There are so many enthusiastic fans of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series that it can be difficult to avoid spoilers. With the newest release in the series, The Shadows, the public outcry was unavoidable and many were unhappy with the ending and random weird plot elements. I think I’m in the minority when I say that the plot didn’t bother me at all. Before going any further, I would NOT recommend reading this book out of order – each book adds terminology, characters, and millions of subplots. The Shadows is a typical J.R. Ward book with a million subplots, unpredictable world-building, difficult to pronounce names and random words, and…I enjoyed it. Perhaps the “romance” label is what is irritating folks (spoiler: it isn’t an HEA for everyone). I tend to view the books as more “urban fantasy.” The characters and (MANY) plots are over the top, the books are HUGE (The Shadows is close to 600 pages), and I will probably keep reading the series until it ends. We get insight into the mysterious brothers, Trez and iAm, that have ingratiated themselves into the Brotherhood. The Shadows haven’t revealed their tangled pasts to the Brothers, and that past is about to bite them in the ass. Emotion, brotherhood, and requisite violence combine to take readers on quite a ride with no end in sight.
Trez “Latimer” doesn’t really exist. And not just because the identity was created so that a Shadow could function in the underbelly of the human world. Sold by his parents to the Queen of the S’Hsibe as a child, Trez escaped the Territory and has been a pimp and an enforcer in Caldwell, NY for years- all the while on the run from a destiny of sexual servitude. He’s never had anyone he could totally rely on… except for his brother, iAm.
iAm’s sole goal has always been to keep his brother from self-destructing- and he knows he’s failed. It’s not until the Chosen Serena enters Trez’s life that the male begins to turn things around… but by then it’s too late. The pledge to mate the Queen’s daughter comes due and there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no negotiating.
Trapped between his heart and a fate he never volunteered for, Trez must decide whether to endanger himself and others- or forever leave behind the female he’s in love with. But then an unimaginable tragedy strikes and changes everything. Staring out over an emotional abyss, Trez must find a reason to go on or risk losing himself and his soul forever. And iAm, in the name of brotherly love, is faced with making the ultimate sacrifice…
The main couple in The Shadows was Trez, a Shadow, and Selena, a Chosen one. Trez and his twin, iAm, are incredibly close. We learn more about their bond as twins and their difficult past. Trez has spent years running from his fate, while iAm has spent just as much time watching over his younger brother in an attempt to provide balance. Neither one of them is really living. When Trez meets Selena, he falls hard and fast. The two of them work well together, and it’s bittersweet to observe them moving forward as a couple while dealing with Selena’s mortality. Big, tough Trez is nothing but a marshmallow where Selena is concerned.
As with every BDB book, The Shadows follows the main couple(s) while also peeking in at other relationships. Rhage and Mary are put into focus this time, and we see that not all is well with Rhage. I believe his weird panic attacks will be explained in the next book, where he and Mary are the couple du jour. Another interesting development is the introduction of Paradise, Abalone’s daughter. She begins working for Wrath and is intrigued by the new training program. Paradise will be explored more (partnered with the uber-mysterious Craeg) in the first book of the BDB spinoff series, Blood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy), which focuses on the younger generation.
The plot is…well, typical Ward and incredibly convoluted. There’s a few scenes with the Lessers. The Band of Bastards get some page time (what the hell is going to happen with Xcor and Layla?). The Brothers do their thing. Wrath takes meetings with civilians. We get insight into the s’Hisbe – the Shadows’ world. It is completely overwhelming, which is part of the reason that it took me so long to read. I had to read The Shadows in installments and digest each piece of information. I mean, 600 pages is a lot. I think we’ll be seeing more of the Shadows and, hopefully, more of S’ex, in future books. I did get confused during some of the parts with Assail (drug-dealer extraordinaire), but I couldn’t exactly remember the timeline for his story with Marisol. All told, it’s a lot to take in but wonderfully confusing and entertaining.
The Shadows is everything that I’ve come to expect from a BDB story. Giant, sexy, strong vampires fight evil while taking wonderful care of their lady loves. Plots and subplots abound, each more over the top than the last. The ending wasn’t what many expected, but I didn’t think it took away from the series at all. In fact, there were several places within The Shadows that I felt Ward was setting up something to be explored later. The books appear to be getting longer and more complicated, but again, I expect nothing less from Ward. I’ll happily continue the series for more phearsome vampires, and am anxiously awaiting the direction Ward will take with the Legacy series.
Lover at Last
Blood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy #1) (Dec 1, 2015)
The Beast (Apr 5, 2016)