.

2. The Prince of Ebon Rhi
This would have to be my favourite story of the anthology. It takes place between the second and third books of the Trilogy and tells how Lucivar met his wife Marian. As the previous books have mainly been about Janelle and her lover Daemon, it’s nice to get some insight into this volatile, aggressive yet protective Warlord Prince – besides, he’s one of my favourite characters!. We also get to find out how a gentle Eyrien woman can stand up to Lucivar and his temper! This is a definite read.

3. Zuulaman
This story gives us a glimpse into exactly how powerful Saetan, the High Lord of Hell actually is. Before Daemon and Lucivar were born, Saetan had two sons, Mephis and Peyton. They are mentioned in the Trilogy, but there was another one that was only referred to briefly in Daughter of the Blood and Heir to the Shadows. This is the story of that son, how he died, and how it drove Saetan into the madness of the Twisted Kingdom.

I found this story to be quite stomach-churning in a way – not because we see what Saetan’s power can do, but because of what forced him to use it. Let’s just say that flowers made out of mutilated hands do not appeal to me. Despite this, I did like the story. In the Trilogy, Daemon is seen to be the most dangerous Warlord Prince in the Realms. This anecdote shows us exactly how deadly a loving father can be.

4. Kaleer’s Heart
Kaleer’s Heart focuses on the relationship between Janelle and her Consort Daemon, and how it has changed since the traumatic events described in Queen of the Darkness. Since Janelle lost the Ebony power that she used to command, the Jewel of many colours known as “Twilight’s Dawn” has been puzzling everyone except her. Why would Janelle give up her extraordinary powers to be weaker than some of the Dark Jewels in the realm? When rumours start to threaten the foundation of their love, will the Sadist become involved? In terms of continuing the Trilogy, I liked this story much better than the original books. I think that it’s because Bishop has had time to refine her writing style – although I am getting sick of Janelle’s rather repetitive “silvery velvet-coated laugh”.

All in all, I would recommend reading Dreams Made Flesh as it continues to show Anne Bishop’s fantastic world-building and writing style. It’s great to get some more insight into the characters that I’ve come to know and love, so I suggest reading the Black Jewels Trilogy first to get the most out of this book.

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