Dark Lover by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) - US edition

Dark Lover by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) - Australian/UK editionLast updated: 5/12/2016 — new information in italics

These cheat sheets summarise what we know so far about the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Click here for a round-up of BDB-related posts on Book Thingo.

This section contains information on:

  • Wrath (hero of Dark Lover)
  • Wrath the fair, Wrath’s father

Note that the cheat sheets have not been updated to include information from The Beast to avoid accidentally spoiling readers who have not yet had a chance to read the book.

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(Son of Wrath)

Born around 1664, Wrath is the last purebred vampire and for over 300 years, he was the race’s absent king. Before his transition, he lived a sheltered life until his family was betrayed by a servant to the lessers. He was hidden away while the rest of his family was slaughtered.

He then worked as a stable hand in the human world until his promised shellan (or wife) Marissa tracked him down and fed him her blood to see him through his transition. He also went through the change, which transformed him from a scrawny bag of bones into a 6’6 brick shithouse in a matter of hours. His eyesight was already poor, but worsened after his transition. He recently became completely and irreversibly blind.

Instead of stepping up to rule his people, Wrath decided to fight against the lessers, as a way of compensating for his pre-transitional weakness while his family died. He viewed his father as someone who sat on a throne and was adored while he fights for his people, but really carries around a load of survivor’s guilt.

One of his Brothers, Darius, kept trying to reach out to him because he believed Wrath was needlessly making himself into a loner, having very little contact with anyone (particularly his “fragile” arranged shellan, Marissa). When Darius discovered that he had a living daughter who would be old enough to go through her transition, he asked Wrath to help her as his blood would ensure she had the best chance of survival.

Wrath goes to Darius’ daughter, Beth Randall out of obligation to his fallen Brother but soon finds himself becoming attached to her. She warms him up and by guiding her into the vampire world, she shows him that he wouldn’t have been able to help his family and that staying safe was the best thing he could have done.

Marissa released him from their arrangement (Wrath never claimed her so they were never actually mated – there was no ceremony before the Scribe Virgin) and Wrath feels free to take Beth as his shellan (even though males are allowed to take more than one shellan, bonded males typically only have eyes for one female). He seeks permission from the Scribe Virgin who demands a favour (yet to be named) as well as for Wrath to take the throne and live up to his duty, something he wasn’t prepared to do until his love for Beth opened him up to love himself and see himself as worthy of leadership.

Beth wants to try for a young during her first needing, which is only a couple of years away, if that. Wrath has refused for two reasons: first, many females die during childbirth and second, if his young is male, he has no choice but to become king and inherit the mess Wrath has left behind. But with no heir, the race cannot afford for Wrath to die because there is no royal to step up and take his place. The next king would have to come from the next most pure bloodline.

After the lessers wiped out most of the glymera, Wrath has secretly joined his Brothers in fighting, with only Butch aware of this. With his civilians dying, Wrath feels he should be more active in keeping them safe rather than sitting on a throne and passing laws.

Wrath lied to Beth about going out to fight, but on V’s advice, he came clean and officially rejoined his Brothers in the field. Wrath’s lie put a strain on their relationship, not just because of his ongoing deception but because he risks making her a widow while refusing to start a family with her. They reconcile and Wrath tells Beth about the upcoming Council meeting that is even more vital for him to attend after Rehvenge told him of the failed assassination attempt. He must show strength. She compromised by asking him to wear a bulletproof vest.

Following a long series of headaches, Wrath loses the remainder of his sight and is now completely blind. Mary helps his rehabilitation and he has a guide dog called George, whom he spoils. Wrath must now work even closer with Beth in ruling the race.

During his visit to the Other Side to find out that The Scribe Virgin had nothing to do with his blindness, he meets Payne and they spar. Although as a male he normally would not try to hit a female, she instigated their sessions and her smaller size and relative lack of strength is balanced by Wrath’s blindness. She gives as good as she gets and their matches are good for him. He realises that the world is still there even if he can’t see it and he still has his muscles and fighting skills.

