Between training in the Bloodletter's brutal camp and leading the Band of Bastards, Xcor has led a life filled with violence, death, and destruction. After making an attempt on the king's life, he now find himself the prisoner of the Brotherhood, facing a torturous interrogation and an even more gruesome execution. Although he now regrets his actions and no longer harbors any ill-will toward the Brotherhood, there's nothing he regrets more than having to leave behind the one female who's captured his heart and made him feel whole again, like a male of worth and not just a despised traitor.
The Chosen Layla considers the Brotherhood to be her family, not only because she is the new mother to one of the Brother's young, but because they took her in and gave her a new life. The times she met with Xcor, she always felt like she was betraying their trust, but her heart drew her to him like a moth to a flame. Now she holds information that might free him from the Brotherhood's intent to kill him, but to reveal it will jeopardize not only her place with them, but also her very rights to her own children. Choosing between the love of her life and her family, both by blood and by choice is not easy, and if Xcor should be granted a reprieve it could lead to even bigger challenges for them as a couple.
As an old enemy resurfaces, posing a new threat, and a new deity is revealed, battle lines are drawn solidifying unexpected alliances while shaking others to the core. And in the end, only love and forgiveness maybe be able to win the day.
It's hard to believe that the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book was released more than a decade ago and that we're now fifteen books into the series. With many long-running series like this, the stories can sometimes become old and stale, oftentimes feeling repetitive, or they may simply lose their momentum, which in turn, loses my attention. Not so with this series. If anything, I think the books have been getting better and better. Out of the most recent five books of the series, all have rated keeper status for me, compared with only two of the first five. But hey, really they're all keepers, because I love the series so much, I just can't get enough of it. Unlike some readers, I'm not even remotely tired of the Brothers yet. They still enthrall me, thrill me, and make me fall in love with them all over again with each subsequent book. And as usual, I'm left begging for more and can't wait for the next one.
The Chosen took a slightly different track than previous books of the series and than what I was expecting. By that, I mean that Xcor and Layla, despite being the main hero/heroine pairing in this story, didn't have quite as much page time as the couples from previous books. Maybe about a third of the way into reading it, I realized that this is most likely because their story has been developing as a sub-plot in the last several volumes, since they first met in book #10, Lover Reborn. That meant that there was less to tell. Since they were already in love and had been for some time, it was just a matter of them consummating the relationship and overcoming the hurdles to reach their HEA. These weren't small things by any means, but since they already had the getting-to-know-you stuff out of the way, their part simply didn't take up as much page time as it might have otherwise. I did thoroughly enjoy it, though. These two captured my attention and imagination from their first meeting and I'd been rooting for them to get together ever since. Although their journey to the HEA has been fraught with many pitfalls and Xcor needing to overcome his own selfishness and hardened warrior instincts, I was happy with how everything turned out. The ending was absolutely perfect and I look forward to seeing more of this couple as the series story-arc progresses.
Xcor is a badass, plain and simple. He entered the series with his Band of Bastards fully intending to dethrone Wrath and take that seat for himself and even went so far as to attempt an assassination. Then he met the Chosen, Layla, and his entire focus began to change. Like so many of the males in this series, he was brought to his knees by his love for one special female. He never felt like he was good enough for someone like her, which eventually led him to push her away. Then he was captured by the Brotherhood and spent the entire previous book in a coma, only being kept alive so they could torture him for information and then execute him for treason. Well, of course, none of that could happen or he wouldn't get that happy ending with Layla that he'd been dreaming of, but never expecting to get. I was really happy with how things went in the book for Xcor. We learn his heartbreaking backstory, beginning with being rejected at birth by his father for having a cleft lip, and things didn't get any better from there. He suffered through a pretty wretched childhood, learning to be independent from a very young age. Then after his transition, he chanced to meet the Bloodletter and was tricked into joining his war camp, and we all know from Vishous' story just how horrifying that experience was. But it also turned him into a hard, unforgiving warrior, who had never known genuine love and had no softness or emotion left in him until Layla came along. He doesn't fully understand why she loves him unconditionally and half expects her to leave him at some point if she learns too much of his past. But at the same time, he soaks up her affection like a starving man, and in reality he has been emotionally starved. I like that upon meeting Layla he started to gradually soften toward Wrath and the Brotherhood, and by the time we get to his first scenes in this book, he no longer holds any animosity for them. However, it's still a long road to him gaining the Brotherhood's trust and respect, and I really liked how this part of the story played out. I also love how an intense, stalwart warrior like Xcor who's never been given to displays of affection turns into a gentle pussycat and an incredibly tender lover in Layla's arms. It all made me totally fall for him.
Layla has been a part of the series for a very long time. I can't even recall when she first appeared on the scene, but she has always been one of the main Chosen who were freed by Phury from service to the Scribe Virgin but who still provide for the blood needs of the Brotherhood and their allies. Somewhere along the line, she became best friends with Qhuinn, so when she went into her needing in Lover Reborn, she asked him to service her. The young were finally born in the previous book, The Beast, which was a joyous occasion for all. However, the joy quickly turns to sorrow when Layla finally reveals to Qhuinn that she'd been meeting with Xcor off and on for the entire time she was pregnant. Needless to say, things do not go well for her after that, and even her reunion with Xcor is marked with anxiety over either his impending demise or exile. But she tries to make the best of the time they have left. I've loved Layla from the beginning. She's grown and changed in unexpected ways throughout the series. She's a wonderful mother, always trying to put her young first, and we get another little taste from her of why the female of the species can be more dangerous than the males.;-) I adored her for the way she loves Xcor unconditionally and for the way she stood up for him to those who would do him harm. She's an all-around awesome female and I'm so glad that she finally gets the happy ending she deserves.
