Review: Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood series novel #1) by J. R. Ward
In an innovative new (to some of us at least ) take on vampire fiction, J. R. Ward takes us deep into a world where the vampires are just normal “people”, hunted by the undead in a blood feud as old as their creation. Wrath, the pureblood King of vampire society, spends most of his time fighting his own personal demons and falling deeper into self-hate. Everything changes when he meets Beth, the half-blooded daughter of a fellow warrior, and helps her survive her grueling and dangerous transition from human to vampire. This novel has everything a good book should have: character development, arcing & developed plotlines, likable characters, humor & sarcasm, action & romance. These vampire warriors are stone cold killers, but somehow they still manage to pull at the heart-strings.
- Title: Dark Lover
- Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood – book #1
- Author: J. R. Ward
- Prominent Characters: Wrath & Beth
- Recommended reader age: 16+
- Sexual content level: Moderate
Wrath is the only remaining vampire of pure blood and the race’s hereditary king. Refusing his responsibilities as a monarch for 300 years, Wrath instead leads the band of warrior vampires, the Black Dagger Brotherhood, who protect the race from the undead “lessers” that were created solely to hunt them. When one of Wrath’s brother warriors asks him to watch over his daughter during her transition from human to vampire (a very dangerous time for a vampire), Wrath finds himself torn between his self-hate and his protective instincts for Beth.
I initially read this book thinking I’d do this one review, then just read the rest for fun. I mean, usually with a series, either you like the first book enough to keep reading (in which case you finish the series) or you don’t bother with any of the others at all, so doing reviews on books farther into the series (especially if they aren’t new releases) isn’t quite the same as reviewing a series starter novel. I liked this book enough to read the next one, which I liked even more. So I read the next… and the next… (you get the drift) until I was fiending for more and was finally out of books! These novels get better as they go on, peaking somewhere around book 5. I found myself making notes while reading the sequels, so it looks like more reviews are coming afterall! =)
The “universe rules”: Okay okay, I know I always say “oh this one is unique and different!”. And they usually are! But the BDB world stands out from the other typical vampire lore on several counts:
1) Vampires are born, not made… sort of. If you have vampire blood, there is a chance you will go through a “transition” at around age 25, changing your body from a normal human to a vampire. After the change you will have to drink blood and stay out of the sunlight… I know – doesn’t sound too different yet, right?
2) Vampires do not drink human blood! Male vampires feed from female vampires, and vice versa. They CAN feed from humans, but the benefits are so much less that it’s almost not worth it. Humans are not their prey, so they have very little interaction with them at all. They typically only need to feed every 6 months or so – otherwise they eat and drink normal food on a regular basis just like humans.
3) Vampires are not immortal – they live between 700 and 800 years and then die of degenerative diseases and old age just like humans do. They do have accelerated healing and can teleport themselves, but in no way are they impervious to harm.
Something that immediately put me off in the beginning was the crass language of the brothers and their gangster-like lifestyle. This series has taken a lot of criticism for that and I put off reading it for a long time based on those negative reviews that went on and on about how horrible and distracting and chauvanistic the males in the series are. If this is one of your concerns, let me just tell you now – it gets better. Are the males (not “men” – men and women are human, males and females are vampires) chauvanistic? No, but they are extremely overprotective, which leaves room for strong-willed female leads… and who doesn’t want that? Are the males crass? Yes, their language and lifestyle before meeting their mates is offputting and easily distracting, but this just helps emphasize the positive change their females bring into their lives, as you see their habits change and their language back off. These guys are badasses, but not because they are magical and have special powers (with the exception of Vichous) – they train hard, work hard, and live hard, and they endure harsh consequences. Their women are the counterbalance to the harsh lives they are forced to lead as honest-to-Scribe-Virgin warriors. Once I read farther into the book and got over the distraction of all the “you feel me, true?” and “yo, man” vernacular, I really started to enjoy myself.
Two things that annoy me:
1) The Butch character, who eventually becomes an integral and extremely likeable character, starts off as someone you don’t really like. Throughout the first few books, he loses some of his edges and becomes more like the other brothers… which is not to say they are without pricklies, just likeable in spite of. I think this is largely due to the writer’s style. At first I didn’t like Butch (or really even Wrath), because they didn’t like themselves. The story is told from 3rd person omniscient, but with a 3rd person limited feel. You know what all the characters are thinking that you are introduced to, but you only know what they KNOW or THINK. You don’t get some overarching tidbits rolled into their thoughts. When you read Wrath, it’s like he’s talking to you, not the author. People who suffer from self-hate often also have no friends because they push away others to punish themselves. SO, if you find yourself hating some of the characters at first, stick with it and let it play out – this sets the stage for some seriously awesome moments down the line!!
2) Boots are always referred to as “shitkickers”, even by the refined females in the series. Seriously?? Ugh. Even after 7 books I still get annoyed with this one.
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There are not really any other series LIKE this one, but when I read it and feel a connection to the characters, I’m reminded of how I feel when I read Jeaniene Frost’s Cat & Bones or Karen Chance’s Cassie & crew or Nalini Singh’s Archangel/Guild Hunter cast. The characters become part of your “family”, and the plots are earthy and hard-hitting… no partnership is spared sudden and unexpected (and sometimes brutal) hardships! This series has the potential to make you laugh, cry, and swear, and I loved every minute of it!
Darius (Beth’s father) talking to a fellow warrior about Beth’s upcoming transition:
“I’m going to talk to her.”
“And how’s that going to go? You’re just going to walk up and say, ‘Hey, I know you’ve never seen me before, but I’m your Dad. Oh, and guess what? You’ve won the evolutionary lottery: You’re a vampire. Let’s go to Disneyland!”
“I hate you right now.”
Wrath’s reaction to seeing Beth kiss someone else…
A low growl vibrated through his chest and out his mouth.
He cursed. Yeah, and in what parallel universe was he living in? She was his temporary responsibility, not his shellan. She could be with whomever she wished. Wherever. Whenever. But God, the idea that she might actually like what the guy was doing to her, that she might prefer the taste of the human’s kiss, was enough to make Wrath’s temple’s pound.
Welcome to the wonderful world of jealousy, he thought. For the price of admission, you get a splitting headache, a nearly irresistable urge to commit murder, and an inferiority complex. Yippee.
Butch, after waking up in a house full of vampires…
How’d they… That’s right. They’d crashed after kicking Tohr’s bottle of Scotch. Tohr. Short for Tohrment.
God, he even knew their names. Rhage. Phury. And that scary-ass Zsadist guy. Yeah, no Tom, Dick, and Harry names for the Vampire types.
But come on, could you actually imagine some lethal bloodsucker named Howard? Eugene?
Oh, no, Wallie, please don’t bite my-
Holy Christ, he was totally losing it.
Read this book! When you finish it, read the next book, then the next! If you can get through V’s book without feeling put through the wringer emotionally, then you have some serious armor! These books were the most emotionally invested I’ve been since Cat & Bones and I can’t wait for more.
As a final thought, if you’re starting this series, READ THE GLOSSARY BEFORE YOU START!! Ms. Ward uses an entire new vocabulary of terms in the vampire language, and if you don’t at least look at them first, you might find yourself a little confused. =)
|4.25 fangs: BITE IT!|
It would be more, but I need to save some for the awesomeness that is yet to come in this series. =D
Okay, okay… 4.25 fangs! There.