The first three novels of the Black Jewels series really tear at me. On the one hand, I really liked some of the characters and found the world hard to look away from. On the other hand, I felt that the politics were ridiculous and difficult to really understand. On top of all that, the fact that certain races live for thousands upon thousands of years made it difficult to really connect with. This novel, however, fared a lot better in my mind because the author expects that the reader already has some base level of knowledge regarding the series. It's a smaller story in a sense because it is about Jared and his struggle to find his way out of the slave self and into the man he was always meant to be. While the change of Lia from young woman to true Queen is very important to the story and is connected to Jared finding himself again, it feels much smaller in scale and scope than Janelle's story in the previous three books.Lia is not a Mary Sue in the way that Janelle was. Jared is not a Marty Stu either. We watch him make bad decisions based on his knowledge and experience and his mistakes feel real and from an honest place within him.I do think that the author may have relied too much on the reader's previous knowledge of the world- I felt like I didn't understand distance. How far they had to travel to get back to Lia's territory, why it took so long, why taking a carriage would be so dangerous, even if they had the money. I just felt like I didn't know why the journey took so long outside of it being a tool the author needed to get her characters to fall in love.I did like how Jared and Lia found each other and connected. It felt more real and less… pedophilic than Daemon and Janelle and based on actual interaction and personality, not just on fate. I still think all that male "protection" and the female "issues" are a bit much. Every conversation seems to center around who has greater rank, why a Queen has to listen to a male, why males lose their minds and become almost like animals to protect women, etc. Where are the conversations about books, about where people came from, about anything in general? It felt so centered on what stamp a person wore that it got old.Don't get me wrong- I really did like this book. I was pulled in from the beginning and was sucked along until the end. I had a hard time putting the book down to do anything else, including finishing my nano novel. While I enjoyed the book, I am not blind to its flaws.I am glad that Anne Bishop is getting away from her core characters in this universe a bit. Never thought I'd say that but while I enjoy Daemon and the rest, it makes the world that much more real to see how other less powerful people deal with the world that they are trapped in.There was a very real and very terrifying sense of what slavery is like in this world and the terror of getting caught by the wrong people was right there at the surface.If you like the first three books in the series, I would highly recommend this one as well. Not perfect but a fun read and a great exploration into characters that are different (wonderfully so) than in the original trilogy.