Top critical review
Amazing Vampire Universe, Hard to Connect to Heroine
Reviewed in the United States on January 13, 2020
This book gets three stars for universe building. I can see why the Black Dagger Brotherhood has such a following. As far as vampire books go, this one was well developed. The setting and rules of this universe are really explained. There is a full society with a back story and dynamics, different factions with roles and gifts. I did find the world the story takes place in fascinating. I loved the dimensions of the "fade" and the underworld, the different parts of a complex society. This author's take on vampires was pretty neat - their transitioning, needing, aging, death... all very well done.
Where the story lost me was the romance itself. And despite all that I just said above, there were just so many character perspectives. In a series, I like lots of characters, but I don't need to be in their heads every book. It felt like there was so much time spent with characters who weren't a part of THIS actual story - like John Matthews and Butch and Rhevenge, etc. etc. I would have preferred spending more time with the hero and heroine, Zsadist and Bella, and getting to know their love story more. I can tolerate POV from the villain (in this case, Mr. O) and I thought that the POV from Zsadist's twin Phury made sense (mostly) but from everyone else... just way too long and way too many extra pages. I wanted to connect more with the H/h.
Zsadist is a vampire who was once a slave to a very abusive mistress who tortured him to the point that he is a dark, broken shell. He cannot stand to be touched and has a hard time expressing sensitive emotions on any level. Bella is an aristocratic vampire who is attracted to him, but he pushes her away because he cannot tolerate interactions on any level (this happens in flashback and/or previous book). When she is kidnapped, he becomes obsessed with rescuing her. When she is finally found, he commits himself to caring for her at first, though he fights the protective instincts he feels, and ends up in a game of push and pull.
Zsadist is a very tortured soul and I enjoyed watching him heal. Those are some of the strongest parts of this novel. And I loved watching him reconnect to his twin. When I finished reading this book, the relationship between Phury and Zsadist stood out to me as the strongest, most developed, and the most poignant. When it came to the love between Zsadist and Bella I just wasn't as convinced. The "I'm dirty, you deserve better than me" trope maybe just went on way too long and I was exasperated.
Also, for such a long book, Bella is pretty much a stand-in Mary Sue. The author spends so much time switching POVs and developing all these characters.... but forgets one of the actual main characters. We don't get to know Bella much at all. And she went through a pretty major trauma during her kidnapping (held in a dark, cold tunnel under a floor for six weeks) but there is about no time spent on HER healing or trauma. It's forgotten pretty quick. She has no interests, thoughts, opinions, interactions beyond the most basic of tropes. There's a huge missed opportunity for her to interact with the other female vampires that live in the house she's staying in, but it's only mentioned in the briefest sentences - "Bella passed some time with Mary and Beth." It made me wonder if female vampires in this universe have roles beyond being "mated." Are any of them warriors or leaders? Like Bella's mother, is she a matriarch type? Not sure. It's sad to say that towards the end I was excited when a female vampire takes on the job of teaching literacy - finally! A female vampire doing something! I'm guessing the point of these books is the BROTHERHOOD and so the focus is on the guys. I get that. But, still, we hardly spend time in Bella's POV except to express that she really wants to be with Zsadist. Perhaps it's because I didn't connect to Bella at all that I had a hard time connecting to their love story.