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Saturday, March 31, 2012

'Love Reborn' Black Dagger Brotherhood #10 by J.R. Ward

 Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

In the darkest corners of the night in Caldwell, New York, a conflict like no other rages. The city is home to a band of brothers born to defend their race: the warrior vampires of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Now back in the Brotherhood – and unrecognisable as the vampire leader he once was – Tohrment is physically emaciated and heartbroken beyond despair. When he begins to see his beloved in his dreams – trapped in a cold, isolating netherworld – Tohr turns to a self-serving fallen angel in hopes of saving the one he has lost. When he’s told he must learn to love another to free his former mate, Tohr knows they are all doomed . . .

Except then a female with a shadowed history begins to get through to him. Against the backdrop of the raging war with the  esser, and with a new clan of vampires vying for the Blind King’s throne, Tohr struggles between the buried past, and a very hot, passion-filled future . . . but can his heart let go and set all of them free?

** WARNING: This review contains 'Lover Reborn' spoilers, and spoilers of all other BDB books. Don't read if you haven't read 'Reborn' yet! **


‘Lover Reborn’ is the tenth book in J.R. Ward’s paranormal ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series . . .  ‘Reborn’ is one of the most-anticipated books of this long-running series because it is Tohrment’s story, and it has been a long time coming.

One year ago Tohrment’s life was ripped apart. His pregnant shellan, Wellsandra, was murdered by the lesser society and Tohr has been mourning her and their young ever since. Immediately after her death he took himself away from the Brotherhood, but was dragged back by the angel Lassiter whose job it was to see Tohr through his dark time.

For many books now, Tohr has been a shell of his former self. He has watched his brothers find their own shellan’s, as he grows embittered by empty memories of his two-hundred-year mating with Wellsie. Recently, Tohr’s adopted son, John Matthew, found his own shellan in the form of half-sympath vampire, Xhex. But Xhex hasn’t been the only new female addition to the Brotherhood mansion . . .  following the events of ‘Lover Mine’ which revealed Xhex’s origins, her long-lost mother also came to stay with the Brotherhood.

Rosalhynda was a female of worth, once upon a time. Until a sympath kidnapped and raped her, and impregnated her during her needing. Hundreds of years ago Tohrment and his mentor, Darius, rescued Rosalhynda and spent months keeping her safe during her pregnancy. . .  but after giving birth to Xhex, Rosalhynda took her own life with a dagger to the gut – so full of shame for her fall from grace, she could not go on living, not even for her young.

Unbeknownst to Tohr and Xhex, Rosalhynda did not go into the Fade. Instead she went to serve The Chosen and Scribe Virgin, going over to the other side and renaming herself No’One – donning a hooded robe and dedicating herself to a life of servitude as penance for her sins.

Now No’One is back, and living in the Brotherhood Mansion with orders to serve the Chosen female, Payne, but also to reconnect with her estranged daughter, Xhex.

But No’One’s presence is rubbing salt in Tohr’s wound. No’One has seemingly returned from the dead, permitted to have another life on earth . . .  yet his Wellsie and their young are gone forever, lost to him in the Fade. Or so he thought.

Lassiter finally decides to break his silence and explain to Tohr that Wellsie and their son have not migrated to the Fade – they are not in peace. Instead, they are in-between. Neither here nor there, in a barren grey landscape, tethered only because Tohrment cannot let them go.

If Tohr wants his family to find peace in the Fade, he must find peace here on earth. And he might just find it in the most unlikely of places, with No’One.

J.R. Ward had such a big task on her hands, writing Tohr’s story. She had a lot of balls to juggle in getting his HEA just right, and that’s partly why his story has taken so long to write. The Warden had to ensure that enough time had passed since Wellsie’s death, before Tohr’s moving on could be told with any credibility. And I think now is the right time. This is book ten, and it feels definitely like Tohr is due his healing.

It was obvious in ‘Lover Mine’ that No’One would be taking on the difficult role of Tohr’s soon-to-be chosen female. A tough task, since the Warden herself admitted that within her series universe, hellren who lose their shellan’s don’t mate again. They get one chance at happily-ever-after, and that’s it. But the groundwork for Tohr and No’One’s HEA was laid when the Warden revealed that they’d had a connection some two-hundred-years ago, before Tohr’s mating to Wellsandra, back when No’One was Rosalhynda.

When ‘Lover Reborn’ begins, No’One has been in the Brotherhood mansion for some time, but hasn’t settled in. The Doggen (servants) treat her like a female of worth, but she has spent the last couple hundred years in a designated role of servitude to the Chosen females, and she’s uncomfortable being the mother to a Brother’s shellan, and therefore treated better than she thinks she deserves.

No’One has also found it difficult to assimilate in the Brotherhood mansion because of Tohr. She feels his anger towards her, but doesn’t quite know why he’s casting her glacial looks at Last Meal. Tohr, of course, sees No’One’s very presence back on earth as an affront to his dead shellan. The Scribe Virgin permitted No’One to return from death – heck, the Scribe Virgin also saved Rhage’s Mary from death, and bought Doc Jane back as a ghost for Vishous. But Wellsie is dead and gone. It’s not fair, and it’s part of the reason that he’s finding it so hard to move on.

