Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward

Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward
Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10) - Australian/UK edition
{link url="http://www.fishpond.com.au/advanced_search_result.php?ref=866&&keywords=lover+reborn+ward"}Lover Reborn{/link} by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10)

Tohr’s book hearkens back to the earlier books in the BDB series. It’s not without its faults, but in true J. R. Ward fashion, when she pulls out the angst, it’s very, very good.

Click here for a round-up of all BDB-related posts on Book Thingo.

I thought I had weaned myself off the crack, cold turkey, after I managed to resist the call of Lover Unleashed. But as a former Cellie, I was interested to see how Tohr gets his happy ending. Plus a review copy of Lover Reborn turned up in the mail. How could I resist?

Warning: This will be a long post. I’m using subheadings so you can skip to the bits that matter to you. There are spoilers, although I’ve tried not to give away major plot points.

The good stuff

I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. For the most part, J. R. Ward restrains herself from going overly over the top and delivers a story that is more layered and coherent—if not always believable—than the BDB has delivered for some time.

Tohr is still steeped in grief when Lover Reborn begins. Despite the irksome Ward-style writing, the story begins at a cracking pace, with the Brothers chasing stupid lessers—don’t worry, they don’t feature much in this book; more on that soon—and finding themselves face-to-face with the Band of Bastards. I didn’t read the previous book and had no idea who they were, but Ward does a good job of unobtrusively filling in the blanks. Plus I had Decadence’s cheat sheets.

The baddies in this book are a gang of vampires led by Xcor (note: X is the new H), who has his eye on Wrath’s throne and plans to use the glymera to get there. These guys are so much more interesting than lessers—so you can tell they’ll eventually be reformed. Sigh.

Tohr’s romantic arc doesn’t intersect much with the external conflict. Lassiter, it turns out, is on a mission to save Wellsie and Baby Tohr from the In Between—the BDB version of purgatory, which didn’t exist before but does now. Oh, don’t be questioning the world breaking. Therein lies madness.

The book spans over a year of BDB time, which is a pleasant change from previous books. Certainly, Tohr and No’One (aka Joanoni—it’s a Twitter thing) need the time to sort out their issues and the build-up at the start of their relationship is wonderfully angsty, and Ward can write angst like nobody’s business.

But the pacing of the romance isn’t always perfect. When the external plot ramps up, sometimes Tohr’s story gets lost in the action. Lassiter fills us in on what’s been happening, which is convenient but unsatisfying.

Nevertheless, Ward gives Tohr’s healing process a lot of page time. I have issues with how this is handled (see the section on dealing with Wellsie below), but if you buy into Tohr and Joanoni as a couple, then it probably won’t bother you as much. I’m pretty sure many readers will find Tohr’s two-year mourning period insufficient, but I don’t think this is unrealistic. I think people who have been in a happy relationship and lose their partner have a very good template for relationships and are more receptive to new love than we might allow them to be.

The first feeding scene between Tohr and Joanoni—okay, No’one—is done excruciatingly well and brought me to tears. Their conflicts, however, are a mixed bag. Tohr’s declaration that ‘I want to fuck you. That’s why I went back home.’ is just so underwhelming, and on a few occasions he descends to unbelievable levels of arseholic. Their big break up scene could have been more subtle (then again, it’s the BDB), but it’s still a lot more toned down and believable than many of the other books in the series.

For the most part, the relationship between Tohr and No’One is summed up by this quote from her:

I am happy to simply have time with you. That is enough—and more than I could ever have expected out of my fate. These past few months have been a complicated joy that…

Ward being Ward, there’s an extra special twist at the end for No’One that came as a surprise to me. I loved that I didn’t guess it (although perhaps it was just me). That’s how immersed I was with the story—I wasn’t thinking ahead at all. The resolution of the impossible-love-twist may not work for every reader, but at least it makes more sense than Ghost Jane or Monogamous Primale Phury or Scribe Unvirgin or…well, you know where madness lies.

This is also one of the few couples in the series whose happy ending feels secure, at least on an emotional level.

Dealing with the issue of Wellsie

My biggest problem with Tohr’s emotional arc is that Ward uses Wellsie to force Tohr’s romance with No’One. Tohr is essentially forced to get over it by Lassiter in order to save Wellsie and Baby Tohr from being lost between life and death.

