26 May 2009

Review: J.R. Ward - Lover Avenged

~click on the cover to buy a copy~
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: NAL Hardcover (April 28, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451225856
ISBN-13: 978-0451225856

Summary:

Caldwell, NY, has long been the battleground for 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 notorious nightclub 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. Because he’s a sympath, his identity is a deadly secret- the revelation of which will result in his banishment to a colony for sociopaths. And as plots within and outside the Brotherhood take their toll against Rehvenge, he turns to the only source of light in a darkening world- Elhena, a vampire untouched by the corruption that has its hold on him- and the only thing standing between him and eternal destruction.


With the wait for my copy I already heard some buzz about Lover Avenged and I got more curious by the minute how this story would be received by me personally. Last week I received my copy and I took my time with it, trying to absorb it all and with the last page read, with the cliff-hanger in the air, I have experienced beautiful highs and ground leveling lows.

As a secondary character Rehvenge worked really well for me in the setting of ZeroSum but was wondering if he could satisfy me as a leading character. Rehv is the leahdyre of the Glymera council yet also runs a place where women are for hire, where just about every possible addiction is served and he doesn’t shy away from physical force. He is one poster guy for the antihero and what makes Rehvenge so intriguing is that as I read on I got deeper in to his psyche where I found protectiveness, honor and love. This surprised me but most of all how J.R. Ward pulled it off to make him a male of worth. While I wasn’t emotionally connected to Rehv I did enjoy the duality in him, the growth and deepening of his character. Ward truly fleshed out his character and made him understandable and added another angle to the BDB world with the Sympaths.

Ehlena is a nurse at Havers clinic and she is honest, caring, sincere and giving. All in all an intrinsically good woman and a true female of worth who finds her backbone and strength in tough situations. She is endearing without becoming weak or bland as a character and becomes a great opposite for Rehv. From the moment I was acquainted with Ehlena I liked her and this didn’t falter throughout reading Lover Avenged. She made choices I understood, felt feelings I could empathize with and I liked the effect she had on Rehv.

The ground leveling lows in Lover Avenged started with the fact that I really had a hard time getting – in what I am now calling – my BDB mammoth of a story. I did not expect this after the first sentence of; ‘The king must die.’ At page hundred twenty seven I was more than ready to toss de book aside in my frustration, was this going to be another let down from Ward? It took about two hundred pages where I suddenly felt somebody flip a switch and changed gear from just being “an okay story” to “a story fraught with emotions”. Which was a much needed improvement that kept me going and entangled me more with each story thread.

Another irritation that reached its peak in this novel is the use of slang. It is kind of a signature thing for Ward’s books but it really annoyed me since I know the meaning of just a handful. You can use a dialect, slang, pimping the brand products and so on to enhance the uniqueness of writing style and it can add to the reading experience but the danger is to overuse it. It felt like Ward took a stick and beat this element to death. We are talking about larger than life vampires, both literally and figuratively, saying words like addies, peeps and ”I’m outtie” and it doesn’t add to the picture it subtracts.

Something that excited me were the moments where I was completely connected to the story, the characters and where events unfurl itself in all its glory. Where Ward’s hallmark emotional writing excels and brings back everything I once reveled in upon reading a BDB novel. These scenes and chapters made my heart pound in anticipation, the BDB was still alive, still able to sweep me off my feet and deliver some off the charts scenes. But then, after such an event or chapter, the story went back to being entertaining and fine which kicked me off that high again and left me hungering for the feeling.

Rehv and Ehlena in their love story were appealing and as their story progressed it was steeped with enough emotion to make it a rounded romance. With this it is a step up from my feelings regarding Lover Unbound and Lover Enshrined. Both leading characters in the romance are coming alive with obstacles to overcome as a connection and growth is spawning from that which was portrayed believably. Whether Rehv and Ehlena will captivate you emotionally is, as always, subjective to personal taste. I more than welcomed their romance, what they brought to Lover Avenged and I cared about the outcome of their beguiling connection. Since Butch and Marissa I haven’t finished a BDB novel for the romance and this changed with Rehv and Ehlena.

There were other, equally important storylines, like Wrath and Beth. Some of the most moving scenes are between them and they introduce the Black Dagger Brotherhood vibe back in to this series. I loved how certain facets of Wrath and Beth were explored, deepening their relationship and shaping the face of vampire royalty in a fresh way. Another major storyline was John Matthew with Xehx. It turns darker, it turns for the worse and with both JM and Xehx I got a different perspective on a shared attraction. I understand their development, I definitely want to know where it is all going but in the end I rode one hell of a déjà-vu feeling.

