One Year Later, and I’m Still Not Over it: Making a Case for “The Shadows”

***WARNING: If you are not up to date in The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward, then this post may contain huge plot spoilers. You have been warned. Leave now or forever hold your peace.

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Us cover of The Shadows.

“Be present. Love her until the end. Never leave her side until the last breath. That was how he was going to honor her with his heart and his soul, even though he wasn’t worthy.”

Last week J. R. Ward released her newest novel in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series,  “The Beast”  and I’ve been slowly reading my way through it. Normally I finish these books in a day or two, and don’t get me wrong,  “The Beast” is great so far. But the truth is,  it’s been over a year and I’m still not over Selena’s death in “The Shadows” and the profound impact it has left on me.

I have felt the grief of loss for this fictional character and her lover Trez for over a year now, and based on what I’m still seeing discussed in Brotherhood fan groups, I’m not the only one who had to invest in Costco sized pallets of kleenex. That’s a true compliment to Ward’s writing which I consider to be extraordinary, so genre fiction haters can kindly step aside. Ward’s writing moves me in ways that most writers cannot no matter how grandiose their accolades in the literature world. I think it’s the honesty, heart, humor and grit in which she writes with. I mean sure she writes about vampire warriors,  but supernatural beings aside, her love stories are raw and believable. Her characters are relatable in their desires, goals, and personalities. They may be fictional but she gives them just enough flaws to make them believable as people. And some are so hugely flawed you’d expect them to never be redeemable,  let alone be heroes. But they try. They royally mess it up sometimes,  but they try. And when they love,  they love with everything they have, for as long (or little) as they have. Trez and Selena were no exceptions.

I will admit, that at first I wasn’t worried about Selena and the whole bone into stone genetic affliction befallen of the Chosen. This is Paranormal Romance after all, and we pretty much always get our HEA. When has the WARDen ever not come through for us? (OK, so there was that time she killed off Welsie…) And I guess technically there was a HEA for iAm and the Princess and since the book is called “The Shadows” and they’re both shadows that iAm’s HEA. should count. But come on,  we all know that Trez and Selena were the forecouple of that novel. And while they didn’t get what I (and most readers) would consider a HEA, I will say that I think Trez and Selena had one of the strongest love stories of the entire series.

You probably think you read that last sentence wrong, but I assure you, you did not. In my own personal opinion, I believe Trez and Selina have one of the strongest love stories of the entire series! Take that all you haters still mad at Ward one year later. And while you’re gasping at that unfavorable confession,  it’s also true that Phury and Cormia are still my favorites (maybe one day I’ll write about them too). So clearly I’m a reader who marches to the beat of her own drum,  because fan groups and fan pages let me know constantly how unpopular my viewpoints are.

The thing is, it’s so easy to love a story and it’s characters when it ends in hearts and rainbows. But there is something real and raw about a story that doesn’t. And if it makes you ugly cry (I wasn’t the only one right?) and lie awake at night thinking about it, then it must have profoundly touched you. Don’t get me wrong, the outcome of Trez and Selena’s love story left me gutted and and utterly heartbroken, but their love also left me inspired. I’ll tell you just a couple of the reasons why.

-Trez stayed

Trez didn’t have to stay by Selena’s side. He could have walked away and not had to deal with watching her disease progress and ultimately claim her life. In real life, I’ve seen it happen where he (or she) walks away and leaves the other to live or die on their own instead of being there for them through the nitty gritty. This happened with one of our members where I used to work. She had a stroke and her husband up and left her because he wasn’t going to deal with taking care of her and the rehabilitation she needed to be able to function again on her own. That is one person I know of personally, but I’ve heard numerous accounts of spouses being separated, divorced,  and/or cheated on while going through the dregs of cancer and chemotherapy. We live in a cruel world where when the going gets tough, people up and get gone. But not our Shadow hero Trez. He manned up for Selena, and was there to see her through untill her last breath.

Trez honors her requests even at a great loss to himself

Not only did he stay by her side,  he made sure her request to not suffer in agony and end up a statue like her sisters was honored. I can’t even begin to fathom what it would take for me to sit back and allow a doctor to put that needle into the arm of someone I love. And I like to think of myself as fairly progressive. I used to work as a CNA and I can still her the suffering cries and screams of one of my residents who had terminal brain cancer. As a caregiver it’s easy to advocate for making them more comfortable. So what if it’s been less than x amount of hours since their last dose of pain medication,  they’re dying. Let them be high as a mother effing kite. Let them choose a medical induced coma. But as a spouse, as a lover,  as a friend could I advocate for letting them end it completely??? I’d like to say that if my husband were terminally dying and wanted to just end it that I could support his decision. But could I really? Knowing I’d be watching him take his last breath when maybe we could have a few more days or weeks together could I support him? I hope I could be like Trez, and honor my soul mate’s right to die with dignity and peace. It took a tremendous amount of love and selflessness to support her in that way even though it was killing him on the inside.

Trez and Selena lived in the moment knowing that time was of the essence.

If anything can be said for this book, it’s that it reminds us how fleeting our time on earth is. One day you’re riding roller coasters all carefree and happily alive, and then the next day you’re ashes smoldering on a funeral pyre. We should always live and love as if we are dying. I mean, essentially we are dying from the moment we are born. But all too often we forget that tomorrow isn’t promised to us and we take it, as well as people and things for granted. Love with your whole being, experience life with adventure, don’t allow yourself to be held back by fears. Just be in the moment in your life.

And now allow me to share some of the quotes from the novel I found particularly resonating because I’m honestly not sure where this post is going because I have so many emotions about this book still swirling through me…..

We’re separated, but not lost or truly apart. Do not mourn me, my love. I have not died

Memories were especially dear, when they were all you had left of a loved one to hold on to

If anyone ever wanted to sense the infinity of time and existence, all they had to do was look at the night sky and feel their precious dead staring back at them. It was the great duality of union and separation.

I’ll be here waiting for you and for whoever else you love. That’s what the other side is. It’s just love

The above reasonings and quotes are why I still give the Shadows 4 out of 5 stars. (The missing start has nothing to do with Selena’s death in case you’re wondering). I know from a plethora of the reviews I’ve read on goodreads that a lot of people disagree with me and that’s OK. They can be bitter bettys crying about how it’s genre fiction which means Ward HAS to write a HEA all they want,  but they’re sadly missing the beauty of Selena and Trez’s love. And let’s face it,  all happily ever afters will one day end in death. As improper as it may be to quote a different author,  I’m going to end with this quote by the talented Chuck Palahniuk,  “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” The love between Trez and Selena will live forever long after they’re both in the fade.

-The Moscato Mommy

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