This is a very 90's-ish, very Anne-Rice-meets-Buffy urban romance series that follows a incredibly unique race of vampires. Within that race, there are stronger and tougher warriors known as The Black Dagger Brotherhood. Their purpose is to protect their people from a group of evil-injected humans they call the Lessers.
I don't remember how I stumbled onto this incredibly long series, but I'm so happy I did.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood introduces an entirely new take on vampires. How they're created, what their weaknesses are, how they feed, and who the enemies are. In this series, humans are all but ignored as the vampires feed on themselves. Males drink blood from the females and vice-versa. They're born to vampire parents, and the legend of their creation is that there's a goddess and realm outside of earth (very heaven-y but they can actually go there.) Besides the blood-drinking, weakness to sunlight, and super-strength, they're really not like vampires at all. J.R. Ward took the lore and made a spin-off.
But the world is so fun. We get these over-the-top, hilarious, tough-guy caricatures of vampire warriors. They're a dying species because the Lessers have been working for generations to wipe vampires from the face of the planet. The Black Dagger Brotherhood's numbers are dwindling and the son of their dead king is refusing to rule, so their shadow-society is in shambles.
The series rotates through an ever-evolving cast of characters, but the story lines intertwine through each book, so they have to be read in order. This is not the type of series that starts a new character/couple with each new book without ever mentioning them again.
The main couple changes, but other story lines continue in each new book. For example, in book two, we still have the characters from book one and see how their lives continue. But there's a new main character and plot who we see the most of. There are also threads of other characters who will eventually become main characters in their own books.
I found that this is a really engaging way to keep a story going. You start to see hints of what could evolve between two characters early on, and it slowly builds as a subplot in all the other books. The characters in my favorite couple existed almost from the beginning, and I slowly got to see, over a realistic time period, how they started to come together. They didn't get their own book (where they were the main focus) until book ten. It was a fantastic slowburn.
Even with such a large cast of characters, it's remarkably easy to keep track of them. Because you get to know them so gradually and get to see so much about them over time. Also because of this, we really get to see each individual's personality.
I have so many favorite characters from this series. Wrath. Qhinn. Vishous. Zhadist.
(If you're starting to notice a pattern of H's... yeaaaah. It seems like Ward sticks them in pretty randomly, mostly for the Brotherhood, but not always (AKA Wrath?)? You'll get used to it, but it's random.)
Ward does a really good job introducing characters we're supposed to like and those we're not. She takes characters who seem irredeemable and turns it around over the course of many books. There's one character in-particular that I never thought I would like as much as I do, and now I want better for him than Ward is even giving him.
Not-as-good Aspects (;
On the flip side, there are characters I 100% don't care about because their stories were just boring. There's one in particular that I had high hopes for while getting to know them through other books. By the time I got to the book where they were the main focus... it fell short. It wasn't well done and it dropped the ball on things I was really excited about (AKA she set up a jealously situation and it went nowhere, unfortunately). But there were enough other plot threads in the book to make it an enjoyable read.
Also some characters just irritate me to no end. Maybe that's a plus of the series because I think we're supposed to be mad at those characters. Fourteen books in and I'm taking a break because the current main character is driving me nuts with her choices. I went from really liking her and thinking of her partner as a villain, to caring about him waaaay more (^^^the one I mentioned before).
Another negative is that Ward relied heavily on the Lesser POV in the earlier books. Rather than giving us The Brotherhood characters for every chapter and letting them lead us to figure out the dangerous plans of their enemies --the Lessers--, Ward jumped into the head of the main evil guy.
This did help me understand the complicated system. The Lessers are humans, but some evil non-human guy comes and basically uses his blood to make them into these stale, stuck in time, impotent non-humans who for some reason always want to do horrible things because this guy gave them this horrible version of immortality.
The Lesser backstory is a bit clunky, but they become less and less important as the books add up. They're still causing the decline of the vampire race, but the books stop using their POV almost completely (which is great because it's boring and complicated) and we get additional plots so it's not just The Brotherhood against the Lessers every book.
I have so many favorite characters in this ever-evolving cast. And because the books take place over three years by the time you hit book ten, we get to see SO much of these characters. Even as I finish the books for my favorites, I get to see threads of their lives throughout every story. And I eventually stumble onto more favorites.
Once I got farther in the series, we start circling back to the main crew of The Black Dagger Brotherhood. So we go back to the beginning and start with Wrath all over again. I really love this. Even when there are (rarely) characters I don't care about, I get to see the foreshadowing of what's coming up in future books, and it gets me through the parts I don't like. There is something I really enjoy in each book, but sometimes I love everything in the book.
It's a huge series with a completely new take on vampires. The characters are hilarious, but very 90s-ish. I love that, but I know other people won't. With Wrath and Beth, the first couple and the focus of the first book, it's very... Buffy and Angel (with an adult-rated twist).
My favorite is part is that the characters are so realistic. Even though they're vampires, etc. etc., their characterization is so strong and real. The camaraderie between the brothers, the care they have for one another, the relationships are all (mostly) really well done.
With such a large cast, it would be easy for the characters to become generic after a while, but that's definitely not the case. Each has their own personality, their own struggles, and their thoughts. They are each really unique and realistic. And each romance plays out entirely differently.