Welcome back to my deep dive exploration of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels. This week, we’re looking at chapter 7 of the first novel, Daughter of the Blood. Trigger warning: discussion of pedophilia, hints of child abuse.
Daemon has been dismissed.
Not permanently. But he’s been given a day off, as, according to Philip, his services won’t be needed. Something’s going on, but nobody will say what. Even the servants he usually gets along well with are frazzled and snappish. Daemon decided to wander around town that morning, mostly in bookshops because Daemon’s awesome and loves books, killing time before he figures it might be safe to go back to the house.
When he does, his own temper rises, because there’s a different presence there. One that’s both new, and yet very familiar.
Jaenelle is home.
This is Daemon’s first time seeing her, and understandably, he’s unnerved. Not just because Jaenelle is obviously malnourished and unhealthy, worn down, but because he truly and unmistakably gets confirmation that his earlier suspicions were correct.
Witch is indeed still a child.
He makes a cursory greeting before high-tailing it out of there, thoroughly disturbed by his emotions. He still knows, deep within himself, that he is made to be Witch’s lover, but now he finds himself wondering if that makes him a pedophile, as evil as his cousin Kartane (whose disturbing predilections were discussed in chapter 5). He is incredibly relieved to find out that he did not, in fact, get an erection. Though that doesn’t diminish how he feels about her.
I am very well aware that this is one of the things that really turns people away from these books. On the surface, it’s easy to just see a grown man lusting after a child. Only it’s not really that simple, and Bishop tries to really establish that clearly.
He could take some comfort that he didn’t want the child’s body, but the hunger he felt for what lived inside that body scared him.
Daemon doesn’t want Jaenelle’s body when she’s prepubescent. He doesn’t want Jaenelle’s body when she doesn’t want his, let alone when she’s not capable of making an informed choice, or when doing something might completely break her and rob her of all the potential that lies within her. Daemon, as he is, with all the skills he has, could easily seduce Jaenelle right then and there, if he wanted. And he doesn’t want.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t recognize what she will become, the entity and essence that lives inside that body, and it doesn’t mean he can’t or doesn’t want that. There’s a difference between spiritual love and physical love, and though it seems really corny to phrase it that way, that’s honestly, the best way I can think to describe it. We tend to think of spiritual love as implicitly non-erotic, but there’s no reason it has to be, and more than physical love having to erotic.
I don’t know if I can describe it any other way. I guess, in a pinch, it’s just something I’ve had an easy time seeing a distinction between, so the idea of Daemon having the hots for the essence that resides in Jaenelle without having the hots for her body is something that doesn’t seem contradictory.
But I can very easily see why it would be a contradiction for a lot of people, because let’s face it, most people who say they’re in love with someone who’s a child… they don’t make that distinction. They justify to themselves in myriad ways why it’s okay for them to do things to and with a child that should. Not. Be. Done. They’ll use the notion that they want who the person will become as an excuse to do things to the person as they are now, and that’s very far from okay. “When you use the language of the enemy, expect to be treated like the enemy.” If you say something that many abusers have also said, right before they abuse, well yes, people are going to assume you’re also an abuser.
So while I don’t have a problem with Daemon’s desire for Witch while Witch is still growing up, I can understand why people do have a problem with it, and why that would turn them away from the series as a whole. After all, if this is the first Black Jewels book you read (and it probably is, given that it’s the first book of the core trilogy), and what you read isn’t to your taste, nobody can blame you for deciding to not continue with it.
Even if Jaenelle’s family seem a bit perturbed by her being home, the kitchen staff sure seem happy to have her back, and Daemon discovers the next morning when he goes down to breakfast. Jaenelle and Wilhelmina are in the kitchen, having already eaten breakfast, leaving only a single nutcake left on the table when Daemon arrives.
Jaenelle takes it, only to be scolded gently by the cook, who asks her what Daemon’s supposed to eat for breakfast now. Jaenelle, full of contrition, hands it over to Daemon, who refuses and says he’s not hungry anyway. The liar. He just wants to make some sort of impression on Jaenelle, and I think half the kitchen staff knows it!
