Friday, March 7, 2014

Dark Lover (The Black Dagger Brotherhood #1) by J.R. Ward

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1)* * 1/2

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead-a world of sensuality beyond her wildest dreams.


I’ve been seeing The Black Dagger Brotherhood books on the shelves for quite some time.  I decided to take advantage of my current reading spree (because you never know when a reading funk will sneak its way in) and borrowed Dark Lover (The Black Dagger Brotherhood #1) from my local library.

When a giant man dressed in leather and weapons walks in her back door, Beth assumes Detective Butch O’Neal sent him over to protect her after her recent assault.  Nothing seems to be firing correctly in her brain which means Beth sees no reason to question her response to this stranger.  But when she finds out the next day that Butch did NOT send anyone over, Beth is both frightened and intrigued.  Before long, Beth learns that even though she spent her entire life in foster care, her father was always nearby.  Covertly checking in on her and hiding in the shadows because of whom and what he was.  And, that soon, she will either become a vampire herself or she will die.

Wrath, the king of vampires, has yet to ascend the throne.  He insists on remaining a warrior so that he can assuage his need to avenge his parents that were killed centuries ago.  That and he fears that he would not know how to be a king.  Wrath enjoys living a mostly solitary life and has no interest in complicating it with relationships outside of the Brotherhood.  When one of the Brothers, Darius, requests that Wrath oversee his half-human daughter’s transition (from human to vampire) Wrath refuses.  Not even for one of his best friends will he take on the role of caretaker.  The same night that Darius makes his request, he is killed.  The only thing he has left behind in the event of his death is a letter for his king.  A letter requesting the same thing that he had requested of Wrath in person.  Not able to say no to his dead friend’s wishes, Wrath finds Darius’ daughter so that he can prepare her for her transition.  When he finds her he is shocked by the instant, primal bond they feel for each other.   This bond is exactly the distraction he has always wanted to avoid.   But he can’t avoid it anymore than Beth can so he must figure out how to manage his protective feelings for this transitioning half-human half vampire while continuing to battle the Lessers (slayers) that are getting too close to the Brotherhood and their dwindling race.

I have contradictory feelings on this book.  I would say that, overall, I did not like it.  And here are the reasons why:

The names of the Brothers: Wrath, Rhage, Vishous, Tohrment, Phury, Zsadist and……Darius?  I think the only reason Darius lucked out with a decent name was because he dies in the first chapter.  I am sure each of their names will play into their individual stories but it was a bit much for me.

The vernacular that the Brothers use seemed forced and ridiculous.  The way they spoke made them sound as if they were 20 year old thugs.  I think it was the first time I have ever heard the term “pimp juice” to describe how desirable someone is.  Gross.  And it just didn’t flow.  These are vampires that are centuries old.  And they don’t really do much to try to fit in so I don’t understand how these men from an old world would use language the way they did.  It made no sense to me.

And the cheesy moments were just so…cheesy.  The first sex scene between Wrath and Beth made me laugh out loud when he ripped off his shirt, “popping buttons and sending them scattering across the floor.”  Here is this giant vampire (seriously, he’s six foot six) biting off bras and ripping off shirts.  It was all just so over the top.  And then the topping on the cake was towards the end (don’t worry, no spoiler here) when I read, “From then on, Wrath reigned.”  It was like the author named him Wrath just so she could insert that line somewhere in the book.  I can only guess what type of lines the other brothers’ names inspire.

But….as I said, my feelings are mixed. Because I think I want to read the next one.

As much as I disliked the names of the brothers, I loved the brothers themselves.  They were mostly barbaric and met a certain moral flexibility that I find absolutely fascinating.  There were other characters that I became invested in as well.  Detective Butch O’Neal has become bitter and angry after years of working difficult cases.  But at the same time he still feels the need to protect.  The need to protect Beth has put him under the close scrutiny of the Brothers. And since Butch is 100% human, this could be serious cause for concern.  Then there is Marissa, Wrath’s shellan (or mate).  Her story is particularly interesting to me since they were promised to each other as children.  Wrath doesn’t love her and has offered to release her from their bond from the very beginning.  Her refusal over the centuries is a mystery that I want to understand better.  Although I did not connect with Wrath or Beth, there seemed to be a lot of possibility with all the secondary characters and I want to know their stories.  A part of me is kind of hoping that this is a bit like the Outlander series.  Where the first one isn't that great but then the rest of the books are spectacular.

I also loved the world that the author has built.  Her vampire lore is captivating.  Her vampires are breed, not made.   They have their own God and their own Devil.  Their enemies, Lessers, are creepy and undead.  I could go on with the aspects of the lore that I enjoyed but I won’t bore you with my own obsessions.

My honest opinion is that this isn't a very good story.  But the things I did like are enough to make me pick up the next book and give the series another shot.


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