>> Saturday, December 03, 2011
J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood novels have introduced readers to a "different, creative, dark, violent, and flat-out amazing" world. Now, as the vampire warriors defend their race against their slayers, one male's loyalty to the Brotherhood will be tested-and his dangerous mixed blood revealed...Much was said when this book was released about how this, the first in the series to be published in hardcover, marked a move into urban fiction, rather than romance. I don't know if this was the exact point, as the series had been long moving in the direction of emphasising the other storylines and making the romance one less prominent. I don't even know if it's urban fiction we're talking about. To me, this is more like a soap opera, with lots of storylines going on at the same time and one (the romance) becoming slightly more prominent than the rest in each book.
Caldwell, New York, has long been the battleground for the vampires and their enemies, the Lessening Society. It's also where Rehvenge has staked out his turf as a drug lord and owner of a notorious night club that caters to the rich and heavily armed. His shadowy reputation is exactly why he's approached to kill Wrath, the Blind King and leader of the Brotherhood.
Rehvenge has always kept his distance from the Brotherhood-even though his sister is married to a member, for he harbors a deadly secret that could make him a huge liability in their war against the lessers. As plots within and outside of the Brotherhood threaten to reveal the truth about Rehvenge, he turns to the only source of light in his darkening world, Ehlena, a vampire untouched by the corruption that has its hold on him-and the only thing standing between him and eternal destruction.
And I must say, I quite like this, at least in Ward's books. It then doesn't matter so much if the main romance isn't that good, because there's always something else to look forward to. This was exactly the case in Lover Avenged.
I'm not even going to try to explain who all the characters are here, there's no point. Their stories have been developing over several books, so if you haven't read Ward before, you really shouldn't be starting here, anyway.
The main romance in this book features Rehvenge, which wasn't really much of a draw to me. I've never found him a particularly intriguing character, partly because the idea of sympaths never drew much of a reaction from me other than "meh". Also, a drug dealer and pimp? I find that repulsive, not exciting.
The basic plot is that Rehv is being blackmailed by his half-sister, who unlike him, is all sympath and all evil. She demands not only money, but some very skin-crawling and violent sex. This all takes a toll on Rehv's body (he is also, of course, doped to the gills to tamp down on his sympath tendencies), and that's where he meets Ehlena, a nurse at Havers' clinic.
Ehlena is all that is good an pure to Rehv, and he feels he's not good enough. Ehlena, despite herself, is attracted to him as well. But there's his big, dark secret to deal with.
On the plus side, despite my fears that Ehlena would be a blank canvas whose only characteristic is purity and goodness, she turned out to be pretty cool and strong in her own right. The romance didn't really capture my interest, though, and I never came to care about Rehv all that much.
And that's exactly why I really appreciated having the main romance be only a small part of the whole. I only had to read about Rehv and Ehlena every now and then. Most of the book was taken up by other storylines. Some of them were even really good, and I enjoyed them.
As far as I'm concerned, the one that takes the prize is the John Matthew / Xhex storyline. I hated a certain development (there's this promiscuousness=manliness message I'm getting that I don't like), but I'm hugely interested in them and really care about what happens (especially given that ending!). Also, I was afraid that Ward would start defanging Xhex, making her less threatening in time for her book, but she did nothing of the sort. If anything, she's scarier than ever here.
I also quite liked the developements in the lesser camp. They'd become a bit boring in previous books, lacking any real threat, but a certain hated character from previous books enters the picture, and things change massively. It's all really gory and violent (which I didn't particularly enjoy reading), but it creates interesting possibilities.
And there were plenty of other plot threads floating about. Wrath experiences some disturbing changes, and has some interesting experiences on the other side, meeting someone whose books I'm really interested in reading when the time comes. There's also Tohr starting to recover, and a pretty puzzling character called Lassiter. I've no idea what to make of him. And finally, there's quite a bit of Blay & Qhuinn, which I liked, especially the hints that another guy called Sexton might come into the picture and create a bit of conflict.
So, a book I enjoyed well enough, even feeling quite cool about the main romance. I have very high hopes for the next one, as in addition to John and Xhex, I get the feeling we're going to get a lot more of Blay and Qhuinn.
MY GRADE: A B.