It’s as if Ward has to apologise to Wellsie fans for killing her off. What ends up happening is exactly the opposite of what I think Ward intended. To me, this plot does a great disservice to Wellsie—it’s basically her fault that Tohr has to find another love. It also puts a seedy tone around Tohr and No’One’s relationship, especially when they’re finally having sex. It’s like Lassiter is pimping him out so Wellsie and Baby Tohr can get to heaven.

Wait. What?

Yes, fine, it’s more complicated than that. It’s Tohr’s inability to let go of Wellsie that keeps her tethered to the living—in the undead vampire sense—world. And, okay, Wellsie’s plight enables Ward to externalise Tohr’s recovery, at least in the beginning—his grief is mirrored by Wellsie’s state and his inability to move on is illustrated clearly to the reader. After that, though, when Wellsie keeps getting worse even with Tohr trying his absolute best to have sex with someone else without feeling guilty—WTF? I hear you scream. Yes, I know.—it just seems cruel.

Because Ward uses Wellsie as an excuse for Tohr having to move on, Tohr’s recovery from grief never really feels natural. Worse, it feels like a betrayal of Wellsie’s character. And I’m not even a Wellsie fan.

Vampire ennui and self-esteem issues

If I had to sum up every character’s problem in the BDB series, it would be lack of self-esteem. Go reread your books and tell me you disagree. Everything boils down to characters feeling like they’re not good enough. It’s getting tiring. How long have these vampires been around again?

I was also uncomfortable with the level of contempt that some of the characters directed to anyone other than themselves or their friends. This is particularly noticeable at the beginning of the book. Given Tohr’s disdain for human beings it’s hard to fathom why he bothers fighting lessers. Maybe it’s become a hobby for lack of anything more exciting to do? Vampire ennui saves humankind. Awesome.

Xhex repeatedly goes off on internal rants about the glymera and sexist Brothers and the Kardashians—basically, notions of femininity that don’t fit her:

Anyone tried to turn her into a glymera chickadee? She’d just saw through the gold bars, set a bomb on the base of the stand, and hang the steaming remains from a chandelier in the foyer.

I get what Ward is trying to convey, and perhaps she’s responding to (I think well-deserved) criticism about the portrayal of women in the BDB world. I love that Xhex challenges the Brothers, including JM, about the patronising way they treat her, and she does become more tolerant towards the end of the book. But for the most part, especially when Xhex isn’t even with the Brothers, I think Ward overcompensates—it’s all just too over the top and angry and reinforces the notion that women who have made different choices about their lives can’t peacefully co-exist.

Xcor is one seething mess of self-esteem issues. He’s like V but uglier. Apparently. I don’t know anymore. He’s a great villain, but since he doesn’t seem destined to remain one forever, I’m kind of unimpressed. Nevertheless, the Band of Bastard members are intriguing and these new antagonists bode well for the coming books.

Secondary relationships and characters

If I had to sum up the theme of Lover Reborn, it would be one of healing.

Ward almost breaks John Matthew’s HEA to provide Tohr’s story with some parallel angst. JM and Xhex discover they just can’t work together, and Xhex leaves the mansion. Again, there’s something forced about their conflict—or at least, the way it’s presented is awkward. A lot of time elapses between scenes and Ward has to fill the reader in with bursts of info dump. There’s some good angst in their story, but JM seems to have a regressed, and their sex scenes are so not sexy. To me they were pointless and porny (not in a good way).

Qhuaylock doesn’t feature much in this book, but Qhuinn does have his own arc. Since the last chapter (excluding the epilogue) ends on Quinn and Blay, it comes as no surprise to me that book 11 of the series will be their book. In the meantime, Lover Reborn is not the book to make Qhaylock fans happy. Me, I’m a Saxton fan, so I’m destined for heartbreak.

Layla’s story arc is the one that caused me the most anger while reading this book. To me, she’s one of the most victimised characters in the series and I desperately wanted her to end up with someone who deserves her. Instead, it looks like Ward will use her to redeem the unredeemable. It sucks like a starving vampire.

There’s also a twist around Layla which I totally saw coming. It might make other readers gnash their teeth, but hey, now it’s your turn. :D

Rhage is totally adorable in this book.

