The Sinner

By: J. R. Ward

Series: The Black Dagger Brotherhood

Book Number: 18

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Syn has a painful past with a father who was abusive, and unfortunately he's inherited his sire's drive for violence. He has a dark side that expresses itself in a need to kill, which is why he joined the Band of Bastards centuries ago to let his aggressions out on the field of battle in the war against the lessers. However, that alone wasn't quite enough to satisfy his tahlman, so he started taking jobs as an assassin on the side, something he's kept hidden from the Black Dagger Brotherhood ever since they formed an alliance. When the newest enemy of the race leaves brutally murdered corpses in their wake, more than one person believes it was Syn who committed these heinous acts. Then his latest hit job sends him right into the path of a beautiful reporter, who turns out to be the person he was sent to kill. But from the moment he meets her, something about her calls out to him like a siren's song, and he's unable to do her any harm. Instead he finds himself longing for something with her that he thought never to experience.

Jo Early is a reporter for the Caldwell Courier Journal. She's hot on the trail of a scoop, investigating the strange killings for the paper, when she quite literally runs into a hulking man who helps her evade the police. She feels instantly drawn to him, but also has a sense that something about him isn't quite right. When fate keeps bringing them together, though, she can't ignore the connection she feels with Syn. However, Jo also has odd gaps in her memory and knows that there's something strange going on in her world that she can't quite explain. Little does she know that she's a vampire half-breed who the Brotherhood has been closely monitoring in the event that she transitions, but in case she remains human, they've been erasing her memory of supernatural events she's witnessed. When she learns the truth of what's really going on and who Syn is, will love overcome all and forgiveness prevail. Or will she be unable to cope with her new reality?

Meanwhile, Butch struggles with the knowledge of the role he's to play as the Dhestroyer. The prophecy states that he is the one who will bring about the end of both the lessers and their creator, the Omega. But as fewer and fewer lessers can be found and it becomes apparent that the end of the war is finally near, he fears that he might not be up to the task. A chance meeting with a mysterious woman leaves him baffled as to her true nature, while shocking and unexpected family ties are revealed. Just as it appears that victory is within their grasp, the Omega gets a leg up on them, leaving Butch questioning if the prophecy was wrong all along and if all those he loves are actually doomed.


It's hard to believe that The Black Dagger Brotherhood has been around for nearly fifteen years, that this is book #18, and that it's still going strong. Granted I didn't discover it until about two years later in 2017, but I still eagerly await each new installment. I buy every one and read them almost as soon as they're published. For a large part of that time, fans have been awaiting the culmination of the Dhestroyer prophecy, and in The Sinner, we finally get to see that manifest. Of course, Butch, as the Dhestroyer, is the key player in it's fulfillment, so we see plenty of him in this volume. I'd say that his part of the story represents roughly half of the book. However, there's also the romance between Syn and Jo. After learning a bit about Syn in the most recent Black Dagger Legacy book, Blood Truth, I was chomping at the bit to find out more about him, and I wasn't disappointed. He's every bit the broken, tortured alpha male that has become prevalent in this series. Jo Early was introduced way back in book #14, The Beast, as a human woman who gets dragged into investigating what she and her friends believe may be paranormal activity. We also were let in on the fact that she was a half-breed with a likely connection to Manny. In this book, we get to learn all about her and see if she finally goes through her transition. A lot happens in The Sinner, another pivotal installment of this series, which will definitely see some changes moving forward.

As I mentioned, we started getting to know Syn in Blood Truth, and what I saw there intrigued me greatly even though I could tell that he was a very dangerous male. We learn exactly how dangerous in this story, and to be quite honest, he's basically a straight-up serial killer. He has a monster inside him known as a tahlman that drives him - much like an addiction - to kill and enjoy it, taking great pleasure in carving up his victims in a ritualistic way. Now I know that this probably makes him sound sadistically unappealing, but the Warden is the master at redeeming seemingly irredeemable males and turning them into heroes we can fall in love with and that's exactly what happens here. First of all, Syn does to some extent take his aggressions out in the war against the lessers, which is why he joined the Band of Bastards. However, it isn't quite enough to fully appease his tahlman, so he's been working as an assassin on the side. That said though, he's an assassin with scruples who takes time to do his research and only kills people he judges deserving of their fate, while caring nothing about the money he's offered for these jobs. Also, once we learn his heartbreaking backstory and just how brutal his father was - we're talking shades of the Bloodletter here - Syn's issues start to make a whole lot of sense. Additionally, as the story opens, he appears to loathe himself for what he's become and as a result has a death wish, not really caring whether he lives or dies. If not for his cousins and fellow Bastards, he probably would have offed himself. And finally, as with all the males in this series, falling in love with a good woman, and experiencing her love in return, turns him right around, the proverbial love overcoming everything romanticism. He's also absolutely nothing but completely tender and selfless with Jo, always attending to her needs, despite it causing him physical pain. Which brings me to my final reason for Syn capturing my heart: In his entire 3+ centuries of life, he's never been able to orgasm, which seems like sufficient punishment for his bad deeds. So ultimately Syn is going to rank pretty highly among my favorite heroes of this series.

