A magnificent, heart wrenching and mind-blowing book! I finished this book just as the sun was coming up this morning and was at a loss for words at how it ended. Well, not really how it ended so much as the events that led up to the ending. I felt somewhat better at the end but I still had an overwhelmingly heavy heart.
I’m going to try to explain the book but some things are hard to explain if you haven’t followed the series. There are so many characters and different plotlines and paths and roles that each person plays that everything has become a maze and to explain it would take a very long time. The author does an excellent job of writing these books to where a reader can just pick up any of them without reading the previous books in the series but I would recommend starting from the beginning and I am definitely not J.R. Ward or have 1/1000th of her talent so my explanation may be lacking. It is also a long story with a lot going on in it.
This book was mainly about the two Shadow brother’s, Trez and iAm, who are a breed of vampire called the s’Hisbe whose people believe in astrology and every decision they make is based off how the stars and planets align themselves. Trez and iAm are twins and Trez had the misfortune to be born at the exact moment when the stars aligned to make him the Anointed One which meant he was basically a glorified stud to breed with the Princess of the race. They escaped the Shadow compound years ago but always live in fear of being dragged back so Trez can do his duty.
I’m not sure in which book of the series the two brothers were introduced but I know that they have always been honorable and helpful when it came to the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Xhex, the only female member, works for Trez in his nightclubs. I think it was the last book where the brothers moved into the Brotherhood’s mansion to hide from the s’Hisbe Queen who wants Trez back.
Whether it was to make himself unclean in the eyes of the s’Hisbe or something else, Trez became a sex addict throughout the years, sleeping with thousands of human women, usually the prostitutes who work for him at his clubs. iAm has always been at his side and has taken on the caretaker role and never really has done anything for himself except for his cooking. He owns his own Italian restaurant where he is the chef. iAm is a virgin even though he is hundreds of years old. He’s seen what sex has done to his brother and he just hasn’t had the urge to go down that road.
In the last book, Trez met Selena, a Chosen and they slept together. I’m not sure what happened because I can’t remember everything from a book I read a year ago and I’m too lazy to go back and read it but for some reason they stopped seeing each other even though both have strong feelings for the other. Since then, Trez has not touched another woman. In this book, they re-discover each other and fall in love.
Selena has a secret. She has been suffering from something the Chosen call the Arrest. It’s a disease that the Chosen have had that may have happened because of the limited breeding pools being that…in the past only one male was the father of so many of them. The disease starts out with little episodes of the joints locking up from time to time and then progresses to the whole body locking up. These episodes become more frequent and more severe until finally the Chosen becomes locked into one position and never returns to normal. They are aware of their surroundings but die when the whole body calcifies. She knows she has very little time left.
During one of her episodes, she went up to the Sanctuary, a place where the Chosen used to live and the Scribe Virgin (the mother of the race of vampires) still lives. She was looking at the cemetery with stone statues that turned out not to be stone statues but other Chosen who had suffered her same disease. She had an episode there. The Scribe Virgin found her and summoned Trez to the Sanctuary where he found her on the ground with her body stiff. He rushed her to the clinic at the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s mansion where Doc Jane tried to save her. She went into cardiac arrest and was barely brought back. Her body went back to normal but after speaking to the other Chosen and Doc Jane, everyone knows she has very little time left.
“Of course,” I say to myself, “this is a romance book where things always turn out for the best…Right??” But then again, this isn’t just any romance series, this is a J.R. Ward book and anything can happen just like in a George R.R. Martin book because J.R. Ward has killed off beloved characters before. It usually works out for the best but the death is still painful and has lasting effects on the characters and readers.
The book deals with the issue of terminal illness and the processes that go along with it. Trez and Salina decide to live life to the fullest while waiting for the inevitable but also hope to find a miracle. Trez takes Salina to a restaurant that rotated around a huge skyscraper to show the view of the city and he takes her to a carnival with high-up rides even though he has a fear of heights. The moments were beautiful. They also had frank discussions on her death. She was resolved while Trez tried not to talk about it. As someone who has recently had a close call with the possibility of breast cancer, I can relate to these conversations where she is telling him that he has to go on without her and that he can’t kill himself and she hopes he’ll be happy but then at the same time she is feeling bad because she does want him to mourn and not forget her. I ran out of Kleenex and had to start using my shirt to mop up the tears. It was just so very sad and so real.
What makes it harder for a vampire, s’Hisbe or Sympath to lose a mate is the fact that they bond to their mates. Once they are bonded, it is physically impossible to mate with another person…at least for a male. A female would have no desire to mate but they could be forced. Finding a mate is a once in a lifetime opportunity in most cases. Some find mates hundreds of years later if they live through their mate dying but most never do.
Not only was this book about Trez and iAm and Selena but it had a ton of side stories going on and a boatload of different Points of View from all kinds of characters. There was even a POV from one of the lessers. For those who don’t know…lessors (the word seems to always be in italics and never capitalized) are the enemies to the vampires. Where the Scribe Virgin is the mother of the race as God would be the father of the human race, the Omega is the opposite, kind of like what the devil would be for the humans or at least the ones who believe in religion. The Omega creates lessers by some horrible process of removing their soul and over time, they lose their coloring in their hair and bodies and become bleached out looking. They live to kill vampires and the purpose of the Black Dagger Brotherhood was originally to fight and kill lessers. There were POVs from Rhage, Assail, Xcor, Layla, Throe, someone new named Paradise and a few others so there were a lot of storylines going on in the book that need to be resolved in future books. It’s one of the reasons that I didn’t want the book to end. I’m just so curious to know what will happen.
