I know a lot of BDB fans were not excited for this book. JR Ward alienated so many people (myself included) with the ending of The Shadows, and frankly, a lot of people hate Layla. I hated Layla for a long time, so I get that. But I actually was looking forward to this book because I love a tortured hero and I’m all about forbidden romance. I’ve kinda been burning for this pairing for years.
There were things I liked in this story, but a great deal that I didn’t. I’m going to talk about the plot some, so if you haven’t read the book and you want to stay entirely spoiler free, consider yourself warned. My main problem with this book was that Ward set up the conflict with the utter annihilation of Qhuinn’s character. I’m not saying “Qhuinn makes bad choices.” I’m saying, I hated Qhuinn. I wanted to set Qhuinn on fire. Qhuinn was unrecognizable from the character we’ve known in all the books leading up to this one. That is not ok. He’s not just an ass. He is cruel, violent, and vindictive. He is beyond horrible to Layla, and frankly, speaks to Blay in a way that is completely at odds with the devoted mate he has always been up until now. Ward turned this character into something else to force the story where she wanted it to go and I am not down with that.
I’m also disappointed that Xcor and Layla start the book already in love. Yes, we’ve had a ton of building in previous books but I wanted the money scene where they finally reveal their feelings, and (especially for Xcor) it’s earth shattering and we get that big FINALLY moment. Their love was a given and I felt cheated. Don’t get me wrong, they are lovely together. I felt their desperation over their stolen moments and their abiding love, which is something Ward gets right. I just wish we would’ve had a big moment when they put their feelings out there for the first time.
As you know, these days Ward is all about the subplots, none of which I cared for. I especially Hated Trez’s story with a Selena lookalike. Hated with a capital H. I hated Tohr’s backslide. And I was completely unmoved by V’s emotional disconnect from Doc Jane. I had to fight the urge to skim often in the side scenes, when I wasn’t contemplating throwing my ereader in frustration.
I am interested in anything to do with the Band of Bastards. And the flashback scenes with Xcor broke my heart. Poor Xcor. He reminds of Zsadist. (Who I miss, BTW.) Such a gentle soul who has endured so much misery. I love how Layla changes him. He is so good to her! So heartbreakingly devoted and utterly in love with her. It’s so lovely how she sees him… as a good man and a warrior. And I enjoyed her finding her own identity.
I also thought the big climax scene was pretty awesome.
But the resolution was super-rushed and way too easy. Especially when it came to Qhuinn. As much as Ward turned his character on a dime at the beginning, she did it just as quickly at the end. It felt shallow and unsatisfying.
Overall, I found the book very uneven. It had some really satisfying moments. But just as many disappointments.
Click to purchase: Amazon
by JR Ward
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Ballantine Books