Two hundred years ago, Kane was framed for the brutal murder of his beloved shellan and has been at the glymera's prison camp ever since. He was horribly burned in an explosion while trying to help his friends escape and has prayed that he will soon join his shellan in the Fade. As he lay suffering in the prison camp's infirmary, though, he was cared for by a kind, gentle nurse who eased his pain. When his friends are able to help him escape, too, Kane ends up on a mountain inhabited by the wolven, where he meets the mysterious Gray Wolf who offers him a choice: Go unto the Fade or accept her gift that will allow him to live but forever changed. Kane is ready to die, but he can't stop thinking of the nurse who was left behind, so he ultimately chooses life in order to return to the prison to save her.
Years ago, Nadya was forced into an arranged mating by her parents and then cruelly betrayed by her betrothed who left her severely scarred. While being nursed back to health by an elderly nurse, she allowed her family to believe she'd succumbed to her wounds. With both the nurse and her parents now dead, Nadya is alone in the world. But before she died, the nurse passed on her skills to Nadya who now uses them to do what she can to ease the suffering of the prison camp's inhabitants. When Kane came under her care, she did what she could to help him and felt deeply connected to him, so when the guards took him away, she feared the worst. But days later, he returns for her, fully restored to health. The two manage to, once again, escape the prison and go on the run from the guards who are out for blood. As they hole up together, Kane and Nadya grow closer, but when he tries to feed her, the changes to his blood prove to be poison to her system, leaving him scrambling to find a cure before she dies. But even if he can save her, Kane still believes it's his duty to ahvenge his dead shellan, which will not only threaten their burgeoning relationship but will reveal the shocking truth about what really happened centuries ago.
The Viper is the third book in J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood: Prison Camp series, a spin-off of the main BDB series that follows the inhabitants of a prison that was formed by the glymera centuries ago. Many of the prisoners were sent there unjustly for crimes they didn't commit or were given harsh sentences for minor infractions that were offensive to the glymera. This latest book is about Kane who I thought was probably dead after he took off his explosive collar and detonated it in an effort to allow The Jackal time to escape in the first book. However, we found out near the end of the previous book that he had indeed survived but was so badly burned that he likely wouldn't live. In this story, his buddies Apex and Mayhem escape with Kane and end up in wolven territory, where Kane is offered a new lease on life by a mystical female known only as the Gray Wolf. A part of Kane simply wants to go unto the Fade to join his beloved shellan who preceded him in death, but he can't quite forget the female nurse who was so kind to him in the prison camp's infirmary. Nadya was a beacon of light to him through the horrible pain of his injuries. He can't quite bring himself to leave her there unprotected, so he agrees to accept the Gray Wolf's gift in order to save her. The new powers he receives allow him to return to the camp and successfully get Nadya out, and as they hide out from the prison guards, they start to grow closer. However, because of this new part of himself that he doesn't fully understand yet, he accidentally poisons Nadya when he tries to feed her, leading him on a quest back up the mountain in search of the Gray Wolf, hoping the female will be able to heal her. But when the prison guards track them, the lives of all the prison escapees and their new wolven allies are endangered, and even if they can survive the attack, Kane still feels it's his duty to ahvenge his dead shellan's murder, which could put a damper on his burgeoning relationship with Nadya.
Kane was an aristocrat who agreed to an arranged mating to a female he'd never met. He fell in love with his new shellan at first sight and reveled in how well he thought everything was going between them, never really questioning his good fortune. Then one night, he was drugged and awakened to find his shellan brutally murdered. He was accused of the crime by her family and sent to the prison camp where he's been for the past two hundred years. Like I mentioned before, I thought Kane had died at the end of The Jackal, which made me sad, as he was one of my favorite characters in that book. When I found out at the end of The Wolf that he was still alive, I was excited, hoping that he would survive his injuries so that I could learn more about him and see where his story might lead. When The Viper opens, he's still mortally wounded and near death's door when his friends break him out of prison. After meeting up with Lucan and Rio and some of Lucan's wolven kin, they all end up on the mountain the wolven inhabit where it appears Kane's only hope of survival is the mysterious Gray Wolf. Mostly he just wants to die so that he'll be out of his misery and reunited with his beloved shellan in the Fade, but he can't stop thinking about Nadya, the kind nurse who sat by his bedside caring for him after he was brought to the new prison camp location. She eased his suffering and he feels guilty leaving her behind in that hellhole, so at the eleventh hour, he accepts the Gray Wolf's gift and is transformed into something more powerful than any other vampire we've seen yet. He uses these newfound powers to rescue Nadya, but not knowing that his blood is now tainted, he accidentally poisons her while feeding her and must return to the Gray Wolf seeking another miracle. But even though he's falling in love with Nadya, he knows it's his duty to find his shellan's real murderer and bring them to justice. I really liked Kane. After the sacrifice he made for The Jackal and Nix, I knew he had the heart of a romantic and that plays out here. The author found a really nice balance to his characterization between the gentlemale he once was as an aristocrat and the newfound warrior powers he now embodies.