A document sent to Wrath for approval came from glymera lawyer Saxton, who asks him not to exercise his legal right in seizing traitor Montrag’s estate, but to pass it on to Montrag’s next of kin, a nurse called Ehlena and her father, who have fallen on hard times and had nothing to do with Montrag’s treason. Wrath agrees.

After the Brothers leave to rescue Rehvenge, Wrath stands outside in the cold. Beth asks him if he wants a coat, reminding him that he loves because she hadn’t asked him to go back inside, she asked how she could make it easier for him to be where he wanted to be. She told him that fighting doesn’t make him courageous, he has to live and rule from the heart. Wrath then begins to see himself as a king in his own right, not just a fighter pushed into a desk job by his blindness and inheriting his father’s obligations.

He moves in the royal desk and throne that Darius had brought across from the Old Country.

He asks Rehvenge to remain symphath king to quell any instability and despite Rehv’s protests, he points out the destiny has something in mind for people like them.

During a sparring session with Payne where she really forced him to defend himself, he broke her back. When Payne refused to allow the SV to heal her, he demanded she be allowed to go to the Other Side (our side) to see a doctor. He was shocked to hear Payne call the Scribe Virgin her mother.

When the SV released her, he got Jane, who was stunned to see the obvious physical resemblance to V.

At JM and Xhex’s mating, Wrath declared them a good match, instead of having the presentation to the Scribe Virgin (although maybe that’s also because JM technically isn’t a Brother and Xhex isn’t a Chosen).

Xcor stirs up the glymera against Wrath and he spends the next few months visiting the heads of the six founding bloodlines to reassure them of their safety under the Brotherhood, but when he visits Assail, despite the security set up by both parties, Wrath was shot through the neck and survived, thanks to Tohr getting him out (with Lassiter’s help) and performing a life-saving tracheotomy to bypass the bullet lodged in his neck, and Qhuinn fighting Xcor long enough to give them the chance to escape.

Wrath follows the letter of the law to keep the glymera from turning against him when he takes down the Bastards. When Throe was found wounded, he received the best of care so no one could accuse Wrath or the Brothers of killing him, and demanded proof be found that Xcor was responsible for the attempted assassination.

In return for saving his life, Wrath promised Tohr a favour and Tohr demanded exclusive rights to kill Xcor. He asked JM to witness an official proclamation and JM took the opportunity to speak on Qhuinn’s behalf. Beth suggested Wrath change the laws to make Qhuinn eligible for the Brotherhood.

When Saxton tells him how the laws can be rewritten to widen the Brotherhood’s eligibility to non-Royal, non-Chosen born males, he then lets the Brotherhood know that Qhuinn is now eligible if he were to be nominated. Z formally nominated him and was unanimously seconded. Even though Saxton suggested for his own benefit that changing tradition may weaken his position as king, Wrath feels that it’s more important to get more fighters and respect those who have earned it.

As tragic as Layla’s miscarriage would be, he feels both relief that he will never have to go through that with Beth, and a grim satisfaction that surely the realities of pregnancy would be enough to keep her from wanting young, either.

Beth still wants a young and spend time with Layla, both because she enjoys the company, but also in the hopes that it will bring on her needing. She doesn’t want to birth an heir, she just wants to carry her hellren’s young.

At the next Council meeting, Wrath keeps it short with a show of strength and a warning to traitors, claiming that his father beheading four traitors in front of him while he was a pretrans. He then left, delegating any questions to Tohr.

Upon learning that Elan falsely accused Assail of treason, he and Rehvenge decided to reward Assail’s loyalty by letting him know of Elan’s treachery and allow him to take care of the situation.

Wrath hit Payne up for a sparring session and, forgetting that she is female and therefore smaller and weaker than he is, he releases his pent-up aggression over being trapped in a desk job from which the glymera and Band of Bastards are trying to boot him. He lost touch with reality and started to strangle her. Trez was not strong enough to move him. He only came around to the sound of George barking at him.

Wrath feels as though he owes V a rythe (an act in which he renders himself defenseless to payback from someone he has wronged).

Payne ambushed him in the shower with a knife and tells him that she never tapped out. He told her it would have made no difference. She calls him a chauvinist and tells him that the only reason he fights with her is because she’s female and that the others won’t really do it because he is king.

