Review – The Shadows by J.R. Ward

Posted June 8, 2015 by smutmatters in Reviews, Urban Fantasy / 0 Comments

Review – The Shadows by J.R. WardBlack Dagger 13 The Shadows by J. R. Ward
Published by Penguin LCC US on 2015-03
Genres: Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 576
Format: eBook
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three-stars

This post will be dark and full of spoilers. Please do not proceed if you haven’t read this book or spoilers bother you. I normally try not to post spoilers, but it’s hard to do with a book like this. Plus, most of Ward’s fans read the new books as soon as they come out, so I don’t expect to ruin this for too many people.

Spoiler line…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

First – the elephant in the room. Yes, Selena dies in the end. And if this is your first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I’m sure you were shocked. Also, book 13 is not the place to start in a series. At least not one like this that’s really one giant, sprawling, continuing story.

I wasn’t shocked by Selena’s death. I’ve been expecting something like this to happen for a long time. The world Ward has created here is in turmoil. Races are at war. Humans, lessers, the Bastards, all of them have it in for the Brothers. She already managed to save Mary for Rhage and sort of save Jane for V. If she continues putting these characters into life and death situations and giving them last minute reprieves, then there aren’t any stakes. It would be like watching Supernatural. Yes, Dean and/or Sam may die, but until the series finale, no one really believes it’s going to stick. There’s no real tension to those constant “brother in danger” scenes. We all know they’ll get out of it. Ward dropped several hints throughout the book that she was going to pull that particular trigger, but I think a lot of readers read them and then thought “Yeah, but she’s not reeeeealllly going to kill off Selena.” Then she did. I admit, I was one of them. Even though I figured we were due for a death, I didn’t think it would be a main story heroine. But it’s not going to make me break up with the BDB. These books aren’t quite as good as they used to be, they’re not on my day-of-release buy list anymore, but I still love Caldwell. I’m not going to stop reading the series. If I can stick with True Blood and Sons of Anarchy through their craptastic final seasons, I can certainly stick with the Brothers.

I didn’t love the disease Selena had. “The Arrest”. It didn’t seem like a lot of research went into the creation of this malady. I know that it Ward made it up, and it doesn’t have to be completely realistic, but the genetics of it didn’t track at all. The Chosen and the Brothers breed a lot. It doesn’t really make sense for the disease to be striking the Chosen but not the Brothers since it’s passed down. And with the amount of breeding they do, it should be more prevalent and more should be known about it. By anyone. No one could help Selena mainly because no one had ever heard of this disease and had no idea what to do. Most of the research into a cure consisted of Rehv asking around the symapath colony and Havers looking through his books. Oh, and iAm and Catra looked through some books in the s’Hisbe library. But since none of them really even knew what they were looking for, no one found anything. Doesn’t Payne have some kind of healing powers; am I remembering that correctly? I didn’t love her book and I haven’t re-read it since it came out, but I think I remember some kind of healing power. Why didn’t anyone at least ask her about it? She doesn’t make a single appearance in this book. Maybe she could have at least come up with some kind of maintenance plan so Selena had more time. Selena handled her diagnosis better than anyone around her, though. I loved that she decided she was going down swinging, having done and experienced as much as she possibly could first. Her reaction on the roller coaster was so much fun. And even during that silly car chase she whooped it up.  She and Trez were so good together; she brought out that softer side of Trez, and it gave me hope that we’ll see it again, though not for quite a while, I’m sure. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to disappear like Tohr did after Wellsie died, but he’s not going to come out of this for a while.

I consider this series is more urban fantasy at this point, and maybe that’s why I’m less disappointed than some other readers by this turn. Since I expect UF, and not PNR, this type of twist is ok with me. Some people have flat out said that’s bullshit, and that’s ok. Maybe it is a copout, both for me and Ward to say that, but I think it’s been leaning that way for quite a while.

The biggest issue with this series right now is what I mentioned above: how sprawling it has become. The brothers themselves are mostly paired off, we’re still spending some time with lessers in each book, now we have Assail and his story, the Bastards, who have split into two different factions, both of which get storylines. It seems like we’re going to be spending more time with s’Ex in the future, Muhrder is still hanging over the story and is expected to come back, Lassiter is in the mix, and the next book is going to revisit Mary and Rhage. Rehvenge and the sympaths usually make at least an appearance as well. It’s a lot to keep up with and keep straight. Unless you reread them before each new release, which some readers do. I know there’s a spin-off series starting as well, and I’m not really clear on how closely the two series will intertwine. If you don’t read the Legacy series, will you be missing information or plot points when the BDB books come out? If anyone knows the answer to that, I’d love to know.

iAm did get an HEA in this book, and maybe the book should have been flipped around that way. Maybe this should have been iAm’s book and not Trez’s for that reason alone. Actually, now that I write that, yes. I would have loved to have had this be iAm’s book, even if only to spend more time in the s’Hisbe and less time with some of the other story lines. Definitely less with Assail; why is he even still here? Sola is gone, down in Miami. Why do we still follow Assail around? Anyway. We know so little about the s’Hisbe, and it’s been alluded to so much in the last six or seven books. I would have loved spending more time there. They had an entire civil war, for crying out loud, and it was about 5 pages; that really could have been expanded quite a bit.

Other side plots – Layla is still pregnant. She’s getting to that seven months in and miserable stage, which is unfortunate because vampire pregnancies last about eighteen months. So she has a very, very long way to go. But her hormones are making her really funny, so I hope she continues to show up. Which I’m sure she will until she and Xcor have their story, then she’ll never be seen again like most of the women, sorry, females, in the story.

Luchas – He didn’t have a lot to do in this book except revel in the irony that it was the brother with the defect who is the only one able to help him recover from his current physical trauma, which will render him defective in the eyes of most of the glymera.

Xcor/Band of Bastards – Xcor dealt with his feelings for Layla in a pretty disgusting manner. I’m not sure how Ward is going to pull off turning him into a hero for Layla, because he’s done a lot of shit to the brothers already, including View Spoiler », and I don’t know how he’s going to redeem himself.

Throe – I can’t really tell what that guy is up to yet, but it’s definitely no good. And his story was used to introduce Paradise, who is the heroine in Blood Kiss, the first book in the Legacy spinoff series.

Rhage/Mary – despite Rhage referring to her as “his Mary”, every single time he mentioned her, even in his own thoughts, it was nice to see them again. They’re getting another book, up next, in fact, called The Beast, and apparently some stuff from their (mostly his) past is coming back. I liked their book a lot, (Lover Eternal) and I’m looking forward to re-reading that one before the release of The Beast. I’m not completely sure what’s going on with Rhage in this one, but I have some ideas. I don’t know if they need another whole book, but The King was my favorite of the more recent books, so I have high hopes that this one will be good, too.

Overall – a pretty average entry in the BDB series. I’m sorry for those of you who were so upset and are leaving the series. I’ve certainly been there with other series, both book and TV, and it sucks. It hurts when it’s done because you feel betrayed. Here’s hoping you find something you love just as much.

About J. R. Ward

J.R. Ward is a #1 New York Times and USAToday Best Selling author of erotic paranormal romance. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. After graduating from law school, she began working in healthcare in Boston and spent many years as Chief of Staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog and her coffee pot.