Since Xcor's and Layla's scenes don't take up as much page time, we get lots of other POVs. This is pretty much par for the course in these books, but I think there were more than usual, as I counted no less than ten other characters' perspectives. Since Qhuinn's and Blay's lives are inextricably linked with Layla's due to them sharing parenting duties, I'll start with them. Qhuinn kind of disappointed me with his off-the-rails behavior, but then again, he disappointed nearly everyone else in the story, too, and it's not without consequences. The toughest one to read about, though, is the rift in his relationship with Blay that's caused by his angry, irrational outburst. Blay, unsurprisingly, tries to be the calm voice of reason throughout, but even a peacemaker like him can have a breaking point. I felt like he was completely justified in his reaction to Qhuinn's words and actions. I would have been upset too. Even though Qhuinn's anger persists throughout a large part of the story, I have to give him credit for things that he does later on and was happy with how it all turned out in the end.
Trez and iAm are also a part of this story, though their sub-plot runs parallel to the things happening within the Brotherhood and doesn't intersect this time. Trez is still deeply in mourning for Selena, which made me a little sad. iAm is there helping to support his brother in his hour of grief, while each of them continue running their respective businesses. I thought maybe I had an idea of where things were going for Trez, but I was wrong. Instead, I was surprised by the addition of a new female character named Therese, who applies for a job at iAm's restaurant. It appears that a major revelation in her life either made her run away from her family or she doesn't have a family anymore. I can't say much more about her without giving away a major spoiler. All I can say is that a deep, instant attraction sparks between her and Trez, and I look forward to learning more about her.
In addition, three of the Brothers get their own POVs. First is Wrath (yeah, I know he's technically the king, but I still think of him as a Brother :-)), who continues to prove himself as the benevolent ruler of the vampire race. I was very impressed with his ability to forgive and his wisdom (with a little "encouragement" from Beth) in mediating some difficult circumstances. Then there's Tohr, who opens the story depressed, because it's Wellsie's birthday. That, the household recently losing Selena, and Tohr witnessing Trez's grief over his mate's death have stirred up old memories of his own devastating loss. All of this causes him to make some unwise choices that put a little tarnish on his previously pristine veneer for me, but eventually he comes to see reason. Last, but certainly not least, was Vishous. He's been getting several of his own scenes throughout the past couple of books. In this one, he's protecting his king and continuing his role as all-around geek extraordinaire. However, his contemplations over his mating with Jane from the previous book continue, with him now feeling rather neglected by his shellan, who is always busy playing chief medic to the Brotherhood and their families. This makes him begin to consider the unthinkable. Based on the Warden's answers at her recent in-person Q & A, it looks like things may get worse for this couple before they get better. They certainly wouldn't be the first couple in this series to have to work through difficulties, and with a long-running series like this, I know I can't expect all the previous couples to get along perfectly without any problems (after all real life couples certainly don't), so as long as Vishous doesn't do something stupid, I think I'll be OK with that.
Former Bastard, Throe, has now gone full-on evil and is poised to become the newest arch-enemy of the Brotherhood, as he's now the one seeking the throne. He gets into some really freaky stuff in this story that I'm sure will have repercussions throughout the next few books. Then the final character who has a couple of his own POV scenes is Zypher, who has kind of become the defacto leader of the Band of Bastards in Xcor's absence. They go searching in a last-ditch effort to find their real leader, while making plans to return to the Old Country if they can't locate him.
While they didn't get their own POVs, there are a few supporting characters with key roles, chief among them Lassiter. After bringing Tohr back to the land of the living many moons ago, the fallen angel was mostly just mooching off the Brothers, annoying the crap out of them, and being the comic relief, but now he's finally getting some great material. I've loved all the wonderful little things he's done throughout the last couple of books and that continues here. He shows that under all the flamboyancy and flippancy there beats a vulnerable heart. There are some surprising developments with regards to Lassiter as he takes on a fuller role in the series. Jo Early, the human woman who is trying to prove the existence of vampires is barely seen, but she's still out there doing her thing and causing trouble for Vishous to clean up. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her. And finally, while not actually seen, Assail is heard in the background as he continues his detoxing process and it isn't pretty. But it looks like he's finally going to get his HEA with Sola in the next book of the series, The Thief, most likely releasing next spring (2018).
Overall, The Chosen was an excellent story and I loved every minute I spent reading it. Each time a new Black Dagger Brotherhood book comes out, I feel privileged to spend a little more time in their world. It feels so real, and I can't get enough of these guys and their gals. There have been a few things happening in the series that have given me the feeling that things are moving toward the ultimate goal of eliminating the Omega once and for all, which makes me question whether the Warden is slowly wrapping up the series. However, in her Q & A, she gave me hope that I'll still get to spend plenty more time with the Brothers, when she said that as long as they keep talking to her and as long as we, the fans, keep reading, she'll keep writing them. You better believe I will do exactly that, and with the Black Dagger Legacy, we now get two books in the Brotherhood's world each year. I can't wait for Blood Fury coming at the very beginning of next year (2018), and for The Thief to follow shortly thereafter.
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