Literary Review: Dark Lover (Book 1) by J R Ward

Title: Dark Lover
Author: J R Ward
Series: Book One
Format: Audiobook

So, I have been listening to another paranormal romance novel, well series really… in this case it is the start of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J R Ward. Currently in its 10th novel / 11th book, it was introduced to me by a friend of mine not long ago due to our love of paranormal romance / fantasy.

Since traditional romance novels tend to be very stale and bland for me nowadays I was needing something with a little bit of spice. Did I ever… with a well thought out mythology and background this series had so much that I could totally sink my teeth into (pun totally intended). The first six books in the series revolves around the six “Brothers” of a race of vampires, whose primary goal is to protect their race from prying eyes and extinction.

The first book in the series focuses on the point of view of Wrath, the leader of the “Brothers” and the reluctant king. He has long ignored his birthright in favor of being a warrior and had always felt comfortable in that role. Also nicknamed “The Blind King”, Wrath is a male vampire completely ill at ease with his birthright and has a lot of male pride.

When his friend’s (Darius) death wish was for Wrath to watch over Darius’ half-breed daughter Beth and ease her into the possible transition of becoming a vampire, Wrath does so reluctantly only for the wheels to turn him towards his destiny. Then again Beth was very reluctant when it came to Wrath:

Perfect date material. A vampire with the social equivalent of road rage.

Available Summary:

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

The only purebred vampire left on the planet, 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- orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate – Wrath must usher the beautiful female into the world of the undead…

Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn’t there before, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes to her at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of brotherhood and blood frighten her. But his touch ignites a dawning hunger that threatens to consume them both…

I could go on and on about the series and the mythology, but why repeat through the motions when others have already done so. You could find the links at my “Literary” page under “Entertainment“. I would suggest going to Book Thingo where they have actually supplied details about each of the individual books in the series as well as extra information from the rest of the series:

Book Thingo: Black Dagger Brotherhood Cheat Sheet Part 1
– The Scribe Virgin and her single act of creation
– What is the Black Dagger Brotherhood?
– Black Dagger Brotherhood: Wrath, son of Wrath
– Class Structure and Civil Unrest
– Wrath the Fair

There are nine Cheat Sheets at the moment, one for each novel in the series (minus the Dossier). What was really nice about the cheat sheets is that they tend to follow the series in order for the most part. Giving the reader a chance to follow along and understand the absolute necessary pieces from each Cheat Sheet and building them as you read through the series.

Since the cheat sheets do a really good job of not only talking about the individual novels but the storylines of the primary characters throughout the series… the most I’ll do is introduce my own thoughts and opinions of the book in question:

The first few opening scenes of Dark Lover was a bit of a jerk, as if something just yanked you from your reality and tossing you right into the fray. It is here we meet our heroine: Elizabeth “Beth” Randall a half-human, half-vampire who didn’t know that her father was a vampire and she was going to become a vampire soon.

Which brings me to the first change in the traditional vampire mythology, in J R Ward’s vampire mythology vampires are not created but genetic. One does not turn into a vampire when a vampire goes and sucks your blood, rather you have to have someone vampiric in your bloodline and then you still have to go through a transition of sorts where you may or may not survive. Vampires feed on one another because vampire blood is stronger than human blood, but there are some vampires that have lived on human blood.

For some reason as I was listening to the series I kept thinking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except in reverse. Meaning that the “Slayers” are the “bad guys” in this case, while the “Vampires” are the “good guys”. However, considering that the big thing going on right now is the paranormal romance genre on all levels I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised, then again I am not entirely sure.

We are also introduced to Brian “Butch” O’Neal, a detective of the Caldwell Police Department descended from the Irish and estranged from his family. He (like most every guy in the series) is battling a major demon/shadow from his past and uses his job as a way to exorcise said demon.

One of the problems that I see in the series is that the guys tend to take over the books almost eclipsing the women in the books. The fact that the writer is able to get into the males heads (not that one!) was just amazing since a lot of romance novels/stories tend to focus on the point of view of the heroines. This first novel I felt is the most balanced of the series when going between the point of view of the hero and the heroine. Then again with this being the beginning of the series and having a lot of expository to go through to set up the remainder of the series, it was easily to be introduced to this new world through the half-vampire Beth as opposed to The Blind King: Wrath.

The vampires are being hunted into extinction by the Lessening Society that was run/created by a corporeal being called the Omega. The Lessers, I suppose are the equivalent to Buffy’s slayers except here the vampires are considered largely to be the protagonists while the “slayers” are considered the antagonists.

Each of the six “Brothers” are differentiated enough by description alone that it wasn’t terribly difficult to discern them individually, however considering that this was an audiobook, listening took some getting used to. The audiobook reader’s voice I enjoyed thoroughly, but there were times where I found myself needing to repeat a scene or a chapter just to understand who was saying what and when.

One of things that I was most impressed by and has continued throughout the series is the constant banter and interaction between the Brothers, for example the following when they were commenting about Beth as a female:

Vishous: That is one fine female, true?
Rhage: Wonder if she has a sister?
Phury: [laughing] You wouldn’t know what to do with yourself if you ran into a female of worth.
Rhage: This coming from you, Celibate? But then Hollywood rubbed the stubble on his chin, as if considering the ways of the universe. Ah, hell, Phury, you’re probably right. Still, a male can dream.
Vishous: He sure can.

Almost everytime the Brothers start ribbing each other about one topic or another I found myself chuckling. So realistic and I am amazed at how well Ms Ward gets into the minds of the various Brothers.

In the end this was a very good starting audiobook to the point that I actually went and purchased the paperback at my local book shop just to have it in my possession.

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