Rehvenge and Xhex continue to battle their dark Symphath natures with Rehvenge also having to pay their blackmailer to prevent their secret being revealed. Revelation could mean both of them deported to the sympath colony where their deaths are nearly assured. Yet the price being asked is slowly killing Rehvenge – both in body and in spirit.
This is only further complicated as he meets Ehlena, a nurse struggling to care for her schizophrenic father on a limited income. Met and fallen for – but can he pursue a relationship with his symphath nature? What will she says to the revelation -a nd worse, how much is that secret threatened as more and more vampires learn and threaten exposure.
And Wrath, the king, has started fighting again – fighting on his own and covering up, causing ructions among the Brotherhood and most certainly with his wife, Beth. As if that weren't complicated enough
The Lessening society continues to reorganise under Lash, the Omega's vampire son who wishes to establish a greater income for the society.
Tohrment continues his road to recovery, dealing with what he left behind – and John Matthew continues in his rocky rocky path with Xhex
Much as I like the side-plots in the Black Dagger Dudebros (actually, it's more that I really don't like the main plots so the side-plots are more fascinating) I think we're starting to see a lack of focus. The number of characters all having their own issues is developing a soap feeling – to an extent that it's getting harder to pin down exactly who the protagonists in this book are. In this book we had Rehvenge and Ehlena, the Symphaths, we had John Matthew and his issues, Lash and the Lessers, Wrath and Beth, Xhex basically being Xhex, Tohrment recovering... And it doesn't help that while all their plot lines touch each other, they're still not that closely linked.
The flip side is, I'm glad that the Dudebros don't just have their book then live “Happily Ever After”. So just because Wrath has met his one true love doesn't mean that there's never anything interesting happening in his life again – his story still develops. It's hared to find the balance – and I think that this book would have lost it if it weren't for the fact I have so little interest in the main plot that the distraction and lack of focus is actually a bonus.
I found Rehvenge's feelings of self-hatred and loathing and being unclean very real (contrast this to Phury's self-pity). His ongoing sexual abuse, his lack of worth his fear of who and what he is are all powerful forces and I think his conflict over that is extremely well portrayed.
The relationship was also less fraught with the usual Dudebroness. LESS fraught – not lacking. Rehvenge thought of Ehelna as “his” when she's a nurse treating him – and his blatant come ons were grossly inappropriate . But compared to the other Dudebros? This is a relationship of mutual consent and development.
I didn't like John Matthew's story. Yes he's been through a lot – but he's having a complete hissy fit at a time when his problems are... somewhat less than everyone else's. It makes him feel kind of selfish and self-absorbed while people are working to save Rehvenge
I liked the development of the Symphaths, I liked the movement of the lessers, I loved seeing Wrath dealing with his blindness, it's wonderfully well done. I liked Ehlena's relationship with her father – also well done and both this and Wrath's story were written with a conscious knowledge of the effects of being disabled.
I actually feel I'm missing a storyline or 2 here because there were so many running parallel.
Sadly, casual homophobia is still very common in the book. I'm also not happy with how the creepy, evil symphaths are portrayed as being androgynous and how utterly creepy and evil that makes them.
Language mocking, I have to mention Ehlena. Ehlena, really? Did the hs escape again? They're inflecting perfectly normal names now. We also had Muhrder.
All in all, this book was a massive improvement from what I've expected in this series. The stories were much better and the Dudebroness not so bad (or at least I'm getting immune to it) but it fell down on a different level now. The lack of a coherent focus on the story made it broken and disjointed and made it hard to engage in any one story. Just as I wanted to see how Wrath would develop as King with his loss of sight, we're jerked to see Rehvenge and the symphaths, just when I'm beginning to wonder where that's going, we're pulled over to see John Matthew. It's almost soap like.
I will say that this redeemed a lot of the series for me. I finally decided to give it a 3 after much tossing and turning since it could be more relief than anything. The stories have managed to focus beyond the extremely problematic relationships. We're seeing more of the world, we're getting greater and more intricate plots – there's a whole lot of potential opened up with this book. It's problems are entirely new problems to the series and a lot of the old ones are absent.