From girlhood to womanhood, Libertie is one woman's journey to freedom—both mental and physical—inspired by the life of one of America's first Black female doctors. Talk about some stunning writing and storytelling.
I think this book is going to be the source of a lot of discussion this year. It feels like a story that will last, not the least because of its captivating writing and strong sense of character.
Libertie is a free born Black woman growing up in Brooklyn in the mid-1800s. Her mother is a practicing doctor. The two women and their female assistant, Lenore, operate a medical practice for Black people in the New York area, and occasionally for white women, too, as Libertie's mother can pass for white.
In this uniquely matriarchal and progressive bubble, Libertie is raised. She is raised to be educated, to read and write and learn medicinal treatments, and to follow in her mother's footsteps as a free Black woman with ambitions of her own. She grows up with an abundance of food, education, and sense of self in a world where many Black individuals are still actively enslaved and seeking freedom.
But like many daughters, Libertie doesn't necessarily recognize the unique circumstances of her mother's efforts as a gift to savor... she needs to carve her own path, regardless of the consequences.
Spanning from Brooklyn to Ohio to Haiti and beyond, Libertie was a physical, mental, and emotional journey that will remain with me for years to come.
I thought this novel was beautiful. The writing was show-stopping—Greenidge's prose lifted me into the story immediately and I found myself swept along for the ride in a consuming reading experience. Even though I disagreed with many of Libertie's actions and feelings, I couldn't help but read her story.
Complex themes of racial identity, divides between free born Black people and those escaping from enslaved situations in the American South, what it means to be female and Black in 1800s America, classicism, religion, a hint of magical realism... this novel packed in a lot in its 300-some pages. I thought it was masterfully done.
My one caveat to the reading experience is minor, and most likely personal. I found Libertie's refusal to trust and follow her mother's guidance to be intense. This might be because my own relationship with my mother is very close, but for whatever reason I found Libertie's decisions to be rash and filled with an odd level of anger and distrust. Clearly a personal reason, but still wanted to mention it here in case other readers feel the same way.
Overall, a beautiful story that I hope receives a wide readership this year. One of my favorite reads of 2021.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A different book from the rest of the series, and one that is sure to upset some with its pacing and plot. This is a slow burn, a fast burn, and a character-driven exploration all at the same time. And yet. For those of us who have been waiting...this was a healing.
(I have a LOT to say, so strap in!)
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Character decisions: ★★★★
Disclaimer: This is the 11th book in the Black Jewels world and the direct sequel to The Queen's Bargain. While I do not spoil anything for this particular book, there ARE spoilers for the other books in the world and for The Queen's Bargain. Please do not read if you do not want to be spoiled for previous books.
This is not an entry point novel for the series.
I really don't know where to start. For those of us who have been with Anne Bishop since Daughter of the Blood, we've been through some things. In particular, Twilight's Dawn imparted some shocking new developments for the plot and its characters and then left us to hang with that for several years—i.e., discovering that Daemon and Surreal decide to get married and have a daughter named Jaenelle Saetien. (There's other stuff too, obviously, but that was the mic drop.)
Then the The Queen's Bargain entered the scene in 2020 when we followed Lucivar Yaslana and Daemon Sadi as they embarked on the new frontier: parenthood. In particular, we got to watch Jaenelle Saetien grow up and Daemon's internal chalice crumble once again as his true nature as the Sadist fell apart with Surreal's fear and distrust. It was a painful journey, there's no mistaking that. But it ended on a hopeful tendril: Witch intervened.
Following the events of The Queen's Bargain, Lucivar and Daemon are now older, wiser, and soothed by the fact that their one true Queen, Witch, is not as lost to them as they had previously assumed. She's not back—not really—but her core remains sentient and she can speak with them in the Keep of Ebon Askavi. And for the two sides of the triangle, that is enough. For the Sadist, who needed the oversight and the acceptance, that is enough.
And for Daemonar, who is now old enough to be considered a young man, that is enough. His Auntie J is raising Daemonar to be the new third side to the triangle with his Uncle Daemon and his father. And a new storm is brewing in Kaleer. Before long, Daemonar will be needed. The queen will have need of her weapons.
For the long-lived races, several hundred years is not enough to forget the memory of Witch and the sacrifices made for the Blood of the realms. But for the shorter-lived races, that lesson has become a distant memory. When history becomes a distant memory, some decide to conveniently forget its teachings...
A new taint is darkening the pages. And Daemon, Lucivar, and Daemonar need to be ready.
This was... a journey. First off, I have to admit that the pacing of this book was difficult. The first 100 pages were a lot of recap and character interactions that I enjoyed as a Black Jewels mega-fan but did become tedious, even for me. So the plot itself took its sweet time to arrive.
But when it did, it really kicked off. To avoid spoilers, let's just say that while Kaleer might have forgotten that Saetan's sons have claws... the sons themselves have not. If peace isn't an option, they're happy to pick the other road. Whew boy, the boys are BACK.
The Queen's Weapons follows quite a few points of view. Daemonar is one of the main ones, along with Daemon and Lucivar. But we're also along for the ride with Surreal—who finally finds her backbone that was mysteriously absent for all of The Queen's Bargain—and with Jaenelle Saetien. (And a few others, but those are the main ones.)
Let's talk about Jaenelle Saetien. I mean, I really can't due to spoilers, but I want to. Desperately. This was an intense novel that Jaenelle Saetien made much more difficult to get through for us readers. But the pain and agony of dealing with her—there's no other way to put it, it felt like a chore to experience her behavior—was made worth it by the climax of the novel.
Anne Bishop doesn't need to keep outdoing herself with masterful writing and emotionally complex characters, but man does it feel like she outdoes herself with each new book. This was another masterclass from the queen of dark fantasy. I know I'm the last person to provide an unbiased review, and y'all can call me out on that I don't even care, but I loved this. It's always a joy to walk the roads in the Realms with our favorite people.
And Witch, I'm glad you're with us again.
If you were upset with Twilight's Dawn, then let me promise you that this book is a healing. It's a painful, joyous ride—but the ending made me cry from happiness. We made it. The light at the end of the tunnel is glorious, and now I am unreservedly excited for whatever happens next.
Thank you to ACE/Berkley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.