Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review: Lover Awakened

Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood #3)
J.R. Ward

Release Date: September 5, 2006

Book Description:
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly war raging between vampires and their slayers. And there exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society.

Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for one another begins to overtake them both, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now, Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past, and find a future with her…

Bring on the drama!

This is Zsadist and Bella’s story, and as such is one of the most favorite for many readers (at least from what I hear). In fact, so far, it is my favorite as well. I’ve been late to the Black Dagger Brotherhood bandwagon but I’ve read the first three installments in the last month back to back and am happy I’ve stuck with it, as this in fact was an entertaining read. I still did not feel that this book deserved the full 5-star rating, because there were still a number of the “eye rolling moments,” but this was certainly a great improvement over the first two books.

As with the previous two novels, this novel features one of the Brotherhood warriors and his lady love – Bella, a vampire of aristocratic origins. It is the same beaten scenario where you know the HEA is coming even when things look mostly grim, you know that the boy will certainly get the girl at the end. If you can get past the generic formula this book works quite well; and why not look past the generic nature? We certainly read for fulfillment of fantasies, for knowledge of the unknown, for the fairytale that brightens the everyday – so it is OK to expect Hollywood movie ending, where our heroes live happily ever after. And boy… didn’t everyone think that Zsadist deserved his HEA like no other?

This was certainly a darker, and at times more sinister installment: from rape to abuse, to recovery and redemption, and of course love that cures, this was one packed book – an emotional rollercoaster. There were so many angles and stories spilling in various directions that you could hardly catch your breath to savor the redeeming moments. As for the characters, I found both, Zsadist and Bella interesting, independent, and stubborn. Their attraction was obvious, especially after Bella’s rescue from captivity it was apparent that these two can help heal each other and perhaps move on. The attraction, passion, admiration, pain and sometimes love was not lost on their intimate scenes as well, even though at times these scenes were not the most comfortable to read.

While Bella helped melt Zsadist’s heart, and repair few of his other relations, the other characters certainly made their presence known, except perhaps for the minor roles the two previous leads – Wrath and Rhage got to play. (I hope we don’t see Zsadist face the same fate and become barely audible in the background in the future installments). Otherwise, we got a lot of glimpses into the lives of other brothers, and John Matthew, the pre-transition vampire in-training as well. It was an interesting balance between the main storyline and glimpses into lives of others, but somehow they worked to make the story more dimensional, in that the multiple perspectives worked.

A note on minor characters:
Butch and Vishous’ bromance continued full forth. Now with some blood between them, I cannot wait to see how this will play into the next installment of the series, which thankfully should feature in the next book, as Butch is to be the lead. In fact, Butch has quite grown on me, with his character’s nature vastly improved from his days on the force and vying for Beth’s attention, hunting the vampires, albeit unknown to him at the time; now he’s become quite a consistent part of the Brotherhood.

This novel certainly had heroes aplenty and the twin brothers were certainly at the center of these events, putting themselves at the heart of the battle even when it meant sacrificing themselves. Phury and Zsadist’s story was quite heartbreaking at times and it was lovely to see some closure and reconciliation with these too.

And then we met Rehvenge – Bella’s half-sympath brother, and the drug lord by night. The reveal of his dual identity took me by surprise, but I did enjoy his exchange with Zsadist, however short it was. Oh the drama!

Last, and unfortunately not least the Lessening Society – why can’t these simply go away? They are an awful set of villains. Throughout the novels I’ve read so far, every time I come upon their section, I dread reading it and almost always wish to either skim or skip it altogether. Although, Mr. O (or David as we come to know him) have managed to add a few twists to the story and score some points for the lesser this time around…

In conclusion:
Surprisingly, Ms. Ward’s novels seem to improve with each following installment (at least so far), and my hopes are high to find an interesting and compelling story in the next book. I will certainly give this series another go, but perhaps back to back reading renders them a tad repetitive, so a little break might also be in order.

Happy reading!

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