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Lover Unbound is the fifth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R.Ward. It follows Vishous who ends up in a human hospital following a Lesser attack. Instantly attracted to his surgeon, when the other members of the Brotherhood turn up to rescue him, he kidnaps her even though he knows he's commited to a future without her.
I was in two minds whether or not to review this book. So much has been said more eloquently elsewhere (and sometimes in a much funnier manner), and I'm afraid what follows may turn into an essay.
However, I will give it a bash. These are my thoughts following a couple of weeks musing over the story.
WHAT I LIKED
I loved the introduction to Jane in the prologue, especially the part where she uses the Ouija board. I thought it was a very strong beginning.
The training stuff and everything to do with the pre-trans. The new troika of Blay, Qhuinn and John Matthew. Just fantastic.
JM's transition and the aftermath and following from that - the relationship that is developing between JM and Zsadist. The fact that Zsadist knows about what happened to JM and was able to deal with it in a way that was comfortable for JM.
The fact that we're finding out more about Darius, and the overall history of the Brotherhood.
The relationship between V and the Scribe Virgin. Finally there is someone who has taken her down off that pedestal.
JM and Xhex, so looking forward to seeing where that goes.
I liked the Primale thing, and Phury's fall from grace.
Cormia and the rest of the Chosen. I'm looking forward to seeing them all come out of their shells. And my fingers are crossed that Phury can't just give up the Primale thing. There should be some consequences for accepting the responsibility.
HO HUM (MIDDLE GROUND)
I hate to say this, but when I think back about the story. V and Jane's relationship doesn't pop out at me at all. It's all the other stuff I remember. I also think that if you removed Jane from the story and substituted Butch that the whole thing would still work. This disappointed me, because as a character she had such a strong beginning and somewhere along the way she disappeared. I liked her interactions whilst I was reading them, but they just haven't stuck in my head.(LOL - though I would have been happy to read about V and Butch)
For the most part, the character of V felt off to me. Even the interactions with Butch didn't seem to hit the same note as in previous books.
WHAT I DISLIKED
The ending. For a couple of reasons. I don't like the Casper situation. This is a personal thing, I feel it goes against the natural order. And I also feel like we're retreading a story that's already been told in a much more satisfying way - Lover Eternal. Jane is essentially taken out of the continuum of her fate. We've already been here. And whilst we're on the subject, I didn't find Rhage standing in her amusing.
V's rape confession. Mainly because it seemed gratuitous. And working it out, it means the majority of the men at the camp must have been rape victims. Darius was at the same camp, did he rape anyone? Or did he leave before he was required to do that? This is important because it impacts John Matthew's story. How is he going to feel if his former incarnation was a rapist, when he's a rape victim.
Some of Bella's comments to Phury, especially those said in front of Cormia. Is insensitivity a side effect of vampire pregnancy?
I missed the Lesser POV. This was one of the things that made the books unique, the fact that we understood what motivated the bad guys. The fact that sometimes we knew more about the Lessers than the vampires did. I do think LU would have benefitted from a certain Lesser's point of view.
So I really enjoyed the book (even given the above problems) right up until page 484. Yes, that's after Jane left the stage. At that point the book lost me, I felt like we'd hit a point where there HAD to be a happy ending and V and Jane HAD to be together forever. It's a personal thing for me - I don't like ghosts. I don't believe the living and the dead belong together.
I would have been more interested in seeing V and Jane having to deal with the consequences of her humanity. Or V having to deal with a life that no longer included Jane, after she had opened him up emotionally.
It's interesting that Lover Unbound is the first BDB novel not to have paranormal romance on the spine. But I didn't really feel like we'd crossed over into another genre. I felt like LU didn't know what it was. There wasn't enough of a romantic plot for it to be PNR, and I don't think it went hard enough to be classed as urban fantasy. As someone who reads a lot of UF, I think Jane would have remained human, or dead if there was a big push in that direction, because those are more difficult scenarios to deal with.
I also think if LU signals a shift into urban fantasy proper, then the worldbuilding needs to be tighter. I think romance fans will forgive a lot if the central relationship between the hero and heroine is strong and believable. When that's no longer the focus of the book, the rules that govern the way the world works need to be consistent and strong.
So, what is the BDB? I once read a post from someone who classified it as a Family Saga (wish I could remember where). I think this is the closest description to what the BDB books are. Where they work best is focusing on the relationships between the central family unit, which is the Brotherhood. For me Lover Eternal and Lover Awakened remained the strongest of the series.
Have I given up on the series - NO! There's stil a lot I'm looking forward to - JM's continuing story, the introduction of Payne and seeing more of Xhex. JRW excels at writing a believable male point of view. So I'm hoping these more masculine females will have a bigger presence in the stories. And Lover Unbound is not my least favourite.
I think a lot of people are waiting for Phury's book - not because they're addicted to the BDB, but because it's going to be the make or break book as people make the decision whether or not to follow the series to hardcover. Personally I'm glad that for whatever reason it's been pushed back. I would be happy to wait 12 months in between books if it meant they made me feel like LE and LA. I would be happy if they were 800 pages long (a la Diana Gabaldon) if it meant that the whole story J.R.Ward wanted to tell was in there.