The mood is broken, however, when Cook mentions that they’ll be having leg for dinner, and Jaenelle goes pale and appears terrified. Daemon attempts to rescue the situation by asking if Jaenelle doesn’t like lamb (because I guess people refer to a roast leg of lamb as just “leg,” which was a new one for me when I first read this book), and Jaenelle seems to realise then what Cook was talking about. The tension is broken, though Jaenelle’s reaction makes Daemon wonder what other kind of leg Jaenelle misunderstood they would be eating that day.
Daemon accompanies both Wilhelmina and Jaenelle on a morning walk, ending in the alcove where he previously found the blooming witch blood flowers. They remain for a while, before Wilhelmina is called away for her morning lessons, leaving Jaenelle and Daemon alone in the alcove together. Jaenelle, somewhat eerily, tells Daemon that if you sing to witch blood in just the right way, the flowers will tell you the names of those who were killed.
“As long as Chaillot stands above the sea, the ones they were planted for won’t be forgotten. And someday the blood debt will be paid in full.”
Jaenelle is not a normal child.
As they walk back to the house, Jaenelle confides in Daemon that she doesn’t take lessons the way Wilhelmina does, because their governess has determined that Jaenelle has absolutely no talent for Craft, even the most basic of things, and isn’t worth teaching.
As in the previous chapter, we see another large rift between Jaenelle and her family, and some of the people who serve her family, We know good and well that she can do amazing things, things beyond the comprehension of even the most powerful people. But at home, she’s seen as a little girl who not only has no Jewels of her own, but also can’t even manage the most basic of basic Craft, which is something even Blood with no Jewels should be able to manage. For them, it would never be much, but it’s still part of what makes them Blood, Jeweled or not. But nobody can see that Jaenelle has any talent at all.
This is more understandable than their assertion that she’s mentally ill because she tells fantastical stories, mind you. Craft is like any other thing one learns, really. You start off basic, and you move to more complex things once you’ve mastered those basics. Jaenelle, though, can’t do the basic stuff, so why would anybody think she could handle anything that required more skill?
Back in chapter 2, Saetan theorized that for Jaenelle, expecting her to do the small things people tend to start out with is like handing a toddler a pen and expecting them to write well, because it’s small and simple. They won’t be able to do it. They’ll probably have a hard time even holding the pen properly But give them a huge sheet of paper and thick crayons she can wrap her fist around, and suddenly she’s capable of doing something after all. Power, Craft, is like the writing implement. Jaenelle does things with tremendous power, but a lack of finesse, because she’s channeling so much of that power without the learned experience to control and refine it. It’s not that Jaenelle is incapable, not by a long shot. Instead, it’s that learning the most basic things most people start with requires a degree of control that Jaenelle has yet to master.
So to all appearances, Jaenelle would look like she has no talent for Craft at all, because she hasn’t mastered the basics even when she’s done things that make the High Lord of Hell feel a bit faint. And you can’t quite fault a teacher for lack of imagination of dedication in that regard, because really, nobody in their right mind would say, “Well, you can’t manage to light a single candle, so let’s see how you do at creating a fireball big enough to engulf your house.”
But that this attitude is understandable, even sensible from many viewpoints, does not diminish the fact that it’s another sore spot for Jaenelle, one more thing she knows her family just doesn’t understand about her.
Daemon was sent to Chaillot as a gift, a sex slave for Alexandra to do with as she pleased.
While Alexandra isn’t a cruel woman, not by the standards that Daemon is used to, she definitely wonders about Daemons bedroom skills. She knows his reputation, of course, both the good and the bad. She’s not really sure she wants to dance with the more volatile side of his personality.
But it’s been a long time since she’s had a lover, and women have desires of their own, so she summons Daemon to her bed.
She waited, unwilling to dismiss him, too frightened to demand.
In the end, this scene doesn’t really amount to much. It changes nothing in the story. It could have been edited out and nothing would really have been lost.
