The King by J.R. Ward
Reviewed by Jamie Bayne, Information Specialist
The long awaited 12th installment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward was definitely not a disappointment. The King represents the best of Ward: tough men with hearts of gold; rough language; steamy, intimate scenes; and the continuation of the Vampires’ history. In The King, Ward comes full circle and returns to the story of Wrath, son of Wrath, the Blind King. The first novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Dark Lover, focused on Wrath and his love story with Beth, his shellan. In the latest installment, we return to Wrath’s story as he focuses on coming to grips with his blindness and trying to run the kingdom in the manner of his father.
Throughout the series, we have heard Wrath internally compare himself to his father and how he believes he could never be the leader his father was. In The King, we finally get to meet Wrath’s father Wrath as Ward takes us back in time to see how Wrath’s life is actually paralleling his father’s. The novel is a mixture of dark emotions, struggling factions and the power of love to overcome. Ward’s novels are classified as paranormal romance, but the emotions coursing through the vampires is the same ones everyone struggles with: desire; greed; lust; love; guilt. The entire gamut of emotions that serve to remind us we are human.
As Wrath struggles with Beth’s desire to have a child and his own insecurities that make him wish to remain childless, the reader also follows the story of the Shadow twins: Trez and iAm. Trez was promised as an infant to be husband to the s’Hisbe princess. He has spent his life avoiding this duty and making himself as unappealing to his race’s principles as possible. However, the time is drawing near when he will be forced to return to the tribe and take his place as consort. He has, unfortunately, fallen into a complicated relationship with a Chosen.
Concurrently, the reader is also following the ongoing story of Assail. Assail is a member of the vampire glymera (aristocracy) who cares nothing for politics and everything about money. He has become the drug lord of Caldwell and is actually using the race’s mortal enemies, the Lessers, to distribute his goods throughout the city. In this subplot, Assail has become obsessed, possibly even bonded to a human woman named Sola, whose lifestyle puts her in harm’s way. Assail struggles with the attraction and we are left wondering how their relationship will develop.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a complicated one, always taking plot twists and turns and never leaving the reader knowing what will happen next. As in her previous novels, Ward leaves several questions unanswered at the end of the novel and has the reader salivating for the next installment (which will be published next spring). I would not recommend picking up The King without reading the other eleven novels first. There are too many intricate twists and subtleties that appeared in the other novels to begin essentially in the middle of their stories. However, for Ward fans or for someone wanting to start the series, The King definitely lives up to her previous works and, in some ways, surpasses them.