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[Another old review with a guessed-at star rating. Rereading my review made me annoyed at this book all over again, so this probably deserves a lower rating. I'll let it keep its half star because there were parts of the book I liked enough to want to reread them.]
I read a comment about this book on another blog, something about the Daemon/Jaenelle/Saetan/Lucivar cameos being a bit much. At first, I couldn't see what the problem was. Yes, the back-and-forth thing as characters from Bishop's original Blood trilogy kept checking on Cassidy looked like it might get annoying after a while, but I figured that would let up eventually. Plus, part of me kind of liked it - I do still like most of the characters from the original trilogy, and it was nice to see what they were up to.
Then those characters tried to take over the book. I'm not really sure when it started - maybe when Daemon started having his Vulchera problems, or maybe it didn't really start until Saetan began his multi-stage torture/killing of Vulchera. Anyway, for a little while, I forgot that the book was actually supposed to be about Cassidy and Dena Nehele. The whole thing with Saetan got resolved, and suddenly I remembered that that wasn't really the climax. Or it wasn't supposed to be.
Had Daemon and Saetan's issues not taken up so many pages, there might have been more room for Cassidy and Dena Nehele. Maybe Bishop didn't feel like there was enough story there to fill a whole book, and that's why she allowed her characters from the trilogy to run amok, but I think there was a lot more she could have done with Cassidy's story. For one thing, she could've had Theran get his head out of his butt faster and spent more time showing Cassidy getting others to trust her and believe that she could be a good Queen for Dena Nehele. She could have spent more time showing Cassidy bridging the bloody gap between Dena Nehele's Blood and landen - I'm sorry, but after all the bloodshed the two groups went through only two years prior, one incident in which Cassidy protects a landen girl and justly punishes the Blood males who hurt her isn't enough. Mending the rift should take more work than that - why not show some of that? Why not show Cassidy interacting more with her court and others in the area? She seemed to spend all of her time with Theran, Shira, or Gray.
The cheesy bit (sidestory?) involving the "treasure hunt" at Grayhaven, in which Cassidy keeps finding all the pieces and can't let anyone else know, was just...not worthy of a novel. A short story maybe, but only if there was nothing better to write about. I know, I know, it was supposed to show how Cassidy was being accepted as the Queen of Dena Nehele by a great former Queen's magic, which, I guess, overrides any objections anyone else (like Theran) might have. Whatever. Wasn't there a better way to do that? Something less clunky?
Seriously, once Bishop got past the bit where she set up the basics of Cassidy's part of the book ("Queen who's been emotionally wounded by a court who rejected her for not being pretty, going off to be Queen of a place where, for the most part, she's not wanted because she's not pretty"), it's like the book became two blended short stories - Daemon and Saetan's "two men who still bear the scars of their pasts" story, and Cassidy's "treasure hunt, and do I really belong here?" story. If Bishop wanted to write a couple short stories (or novellas), she should have just written another anthology. I would have preferred that, because at least then it would have been clear what I was getting into. Instead, I expected a book starring new characters, with cameo appearances from old characters. That's sort of what I got, but that's not the spirit of what I got.
I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of "the dark side of the men" stories, so I wasn't as happy about most of the Daemon/Saetan stuff as I could have been. I skipped the Zuulaman story in the anthology Bishop did (Dreams Made Flesh), because I don't like reading about Saetan having crazy person meltdowns. I wasn't entirely happy with Daemon having crazy person meltdowns directed at Jaenelle - I mean, I always thought that Jaenelle would be the one person Daemon would never go all scary with.
Aside from all of that, I think one thing that got to me with this book was that none of it really felt new. Maybe it was all the cameos and references to, well, everything Bishop had ever set in the world of the Blood. Seriously, I think she referenced nearly every book and short story in one way or another - even if I didn't prefer the original trilogy to this book, I still wouldn't recommend this book to a newbie to the series, because of all the references. I do think, though, that, even without all the references and cameos, it still would've felt a bit too familiar. Saetan had his breakdown story already - Zuulaman. Daemon spent, what, a whole book broken? Also, he had a short story where people spread rumors that he was cheating on Jaenelle, kind of like what Vulchera was planning. So, other than Daemon almost/sort of hurting Jaenelle (and I'm not entirely sure that hasn't happened before), nothing new.
It seems like every single one of Bishops good Queens isn't pretty, although Cassidy may be the first one to be stuck on that. Gray's man-boy nature (mentally a boy, with flashes of being mentally the 27-year old man he really is) is also, I think, new for one of Bishop's romantic heroes, although his damaged nature certainly isn't new. Even so, Cassidy's part of the book is still fresher than the parts of Daemon, Saetan, Jaenelle, and Lucivar - it's too bad Bishop couldn't think of anything better than a treasure hunt and allowed cameos to eat valuable story space. I should note, however, that, after I finished the book, the parts I went back and reread were all parts with Cassidy and Gray. Especially Gray - I enjoyed reading about him as he learned about Protocol and fell in love with Cassidy.
Overall, though, not Bishop's best effort. I loved the bits with Cassidy and Gray, and the bits where Cassidy tried to become the Queen of a place that couldn't seem to accept her, but I hated the treasure hunt and I hated the dark, show-stealing sidestory involving Saetan, Daemon, and Vulchera. I know there's at least one Blood book after this, and I plan on reading it, but I hope that Bishop gets her act together and writes a book, and not a few blended novellas. Or, hey, I'll take the novellas if they're actually called that. Just be honest about what I'm going to be reading, and I'll be happy.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)