by J.R. Ward
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Book #8 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series
Number of Pages: 673
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Ages 17 and up
CW: rape, torture, imprisonment, violence,
homophobic language, suicidal ideation,
drug use, misogyny, ableism
John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown to himself and to those around him. After he was taken in by the Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was- or his true identity. Indeed, the fallen Brother Darius has returned, but with a different face and a very different destiny. As a vicious personal vendetta takes John into the heart of the war, he will need to call up on both who he is now and who he once was in order to face off against evil incarnate.
Xhex, a symphath assassin, has long steeled herself against the attraction between her and John Matthew. Having already lost one lover to madness, she will not allow the male of worth to fall prey to the darkness of her twisted life. When fate intervenes, however, the two discover that love, like destiny, is inevitable between soul mates.
This book! I don’t even know how I’m going to describe this book. So much was happening. Not just between John and Xhex, but everywhere page I turned had me riveted. As always, there were new characters added in a very unassuming way. There were some deep dives when it came to beloved characters. Plus, there is the promise of characters from a past book making a comeback.
Ultimately, this book is the story of John and Xhex. Since we all know John’s past and quickly learn what has been happening with Xhex under Lash’s imprisonment, you have to know it’s an emotional roller coaster. While I haven’t ever had a huge reaction to the pairing of these two, I adore both characters so have no problem with them finding their HEA together. Turns out, their connection runs much deeper than imagined. Even with their own personal issues to work out, these two are great for each other. There is a depth to their understanding, not only of things that have been done to them but that feeling of always being on the outside looking in. They finally both find their home in the arms of the other.
Watching John start to understand what Tohr had been through when he lost his mate and see these two come back together with a deeper understanding was almost as beautiful as watching Xhex and John find each other. There were a lot of eye-openers for various characters throughout this book like that. Payne is wrestling with her lot in life, Layla asks for what she’s been needing, and even Lash finds out what it feels like to be the underdog. My favorite was Qhuinn finally getting a taste of his own medicine when it came to Blay.
To say I cannot wait to see how things turn out for Blay and Qhuinn is an understatement. I have mentioned, time and time again, the homophobia present in these books. And while I am glad I’ve seen a shift in how the main characters express things related to the LGBTQ community, the author was still writing authentic for the year in which she was writing with some of the language used and it is jarring at times. In this book, Qhuinn really has to take a long look at himself and he explores his internal homophobia. The image he has always had of himself with a mate and kids and the white picket fence and how that isn’t something he feels is attainable if he follows his true heart. Let me tell you, the Blay/Qhuinn storyline continues to break my heart.
As wonderful as this story is and even with how much it brought to light, there were a few issues I just couldn’t overlook. The biggest and most irritating was the way Xhex learned to sign to communicate better with John. I’m not going to get into particulars, but that’s just not how people sign in their day-to-day life. I get that the author had to take some liberties for the story to keep moving, but it could have been done differently in my opinion. It also bothered me that Rehvenge wasn’t involved a bit more with Xhex’s story. He’s there, but not to the level you would think with their relationship.
I still loved this book. It’s quite long but also needed to be long to get it all in properly. I’m really trying hard not to jump ahead to see what will happen with some of these characters. I’m not even halfway through the series so there is plenty of time for it to all play out.
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