by J.R. Ward
Release Date: September 5, 2006
Book #3 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series
Number of Pages: 448
Ages 16 and up
CW: sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse,
murder, violence, misogyny, cheating,
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly war raging between vampires and their slayers. And there exists a secret band of brothers like no other – six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society.
Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for one another begins to overtake them both, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now, Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past, and find a future with her…
This book ripped out my heart. I will warn you that although this story has a wonderful story arc for Zsadist and Bella, and they get their HFN, there is another beloved character who is utterly devastated in this book. I was gutted.
Zsadist broke my heart over and over while Bella kept my hope alive. She believed in Zsadist when nobody else did. She fought for him to find his true self and open himself up to love. Their intimate scenes were so tender and heartbreaking while also lighting the sheets on fire. I cannot tell you how much I love Bella and Zsadist together.
I know it will upset many people, but in a way, there is an element of cheating in this story. Zsadist is so messed up by his past and finds feeding to be a dirty thing. He doesn’t feed off other vampires so he remains weak (for him). Even when he’s with Bella he cannot bring himself to feed and only feeds her when there is no other choice. I understand his stance, but he does something terrible to push Bella away to “save” her from him. What it all comes down to with Zsadist is that the man needs to go to therapy. He’s not doing himself or his loved ones any favors by keeping all of his pain and self-loathing inside.
This story takes a deeper look into the relationship between Zsadist and his twin Phury, too. Their relationship is so messed up and neither really speaks about what they want and need. They just selfishly take and give without going any deeper. Phury makes me mad for not seeing his brother and trusting his brother, but Zsadist doesn’t ever give him reason to when he never stands up for himself when assumptions are made. I did feel for Phury and hope he finds his happiness and can be glad that at least, by the end, the brothers are so much closer than before.
As always, a lot is going on in this story other than the main romance storyline. Some of it, as I’ve mentioned, is heartbreaking. Some of it is intriguing and has me so curious as to where things are going for a lot of these characters. There is also the added element of sympaths in this book which introduces a whole other potential problem for The Brotherhood. The author is wonderful at keeping the narrative flowing while juggling all of these balls in the air.
I do have to say that I found the homophobic language more disturbing in this story. I’m sure it’s because of certain storylines, but it’s still bothersome. I know this story came out at a time when all cis-het men were always quick to be sure everyone knew they were cis-het men. The language is the language that was used regularly at that time. It is the main thing that dates these books and it adds a lot of yuck to a story full of yum.
One last thing, although the previous books have mentioned a female vampire’s needing period, this is the first book in which it is experienced. Oh boy! It is both crazy hot and sounds painful. It’s hard to imagine, but the author does a great job of showing the reader the experience from the woman’s perspective as well as all of those in her vicinity. I’m not sure if it will need to be displayed in detail again, but now I have a reference for the experience if it comes up in future books.