Fifty years ago, Nyx's sister was sentenced to prison for a murder Nyx is certain she couldn't have committed, but the location of the glymera's notorious prison camp was a closely guarded secret that was eventually lost following the raids. Nyx has been unsuccessfully searching for the prison, but a freak accident brings her a missing piece of the puzzle that helps her finally locate the complex underground labyrinth. The discovery takes her on a dangerous journey to free the sister she hasn't seen in decades, but it also reveals an unwelcome and terrible truth, while introducing her to a male who will change the course of her life forever.
The Jackal has been incarcerated at the prison for over a century for something he didn't do. He barely remembers his life outside captivity, and after horrific abuse inside, he's become numb to any emotions. He longs for escape, but circumstances keep him trapped in the hellhole with seemingly no way out. Then Nyx appears from out of nowhere, and for the first time in a very long time, he finally feels something again. Her courage and determination inspire him to offer his help in exchange for one night of passion that leaves him longing for a lifetime. But he knows he must content himself with this one stolen moment that he hopes will give him the strength to carry on when she leaves. Even with the help of his friends, getting Nyx back out of the prison after she finds what she came looking for, proves far more difficult that anticipated when they're caught by the sadistic warden who wants nothing more than to see them all suffer and die in agony.
The Jackal is the first book in J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood: Prison Camp series which is another spin-off of the main BDB series. The primary premise behind this new series is that the glymera used to operated a secret, underground, prison camp, and it's where they sent all their criminals, as well as many who were accused of crimes they didn't commit. However, they eventually lost interest in the camp, leaving behind a power vacuum into which rose The Command, who now uses the prisoners as slave labor, getting rich off their enterprise. The Command is also a harsh taskmaster, who brutally tortures and kills anyone who doesn't obey. For the last fifty years, our heroine, Nyx, has been searching for the prison in hopes of finding her sister, who she believes was wrongfully sent there but has had no luck. Then an unexpected clue drops into her lap, leaving her determined to finally find her sibling. Nyx locates a prison entrance and manages to break in, but navigating the underground maze proves extremely challenging. As she's trying to figure it out, she meets The Jackal who has been imprisoned there for the past century and she strikes a bargain with him to help her. Together, they embark on this dangerous mission, but once Nyx finds what she's looking for, getting back out turns out to be even more perilous than getting in.
Nyx is an ordinary, working-class vampire who lives far from Caldwell, in an old farmhouse, with her grandfather and sister, Posie. Ever since her other sister, Janelle, was sent to the prison, Nyx has had a burning to desire to find and free her, but no one knows exactly where the prison is located. That all changes one night when Nyx and Posie are driving home from a shopping trip and hit something in the road. They initially think it was a deer, but when Nyx goes to investigate, she instead finds a pretrans male of their own species. He's gravely injured, so they take him back to their house, thinking he probably won't survive the night. In a delirious state, he starts talking about a prison, which makes it apparent that he's an escapee. Armed with what little information the male was able to give her, Nyx goes in search of it, eventually finding an entrance and breaking in. Down below, she meets The Jackal, who she dubs Jack for short, and there's an immediate attraction between them. He proves to be a valuable guide, and after a steamy encounter between them, he puts his life on the line to help her find her sister and later to escape. Nyx is one of Ms. Ward's tough girl heroines who is strong and determined to do whatever it takes to find Janelle even if it means risking her own life or getting stuck in the hellhole of a prison. At the same time, she has a kind heart, sympathizing with Jack when she learns of his experiences there. At one point, she almost rubbed me the wrong way when she got frustrated with Jack when he refused to leave the prison, but later she more than proved her love and loyalty by risking everything to try to rescue him.
The Jackal aka Jack has been in the prison camp for a century. He was sent there after being wrongfully accused of raping a young, virginal, glymera female. Prior to that, he'd been a relative nobody, the illegitimate offspring of a male he never knew. In fact, just before he was sent to prison, he'd been in Caldwell, searching for his sire. We also learn through flashbacks that he knew Darius, who had hired him as an architect to design the Brotherhood mansion, and briefly met Rhage, as well, while working on the blueprints, an encounter that left both of them feeling like they somehow knew each other. Jack has a complicated relationship with The Command, which allows him a bit more freedom than most of the other prisoners, but it comes at a high cost. When Nyx appears from out of nowhere, searching for her sister, he at first thinks she's crazy to break into a prison and he's inclined to leave her to her own devices. But for the fist time in decades he feels emotions and a genuine attraction to this female and can't quite get her out of his mind. He agrees to help her in exchange for her having sex with him just once, but it turns out to be far more than he could have hoped for, leading to him instantly bonding with her. After that, he doesn't hesitate to do everything he can to help her in her mission and to keep her safe at all costs. Jack is a tortured hero who's been through a great deal of abuse but somehow he's managed to maintain a relatively charming personality. He's very good to Nyx, proving himself every bit the protector that the other males in the BDB series are and he's deeply loyal to those he loves. When the full story of his past is revealed, I just wanted to wrap him up in my arms and love on him to heal his emotional wounds.
Overall, The Jackal was a great start to this new series. It was a little slow-paced at the beginning, Approximately the first half is spent introducing the characters and setting the scene, and there isn't a whole lot of action, but after that, the story just grabbed me and didn't let go until the end. I thought that Jack and Nyx were very well-matched, and although their romance happens pretty quickly, the speed isn't all that unusual for this series. The important thing was that the author created the all-important emotional connection for me so that I believed in their love. Rhage is probably the most important supporting character, as all of the century-old flashback sequences - as well a few of the contemporary scenes - are told from his POV. I enjoyed seeing him interact with Darius, as well as learning more about the origins of the Brotherhood mansion. As far as other secondary characters, Jack has some friends in the prison who help him and Nyx, and then there's Nyx's grandfather who has a tie to the BDB and her sister, Posie, who kind of has a sweet hippie vibe about her. I honestly haven't seen any clues as to who the next hero and heroine might be, and I'm not entirely sure where things might go from here, nor when the next book might be released. But there are some definite possibilities and after this very satisfying reading experience, I can't wait to see what's next. Hopefully Jack, Nyx, and company will turn up again in the sequel and perhaps we'll occasionally see them in the main Brotherhood books as well.
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