Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lover Eternal, by JR Ward, Book 2 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Rhage has fallen in love. And, even more complicated, he has fallen in love with a human woman, against all the laws and customs of vampire society, and most certainly against the rules of the Brotherhood. He's faced with a choice between the Brotherhood and the battle to protect his species, and Mary – and he had to protect her from the Lessers who will use her to get to him. Worse, through this he has to navigate his curse – there's a beast within him that doesn't know friend or foe, only rage and killing.

And this is before they work out how to get round the simple basics of vampires and humans living together – and the problem of Mary's illness

At the same time, the Lessers have not stopped in their war to annihilate the vampires. Every Brother can face attack when out on the streets – and they are kidnapping a growing number of civilian vampires to torture – even building a new centre to facilitate holding and torturing them. They're digging for more information, more details on the Brotherhood to finally try to bring them down.

Meanwhile, Zsadist may have finally found the woman for him... if he can save her

I did not enjoy this book. And that sentence is the last understatement I intend to make in this review. The largest part of it is filled with pages of relationship angst between Mary and Rhage, and no small amount of it is caused simply because both Mary and Rhage repeatedly keep things from each other for no good reason, repeatedly make false assumptions about each other and basically have repeated comedies of error. I didn't find it especially compelling and it's made worse by how long each one of these scenes and the making up afterwards is dragged out slowly and painfully to a point where I nearly skimmed the book (I would have missed nothing).

One thing I find eternally frustrating is the Brotherhood doesn't seem to do anything. All these warriors with all their skills out to protect their species on the edge of extinction and what do they do? Go clubbing. Play football. Whine about their love lives. Spend days upon days upon days making goo-goo eyes at their mates and having sex. Really, if the Lessers didn't keep attacking them, these “warriors” wouldn't actually do any fighting!

In this book we have yet more “civilian” vampires being kidnapped and tortured for information, at the same time the Lessers are building a facility expressly for the purpose of kidnapping and torture... and the Brotherhood? Doesn't seem to do anything. Really, if the Lessers really wanted to kill the vampires they'd just avoid their warriors, keep knocking off the civilians one after the other and leave the Brotherhood hitting the clubs, holed up in their den or planning perfect romantic dates (or sharing tubs of ice cream over their break ups) because they don't stir themselves from their little fortress otherwise. Oh, there's also an orphaned vampire out there, going through his (potentially lethal) transition with a ridiculous warrior name (suggesting he either has a severe concussion or is destined for the Black Dagger Brotherhood) and the Brotherhood? Largely ignores him. Leave him a card to call them – then leave him to his own devices.

It's another of my irritations with paranormal romance – there's a story and a world here (albeit not an amazing one) but we're not actually seeing any of it because we're stuck on goo-goo eyes and engorged organs while important stuff happens around them and no-one pays attention to.

And I have to discuss the depraved stalking as well. Oh, no they call it “Romance”. There is a lot of really skeevy Explained by the Woo-Woo relationship badness going here. Even aside from the depressingly standard aggressive stalking and sexual harassment presented as seduction (she said no. She told you to get off her. Stop now). We also have the sadly usual “you're mine” and “I kill any man who touches you” and mystically marking your mate as yours, we've also got an incredibly skeevy “you left him?! A bonded male NEVER LET'S GO! I don't know what he'll do.” Uh-huh. This doesn't speak of flowers, chocolates and diamonds to me – it's more police, mace and restraining orders.

I'm still not particularly enamoured with the characters either. Everything's so grossly over done. The Lessers are all cartoon villains (and, I have to say I'm sorely tired of us being shown they're villains through the murder of prostitutes as well as general sexual violence against women. Sex workers are extremely vulnerable and I'm not best happy with using this vulnerability – and the extreme levels of violence they face – as some basic, heavy handed story shorthand to tell us how bad the Lessers are) who basically exist because they like killing stuff. EVERY member of the Brotherhood has some deep dark curse they have to angst over (when they're not angsting over their one true love, which is a linked passtime). Most of the Brotherhood seems to have a curse – Rhage turns into an uncontrollable monster, Zsadist is, well, a sadist, Phury is cursed to be celibate, Vishous can't touch people – who thought it was a good idea to have their elite – only – fighting force so encumbered?

And the names. I just have to return to the names. This time they're joined by Tehror and Tohrture and Rehvenge. It's impossible to take this book seriously between the gigglefits. I could also do without the casual homophobia and "sissy" and "pussy" around. We get it, the brothers are neckbeareded dudebros - move on now please. This book is also even more erased than the first, without even a casual POC side-kick around.

If there was one... I won't say good because it's not easy to read, but well done part of this book it's Mary's continued battle with her returning Leukemia and thoughts over watching her mother die. The confrontation of mortally, coming to terms with a long difficult battle with disease after already having suffered through it. I found her pain, her fear, her grief and her anger very real and very well done. It's one of those moments when you wonder what the author has endured that she can capture this so well. I won't say it was a bright spot in the book – because the subject matter alone precludes it from being bright – but it was a moment of skill and power rising over the rest of this book.

On the whole, would I recommend this book? No. And doing so should be a crime. Is it better than the first book? Probably and I almost gave it 2 fangs, but looking at the other books we've given that to? Well, they're not great, but they deserve better than this