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The Chosen by J. R. Ward
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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. ( )
  mom2lnb | May 10, 2017 |
Wow, what a boatload of emotions going on here. In the book and in all the other reviewers. A lot of people think that Ward crossed some lines in this book and not in a good way. I can't decide ultimately how I feel about it all. Thor and Quinn were real asses in this book but hey, we all lose our shit sometimes and say unforgivable things to the people we love. I see it happen all the time. I'm just glad it was basically resolving itself by the conclusion of this book. As for the V thing, again I'm not sure what the swearing off the books is all about. The way I see it, Ward is playing with all kind of different relationships. Will that include a relationship that doesn't last? Maybe, I'm not sure. I rather think that everything will work itself out in the end. V is definitely getting some spotlight soon. I hope the Assail thing works out. And I'm interested to see some new faces in the mansion. ( )
  Kassilem | Apr 13, 2017 |
The Chosen is the fifteenth installment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. While the author does an admirable job of trying to stir up the series, after fifteen books it is impossible to not feel like the same plot is getting re-threaded for the umpteenth time.

The Good
- Layla and Xcore finally get the relationship wrap up they deserve. These two characters have been through a lot and it is nice to see them come to terms with not just their forbidden romance, but with their own personal baggage as well.
- It's always nice to see Blay stand up for himself and to see his parents make an appearance.
- Something possibly interesting seems to be cooking up between Throe and the Omega.
- Tohr's plot line in this book is rocky for the most part, but by the end he seems to be on a bit better of footing.
- Cormina sighting! There is an actual Cormina sighting in this book. And she even rates a line or two!

The Not So Good
- The entire book deals with the fallout of Layla admitting to Quinn her relationship with Xcore and Quinn's totally unreasonable reaction to that revelation. He forces Layla to be kicked out of the mansion, refuses to acknowledge her rights to their children, insults Blay, points a gun at directly at Layla, shoots a gun in the nursery while the twins are there, tries to kill Xcore twice and semi-rejects his daughter Lyric due to the her resemblance to her mother. No. Just no. Quinn's reaction was straight across the board unbelievable to who his character has been up to this point and was a real disservice to all the growth his character has gone through. What Quinn did was engage in extreme domestic violence, which never was addressed other than by a few of the shellens giving him a couple of lectures and some stern looks. Please! Plus by going against Wrath's express orders in trying to kill Xcore, he is as much of a traitor as he claims Layla is. Actually more so, as Layla never actually swore an oath to follow the orders of Wrath, unlike Quinn and Tohr who did.
- So Lassiter is replacing the Scribe Virgin. Ugh.
- I guess the next book will deal with the fallout of Vicious either having cheated on Jane or at least his contemplation of cheating on her. Why? V and Jane have had two stand alone novels that have dealt with their relationship troubles. The last novel they starred in was a nice wrap up on V's emotional coldness, terrible upbringing and finally coming to terms with the good things in his life. But here we are in this book, inexplicably watching him slow march the most important relationship of his life to the dumpster. With no explanation. It's been clearly stated that bonded brothers are devoted to their mates and V has time and again been shown to be as devoted as any of them. Do we really need to revisit this relationship again? Instead how about a focus on some of the forgotten Brother's like Phury, Butch, John Matthew, Zadist or even Rhevenge? But no, we are going to get frogged marched to V and Jane Round III. The saga no one wants.
- The Bastards and the Brothers end by joining forces and are all living in the mansion together, happily ever after. I get its a mansion, but how many rooms can it realistically have? Too many characters! Unbelievable ending to this feud in the the worst way possible.
- Theresa, who happens to look just like Tres's recently deceased wife, happens to show up and get a job as a waitress in his brothers restaurant. The tiresome plot of that eventual novel is self-evident. According to this book Selena died just a few months ago. Tres does not need a lookalike hookup at this point. Double Ugh.

It wasn't a completely terrible novel, but the repetition is definitely starting wear thin and the whole series has just become overstuffed with too many characters. I actually hoped that the author would use the climatic battle at the end of the book to knock off a few characters, but of course, every single Bastard and Brother manages to come out not only alive but best buddies. Triple Ugh. ( )
  queencersei | Apr 12, 2017 |
Well, I have been looking forward to this book for literally YEARS (ever since the star-crossed romance between Layla and Xcor started), and I'm left kind of feeling disappointed. Sadness.

That isn't to say that there weren't some good parts, because there definitely were some good parts in this book. I really liked Layla discovering her inner strength and growing so much as a person (vampire?). And, let's be honest, I'm an absolute sucker for Xcor/Layla in any and all forms, even though it felt like their romance took a bit of a back seat to other parts of the story for too damned long. And I got teary over them more than once (shut up, it's okay to get teary for doomed fictional romances!).

But the rest of the book was almost completely a solid NO for me.