But it does serve a purpose, though you have to look a little below the surface for it. In summoning Daemon, in deciding she was going to use him in that manner, she took her first serious step into the trap that Dorothea had set for her. Alexandra may not be a strong Queen, but her continued influence has been helping to stave off Hayll’s conquest of Chaillot. Though Daemon is technically a sex slave, it’s pretty easy to not, you know, demand that he have sex with you. It’s very easy. I’m doing that right now. Witness me not telling anyone to bone me!
Alexandra doesn’t speak a word to Daemon during that short scene, nor he to her, but wordlessly, their positions are reinforced. She holds the power over him. And she will use it to get what she wants, even if what she wants is a passing fancy to be satisfied by an unwilling man.
In that wordless action, Alexandra affirms to Daemon that she, in no way, can be trusted to be his ally.
Jaenelle returns to Hell after a long absence. Saetan is both pleased to see her, and yet appalled by her appearance, commenting that she looks like she’s been very ill. And yet, for all that, Jaenelle is more concerned with Saetan’s weak leg, as he’s limping again, and offers her blood to help him heal. He tries to refuse, saying that she certainly needs it more than he does, but it occurs to him, almost too late, that Jaenelle’s offer isn’t just because of his leg. That’s part of it, yes, but the other part comes from her fear of rejection.
After spending so long in Briarwood, being told that people like Saetan are just figments of her sick imagination, it’s not surprising that Jaenelle would crave acceptance. Doubly so when so much of Briarwood is about giving men the opportunity to do horribly inappropriate things with young girls, and use the fact that they’re “mentally disturbed” to dismiss any accusations the girls may make. Her own family rejects so much of what Jaenelle is. If Saetan rejected her too, it’s not difficult to imagine that starting Jaenelle on a dangerous slippery slope of hatred and confusion.
Sometimes you have to do things you don’t much like, to avoid even worse consequences.
In the meantime, Jaenelle reveals to Saetan, in no uncertain terms, that she has no idea what a Gate is. A Gate is something people typically move between Realms. That Jaenelle has never seen one before, yet still manages to Realm-hop with ease… It’s best that Saetan not think too hard about it.
Anyway, they go through the Gate to the Hall in Kaeleer, and when Jaenelle is told that’s where they are, she marvels that there really is a Shadow Realm (another term used for Kaeleer). This again gives Saetan pause, because he’s known for years that Jaenelle has friends in Kaeleer, that she’s visited them and talked about them before.
He doesn’t dwell on it much at that moment, but I think it’s worth pointing out that this is a strong indication that Jaenelle, at this point, is actually rather ignorant of what she’s been doing from a very young age. She wasn’t exactly aware that she was crossing to different Realms, nor that such a thing was difficult for most people to do. She knew only that she felt calls from different places, and went to them, and made friends there. They were all, for her, mentally filed under Places I Can Go, and so she didn’t think about them beyond that. For all the ease of her getting there, they might as well have been in Terreille the whole time, and if nobody pointed out that she wasn’t there anymore, how would she have known different?
Jaenelle is a master at doing impossible things just because nobody has told her yet that they’re impossible.
It’s at this point that Jaenelle is introduced to Helene, Housekeeper of the Hall in Kaeleer, and honestly, “introduced” is a very mild word to describe what happens. Jaenelle and Saetan hear approaching footsteps… and suddenly Jaenelle changes from a young girl to a terrifying predator, dark power spiralling inward instead of outward as is typical, the air freezing, and Saetan knows that unless he can pull Jaenelle out of this sudden and baffling protective/aggressive reaction, Helene will die as soon as she walks through the door.
He manages. Barely. He manages to appeal to a sense of Protocol, to the intricate dance of give and take among the Blood, to stay Jaenelle’s hand.
Jaenelle’s justification for this behaviour? Helene was a stranger.
This doesn’t sit right with Saetan. After all, Jaenelle had met and befriended plenty of strangers in her life. And she certainly hadn’t acted so terrifyingly cold to any of them last time Saetan had seen her. This is new. And, Saetan reflects, prompted not by Helene’s arrival, but by the sound of her footsteps echoing down a hallway, an unfamiliar person, and unfamiliar situation. He wonders what could have happened to Jaenelle to connect those things with something that would make her turn so predatory against a stranger, and so protective toward him.