Jo was adopted as an infant and never knew her birth parents, while her relationship with her adoptive parents is complicated and strained. Her investigative reporter friend discovered a connection to Doctor Manny Manello, who he believes is her brother but who went missing quite some time ago. On top of that, she's been experiencing weird cravings for Slim Jims and chocolate, having hot flashes, and also getting killer headaches when she tries to remember certain things, feeling like there are gaps in her memory. Jo started out her stint in this series as a real estate agent. That quickly changed when she was pulled into paranormal investigations, and in her spare time, she now writes a blog about the things she finds. Her reporter friend also helps her with these investigations and got her a job at the CCJ, where she works as an online editor, but she really has ambitions of becoming a full-fledged reporter. When the crazy story of a gangster who was literally skinned alive falls into her lap, she thinks her dream might finally become a reality. However, her boss is a misogynistic dick, placing her in an uphill battle to achieve that. It's in the course of her investigation of the story that she runs into Syn on the street. He both frightens and intrigues her, while also making her hormones race. Jo keeps telling herself that she shouldn't let him into her life, but at the same time, she can't resist him. Things turn hot and heavy between them pretty quickly but as certain information comes to light, she isn't sure if she can trust him anymore. I found Jo to be a relatable heroine who is selfless in her own right and who turns out to be very good for Syn, and he in turn helps her finally find the sense of belonging she's been searching for most of her life.

The other part of the story revolves around Butch and the Dhestroyer prophecy. As the Brothers find fewer and fewer lessers each night, it becomes apparent that the war is finally coming to a close, but exactly what that means is still a mystery. Because of the prophecy, they know that Butch will play a pivotal role in the destruction of the Omega, but Butch isn't entirely certain he's up to the task. Vishous, his roommate and best friend, is also a key player, since he's the only one who can cleanse Butch of the evil essence of the Omega every time he sucks back lessers, while Lassiter is there to help keep V safe in a way only Lassiter would. LOL!;-) A new fore-lesser, Mr. F., has been recruited by the Omega, but he's not quite like fore-lessers of the past in that he wasn't actually given a choice, making him a different breed so to speak. Then there's Devina who made the jump from the Fallen Angels series when she escaped the Well of Souls in the previous book, The Savior. She's now roaming the streets of Caldwell, engaging in murder and mayhem, and develops an odd attachment with Butch. Lastly the Scribe Virgin finally returns. She has an interesting meeting with her brother the Omega, and we find out that perhaps she cares more for her progeny than some of her past actions have indicated. That's about all I can say about this part of the book without giving away spoilers, but I will say that things definitely turned out differently that I expected.

I very much enjoyed The Sinner. Syn and Jo make a wonderful couple who balance each other out. Even though a lot of darkness surrounds them, their relationship is one filled with tenderness and passion offering a much-needed counterpoint to the darkness in the rest of the story. As a little aside here, I'm going to say that I loved the "pep-talk" V gave Syn near the end of the book. He's never going to be an inspirational cheerleader, but their interaction made a great deal of sense. It was nice to finally see the manifestation of the Dhestroyer prophecy that we've all been waiting for so long, which led to an intense confrontation. As I kept reading and had fewer and fewer pages to go, I was starting to worry how Ms. Ward was going to wrap it all up satisfactorily, but I shouldn't have, as she did so with her usual flair. In fact, the final scene with Devina and Lassiter was utterly priceless. With The Sinner, we've basically witnessed the end of an era and the beginning of something new. I look forward to seeing where things go from here for our beloved Brothers. In an online Q&A, Ms. Ward revealed that the next book, Lover Unveiled, will feature Sahvage, a new character we haven't met before, paired with a heroine we have, but otherwise, she seems to be pretty hush-hush about it. However, first up we'll get the first book of the new BDB: Prison Camp spin-off series, The Jackal, and then A Warm Heart in Winter, a fun Christmas novella, in which we'll finally get to see Qhuinn and Blay's mating ceremony. I can't wait!


J. R. Ward


Tortured Heroes