Rhage was having anxiety attacks because he feels guilty that when his shellan died or almost died, he got a second chance but other’s like his brother Tohr did not. As he watched Trez and Selena go through their personal hell, he had trouble dealing with it and needed his shellan near him for comfort but she has been having to stay at the safe house where she works with abused females of the vampire race on some emergency situation so she can’t be with him all of the time.
Assail has been dealing drugs to the lessers. He’s a business man and thinks of profit before anything else. Plus, I think he likes the dangerous life. He’s has gotten really addicted to Cocaine. I remember his book where he fell in love with the human woman, Sola. I knew she moved away but I didn’t realize they had completely broken up. He obviously misses her and thinks of her all of the time. He dials her number that he has memorized but never hits the send button to actually call her. It was sad. The King has told him that he needs to stop dealing with the lessers because they are using the proceeds to buy weapons.
Layla has been sneaking to meet Xcor almost every night because he blackmailed her into it. She gave him blood and because of their strange bond, he was able to find her at the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s mansion and now he knows where it is. He made a deal with her that he wouldn’t attack them there if she would meet him and she have sex with him one time but since she is pregnant and pregnancies tend to last about 18 months for vampires, he has not had sex with her. They usually just talk. They both have deep feelings for each other and Xcor may even be bonding with her. Layla is feeling guilty that she actually cares for him and wants to see him because he is and enemy who tried to kill Wrath, the King.
I want to dislike Xcor but I can’t. I actually like him. Despite his cleft pallet that has never been corrected, he seems extremely hot with a ripped body and beautiful eyes. Here’s a man who was raised with the utmost cruelty and has had to survive by being cruel and violent yet he still lives by an honor code. He seems to really care of Layla and though he has a hard time with the fact that she is pregnant with one of members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s child, he has never hurt her and always treated her respectfully. Even when she wanted to do sexual things with him, he refused because of her pregnancy, telling her he is not an animal. His men, the Band of Bastards, are getting worried about him because his focus and hatred of the Black Dagger Brotherhood has changed and he has not gone after them. When Layla asks him to pleasure himself in front of her and then sees him naked, he barely controls himself and demands that she leave before he hurts her. Right before that, she had basically called him on the fact that she thinks he has changed and doesn’t want to hurt Wrath anymore. It makes Xcor worried so he tells Layla he never wants to see her again. I feels so bad for both of them and it is one of the storylines that I can’t get enough of.
Throe left the Band of Bastards because he is ambitious and still wants to see Wrath removed as King. Xcor tells him that it is over since they became a sort of democracy and the King is now voted for rather than decreed because of bloodlines. The people have spoken and voted in Wrath but Throe disagrees and says that if Wrath is dead, things will change. He tries to get the rest of the Band of Bastards to agree but they stand behind Xcor. I’m really disappointed in Throe. I really liked him at one time and hated Xcor but now the roles are reversing as Throe’s ambitions rise. I don’t know what he wants exactly but he is out to kill Wrath.
Paradise is a new character. Her name sucks but all of their names are strange. Her father, Abalone, is the King’s advisor and totally loyal to the King. Paradise and her family are part of the glymera who are the aristocracy of the vampires. She has reached the age where she should marry which is expected of her but she has other plans. She wants to do something with her life and doesn’t believe that females are just for marrying, having babies and throwing fancy parties for the aristocracy.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood sent out an email to everyone that they are having open try-outs to train to be a warrior and females are welcome also. She wants to try-out even if it is just to learn how to defend herself but her friend thinks she is crazy and her father is not on board with the idea but he does allow her to work with him for the King at the audience house where the King receives and gives council to his subjects. She meets a stranger who calls himself Craeg who tells her he thinks it would be a good idea for her to try-out. There’s something off about Craeg. He comes into the audience house with a baseball cap riding low over his forehead as if to disguise himself and asks Paradise for an application for the training. When she asks him for his email address so she can forward it to him, he tells her he doesn’t have email. At first, I thought he might be one of the Band of Bastards or one of Assail’s twin cousins but he didn’t have an Old World accent like they all do. Of course, he could be disguising his voice but I doubt it. It’s killing me to find out who it is.
In another storyline but following the main plot, iAm is desperate to find a cure for Selena. He makes a deal with s’Ex (I have no idea how to pronounce that so I just call him Sex), the executioner for the Queen of the s’Hisbe and the man who has been coming after Trez for years, to sneak him into the s’Hisbe compound so he can look through their library to see if they have a cure in exchange for women to have sex with s’Ex. s’Ex sneaks him in but iAm gets caught or so he thinks and a maid helps him sneak into the library. The maid is actually the Princess who Trez is supposed to mate with but she doesn’t tell iAm who she is. iAm and the Princess/maid start falling for each other. iAm meets with her outside of the compound when s’Ex frees him.
I have no idea what to think of s’Ex. He’s scary as hell and with tattoos covering his body and him being the executioner of the Queen and all is just creepy. He seems to believe in the ways of the s’Hisbe but seems to waver after the queen gave birth to his daughter who had to be ritually killed when the stars didn’t align correctly to declare her the new Princess. The Queen can have many but children if they aren’t born when the stars declare they will be the new Princess, they will be killed. There can only be one Princess at a time. If a daughter is born who is declared the new Princess, the reigning Princess will be killed. The Queen is a cold-hearted bitch who has never even spoken to or visited with the reigning Princess. s’Ex has seemed to helpful but he’s also a by-the-book type of person so it’s hard to know what he’ll do. The only rule that he has ever broken is having sex with humans when he is to only have sex with the Queen.
I think I covered most of the book while basically writing one of my own. I may have missed something and I hope there are no major spoilers in my review.
By far, this has been the best book of the series. I hope the next book comes out soon…like tomorrow. Please, J.R. Ward and publisher, don’t make us wait a whole year!