He argues that telling V is a sign of respect between warriors and Payne’s injuries affect V. She retaliates by telling him that Beth has been keeping a secret from him about where she spends her time.

Wrath and Beth argue over her intention to have a young. Wrath refuses to lose her or sentence a son to ruling the race and tells her that she will be drugged during her needing because he will never service her. She is pissed off that he won’t even consider her viewpoint and makes unilateral decisions concerning her and her body.

JM has his first seizure in a long time and Darius tries to tell Beth in the Old Language that he will look after her. She doesn’t know what he was trying to say and no one will tell her because they are unwilling to join Darius in standing between a mated pair (arguably, Darius overstepped, since she is mated), which also frustrates her.

She and JM travel by car for the sake of normalcy to the hospital for an MRI and she tells him about her marital troubles. He told her that a year ago, he didn’t think he and Xhex would make it and is better at articulating Wrath’s stance on the risks of childbirth than he is.

V takes Wrath to Havers’ clinic, where he collects a drug kit for Beth’s needing. V has a vision of him standing in a field of white, nothing but white surrounding him, talking to “the face in the heavens… the future is in your hands.”

JM convinces Beth to spend the day at Darius’s town house and returns to tell Wrath. He needs a sign language translator to communicate with his blind brother in law, but in the time it takes him to tell V, Wrath goes ballistic and destroys the billiards room until Lassiter hits him with a tranq dart.

Beth thought back to the early days of their relationship and how easy everything was, but Tohr told her, “The past is safe because it’s indelible.” Because you’ve survived, it can be easy to gloss over the difficult parts. Beth then recalled that things had never been smooth after all.

After Wrath recovered, he called Beth and explained that for 400 years, he’s heard of females dying while giving birth. Also, his son will be just as trapped as he is into ruling his race, instead of whatever destiny he might choose for himself. Wrath hates his job, feeling trapped by his blindness and not being able to leave the house or protect Beth.

She hadn’t realised his feelings went beyond kids not being a priority. She felt a sudden desire for a child and hadn’t said anything to Wrath because they didn’t have much time for talking and because she wanted to wait and see if it passed before rushing into anything.

But none of this matters because she’s about to go into her needing and he suspects that her elevated hormones made him more primal and less civilised and in control. Not that he’s excusing his behaviour.

At Beth’s request, Wrath talks to Z about his family. It took him a week after Nalla’s birth to accept that everyone had survived. And that was what made his fear and anxiety worthwhile, but if Bella had died, he couldn’t answer because his shellan is his focus, more so than the young. Then he suggested Wrath talk to Tohr.

He was reluctant to bring up something so painful for the Brother, but because he took Beth’s desire for a child seriously, he approached Tohr, who told him, “They are as empty without a young as we are empty without them.” A better understanding of where Beth is coming from doesn’t change how he feels, but shows him how much stands between them right now. He is determined to reach some kind of accord and doesn’t give Saxton the chance to tell him of his father’s plot.

Beth thought back to how she had been stagnating in the human world and how becoming a vampire and mating Wrath was such a positive life change for her. Then she realised that Wrath was in a similar situation in life as she had been, but with no way out. And their young would be sentenced to the same. So she may really want a child, but doesn’t need one, with all she has gained, and recognises that Wrath is protecting his children the best way he knows how by not having them.

Beth went into her needing and immediately regretted trying to make it happen. She tried to drug herself, but dropped the kit Wrath had brought from Havers’ clinic, and Wrath couldn’t see where everything had fallen. He chose to service her because he loved her more than himself or any young they might conceive.

As soon as he leaves the room, he is told of the no confidence vote. He is still king, but has no power as he cannot produce a pure blooded heir with a half-breed mate. He was devastated over losing the throne, not because he loved the job, but because it was like losing his family all over again. He loves Beth more than the throne and does not resent her human half, but sees the fight as over. Beth wants to find a way around it because she sees that this truly matters to her mate and that there is a difference between abdication and a coup.

Now that Wrath is no longer in charge, he realised that Payne was right about none of his brothers wanting to risk him, that her being female made her an exception to the rule and he owes her an apology.