Tohr shrugged. ‘Assuming he’s kept the same ones on, they’re a total of five. Three cousins. That porn star Zypher—‘

Rhage harrumphed at that. Clearly, even though he was now very happily mated, he felt like the race had one, and only one, sex legend—and it was him.

Wardspeak

Look, you can’t escape Ward’s narrative style, and maybe I’m just more sensitive to it now, but the language irks. The brand-dropping seems to have been toned down, but Ward still tries much too hard to be urban and edgy…with unfortunate results. (See the Xhex quote above—I rolled my eyes. Seriously.)

This isn’t helped by godawful editing choices, and at this point, I can’t tell if the blame lies with the editor or with the author. Certainly, I’d hate to have been the proofreader for this book. Tense, punctuation, word choice, lack of nouns—they’ll offend anyone with any love for the English language. I wonder if foreign translations are just as painful?

Deliberately bad punctuation and stupid vocabulary aren’t subversive or cool. They’re just annoying and they make reading more difficult than it has to be.

To summarise: Give. Me. A. Break(s); Xcqh’BBQ… Gotchu.

Gesundheit.

Yay or nay?

Lover Reborn hearkens back to the earlier books in the BDB series. It’s not without its faults, but in true Ward fashion, when she pulls out the angst, it’s very, very good. My advice to readers is to do what they’ve been doing all along: love the bits that are angsty and awesome and ignore the bits that aren’t. It’s the only way to keep enjoying this series.

Who might enjoy it: Long-term BDB fans—especially those who skipped the last book

Who might not enjoy it: Readers who love Wellsie or Layla or Qhaylock

A review copy of this book was generously provided by Hachette Australia.

Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10) - Australian/UK editionLover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10)

Title: Lover Reborn
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood (Book 10)
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Piatkus/Hachette Australia

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7 comments

  1. adoore says:

    I was completely upset over this book. It basically destroyed this world I believed in. In order for Wellsie and her son to move on Tohr had to f….. some other woman really. I agree with your review it was awful it did a huge disrespected Wellsie and the love between her and Tohr. I feel any of the other brother can also do the same mourn for 2 years and then move on no big deal. I was completely disgusted with how no’one gets saved but two innocent lives are not worth being saved. 

  2. Kat says:

    I think Ward backed herself into a corner by saving Mary, Jane and…was there anyone else? And then going ahead with killing Wellsie off and giving Tohr his own book. I knew from way back that this was going to happen, based on spoilers at the time, so I was prepared. But using Wellsie in the plot for Tohr’s book must be very upsetting to Wellsie fans. It bothered me, and I wasn’t even invested in Wellsie at all. Plus, as you pointed out, No’One is saved at the end, which was another slap in the face for Wellsie fans.

    The two-year mourning period wasn’t as big a deal for me. I felt that once Tohr was over his grief he would be open to love again, but the way he got over his grief wasn’t a very healthy experience, and this hasn’t helped convince readers that Tohr was ready. 

  3. Bex says:

    Good review!! I agree with a lot of it.
    As a massive fan of the BDB world I was disappointed with this book. For me, it just lacks….romance. And as a romance book, thats a big thing to be missing, lol. The main hero was a prick for most of the book and the love between the two characters didn’t seem real enough for them to have a Happy Ending. It seems as if Ward was pushing the pop culture that is the ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’, rather than focusing on a deep and emotional love story. (that being said, I honestly think the side stories about the BOB and Assail were more appealing than Tohrs. Not good, when it’s supposed to be HIS book.)
    There were several chapters where I was bored so I just skipped pages, but it was okay because I didn’t miss anything. Ward seemed to use 3 pages to explain something that could have taken only 1. The writting just went on and on, without really explaining anything. 
    I don’t think it helps that I am a MASSIVE Qhuay fan, lol. The book was okay until that scene and then I just became angry and bitter. It really popped the ‘BDB world is amazing – can do no wrong’ bubble I had going.
    As a fan, we are supposed to trust the authors, but if the Warden plays the Qhuinn and Layla thing out to what some of the suggestions have been on the web, then it will be a huge let down from a major build up. These guys have a big following and I don’t want to see her screw it up.
    The first 3 (maybe push 4??l) books were really good. Indepth, emotional and just all round awesome romance books. I would like to see her get back to that style of writting rather than the slang and ‘freelance’ we have been getting in these past few books.    