Tohr and Lassiter are also secondary characters who create ripples within this novel. Tohr just by the male he is, struggling with his situation but also giving glimpses of the Tohr we knew. Lassiter is one fallen angel I want to get to know better, the combination of his sardonic humor and his interaction with Tohr put him on my radar. And then there’s Lash, with him the Lesser society received a distinctive face. In previous novels I could easily trade Mr. X for Mr.Y and I didn’t feel like I lost something. I did not sport this feeling with Lash, he has aspirations, brings visible leadership to the Lesser society with purpose and goals and has pure evil stamped all over it.

There are moments I will always remember when thinking of Lover Avenged; like Tohr in the cave, Ehlena and Rehv’s dinner, Rhev alone at Zerosum, Wrath at the staircase with the brotherhood, Wrath and Beth together in various moments it all stirred my emotions and I inhaled it like an addict with her new fix. This is where I felt most connected to the story and the characters, where I wanted to shout out my joy just because I once again felt it and rapidly was flipping the pages in my need for more.

All of the strong continuing storylines fused together, worked together, to give me a solid entry in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. It is funny, while I am not ecstatic or completely over the moon with Lover Avenged I am hopeful for the future and will come back next year around, asking for more with Lover Mine. I want to catch up again on all the characters who, in one way or another, have become so near and dear to me. Because Ward can still deliver a plot, developing and intriguing overall characterization which is spiced up with sensuality and emotions.

Rehv and Ehlena kept me within the folds of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series as I was a novel or so away from deciding to leave.

Quote describing Lassiter:
And what did you know, they’d taken on a mascot, evidently. Off to the left, a glowing Oscar statue of a guy stood tall in combats, his blond-and-black hair making him look like an eighties headbanger looking for a backup band. Lassiter, the fallen angel, didn’t seem any less fierce than the brothers, however. Maybe it was his piercings, or the fact his eyes were all white. Fuck it, the guy’s vibe was all hardcore.

Quote Wrath:
Payne nailing him in the face woke him up.
George brought him back his independence.
But Beth handed him his crown.

Quote Wrath:
Getting back with the program, he said in the Old Language, “No stronger allies, no greater friends, no better fighters of honor could a king behold than these assembled afore me, mine brothers, mine blood.”

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5 comments:

  1. There was just too much of Wrath. If Ward had left all the drama with him and stayed with Rehv and JM, this would have been a tight, excellent read.

    Rehv has my heart. He is one of my favorite characters in this series. When he cooks for Ehlena because it makes it happy to feed her, I fell more in love with him. That had to be one of the sexiest scenes I have read this year. See, who needs sex? LOL

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  2. Hi, Leontine!

    I'm happy you enjoyed Rehv and Ehlena's romance. I felt the same after reading Lover Unbound and Lover Enshrined. I was definitely satisfied with this book.

    Wondeful review!

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  3. Hi Katie,
    Yeah that scene with Rehv totally got to me too and was something I missed in the previous 2 novels. Wrath's storyline didn't bother me one bit though and enjoyed the effect it had on the novel as a whole. Guess this is just one of those personal preferences :-)

    Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for stopping by. LAv with Rehv and Ehlena definitely was a grade up and as i said in my review, I was pleasantly surprised by the way Ward fleshed Rehv out.

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  4. Leontine, Wow, this was a very well thought out and comprehensive review! Great Job! I have to agree with you on several points. Lover Avenged seemed uneven to me at times. The beginning started off slow for me too and I couldn't figure out the problem. The over use of slang and pop culture metaphors was intrusive to say the least. We have a saying "less is more". I think that is appropriate in this case.

    Many times I kept asking myself how the hell Ward was going to pull of the romance between Rhev and Elhena. I mean, could they be any more different? Rhev was so bad. He was a pimp, a whore to the princess, a drug dealer, a sympath, a murderer (you get the idea). So, when Ward allowed a month to pass after Rhev sacraficed himself, that really worked for me. Elhena doesn't instantly come around for Rhev. She had to completely process his life and come to terms with it and that made it believable for me.

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  5. Hi Jill,
    I have to write down that saying, sometimes a phrase can say so much with so few words :D

    That month period definitely upped the emotional impact for me. As the reader you know what Rehv did and I wanted Ehlena to find out as well, to let her see both sides of him and indeed come to terms with the vampire/sympath he is. It showcased the strength and backbone she possesses.

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I love to hear all your voices and opinions so thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.