Beth suggests Wrath divorce her on paper and they would know they are still every bit together with or without the piece of paper. If it’s backdated to before the coup, he would legally regain the throne. He does not want their young to be bastards, but she points out that it means nothing to those who truly matter. After all, Qhuinn and Layla’s child would be a bastard.

Wrath receives an email from Abalone, a council member who signed the no confidence vote under duress, telling him that he works with civilians to raise their concerns to the council and wants to continue doing good.

Since Wrath agreed that her human beliefs are just as important as his vampire customs, she surprises him with a wedding, conducted by Lassiter in full Elvis costume. The bride was given away by her half brother. As an antidote to the glymera’s bullshit and pomp, the wedding was very informal. Wrath realised that although Beth was half vampire, their ceremony had no cultural meaning for her, yet she went along with it for him. How could he do any less for her?

So he officially divorced Beth and gave Rehvenge the pleasure of delivering it during the coronation.

Beth is four months pregnant, which meant that she was already carrying Wrath’s child before her needing. Wrath howled the news that they are expecting a son with pride. The throne doesn’t feel like such a burden right now and although Wrath had feared his young would be born with poor vision, he knows how to support them through his own experience.

He gave his building foreman (who is repairing the damage he did to the billiards room) new ramps as well as a new wheelchair and van for his paralysed daughter and was given a fine handmade red cloth as tribute. Wrath had to ask what colour it was an unabashedly admitted to his blindness. He realised that his young would be ineligible by blood to rule and that his parents would have approved of him just as he was.

He then made Abalone his chief cleric and through him, met with more of his subjects and without being bogged down by paperwork and glymera bullshit, he had more time to hear their stories. Their common thread was love for their families. He began to love being king and recalled that his parents’ last words to him were, “I love you,” and nothing to do with being a good ruler or upholding tradition.

He had a dream in which he actually saw his mother and briefly even got to see Beth. She reminded him of hoe he’d once saved her and repaid him by telling him to get the doctor immediately to save Beth. He felt pain in his lower back and Beth argued until she also felt pain in her lower back and saw that she was bleeding. On the way to the operating theatre, she named their son Little Wrath.

LW was born a healthy baby boy, but Beth needed a hysterectomy and will never have more young. She chose to focus on what she has and not what was lost. LW looks like his father, but has dark blue eyes and normal sized pupils, courtesy of his mother.

Wrath protected his family by abolishing the monarchy in favour of a democratically chosen leader. His son won’t be trapped and his family won’t be targeted. Then he dismantled the damned council and tore up the divorce papers.

A month later, the civilians elected Wrath king for life.

Abalone told Wrath that Throe was staying at his home, so Wrath agreed to an audience with Throe. While Throe did not lie when he said that his priorities are different to Xcor’s and he does not want to meet his goals, Wrath knows he’s up to something and decided it was best to leave him where they knew he was. He moved his First Advisor’s daughter Paradise into the audience house away from Throe for her own safety. But once he realised how much if a disturbance it was creating in Abalone’s life, he sent Z and Phury to help with the eviction. However, the Bastard was already gone.

Assail was definitively linked to funding the lessers through his drug business, but Wrath figured it would be more useful to let him lead V and Rhage to his supplier. The Brothers will cut off the source and execute Assail and his cousins for their treason. No one planned on Assail’s counterstrike by killing the forelesser himself, as a symbol of his loyalty to his race.

The s’Hisbe contacted Wrath via the audience house to demand Trez’s return by the following midnight or they declare war. Wrath isn’t prepared to give up anyone and welcomes a fight with the Shadows, who he thinks don’t stand a chance, particularly with the symphaths on the vampires’ side, thanks to Rehv. War was averted by Trez surrendering himself.

The night after Rhage was saved from a bullet to the chest, Beth cut herself and handed Little Wrath to Rhage while she ran for Doc Jane. She returned to find her son holding onto Rhage as the warrior cried. She told Mary she needs to talk to him.

Wrath supports Rhage’s decision to adopt Bitty, and gives Qhuinn, Layla and Blay’s son the old, traditional and very Ward name of Rhampage.

