A wonderful author named J.R. Ward has created a book series that I am absolutely obsessed with – the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I’ve been reading them for about ten years now, and I’m still just as hooked as I was on day one. These books are a hard sell, though, because they’re part of the paranormal romance novel genre. We’ve pretty much reached peak vampire romance saturation in pop culture, but I’m recommending giving the series a go. I’ve put together some basic info to help persuade you in that direction – my only goal is to introduce other voracious readers to quality offerings they may enjoy!
Readers of my blog are probably familiar with my book obsession. I enjoy reading a wide variety of genres, but only certain authors/books really resonate with me emotionally. These characters make me laugh my ass off, cry my heart out, and everything in between. They’re vulnerable smart asses with hearts of gold and real struggles that you can’t help but care about. If you’re looking to get sucked in, these books are it. You know the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? Well, if loving a book could make it real, all of these would have sprang to life from my bookshelf. Seriously, the cover image is the books on my actual shelf and you can see they’ve been read and re-read to the point of nearly falling apart. That’s book love for you!
Black Dagger Brotherhood Overview
In Caldwell, New York, there’s a whole society of vampires living among humans. There are also vampire sub-species, which are explained thoroughly as the series develops. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is a collection of special vampires with extraordinary strength and passion; they protect the race from the forces of the evil undead lessers. They also fall in love, get it on, joke, talk shit, and fight a whole lot. It’s action, adventure, comedy, and romance, all in one!
I know the titles seem a little silly (Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, Lover Awakened, etc). Don’t let that prevent you from giving them a chance! These vampires don’t sparkle. They aren’t traditional vampires, though, because they don’t drink human blood. They eat regular food but also require blood from other vampires of the opposite sex. They aren’t undead; they’re just a separate species. The author delves into their origins, anatomy, genetic differences, culture, and pop culture. It’s a complex, well developed fictional world that is sure to suck you in. Also there are some sexy sexy sex scenes, along with graphic violence. The fan base is mainly female, but the characters and plots have a solid male following as well.
Diverse Representation & Super Feminist!
The series as a whole is incredibly feminist and equal opportunity. The first couple books baaaarely pass the Bechdel test, but they become more balanced and feminist as the series progresses. I’m not going to get into why feminism is considered by some to be a dirty word, but please understand that I mean it in an entirely positive way. Here are some cool elements to consider:
- Males & females are both fighters, doctors, leaders, lovers, protagonists, and antagonists.
- Sexual abuse and the on-going recovery is presented accurately and with respect. There are both male and female sexual abusers, and male and female sexual abuse victims.
- Gay characters are fully accepted with no qualms. One book, late in the series, has a gay couple as the main characters. They struggle with their sexuality and ultimately come to terms with it and celebrate it in a very real way. Some parents are unconditionally supportive; some parents hate their gay children.
- There are main characters with disabilities and injuries/on-going mental and physical health issues. One has a prosthetic leg, several have extensive visible scarring, the king is blind, etc. The characters also deal with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and drug abuse. None of these characters are presented as weak or lesser than in any way.
- The main race of vampires doesn’t have a specified skin tone, beyond looking vaguely Russian or Hungarian. One sub-species (Sympaths) is comprised of extremely pale skinned characters, while another (Shadows) is comprised of dark skinned characters. The human characters are a range of races including black, white, and latino.
- Characters experience discrimination based on skin color, disability, sexual orientation, gender, economic class, and religion.
- The upper class vampires tend towards being extremely sexist, elitist, and conservative. They greatly resemble the more conservative political side of current American right wing Republicans and Tea Party members. The series dismantles their power and achieves greater equality for all as the books progress.
If this isn’t enough to convince you, then you should consider checking out my Black Dagger Brotherhood character guide, and Black Dagger Brotherhood family tree.
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