He coaxes Jaenelle into eating a somewhat mountainous offering of food, and once she’s eaten her fill, she offers her a surprise: a suite of rooms he’s had prepared for her. A place for her to stay when she’s at the Hall, a place that’s all hers, to decorate and personalize as she sees fit. Her home away from home, in a manner of speaking.
A locked door connects to another suite of rooms that will eventually be her consort’s. But there’s no need to tell her that now.
I do wonder sometimes what the Blood would make of asexual people such as myself. I mean, it’s bad enough here, in this world, with people not understanding how I could just… not want to bone people. For a culture where so much revolves around sexuality, and in a much deeper way than it often does in this world, I feel like the idea that I don’t feel much sexual attraction at all would just baffle people on some fundamental level.
And yet, as I said in my introduction-to-this-deep-dive post ages ago, Daemon is the very definition of demisexual, which isn’t exactly a typical sexual presentation either. And a certain character is introduced later who is established to not have a sexual interest in men; most people interpret her as being attracted to women, though personally, I prefer to think she’s as asexual as I am. Absolutely nothing in the books contradicts either interpretation. It’s presented as an oddity, but she’s not hurting anyone, she’s not lacking anything in her life because of it, and aside from a necessary Virgin Night, it doesn’t really matter. She is who she is, and people accept that, even if they may not understand it entirely.
After Jaenelle has left, Saetan goes seeking some new names that Jaenelle casually dropped in conversation, and stumbles across Jaenelle’s family. At least, he thinks it’s her family. There are strong hints, but it’s impossible to be entirely sure, because Jaenelle is not registered as Blood, even though they find that Wilhelmina definitely is.
There’s confusion about this until Saetan bitterly reflects that a family might see no point in registering a child as Blood if they’re not even strong enough to wear a Jewel.
And Jaenelle’s family definitely think she’s not strong enough for a Jewel. Or to handle basic Craft. Nor do they take any of her claims about her abilities remotely seriously.
Saetan does ask the Keep’s librarian and Seneschal if they know anything about the Blood spiraling inward to their core, the way Jaenelle did. It’s unusual, since most of the time, power radiates outward, often as a warning to any who might approach, to tell them that there’s someone nearby who shouldn’t be messed with. An inward spiral, though, is strange, and something Saetan has never encountered before.
Draca, the Keep’s Seneschal, of ancient and reptilian descend, has indeed heard of it, and explains it to Saetan with, of all things, a container of water and some sequins.
Draca’s demonstration not only ends up answering Saetan’s question, but gives the reader a more complete understanding of how the Blood relate to and access their power. When Draca slowly lowers a stone into the water, that’s how most Blood reach their power, however deep that power might be. The sequins (representing the Blood in the surrounding area) in the water don’t react, because there’s control. If someone makes a fast or uncontrolled dive to their core, there are ripples in the water, the sequins react, they move about, and some end up sinking due to the disturbance. It’s fast, it’s messy, and there’s backlash, but it can still be done is the need is great.
Then comes the spiral. The stone descends in the water in a circular motion, creating ripples, catching sequins in its wake, causing disruption all around as a miniature whirlpool is created in the tank. No sequin escapes, everything is caught up in the disturbance caused by the person who spirals down to their core. The stone’s final ascent out of the water pulls some sequins along with it, removing them from the tank entirely. In the end, devastation is what remains.
Draca says that the Blood don’t spiral. Isn’t Jaenelle Blood, though?
“Sshe iss Blood, and sshe iss Other.”
Jaenelle may be Blood, but she is also Witch, something that, by necessity, stands a bit apart from the Blood. The usual rules don’t always apply to her. Her very nature is different from those around her, and no matter how much they love and accept her, there is a part of her that will always be somewhat beyond their comprehension. She is who she is, a part and apart.
And, like the spiraling stone affected the sequins in the water, she has the power to end the Blood.