Wrath has never been entirely comfortable in his role as King of the vampire race. After a couple of centuries of avoiding his duty, he ascended to the the throne at the urging of his beloved shellan, Beth, two and a half years ago. Since then, Wrath has tried his best to fill the position in a way that will bring honor to his family, but it's been a difficult road for him. The never-ending paperwork is a drag, leaving him longing to be out in the field, fighting with his the Brothers again, but the complete loss of his sight prevents that from ever being a reality again. He also worries that he will never fully be able to live up the legacy of his father, who is remembered as one of the best kings the race has ever had. Now, the glymera is out to remove him from the throne that is his birthright and replace him with one of their own. While one part of him wants to fight for what's rightfully his, another part of him feels like it would be a relief to be absolved of the heavy responsibility. Adding to his already overburdened plate, his shellan wants desperately to have a young, something that Wrath will not allow. No one means more to him than Beth, and the possible risks to her health and life if she were to become pregnant are too great for him to contemplate. He simply cannot lose her, even if it means never producing an heir to the throne, which may become a moot point anyway if the glymera have their way. But as always, Beth is Wrath's solid rock. She is the one person who helps him stay grounded in the midst of all the turmoil, and once again, she will help him navigate the dangerous waters that face them both in the days to come.
When the announcement came out last year (2013) that the next Black Dagger Brotherhood book was going to be about Wrath and Beth again, I saw many fans complaining, wondering why J. R. Ward would give them another book. Their argument was that this couple had already had their story told and didn't need another one, but I thoroughly disagreed with them. Dark Lover had been good and was, of course, the book that started me on this crazy journey with the Brotherhood and made me a fan of paranormal vampire romance. For that reason, it holds a special place in my heart, but I always felt like Wrath and Beth's story was a tad rushed. Theirs was the shortest book in the series, and with all the typical secondary POVs on the canvas, there wasn't quite enough time to really dig into their issues. From the moment I finished reading Dark Lover, I began hoping that there would be more story for this couple, but believed it was probably just wishful thinking on my part, or that I would simply have to settle for them being supporting players in other characters' stories. So, for me personally, the announcement for The King was a very welcome one indeed, and this book definitely did not disappoint in any way, shape, or form. I loved every minute I spent reading it, even better than Dark Lover, and hated to see it come to an end.
Wrath is as sexy as ever, and it was so much fun to have him at the forefront as the main hero again. He's always had a hard time with being the king. It took him a couple of centuries to ascend to the throne, which he did at the end of Dark Lover with Beth's help and encouragement. Since then, he has been plagued with struggles: the desire to be back out in the field fighting with his Brothers, going completely blind, the seemingly endless piles of paperwork, and doubts about being able to live up to his father's legacy. There are days when Wrath really doesn't want to be King, and throughout these parts, I couldn't help thinking, "What better person to be in charge than someone who doesn't want to be?" I know this might sound strange, but it all goes to the idea that if someone isn't seeking power, wealth, or prestige, then they're likely less corruptible. I couldn't have been more right as this concept played out over the course of the story. Wrath finally comes into his own and begins building his own lasting legacy for future generations, and I couldn't have been more proud of that. While he's in the midst of coming to terms with all of this, the glymera and the Band of Bastards continue with their efforts to dethrone him, during which he has to muster all the mettle he can find to overcome their machinations. On top of all that, Beth desperately wants a young, but Wrath flatly refuses to do the baby thing. He's scared to death of possibly losing Beth if her pregnancy doesn't go well, which leads to a major argument for the couple. And whoo-wee! All I can say is that Wrath does not take Beth leaving him, even for one night, well at all. Not surprisingly though, he eventually comes to his senses, leading to a wonderful reconciliation.
For her part, Beth wants a baby so badly, she's been spending all her free time with Layla in an attempt to jump start her needing. She also still fears for her hellren's life after the attempted assassination in Lover Reborn. They begin to experience some typical marital issues that often come about when a couple has been in a long-term, committed relationship. Beth feels distant from Wrath because his overwhelming responsibilities as King keep him incredibly busy, not to mention they have a major disagreement about whether to have kids when Wrath finds out what Beth has been doing. Wrath is adamantly against it, so much so that he won't even talk about it, and Beth understandably has a hard time dealing with that. Once they both cool off, I loved how they came back together and had a great heart-to-heart conversation about everything. It just went to show that their relationship meant more to them than the things standing in their way. As she's always been, Beth was Wrath's rock and a freakin' genius to boot. She's the one who found a loophole in the glymera's evil plan, and she also helped Wrath come to terms with his monarchy, showing that she is indeed worthy of being queen.
