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Sunday, October 2, 2016

'The Beast' Black Dagger Brotherhood #14 by J.R. Ward


From the BLURB:

Rhage and Mary return in the new novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

His name is Rhage - the deadliest fighter and most voracious lover of all the Brotherhood, whose inner beast could never be tamed. But Rhage found his eternal love in Mary Luce, a woman who once bore a life-threatening curse, while dreaming of eternity with her vampire warrior and protector.

They've made it to hell and back. Now their story continues in a new novel sure to draw fans back into the 'frighteningly addictive' (Publishers Weekly) world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

‘The Beast’ is the 14th instalment in JR Ward’s ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’ urban-fantasy/paranormal-romance series.

Nope. I did not read 13th book ‘The Shadows’. I saw the controversy swarming around it at the time of release, and so I stayed away – until recently, when I attempted to read, but a few chapters in I started to like Trez and Selena and so I decided to bail. Because I am not putting myself through that. There were enough in-depth romance blogger reviews for me to know exactly what happened in the 13th book, and get the gist of the billion other storylines threaded throughout. And anyway, ‘The Beast’ is revisiting the pairing of Rhage and Mary who we first met in book 2, ‘Lover Eternal’ – so I thought I knew enough about them already to dive into a book revisiting their relationship.

I really loved Rhage and Mary – and after Zsadist & Bella, and Rehvenge & Ehlena (I know, I’m in the minority there!) – they’re probably my favourite couple of the BDB. Especially since Mary is one of the only human mates in the brotherhood collective, she reminds me of a better time in this series when it wasn’t all talk about hairless Chosen females who were verily, otherworldly and unattainably beautiful … and I thought all the sacrifices and balances to ensure Mary could stay with Rhage had just the right amount of ‘kill your darlings’ high-stakes (without going overboard, as the Warden clearly did in ‘Shadows’!)

But I gotta say, coming back into this series after not reading a book for two years … I suddenly feel like The Emperor Has No Clothes (or: The Vampires Have No Fangs, to be apropos).

I just … struggled with this one. For starters: I only read the sections pertaining to be about Rhage, Mary, Layla (freakin’ STILL!) has a story going on with Xcor, Vishous has something happening with someone – but I only read his interactions with Butch, Jane and Lassiter … I skipped over I-don’t-even-know-what with Assail, and some reporter (or was she a real-estate agent?) called Jo. The Warden used to be really good at running concurrent storylines – often of our protagonists alongside glimpses of antagonists – but as the series has blown out now to 14 books she feels the need to have about six different stories running together and I just can’t.

But the story itself about Rhage and Mary was … fine? I mean; I saw it all coming from a mile away. And everyone told me that it would work out for them, even as this book sees Rhage asking some really tricky questions of his and Mary’s relationship – I still got cut up reading their struggles and particularly as it made commentary on Mary, motherhood and what it means to be a woman. I do wish that the Warden had poured a little more salt in the wound, however – I could have done with more examination of where Mary (as a human) fits into Rhage’s life in the brotherhood, because she also can’t sustain him with her blood alone and I thought that was a pretty obvious discussion to have, on top of the other hurdles they’re facing in this one. To me, the really raw, emotional scene was pretty much over and done with when Rhage – literally – has a conflicting, rational thought to his emotions and decides ‘cool, I’m all good with this now.’

There were some nice moments in the book – lots of appearances and hints of possible future plots and pairings that I’m sure would have sent die-hard fans into conniption fits.

But suddenly – after a two-year break – I came back into these books and the BDB world and I just had no time for the “bromance” bullshit. I mean;

Manny pulled up a chair. “How we doing, young man?” 
“Hey, old fart. Where’s your better half?” 
“Payne’s having a lie-down. I tired her out, if you get what I mean.” 
The two pounded knuckles…

Ladies and Gentleman; the vampires have no fangs, because suddenly I could not stop rolling my eyes and/or physically sneering at (the many) scenes like the one above. It was when I realised what’s been in these books all along, but I suddenly have no time for – the BDB mansion is basically a frat house.

Also: the Warden’s language. We all know she has a very particular pop-culture vernacular that I’ve never been entirely convinced will stand up, in even a couple year’s time … but not reading that tonal-topical style for a couple years, then coming back into it just made me cringe. Even scenes that I’m sure she wrote to be sweet and emotional just left me scratching my head;
 Sometime later, Mary woke up after a good long rest … and smiled at her decidedly asleep mate. Rhage was out like a light, his eyes closed, one blond brow twitching, his jaw grinding as if maybe he were dreaming of an argument or a pool game. His breathing was deep and even, and yes, he was snoring. Not like a chain saw, though. Or an unmuffled Mustang revving at a red light. Or even anything close to Butch’s wounded-badger routine – which was something you had to hear to believe. 
No, the sounds her man let out were more like Krups coffee pot right as it was finishing a cycle of brewing; the kind of thing that burbled in the background, offering a comforting rhythm of patter that she could sleep through if she wanted to or stay up and listen to if she were stewing again. Come to think of it, his snores were probably the quietest thing about him, considering how heavy his footfalls were, how loud his laugh was, and how much he spoke, especially if he were giving his Brothers a hard time.

What even is?!

Look, I’m pretty sure my reaction to what should have just been a nice, easy revisit of a fan-favourite couple is probably just the signifier I needed that I’m done with this series. More fool me for not realising four or five books ago … but I am going to be a bit sad to say goodbye to this universe, which I first discovered in a haze of paranormal romance binging and once got a real kick out of.  But now, sadly, the shit-kickers are coming off and staying off. Sayonara!

2/5

1 comment:

  1. I bailed on this hot mess of a series a while ago but I did like Rhage and Mary so I was sort of tempted by this one. However I think you've just reminded me of everything I don't like here so I think I'll just give it a miss and stick to my guns.

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