  4. hey says:

    I thought the whole point of the “have sex to save Wellsie” thing was to show that a new relationship *couldn’t* help him move on. In the end, what he had to do was go back to their house with JM, pack it up, do the grieving ceremony – essentially reconnect with his family and let them help him. Which had to be at the end of the book. And c’mon – we couldn’t have waited that long for the sex scenes, right? (a little sarcasm there)
    Eh… the European brothers are boring to me, they’re just the original Brothers needing some good food and hair product. I’m sure those two things will be provided in future. I’d rather see more of the upper class get pulled in (Assail was interesting), or have Murhder come back. There’s enough going on already for Ward to work out and remember… do we really need the Bastards too?
    And for all the feminist stuff on the surface (Xhex and her fighting, Marissa and her shelter, etc.), the women are still just not… present. Why don’t we see them hanging out and talking? I know Mary does counseling now, why didn’t she help Xhex or No’One? Where does Beth think the governing stuff is going, ’cause you know she used to sit through gov’t meetings as a junior reporter. What are all those Chosen women doing, now that they’re free to do whatever? We never know, because they’re all just props for the guys. Not very feminist at all, that.
    Still – this series is my version of crack. Sigh.

  5. Kat says:

    Bex — I actually feel the Qhinn/Blay storyline will work itself out. I had a feeling this would happen because no matter how Ward tries to sound edgy in the BDB, it seems to me that her underlying notion of what an ideal family constitutes is fairly conservative—two parents and kids. I hate the Layla storyline more because Layla is being used (by the author) to add conflict in one case and then to redeem a pretty horrible character in the other. Qhuinn and Blay will be fine, I think. I’d be more annoyed if she suddenly gave Blay new issues just to make him angsty. I love that he has such a strong sense of who he is.

    hey — I think Ward could’ve made the sex-is-not-moving-on point without dragging Wellsie into it. I liked the Band of Bastards until it became excruciatingly clear that they would eventually be redeemed. That’s pretty boring. And yes to everything you said about the women being nothing more than props. 

  6. Anna Cowan says:

    I have finally read it! (in preparation)
    The Wellsie thing totally didn’t work. Although I think in a different way for me than you or other commenters have described. For me, Tohr’s romance with No’One was always, first and foremost, about his romance with Wellsie. There was only a single moment in the whole thing where No’One had supremacy, and that was the moment he saw her at the Fade ceremony and thought she knew him better than anyone – even Wellsie. But it totally didn’t ring true, because Ward was so careful to have Wellsie present in every single significant emotional moment. 
    Tohr’s whole motivation is about how much he loves Wellsie. Gah! I needed the resolution to be Tohr reaching a point with No’One where he realised he was about to lose her, so he was going to do something drastic and Lassiter was all, “You can’t do that, it’ll condemn Wellsie!” and Tohr was all, “Fuck Wellsie.” 
    Um, which would have enraged fans, but at least been ROMANTIC. Like, convincing that Tohr had fallen for No’One and loved her more than anything and anyone. (And had the added benefit of well and truly proving he was over Wellsie.)
    Also almost all the interesting conflict was in the last twenty pages. I thought the twist was really cool – but we didn’t really get to enjoy the emotions of it, because it happened and was resolved in a matter of pages. 
    I totally agree with Bex – Ward writes her characters with more remove now. She’s more writing archetypes than characters: “honourable male” and “female of worth” etc. so there’s no sense of an actual romance between two actual people. It reads more like a fairytale – you still get how those archetypes are interacting, but there’s nothing personal about it. (Except that moment where Tohr’s like, “Why am I telling you this?” and No’One explains exactly why, and he’s like – “Oh, you’re really smart.” :-)
    She created an incredible backstory for them, and I just don’t feel she took any advantage of it. The fact that he knew and lost No’One before he even met Wellsie is so good – and just one more thing that was lost in trying to keep his love for Wellsie as the most ultimate the whole time. Or completely untarnished. Or whatever it was he was doing. I just didn’t like him much by the end. 
    Um, rant over? :-)

  7. Kat says:

    @Anna — It’s the incredibleness that has me picking up the next book, but it’s the disappointment that makes me want to stop. It’s been like that for a while now. I also dislike the way every tortured character has to be redeemed. There needs to be some decent villains or there’s no point having these intricate external plots.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your take on the the next book. :D

What do you think?