But when Lassiter comes to Tohr with the horrifying news that Wellsie is not enjoying peace in the Fade, that she is in fact stuck in the barren wasteland of in-between, Tohr is spurned into action. . .  and intent on ‘moving on’, if only to save his shellan.

Lassiter has grand plans, for Tohr and Wellsie, but also for No’One. The way Lassiter sees it, the wheel of fate started turning two-hundred-years ago when Tohr had to bury Rosalhynda beneath an apple tree after she took her own life. . .
As he smiled at her, his expression was that of a holy man. “My name’s Lassiter, and I’ll tell you all you need to know about me. I’m an angel first and a sinner second, and I’m not here for long. I’ll never hurt you, but I’m prepared to make you pretty goddamn uncomfortable if I have to, to get my job done. I like sunsets and long walks on the beach, but my perfect female no longer exists. Oh, and my favourite hobby is annoying the shit out of people. Guess I’m just bred to want to get a rise out of folks – probably the whole resurrection thing.”
No’One’s hand crept up and held her robe together in a tight grip. “Why ever are you here?”
“If I told you now, you’d just fight it tooth and nail, but let’s just say I believe in full circles – I simply didn’t see the one we’re in until you came along.” He gave her a little bow.

I really liked Tohr and No’One. There’s lots of talk in this book about Wellsie being in the ‘in-between’, neither here nor there, stuck in limbo. And that’s also true of Tohr and No’One. All these players are stagnate – stuck in their respective black holes. It’s only when Tohr and No’One connect that they find a tether in one another, and are able to pull themselves out. . .

I liked that Tohr and No’One had a slow-burn romance. They had a lot to contend with; Tohr’s grief and the fact that he’s still very much in love with Wellsie. And No’One martyrdom, her thinking that she’s unworthy because of her past. It is a very slow, meandering romance – but when things start to heat up, J.R. Ward brings the romance. And it’s lovely and heart-warming to read Tohr getting a little slice of happiness after being miserable so long.

That’s not to say Tohr and No’One’s romance wasn’t without fault. I, personally, think that their HEA was rushed towards the end. At one point Tohr absolutely blasts No’One – he accuses her of martyrdom and being in love with him only because she knows he won’t ever love her back. He yells at her for punishing herself again and again and again, and claims that their romance isn’t healthy for either of them. And, you know what?, I agreed with every single word he said. I had been thinking all those things about Tohr and No’One’s HEA from the beginning – and I was head-nodding throughout Tohr’s grand, vicious speech.

No’One leaves to lick her wounds, bunking with Xhex while she sorts her life out. It’s during this time that she decides she won’t be a martyr anymore – but if she doesn’t want to be a society princess ever again, and she doesn’t want to serve others, what can she do? Xhex, wisely, counsels that she’ll have to figure out what she wants to do. YES! It was at this point that I despaired to see the end was so close. . .  because it was at that *exact* moment, that I wanted another 200 pages. I wanted to read about No’One being by herself in the real world for a little while – going to University perhaps? Joining Marissa at the women’s shelter, maybe? I wanted Tohr to take some time to accept his new level of acceptance with Wellsie’s death (and even take some time seriously making amends to No’One). Instead, the Warden writes a race to the finish. . .  
Meet the Maker

Straight up – I hated the ending. I thought the Warden wrote a total cop-out by turning to celestial hocus-pocus waffle regarding Wellsie’s Fade ceremony. This isn’t the first time I have rolled my eyes at the Warden writing a quick ethereal scapegoat to wrap up her book. I wasn’t overly thrilled with the Scribe Virgin’s quick-fix of Mary in ‘Lover Eternal’. And I hated the Casper magic she weaved on Doc Jane in ‘Lover Unbound’. The end of ‘Reborn’ was more convenient plot scapegoating, in my opinion. And I can’t help but think Tohr would have questioned, again, why No’One was bought back but his Wellsie was definitely relegated to the Fade. . . ?

So, I did like Tohr and No’One. But I felt like their relationship didn’t really hit an emotional and truthful stride until the end. . .  when I wanted more proof from Tohr that he was wanting to move on, and had enough room in his heart for a second shellan (and I would have really appreciated a mating ceremony on top of that!). I would have liked another season in which No’One took proper command of her life, for the first time, and spent time with her daughter figuring out who she is and what she wants to do with herself. And I would have *really* appreciated a non-sucky finale that didn’t rely heavily on transcendence wackiness to explain everything.

What I didn’t like about this romance, however, was made up in the form of Lassiter. He has a starring role in Tohr and No’One’s romance and he is divine. Literally! I can’t wait for him to get his own HEA, because hints are dropped in this novel about his one-and-only and never again love that had me raising my eyebrows. Not to mention he’s so downright funny and lovely and I just want him to meet someone and fall in love!
Band of Bastards

I really hated ‘Lover Unleashed’, but one good thing to come out of that book was the introduction of the Band of Bastards – a group of vampire warriors (trained by the Bloodletter) who have moved from the old country into Caldwell, with every intention of overthrowing Wrath and taking control of the glymera.

