In the second book of the Black Jewels, the focus shifts from Terrielle, the twisted, corrupted realm of Light, to Kaeleer, the realm of Shadow. Here the Blood still live—for the most part—according to the protocol that was meant to govern their actions towards each other. Their Queens rule their courts without inspiring fear and without Rings of Obedience, and the males serve and protect. This is the realm in which where Jaenelle now finds herself, to learn to be a Queen and to come into her full power as Witch. But she has a long road ahead over her, as she arrives in Kaeleer gravely injured in both body and spirit by the men who tried to break her.
The first part of the book represents her slow healing and her struggle to find herself again, hindered by the repressed memories of what happened to her and helped along by her friends from the various territories in Kaeleer as well as by the man whom now truly has become her adoptive father: Saetan SaDiablo, the High Lord of Hell. But once she has regained her strength—and, indeed, grown more powerful than anyone could dream of after her Offering to the Darkness—she is forced to once again take up the struggle against those who want to spread the corruption from Terrielle into Kaeleer. In particular, she must use her powers in an attempt to defend the Kindred of Kaeleer, for far from all of the human Blood are willing to accept that they are not the only species who possess the jewels and the powers that are their birthright.
Compared to the first book, Heir to the Shadows is less darkly erotic or intensely emotional—and not quite as disturbing either, though it is still not for the faint-hearted—and as a result its impact is not quite so strong. The warm, whimsical sections take up more room in this book, but here too the contrast against the darkness and brutality of other parts of the book works very effectively. You get a real sense of what it is that Jaenelle and those around here stand to lose, should she fail to carry the heavy burden than has been placed on her as Witch, the embodiment of the dreams of not just the human Blood.
It is also made painfully obvious that not only is her task a difficult one, but the power she has been given to accomplish it with is just as much of a burden in itself. This is illustrated primarily through Saetan’s point of view, as he sometimes finds he has to struggle not to be frightened by just how devastatingly powerful his adoptive daughter is, even though he knows from his own experience how much it hurts to be feared by your own friends. Jaenelle’s coming-of-age, and how she and her surroundings cope with it, is undoubtedly at the core of this book, but a fair amount of space is also given to Saetan’s struggles to reintegrate himself in the world of the living and to Lucivar’s, his half-Eyrien son, struggle to fit into a realm where mutual respect rather than pain and fear upholds the delicate balance between females and males.