By J. R. Ward
Publication Date: 4th April 2017
Format: Hardback (528 pages)
Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards, convicted of treason against the Blind King, is facing a brutal interrogation and torturous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yet after a life marked by cruelty and evil deeds, he accepts his soldier’s fate, his sole regret the loss of a sacred female who was never his: the Chosen Layla.
Layla alone knows the truth that will save Xcor’s life. But revealing his sacrifice and his hidden heritage will expose them both and destroy everything Layla holds dear—even her role of mother to her precious young. Torn between love and loyalty, she must summon the courage to stand up against the only family she has for the only man she will ever love. Yet even if Xcor is somehow granted a reprieve, he and Layla would have to confront a graver challenge: bridging the chasm that divides their worlds without paving the way for a future of even greater war, desolation, and death.
As a dangerous old enemy returns to Caldwell, and the identity of a new deity is revealed, nothing is certain or safe in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not even true love . . . or destinies that have long seemed set in stone. (Goodreads)
So, we come to the 15th instalment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series and for me, one of the most highly anticipated stories in the series to date. Finally, we have the Black Daggers very own Romeo and Juliet, Xcor and Layla.
Truth be told, it has been a long time coming, yet going into this book I was unsure what was instore for both me and the characters. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, both are on opposing sides of a species war. Xcor is a traitor to the throne, after trying to assassinate The Blind King, Wrath. Layla is, what could only be described as a highly revered disciple of The Scribe Virgin’s followers and deemed a “female of worth”. Coupled with the fact that Layla has just given birth to twins to one of the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Qhuinn, it looked nigh on impossible for Xcor and Layla to get their Happy Ever After as the genre usually dictates. What was also worrying was the genre snubbing Ward took in the Shadows with Trez and his true love, Selena. To be honest, I really didn’t know how this was going to go down, especially in one book and with Ward’s style of including multiple storylines in the one book.
Before I get to far into my review, I have to state that Ward does manage to mostly focus on the main purpose of this book, which is the complicated relationship between Xcor, Layla, Qhuinn, Blay and the twins. Secondary plotlines don’t take up too much of the book, but… and there is a big but… when they do crop up, they took me out of the main event and also either contradicted rules of the series or were completely out of character for that person. In fact, this book really did have me going through an emotional rollercoaster, one minute I found myself getting really angry and the next fist pumping in joy as there was a moment of perfect character development. Regardless of these feelings, Ward had this ability of making me want to keep reading and at times it was difficult to put the book down because I just HAD to keep reading on. I might be conflicted about the book overall, but I have to tip my hat at Ward’s ability to do this to me.
In order to really process my thoughts on the book, I’m going to have to split it into each character (or character pairing’s/groups) plots. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but beware *puts on pirate voice*
There be spoilers ahead!
Ok, this is the main attraction of this book and I have to say that overall, this is Ward at her best. These star-crossed lovers make you root for them to get that Happy Ever After they really deserve. This forbidden love is the catalyst for so much in this book and its butterfly effect is perfect in its execution.
I believed in their love because each of them brought the best out in the other. Xcor helps Layla see that she is more than her pre-ordained destiny and position in society. Yes, it did mean that he pushed her away, but he did this because he loved her and he knew that she was having another male’s young. It was the epitome of love in my eyes.
Layla, in turn, could see beneath the savage outlaw, who was really a product of his upbringing. This book really did give some insight into his early life, especially before he joined the Bloodletter. Xcor was always a character that showed promise and this doesn’t disappoint at all.
This was one storyline that really had my blood boiling at numerous points in the book and all this anger was directed at Qhuinn. I’m pretty easy going with confrontational characters but Qhuinns actions and attitude in this book really hacked me off. His attitude to both Blay and Layla has sealed his fate as a character that I would not cry over if he met the wrong end of a lesser’s gun.
The only saving grace to this storyline is that Blay finally got some well-deserved character development and balls, when it comes to his relationship with Qhuinn. For too long, he seemed to let Qhuinns actions slide and was at times pining over him. When they did get together, he seemed to still accept his s**t as he now had Qhuinn affections.
It does seem that this thread is now closed, but I felt that it was all dealt with and tied up with a nice bow way too quickly. If you read the book you will see what I mean.
This really was a minor plotline, but what transpires between him and Jane and the state of their relationship seemed to come out of the blue. It also went against everything that has been stated as canon in the series. Reading what happened, I can’t help feel that Ward has become bored with their storyline and is looking to add conflict for conflicts sake. I was left completely confused with this. Which nicely leads into…
I’ll be honest, I was perplexed with how Trez and Selena’s story ended in The Shadows, but I accepted that this was Wards sandbox and she knew what she was doing. Was it tragic but it seemed like there was a greater purpose to it all. And then we have what happens in this book which really does seem to cheapen Trez’s storyline.
So having given a brief overview of the plotlines that jumped out of me, there were a few other threads that seemed to give breadcrumbs on where the world is going. The way in which Ward has cleared the deck for this new threat to step up felt off and especially with who was hinted at instigating this suicide mission. This will either be a brilliant stroke of genius or it may go up in flames. It is yet be clear which way the cards will fall.
The Chosen is a really difficult book for me to grade because I had so many mixed emotions. Layla and Xcor’s storyline was Ward at her best and it showed me that she still has that knack, but so many of the other storylines had me either angry or genuinely confused at the way characters were acting or firm cannon was thrown away for the purpose of the where Ward wanted the plot to go.
This book really does start to feel like it is another turning point in the series, but whether this is for the best, will on be revealed in the next book. The sad thing is that the way this series is going, it is slipping down my must read list.
BLACKDAGGER BROTHERHOOD SERIES IN ORDER
1 Dark Lover
2 Lover Eternal
3 Lover Awakened
4 Lover Revealed
5 Lover Unbound
6 Lover Enshrined
7 Lover Avenged
8 Lover Mine
9 Lover Unleashed
10 Lover Reborn
11 Lover At Last
12 The King
13 The Shadows
14 The Beast
15 The Chosen