Published by Signet on December 1st 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
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The legacy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continues in a spin-off series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author…
Paradise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself…be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.
And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated—and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power…on the field, and off.
JR Ward has said that part of the reason she started this spin-off series, the Black Dagger Legacy, is that she missed the original set of Brothers. Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Phury, Tohr, Vishous, and Butch. She wanted a way to showcase them again without having to actually write all new books for them. (Even though she’s also writing all new books for some of them.) So she came up with the idea of the training center. The Brothers have opened a training center for younger vampires. I really like this concept. Not only is a way to get new characters into the series without adding even more into the main series, which is already becoming overstuffed, but it also fits into the main story line perfectly. It makes sense that the Brothers would open a training center right now. Wrath has been saying for a while that they need more than just the handful of Brothers to defend the race. The lessers have an almost endless supply of new recruits, and the Brothers have been trying to hold them off on their own, just the dozen or so of them. This is the way it’s always been done, but Wrath is a new kind of king, and he knows that in order to keep his people safe, they need more fighters.
So they open a training center. Anyone, male or female, is welcome to apply and go through the recruiting process, but only those who can make it through the first challenge will be accepted into the full program. Everyone has to do the same challenge; there are no leniences for women or younger candidates or anyone else. Paradise is one of the seven who make it. We met her in The Shadows, the latest book in the BDB series. She’s the daughter of Abalone, Wrath’s First Advisor. As a female member of the glymera, she’s been protected, coddled, hidden away and generally treated as a possession for her entire life. She manages to convince her father to allow her apply to the program, mainly by not telling him exactly what she’ll be doing. He knows that she’s training to be a soldier, but he doesn’t seem to fully grasp what that means. He also doesn’t really think she’ll make it, so he allows her to try out.
We met Craeg in The Shadows, too, albeit very briefly, when he showed up at Wrath’s audience house to get an application. (Paradise works there as a receptionist) Craeg is a commoner, not a member of the glymera, and he has a pretty giant chip on his shoulder about it. Not really about his lot in life, he seems pretty comfortable with that, more about the way the glymera and the aristocrats treat the rest of the vampire race. Once you hear his entire story, it’s easy to see why. The connection between Craeg and Paradise was immediate, but Craeg is determined not to act on it. He’s focused on his training; all he wants to do is get through it and become a soldier. He wants revenge on the lessers for the deaths of his entire family during the lesser raids, and he is not going to let anything get in his way, not even his feelings for Paradise.
The relationship between these two wasn’t the attraction of the book for me. It was fine, I enjoyed it, but there wasn’t really anything new to it, and the romance between two characters we don’t know all that well isn’t the big draw for me. I will say that Paradise is a better heroine than we’ve seen from the BDB in a while. She was strong, knew her own mind, stood up for herself, and went after what she wanted. She refused to let Craeg push her away, even when she knew it might be the right thing to do.
What was the big draw for me was that this book really took me back to the beginning of the series. The book was about half Paradise & Craeg, and half Butch & Marissa. It was much more tight, much more focused than the last several BDB books have been. The only POVs we had for from the four main characters, and that really helped. I like getting bigger looks at how the earlier couples are doing. Contrary to what most romance books would have us believe, not everything is wine and roses after a couple gets together. Butch and Marissa, as much as they love each other, came from completely, and I mean completely, different worlds. Butch was raised human, for heaven’s sake. No one knew he was even partly vampire until the fourth book in the series. He sees Marissa as this perfect being. He has her on a pedestal, and even though he knows she loves him, he still doesn’t really believe he’s worthy of that love. He sees everything in his past, everything about him, as dirtying her, or not worthy of touching her. Even sex. Any sex act he doesn’t see as him ‘worshiping’ her is off the table. And he has some pretty disturbing ideas about women, which don’t really surprise me, but haven’t really been spelled out before this. We discover this when he tells Marissa exactly what he thinks of women who do some of those things. It was pretty disturbing. Saying “I know I shouldn’t think this” doesn’t negate “Only whores and sluts do this thing in bed.” Nor does it negate “Sometimes I think my sister brought about her own rape and murder by not being a ‘good girl'”. I didn’t go back and read their previous book before reading this one, but I have some vague memories of thinking Butch was hardly an evolved thinker. I thought being around Marissa for so long would have changed some of that, but apparently not. I mean, come on. She started a shelter for abused vampire women. This is a huge problem with the vampires, and no one was doing anything about it. She started Safe House, built it from the ground up and runs it herself. She is strong, not a woman to be taken lightly or considered weak. How Butch can’t look at her, be with her day in and day out, and not gain more respect for women in general and her specifically is beyond belief for me. Marissa is one of the few heroines from the earlier books I really like. I didn’t in the beginning, because she was so completely remote and untouchable. But now, she’s one of the only, if not actually the only, of them to have a job that isn’t completely wrapped up with the Brothers or in their immediate sphere. (Mary is their therapist, Jane is their doctor, Beth is their queen, Bella, I believe, stays home with Nalla). The other heroines saw a hole in the Brothers organization and filled it. Marissa saw a hole in the entire structure of their race and built a solution from the ground up. Actually, now that I’ve said that, I’m pretty sure Mary also works at the shelter as a therapist, talking to the women who are running. And I’m sure that if there’s a medical need, Jane would certainly pitch in. But my point still stands. Marissa is the only one to do something with her life completely removed from the Brothers and their compound.
Butch won’t talk to her about her day, won’t talk about his past, won’t tell her anything that he sees or thinks. She feels him pulling away and reacts by pulling away as well. It’s not an unusual problem for a long-term couple, but I was happy to see Marissa further overcome her lifelong glymera training and speak up, telling Butch that if he didn’t cut the shit out and treat her like a fully functioning woman instead of a child, she was taking a break. She was true to her newer, more confident self, and I loved it. I knew there was no way her estranged relationship with her brother, Havers, was finished, and it came back up in this book. It wasn’t completely resolved, which is normal. Complicated family dynamics are rarely so easily fixed.
This was a great read. I haven’t been this happy with a Black Dagger book in a long time, and I loved recapturing that feeling. Even though I’ll keep reading the main series, it has gotten really convoluted and a lot harder to follow. This was a refreshing change. I don’t know who the next Legacy book will focus on, but I’m excited to read it.