Book Review: Lover Reborn

Lover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #10)Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I blame my mother for introducing me to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. They are an example of so many of the things that are wrong with urban fantasy these days- plot lines that are a thinly veiled excuse for 100+ pages of ridiculous sex, characters with ludicrously spelled names (Phury, Rehvenge, Tohrment, etc), women who exist primarily as weakened characters to be rescued, while they “rescue” their men “emotionally,”– not to mention the strange ghetto slang and name-dropping (women wear “stillies” and men constantly, constantly mention their New Rock shoes or Gucci suits). However, I secretly love these books (so, thanks, Mom!). They’re sort of like potato chips; unbelievably bad for you, but so, so delicious.

There are a few things here that distinguish the BDB from every other vampire romance novel. For starters, the human/vampire interaction is limited; while vampires can drink human blood, they need to drink from other vampires to survive, so the tired “I love you, but I also want to eat you” plot is avoided. There are no perfect people here; characters have believable flaws. Of course, especially with the men of the Brotherhood, this tends to go the opposite direction– they’re so flawed one wonders how they get out of bed in the morning (mostly with the application of large doses of liquor, to be frank). Vampire society in this series is an interesting blend of modernity versus tradition- a hierarchical structure, headed by the king, Wrath, and supported by a parliament of sorts, the glymhera. The race exists under the protection of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a specially-bred group of uber-soldiers, each topping 6 feet and massing more than 300 pounds (and, of course, smoking hot, to boot). Why the need for the Brotherhood? For centuries, vampires have been under attack from the Lessening Society–a sort of evil mimicry of vampires–who exist only to slay vampires and spread destruction.

“Lover Reborn” is the 10th book in the series, and I definitely recommend that you read the others before picking up this one. “Reborn” deals primarily with Tohrment, the Brother who, out of all the Brothers, has absolutely gotten the shaft. Each novel encapsulates one character’s romance, and, as with most romance novels, something tragic almost happens, but then everyone is miraculously saved and lives happily every after. This is the case for each of the Brothers…except Tohr. While they have their shellans returned to them after tragedy, often through divine intervention, Tohr’s wife, Wellsie, pregnant with their child, is brutally murdered in one of the earlier novels. And that’s the end of it- no divine intervention or miraculous recovery here. Given the soul-deep nature of the mating bond between vampires (I know, I know, just go with it), Tohr goes fairly crazy after their death. “Lover Reborn” is the story of his recovery.

I appreciated that it was a struggle- the author didn’t simply decide that Tohr was over it & ready to move on, the end. The mourning process and the slow development of the relationship between Tohr & No’one was believable. The trade-off, though, was that it wasn’t very interesting. The spark and sexiness of the previous novels was traded for a good deal of angst and emotional struggle, which I could find in better-written books than this. Thankfully, the author has several other plot threads going here, which was enough to keep me reading. I especially enjoyed the interaction between John & Xhex; mated in the previous novel, the bloom is off the rose now, and they have to face the reality of their marriage, their jobs, and the conflict and compromise that entails. There’s also been an interesting shift of focus from the Lessening Society to the Band of Bastards as villains that I’m grateful for, because the Lessening Society was the most boring, useless group of bad guys ever, and I used to just skip their sections. The fact that I could even do that and not lose track of the plot tells you how utterly useless they actually were. And, of course, there’s the Quinn-Blay-Saxton quandary, which I just adore. I’m thrilled that the author hasn’t shied away from portraying a gay romance, although they’ll most likely never be the primary characters in a novel. Still, a secondary romance is better than pretending that homosexuality doesn’t exist.

There were a lot of things I was hoping to see here that I didn’t. I would have liked a better, more in-your-face acknowledgement of the fact that the Scribe Virgin saved many of the Brothers’ shellans, but not Wellsie. Tohrment spends about a paragraph reflecting on it, in what’s basically a throw-away moment. I’d have been pounding on the Scribe Virgin’s door, demanding an answer for why my wife had to die, when the wives of my Brothers were miraculously saved (for heaven’s sake, the SV saves Mary from TERMINAL CANCER). I would have liked more back story into Lassiter’s character– a semi-fallen angel, full of piercings, who’s made it his goal to bring Tohr back to the land of the living, kicking and screaming? Up until recently, the only divine interaction we’ve had is the Scribe Virgin and her evil counterpart, the Omega; Lassiter’s angelic status and occasional instructions from ‘The Maker’ are fairly inexplicable. I would have liked to see No’One become a stronger character; the fact that she achieves self-actualization through Tohr and not on her own is disappointing.

At the end of the day, this felt more like a filler novel than anything else. A chance for the author to wrap up some loose plot lines and transition into some different elements. Worth reading if you already enjoy the BDB books, but not the best in the series.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Lover Reborn

  1. I agree with your assessment of this novel, whole-hardily. Even to the nth degree of skipping those lessor chapters in previous books [which I did as well]. I did like that she shifted the ‘bad guys’ to the Band of Bastards, though she did hint that each may be opened for future proclamation projects [which basically is what each brother's book was all about]. I didn’t like that Qhuinn succumbed to screwing Layla. The author tends to paint weak men who haven’t been able to come to terms with their ancient history [centuries ago] and who constantly muck up their relationships … you’d think after centuries they’d have learned something. And I don’t like that John, who I feel is the better character, is depicted as if he were a knucklehead. What’s wrong with him wanting to protect what he loves? Any why hint that he’s reincarnated then suddenly drop that theme before his own book [Lover Mine] comes out. I was disappointed. Having him being Darius reincarnated would have been a huge highlight and a good epitome to her books. Anyway, thx for sharing your view.

    • I actually didn’t mind the Quinn/Layla sub-plot; I thought it was a nice way for Quinn to father a child, while still leaving him romantically available for Blay. I agree that too many of the male characters are maladjusted; on the one hand, their society is not a nurturing one, especially towards warrior males. On the other, many of them have been alive for centuries- get a grip, dude. I felt that some of John’s reaction towards Xhex in “Reborn” was justified, and some of it wasn’t. We’ve seen how bonded males can be towards their shellans- that was to be expected. On the other hand, he knew going into things that Xhex wasn’t like other shellans; she was never going to sit at home and wait for her man. He should have made a better effort to accept that from the beginning, but Xhex should have been more understanding of where he was coming from, as well. A lot of what john was struggling with was biological imperative, which certainly isn’t easy to overcome. I agree, it’s weird how the reincarnation-subplot sort of dropped off the radar. I would have liked to see that come out in the open.

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