As with all the BDB books, there are secondary plots and characters aplenty with lots of forward progression on all fronts. For starters, we have the Shadow brothers, Trez and iAm. Trez is a combination of Rhage, with his sexual addiction, and Rehvenge because he took over the other male's shady business enterprises. Of course, both of these things make Trez a very bad boy.;-) His sexual addiction has gotten to the point that he simply does it by rote. It's more of a compulsion that he doesn't really even enjoy anymore. In some ways, I think he's also doing it to thumb his nose at the s'Hisbe and the Shadow queen, who expect him to mate the queen's daughter and be the prize stud of his race. In the last book, Trez met Selena and realized she was the woman of his dreams. He didn't dare to hope that the Chosen returned his feelings, so he's extremely surprised when she makes it abundantly clear that she does. Selena has been attracted to Trez since the moment she met him. She now believes that she's contracted a mysterious disease that has killed some of her Chosen sisters in the past, making her want to live life to the fullest in the present. This makes her throw caution to the wind where Trez is concerned. He shrewdly comes up with a temporary fix to his problem with the Shadow queen, but essentially has to make a deal with the devil to do it. However, he still doesn't feel the least bit worthy of Selena. These two are going to have a lot of obstacles to overcome in their path to happiness, but I'll be rooting for them all the way. iAm is backing Trez up too. He constantly worries about his brother, which always sends him into a cooking frenzy. The scenes with him and Beth's cat, Boo, were hilarious, and I loved how he stepped up to the plate to look out for Beth when Wrath couldn't. iAm has always been the quiet one of the two brothers, but we learn a few very interesting tidbits about him in this book. His devotion to Trez is very touching and reminiscent of Phury with Zsadist. I can't wait to read more about these two brothers when they become co-heroes of the next book, The Shadows, which if the BDB books stay on their current release schedule, will be out next Spring (2015).
Next up is Assail and Sola. I hadn't fully warmed up to this couple in the last book of the series, but that all changed here. Their story had ended on something of a cliffhanger with Sola being kidnapped near the end of Lover at Last. From the moment they first appeared in this book, I was fully engaged. Sola kind of reminds me of Xhex. She's a tough cookie who isn't about to wait around hoping a man, namely Assail, will save her. She takes matters into her own hands the best she knows how and probably would have gotten away from her kidnappers even if Assail hadn't showed up in time. The way Assail sees it, drug wholesaler, Benloise, took his woman and he's not messing around when it comes to getting her back. He goes all Rambo on Benloise's men, which oddly enough is when I finally started warming up to him. What really cinched it, though, was Assail's intense focus on finding Sola, and most of all, his loving care of her grandmother until he does. This little old lady had me cracking up with the way she left Assail and his cousins speechless with her assertive, take-charge attitude. Assail's tenderness toward Sola when he finally finds her, especially after being so utterly ruthless with her kidnappers, was astounding and the thing that really made me start liking the guy. Sola is obviously his Achilles heel. I was glad to see that Sola trusted him in that situation too. After the rescue, things heat up for these two pretty quickly, but it's far from a happy ending for them. They're still pining for each other, though, so the potential for a long-term relationship is very much alive and well. I'm so looking forward to more character building for these two, especially Assail, but he's definitely going to have to clean up his act to be worthy of Sola.
The theme of this book's secondary romances seemed to be good (or mostly good) girls falling for very bad boys. The last of these couples is Xcor and Layla. Xcor still intrigues me a great deal. I know that he's done some terrible things, particularly toward Wrath, so he'll certainly have to pay in some way for that. IMHO though, Xcor is an empty shell of a male who needs something in his life to feel whole again. All along, he's believed that gaining the throne is the thing that will give him what he desires. However, he couldn't be more mistaken, and I think he's slowly coming to realize that. Poor Layla is going through the difficult throes of pregnancy, but she's still very happy about it and maintaining a cheerful attitude. She was very brave to approach Xcor about ending his mission to take Wrath out as King. His response in some ways surprised me, but in other ways, it didn't. I very much want Xcor to be redeemed and have a life with Layla, but I have a feeling it's going to be a long, hard road for them to get there. That road may be complicated by his relationship with Throe, which has hit a rocky patch, creating a lot of friction within their friendship as Xcor's priorities shift.
Poor Saxton isn't unlike Qhuinn in that his father (who happens to be one of the gymera members actively seeking to depose Wrath), hates him because he's gay. I'm so proud of Saxton being First Council to the King and wish he could wave that in his father's face, but to do so would have tipped off the baddies. I think Saxton is going to find-or perhaps has already has found-a new family with the Brotherhood in service to the King, and I hope he finds true love along the way too. Some new gymera members come to the forefront in this book. I can't recall if any of them were introduced in past books, but if they were, their parts were small. The most important of them is Abalone who is the only one of the gymera, other than those within the Brotherhood's fold, who supports Wrath, which definitely works in his favor. Last but not least, John Matthew's seizure episodes return, which cause him to begin experiencing unfamiliar feelings toward Beth, as well as some visions of Darius's life.
Throughout all the flashbacks to the Old Country, I enjoyed reading about Wrath's parents. Their romance was every bit as lovely as any of the main couples in the series, and it was wonderful to know that they were so much in love. All their scenes together added depth to their relationship, as well as the overall plot. Once again, the past was seamlessly woven into what was happening in the present, which made it all the more intriguing.
Overall, The King was yet another fabulous book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I loved the double twist ending, and every single one of the storylines, from Wrath and Beth's, all the way through each of the secondary characters' was engaging and intriguing. I greatly enjoyed reading each and every one, and can't wait for some of these characters to get their own books. The hardest part of reading a great book like this is that, with all good things, it must eventually come to an end. This is one case where I'm glad these books are long, so that I can derive more hours of enjoyment from them before that happens. Of course, the other difficult thing is waiting another full year for the next one to be released, so I'll be on the edge of my seat, eagerly counting down the days until I get to read The Shadows and learn what's in store for Trez, Selena, and iAm.
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