The reason I fell in love with J.R.Ward – his name is Zadist and the book is Lover Awakened. It’s #3 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but it was the first book I read of the series…yeah I’m backwards I know. It was pure accident that I bought this book on Amazon. I somehow picked and bought this one instead of the sequel to a series I already had. When I got it, I thought there’d been a mistake, but was game for a new book/series. Two days later, I thanked Amazon with a virtual kiss as soon as I finished Lover Awakened and bought all the other books in the series.
Even within the vampire brotherhood, Zsadist is feared. Still bearing the scars from a tortured past, he is renowned for his unquenchable fury. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion-until he rescues a beautiful female from the evil Lessening Society.
Zadist…say it with me Zadist…aaahhh. Ok sorry, ahem. In the first two books of this series, Zadist is downright scary almost evil. You don’t know why he’s so crazy, but you begin to be afraid of him after the first time he’s on paper. In Lover Awakened, you find out he’s a former bloodslave, but what was done to him wasn’t as neat and clean as that title. He was abused, he was unloved and it left him calloused and hard…and so very scarred. He doesn’t like to be touched, or being around others, or really being noticed. He spends his time killing the lessers, enjoying the rush of the kill. It makes him feel alive and in control. But when Bella, a civilian vampire, gets taken by a lesser, a side of him no one had seen before emerges. For weeks he does nothing but hunt lessers with murder in his mind trying to find her. He feels responsible for her kidnapping and he won’t rest until she’s found.
Although their first encounter was a disaster, Bella hopes that it will be Zadist who finds her. Because she knows, of all the brothers, he’d be the one to succeed in defeating the lesser who took her. Her existence as a prisoner was better yet worse than she’d expected. The lesser was deranged and she used it to her advantage as often as she could. As the days passed she began to retreat in herself and lost all hope that anyone would find her. But a lucky break brings her hope, and the brotherhood comes to the rescue. Bella and Zadists relationship in this book is like running down a hill, you start walking slowly then gravity takes over and you’re trying to keep up with your legs as you propel down in a scary almost magical speed.
I can’t say that Zadist is my favorite character, yeah shoot me, but I will say he touches my heart more than the others have so far. There’s a sadness about him, a weakness that you can’t help but want to hold him and make it all better. You want to heal him, to bring him the happiness he’s never known. Harsh is not my thing, so even though I love him the most, he scares me. The look into his history is shocking and depressing, but it’s what makes his character stand out so much. It’s not some sweet sugary story – it’s harsh, it’s torturing. Of all the characters, his is the best background, even though it’s so terrible. There’s more realism to it somehow and watching him going from a crazy jerk to someone who feels for others, someone who feels for himself for the first time ever, is an incredible ride. Ms. Ward did an excellent job telling and showing us how he evolves and grows into a better warrior than anyone could have hoped for.
I instantly liked Bella the first time she was mentioned in Lover Eternal. Although she’s this perfectly beautiful woman, eesh, she stood out as someone who was very kind and gentle, and someone who’d have your back no matter what. But she’s also determined. She sees what she wants and she goes and gets it no matter what. Her character is perfect for Zadist’s companion. She’s tough when she needs to be, but she’s also compassionate and understanding. She reads Zadist better than any other character, and is able to help him while everyone else stays clear. You don’t get to learn much of her background though, which I wished you did. Lover Awakened, like Dark Lover, gives the man more attention, background wise anyway. You learn little tidbits of her history but things were just thrown out and never explained which I HATE.
Because of learning about Zadist, and watching him go from some scary being that’s just existing to someone who wants to live and needs to live, makes this my favorite book so far. You see him loved and you see how hard it is for him to handle it. You feel it, and you just want to cry for the poor guy. The emotional connection is better in this book, for me. The story itself worked, it fit together and flowed perfectly with the characters. Even with the sad ending, that I always wish authors wouldn’t do, it doesn’t make the story better for me, it just makes me think about how it could have gone if they hadn’t done it, it all worked. You have the side stories of the other characters, the lessers and how their world is changing and the buildup of how it’s going to change the brotherhood’s world as well, and you have the ass kicking action and sweet vampire activities. There’s nothing missing in this one, nothing that makes me question why I like this series.
One thing though that I’ve noticed as the books go on, is that each character gets less and less time. For instance, Dark Lover is about Wrath and Beth, you fall in love with these characters, but then Lover Eternal comes along and they become background noise. It’s the same way with Rhage. It’s like once that character has a book, they become checked off the list and gets put on the shelf. I don’t like that. You give me a character, you continue to let me see that character, because falling in love with them and then having them basically disappear makes the story less than what it could be. You can’t build up these characters, showing their part in this world and then take them out as if they have no purpose anymore. It’s just a less messy way of killing them off, and it makes the story/world seem weaker…to me anyway.
I can’t wait to read the next book! This book left me antsy and itching to have more.
Also reviewed by: Jackie’s review on Literary Escapism,