Fantasy Book Review: The Queen's Weapons by Anne Bishop

Fantasy Book Review

The Queen's Weapons
Author: Anne Bishop
Publication Date: March 9th 2021
Publisher: Ace
Genres: Epic Fantasy

The original Black Jewels trilogy is an all-time favorite of mine, particularly because of its powerful, kick-ass women and its themes of female dominance and sadomasochism. Yes, it was dark and problematic, and hardly what one would call a feel-good fantasy, but the gender dynamic was important to me, a significant shift from most of the fantasy I was reading.

The Queen's Bargain marked a significant departure from that subject matter and those themes, but I didn't realize how much of a departure until I was about halfway through The Queen's Weapons. Anne Bishop has gender-flipped and subverted her own work, not only restoring the traditional fantasy patriarchy, but reducing women to being defined as the daughters and wives of men, making them powerless in the face of uncontrollable male sexual heat, and demonstrating deplorable cruelty towards them - including rape and psychological assault.

Sadly, for a book that should be exploring the larger threats of a taint in the Blood and the source of a familiar evil, this is mostly relegated to emotional wounds - it's basically Mean Girls with magic, focused on a bunch of spoiled brat teenagers who are obsessed with their social standing. It's soap operaish to the extreme, and there's such a massive shift in personalities and motives from the first half to the second that I really began to wonder if my book was a misprint that was missing something significant. Add to that some absolutely deplorable decisions made regarding family dynamics, the brutal breaking of bonds between mothers and daughters, and I began to wonder why I was still reading at all.

The Queen's Weapons isn't necessarily a bad book, if it's what you're looking for (or willing to settle for), it's just not up to the standards of earlier in the series.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.