Wrath the Fair

Wrath was injured on a spike during the day, but was still well enough to pay a requested visit to one of the Founding Families. An hour into his journey, one of the Brothers caught up and told him his father was ill. By the time he returned, it was too late. His father was dead.

Coronated soon afterwards, Wrath felt utterly unprepared to rule and wished he’d had more time to learn from his father, who was killed far too early. In his grief, he feels that he has nothing to offer his people, however, he agrees to meet his intended bride for the first time.

Although Anha is covered from head to toe in black cloth and separated from him by the Brotherhood, Wrath’s mating instinct came to the fore and he was prepared to tear apart the Brotherhood (whom he’d previously feared) to get to his mate.

Defying convention, he performed the mating ritual himself on the spot (without the back carving) and honoured her as his only queen for how she instantly made him feel strong at such a crucial moment. He turned aside all the courtiers and his adviser who would have traditionally witnessed the ritual, so that he could be with his bride, instantly putting some entitled noses out of joint, but earning him the Brotherhood’s approval.

As the King’s intended bride, promised from birth, Anha, blooded daughter of Tristh, son of Tristh had extremely limited contact with anyone, and for 30 years, she feared that Wrath would reject her and leave her ruined, and hoped she might be his first shellan and not have to share him with too many others. Actually admiring and being accepted as sole shellan by her intended was a miracle beyond her wildest dreams. However, she could see trouble looming when her mate overruled his adviser on their wedding night.

A year later, they are still in love, but far from happy. Wrath knows that Anha is facing disapproval over his nontraditional actions on their mating night, but she won’t tell him who antagonises her. Although she is anxious and depressed, she refuses to acknowledge it. He feels isolated from his people by distrust over their treatment of his mate when he is not around. He does not even trust the Brotherhood.

Anha has just gone through her needing and they are waiting to see if she is pregnant when she collapses at a festival. As she lay dying, she is surrounded by white and sees a golden door handle. Instinctively she knows that if she goes through the door, she won’t ever return. She called to Wrath and was answered by a scrawny little boy around 9 years old with black hair and pale eyes with pupils that are too small. He called her mahmen (mother) and told her that she must drink. He would show her the way back so that she could drink and be well. She thanked him for saving her and he told her she would repay him one day.

As much as he hated to waste Anha’s last moments, Wrath was preparing to kill himself so that he would not have to live without her when she came to.

The Brother Tohrture told him that based on the blue appearance of her fingernails, he believes the queen was poisoned, just as his father was. The previous king had not died of natural causes.

The Brotherhood privately swore fealty to Wrath before taking him to meet a slight, recent posttrans male named Abalone who had overheard a conspiracy to kill the queen the same way they had killed the former king. Wrath rewarded him for his loyalty in revealing the hidden room in which the poison was concocted, and realised that his chief advisor and distant cousin Enoch is expecting a young (hoping for a son), making him the obvious suspect.

He ordered Ahgony to leave him and Tohrture in the room to wait for the murderers, and spread word of his mate’s good health. He instructed Tohrture not to interfere when they returned, but needed some help.

He discovered that all of his advisors bar Abalone (who was considered small fry and only present because of his bloodline) were in on the conspiracy. He granted mercy to the treacherous poisoner by killing him quickly and sparing his family.

Tohrture respected his king’s honour by giving the bare minimum assistance when it was absolutely required, but Wrath noted how easily Tohrture was able to handle his opponents while Wrath himself was clumsy and untried.

Anha does not want her hellren to risk himself, even for her, especially since she is pregnant, but he insists that there are some things he must do for himself and avenging wrongs against his blood is one of them.

He returned with the corpses of six conspirators, bloodied, but satisfied that he has made his world safer for his family. He and Ahna both wished their young would find a worthy mate.

Unlike the Brother Hharm, Wrath the Fair King loves his son. When he brought Wrath the younger to Brotherhood meetings when he was as young as 7, he was proud of his son’s lack of fear of his warriors.

The current Wrath remembered his father being adored by his subjects, however there were eight attempts on his life from the glymera, and even if it took weeks, Wrath the Fair always found and executed the guilty party, beheading and removing the tongues from four of them in front of his son.

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