This imaginative world consists of 3 parallel realms. There are 2 kinds of people, the ruling aristocrats with paranormal powers called the Blood, and everyone else, the Landen. The Blood have a central power structure of one Queen surrounded and balanced by a court of 12 Warlords. Around this central structure are their relatives, friends, spouses, etc. Over centuries, the Blood became twisted and tainted by aristocrats who used their powers cruelly. At the end of the Black Jewel Trilogy books, a wave of power swept all three realms, killing all those of the Blood who were tainted.
2 years later, the territory of Dena Nehele in the realm of Tereille is in trouble. During the power wave, so many tainted Queens were killed that there remained no Queens left able to hold a court. As a result, there are 100 Warlords with no one to balance them. Even worse, these Warlords are the ones victimized by the evil Queens before the storm. They appeal to the shadow realm of Kaeler for a Queen who can come to Dena Nehele, a Queen who knows the Old Ways.
Cassidy is the Queen who goes to Dena Nehele to teach these traumatized people how the Blood should rule.
Cassidy was a delight. Wise, smart, and knowledgeable about the Old Ways, she soon has the people in Dena Nehele supporting her. I loved reading about her and how she taught these people what the Blood should be, living in honour and protecting the Landen.
However, Theran, the man sent to bring her, was an utter jerk. Everytime Cassidy did something wonderful, he thought she was being selfish, stupid, careless or dumb. He was prejudiced, tactless and really idiotic. For example, he sees that she's plain and he dislikes her because she won't impress the other men. He sees she's in danger and doesn't protect her. She protects a Landen child and he thinks she's jeopardizing everything.
There is a lot of Jaenelle, Lucivar, Daemon and Saetan from the Black Jewel Trilogy. We see how they deal with their past trauma in their current situations. As much as I loved these characters, I found it very jarring to continually change to their stories from the story involving Cassidy.
So basically I loved Cassidy's story. Unfortunately, it was regularly interrupted by side stories about Jaenelle and Daemon. Even worse, Theran had too much time in this book. Almost everything Cassidy did was followed up by some stupid bitter viewpoint from Theran.
The story ended too soon. I wanted to see Cassidy reach out to the Shalador Queens and see her get together with Gray. Instead, it ended with Theran realizing he should be a better person and maybe not be so critical of her (well, duh!).
Hm, after writing this review, I just read an interview with the author, who said she'd be writing 2 more Black Jewel books, the second part of Cassidy's story (hurray!) and another book of short stories. Well, I hope there will be less Theran in the next book, or that at least he grows up.
For those who have read the Invisible Ring, this is the story of the Grey Lady's home centuries later, after the tainted Queens are removed and the land has to heal itself.
So only 4 stars from me.