Qhuinn is an absolute fucking ASSHOLE in this book, and I am completely done with him as a character. I've always thought that he was kind of a jerk before, but that was tempered by my feelings of "well, he's been through a lot in his life, so I can kind of understand where he's coming from" - until now. Because in this book, he gets so pissed that Layla was a "traitor" because of her romance (and quite limited one at that) with Xcor that he literally pulls his gun in a room with her and their two children in it and shoots up the place. You've read that correctly. And then he conveniently "doesn't remember" much about the incident. Blay, meanwhile, is more upset that Qhuinn said he wasn't the kids' father than, oh I don't know, the fact that he shot up the room. No one ever really calls Qhuinn out on his ridiculously reckless behavior for this, either.

Qhuinn is SO FUCKING UPSET that he presumes Layla had sex with Xcor while she was pregnant (which she didn't) because her hanging around Xcor put the children in danger. Except that didn't, either. But you know what DID put the children in danger? THEIR FATHER GOING OFF THE DEEP END AND SHOOTING UP A ROOM IN WHICH THEY WERE IN THE ENTIRE TIME. THAT definitely put them in danger. And Qhuinn NEVER gets this, and once again, he's never called on the carpet for that, either. Oh, and Qhuinn is so fucking gung-ho of getting Layla stripped of all maternal rights because she's a traitor for loving Xcor, but Qhuinn disobeys a DIRECT ORDER from the king to not kill Xcor (he and Tohr attempt to execute him but, thankfully, fail). Ummm....that just reeks of being a traitor. But, once again, it's okay, and no one even DISCUSSES stripping Qhuinn's paternal rights even though HE is a traitor (which, granted, Wrath doesn't know) and HE is obviously a psychopath.

Fuck that shit.

Also, I am getting really damned sick of the misogyny in this series. Some of Ward's books are so good (Z's book will always be one of my favorites) that I can look over the hatred of women, particularly strong women, in this series...sometimes. But not this time. Even though Layla becomes stronger, she's still a pawn in this monarchy. Qhuinn could technically get all of her maternal rights stripped by an edict from the king (which Wrath refuses to do, but still, it COULD have happened). And he DID manage to relinquish all paternal rights to the kids and transfer them to Blay WITHOUT LAYLA EVEN KNOWING!! She wasn't even involved in the process! What the fuck!

And before anyone thinks that Qhuinn is just being a good daddy in spite of shooting up his kids' room, he spends about half of the book ignoring his daughter Lyric because she looks too much like Layla. Yep. That actually happens. Fuck Qhuinn and anyone who tries to defend his actions.

In fact, it was perfectly obvious that Qhuinn would have been completely content to write Layla completely out of his life and the lives of their children if it wasn't for Blay. Because Blay said if you want to get back together with him (they were estranged for most of the book), Qhuinn would have to make things okay with Layla - and that is the ONLY reason why Qhuinn started treating Layla like she wasn't shit on the bottom of his shoe.

Also, the ending is just ridiculous - and Layla's relationship with Xcor can only progress now because Qhuinn has given his "blessing" or "permission" for it to happen. Otherwise, Xcor would have been banished to the Old World, many thousands of miles away, and Layla would have been heartbroken (as would have Xcor). But Qhuinn suddenly gives his okay and then things can proceed? Fuck this shit. Again. And Qhuinn was apparently trying so hard to get into Blay's good graces yet again that he and Xcor are now best buddies or something AND co-parents to boot. What the fuck ever. No no no. And there is NO GOOD REASON why the Bastards have to move into the mansion too. But that is what happens. For, uhh, yeah, okay, I don't know the answer. Nothing makes sense anymore.

Trez and Selena Part II? NO. DO NOT WANT. MAKE IT GO AWAY.

At this point, I am just wondering if I am soured on the series. I have the Xcor/Layla book that I wanted, and now I find myself pretty apathetic. The only one I'm even remotely interested in from this point forward is Assail, because that dude is having a rough time. Plus I have kind of grown attached to him. And Z/Bella and Xcor/Layla. Everyone else can go fuck themselves at this point. ( )
  schatzi | Apr 9, 2017 |
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To You:
After all this time,
you have been chosen.
Welcome home.
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Firelight thrown from a shallow pit clawed across the damp walls of the cave, the rough rock face bleeding shadows.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451475194, Hardcover)

A scorching forbidden love threatens to tear a rift through the Black Dagger Brotherhood in J. R. Ward’s newest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.
Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards, convicted of treason against the Blind King, is facing a brutal interrogation and torturous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yet after a life marked by cruelty and evil deeds, he accepts his soldier’s fate, his sole regret the loss of a sacred female who was never his: the Chosen Layla.
Layla alone knows the truth that will save Xcor’s life. But revealing his sacrifice and his hidden heritage will expose them both and destroy everything Layla holds dear—even her role of mother to her precious young. Torn between love and loyalty, she must summon the courage to stand up against the only family she has for the only man she will ever love. Yet even if Xcor is somehow granted a reprieve, he and Layla would have to confront a graver challenge: bridging the chasm that divides their worlds without paving the way for a future of even greater war, desolation, and death.
As a dangerous old enemy returns to Caldwell, and the identity of a new deity is revealed, nothing is certain or safe in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not even true love . . . or destinies that have long seemed set in stone.
Praise for J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series
“Utterly absorbing and deliciously erotic.”—Angela Knight
“To die for . . . I love this series!”—Suzanne Brockmann

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 17 Sep 2016 21:16:18 -0400)

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