Nadya was born a commoner, but wanting more for her than they had, her parents arranged a mating for her with an aristocrat who didn't want her. To get out of the betrothal, he attacked her, leaving her severely scarred and lame in one leg. Her parents took her to a kind, old nurse who aided her recovery, but not wanting anyone else to see her in the state she was now, she allowed them to think she was dead. The old nurse worked at the prison camp, and covered from head to toe in robes, Nadya went with her and learned the healing arts, finding a new purpose in life by helping others who were suffering. Eventually her parents were killed in the raids and the old nurse passed as well, leaving Nadya nowhere else to go except the prison camp, where she's lived ever since. When Kane was brought into her infirmary, a connection began to form between them as she tenderly cared for his wounds, and she learned a great deal about him through his pain-induced ramblings. But as much as she was falling for him, she knew someone like Kane would never want a scarred female like her. Then he defied all reason by escaping, finding healing, and returning just to save her. However, knowing that his honor demands that he ahvenge his murdered shellan, she still doesn't think there can be a future with him, even if she survives the accidental poisoning. Nadya is a sweet, kind soul who didn't deserve the lot life handed her. She's always taking care of others and nursing the sick and wounded back to health as best she can with her rudimentary supplies and training, but she definitely shows promise as a talented healer.
Besides Kane and Nadya, we get a few other POVs. Apex was someone who caught my eye in the previous book because of how devoted he was to Kane, never leaving his bedside. I honestly thought that maybe something might transpire between the two of them or maybe some deeper connection might be revealed. We learn, not surprisingly, that Apex fancies himself in love with Kane. After helping him escape and meeting Lucan's cousin, Callum, though, Apex finds such a powerful attraction to the wolven, that although still loyal to the vampire male, his thing for Kane is all but forgotten. I am very interested to find out more about Apex's intriguing extra powers. Callum is another secondary POV character. Although part of the group of family members who did Lucan wrong, he makes amends with his cousin in this book and becomes allies with the escaped prisoners. His attraction to Apex is instant and visceral. Callum is a charmer and consummate flirt who oozes sex appeal. Unfortunately some very bad things happen to him in this book before Apex can come to his rescue. I'd be shocked if these two aren't the next focus couple in this series, because their storyline was set up perfectly. If they aren't, I might have to burn something down.;-) These two males are smokin' hot together and practically stole the show, and after the way things end for Callum, he and Apex deserve their happy ending. We briefly get Lucan's perspective, but I think it was only a scene or two. Then the final POV character is Vishous as he continues to help with the Brotherhood's efforts to locate and shut down the prison camp.
Overall, I was pretty happy with The Viper. When I found out that Kane was going to be the hero, I was very much looking forward to it and hoping that The Warden would be back on her game to do right by him. I always like her books, but the last few have been a little shaky and not quite as good as her earlier work, IMHO. Although not perfect, this one was quite enjoyable. Kane and Nadya are both very likable characters who fit together well. It was nice seeing them find healing together and coming into a new sense of themselves. Lately Ms. Ward seems to be leaning more on the insta-love trope, which isn't a personal favorite, so a little more relationship development for Kane and Nadya certainly wouldn't have gone amiss. There was enough, though, that I could definitely feel a connection and knew by the end that they have a solid future ahead of them. My other small critique would be that I wish the Gray Wolf's part in the story had been a little better defined, instead of her simply being a mystical being who works her magic. I almost wondered if she is, or is related to, Ravyn, but if so, nothing of that nature was specified. I have to admit, though, that the powers she imbued Kane with are quite interesting and not quite like anything I've seen before in paranormal romance, which was a plus. After her being absent from the canvas for so long, it was great to see Payne again as she goes on a little fact-finding mission with her brother, Vishous. I liked how the Brotherhood's part in this side world played out and it will be interesting to see where things go from here for the prison camp residents. Most of all, though, I love Apex and Callum together and will be clamoring for their story, which I probably won't see for another year at least, but it will give me something to look forward to. I just hope it's equally as good as this one or even better.
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