I love, love, loved the introduction of these fresh characters. I admit, beyond Tohr and Qhuay’s books, I didn’t quite know where the Warden would take this series next. . .  but I was so happy to read so much potential in the Bastards.

There’s Zypher, a handsome vampire who gives Rhage a run for his money in the ‘hottie’ stakes. Throe was a son of nobility, now unlikely second-lieutenant in the Bastards. And their fearless leader is Xcor – a vicious fighter with scarred face and black soul who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. And on the sidelines lurks Assail, a well-to-do vampire who is moving in on Rehvenge’s old drug territory, for reasons unknown. . . 

The Bastards are here, and their scenes have taken over from the old lesser point-of view chapters (something I only ever skim-read!). These are some mighty-fine bad guys. . . mainly because (unlike the lessers) they each have room for redemption. I always hated the lesser POV chapters because they were just bad guys – with no wriggle room. With the Bastards, half the fun will be falling for them while they butt heads with our beloved Brothers. I can definitely envision the Warden pulling fans in all different directions with these Bastards, and I can’t wait.

My only complaint with the Bastards is their similar characterization to the Brothers we’ve already read. Assail is a Rehvenge-type anti-hero (and many characters draw this comparison throughout ‘Reborn), while Zypher is another warrior cursed with good looks, like Rhage. Xcor has a scarred face like Zsadist, and a similarly mean outlook on life. I hope these are only superficial similarities – and not just regurgitated character arcs.
The Iron Mask

A big portion of ‘Reborn’ is also dedicated to Xhex and John Matthew, and their trouble in paradise. John isn’t coping well with Xhex’s warrior status in the brotherhood, and Xhex can’t envision their mating continuing as it has been. . .

I was really happy to revisit this couple, particularly because it made sense that they had a starring role in Tohr and No’One’s book (Xhex being No’One’s daughter, John being Tohr’s son). Xhex and John definitely have unique hurdles to overcome in their mating – and it’s something no other Brother has had to deal with, which makes it so interesting (and somewhat heartbreaking). These two are still great, and reading about them was a nice revisit.
The Chosen

Verily, I have hated Layla for a long time. I have made my feelings absolutely clear about this Mary-Sue too-perfect-to-be-likeable Chosen female. I still don’t like her after reading ‘Reborn’, but I like where her story is going. . .

Layla meets both Throe and Xcor from the Bastards – and she feeds both of them with the best of intentions (and thinking them to be members of the Brotherhood). Both Throe and Xcor are enthralled by Layla (because she’s so stunningly beautiful, face like the sun. . .  yadda, yadda, yadda). And Layla is equally intrigued by Xcor, a male she is oddly drawn to. . .  until she learns the truth about him and the Bastards.

Thank God for the Warden – she’s taking a fairly disliked character and giving her an intriguing storyline and potential HEA. I particularly like the Layla/Xcor possibility because of the Beauty and the Beast connotations. But while I like where Layla’s *story* is heading, I still don’t like her. In ‘Reborn’ she again comes across like a smiling idiot whose value is only skin-deep. But you know what? With such a good story for her in the works, I want the Warden to prove my assumptions wrong. I want Layla to be totally misunderstood and more than just a pretty face – because now her story demands it.

On that note. . .  I feel like I again have to say I’m a little over all the Chosen/vampire females who have been overpopulating this series. I said it in my ‘Lover Unleashed’ review, and I’ll say it again. I miss the human female love interests! I am *dying* for Rhage and Mary’s short-story and I am desperate for a Brother to have a shellan who isn’t vampirically beautiful, hairless and all-round perfect. I am so keen for a human female to come in who’s real and relatable and has as good a romance as Mary did with Rhage. Seriously! Enough of the hairless vampire Glamazons – I want a down-to-earth human chick to get some Brotherhood booty! 

Get ready to squeal because. . .  it’s happening! Definitely. Irrefutably. I am 99% sure that ‘Reborn’ is the book before Qhuay. . . and, guys, it’s going to be goooooood. Warden promised us bumps in their road to happily-ever-after and she delivers them in ‘Reborn’. Qhuinn is tangled in new family matters, and Blay is coming to terms with his never-gonna-die feelings for his best friend. Warden absolutely, positively sets these two up for a glorious HEA.  Get ready, because theirs might just be the most anticipated Brotherhood book of all!

The Warden definitely makes up for the lacklustre ‘Unleashed’ with Tohr’s ‘Reborn’. It was wonderful to finally read Tohr get a little slice of happy, and with a female who was equally deserving of a little bit of peace. Lassiter shines in his heavenly role, and I think after Qhuay, fans will be clamouring for his HEA. Speaking of Qhuay. . . it’s freakin’ happening and I couldn’t be more delighted! The Band of Bastards are an intriguing lot of anti-hero’s who will be devilishly delicious to read about. . .  particularly for Xcor and Layla’s possible HEA. ‘Love Reborn’ is another wonderful, rip-roaringly exhilarating instalment in J.R. Ward’s superb ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series.


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