Thursday, 11 October 2007

Lover Unbound by J.R.Ward

SPOILERS BELOW SPOILERS BELOW SPOILERS BELOW

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.

8 comments:

Nicole said...

Interesting that we both published our LU reviews today... (I put mine up as a post on my Blogger site, just to have something there today. It's on my WordPress site too, but on a book-review page rather than on the front.)

I hadn't noticed the lack of 'paranormal romance' on the spine. I hope it comes back, because I agree with you - this is NOT urban fantasy as I know it. (Side note: The Darkyn series just might be, though.) In UF, Jane would have remained human and had to live with a finite lifespan, even if V's blood could make it longer than a normal human. Or, she would have remained dead. I would have preferred either way.

I think that the first two books were the best, with LA taking a slight dip (personal thing there - I just don't like Z that much) and LR being about the same place, although my initial reaction to it was love. I've since looked back and had a harder time liking as much as when I came off the up-til-3-am buzz.

Anyway, I could talk about the Jane-V thing for ages, so I'll just make one last comment: I liked Jane as an individual. I liked her rationalizations. But as a couple, I was very 'meh' about it. Take it or leave it. Not like some of the other couples, like Z and Bella, where you can so see why they are into each other.

Nicole said...

One last thing: I hadn't thought about the JM/Darius/warrior camp thing as regards the rape part. I wonder how that's going to play out? Personally, I found that aspect of the camp very unbelievable.

LesleyW said...

Nicole - I think the Darkyn series is much closer to UF.

I've commented on your review on the Wordpress site - impressed you did it without spoilers. I tried...but gave up.

I did like the book, more so than Lover Revealed which remains my least favourite of the series as a whole book. I liked the Butch/Marissa relationship more - maybe because we'd had so long to get to know them. But in Lover Unbound I loved everything else and could take or leave V and Jane up to the last few pages. So it kind of works out with Lover Unbound coming out ahead.

If I'm honest I loved it mainly because John Matthew gets so much page time and he's (along with Darius) my favourite character.

Naomi said...

OMG, does the name Xhex mean what I think it means?

I have to confess, I read Dark Lover and wasn't blown away, but I think I've read reviews for all her books, because they just elicit such strong, fascinating opinions. I haven't seen a series get this much attention since Anita Blake jumped the shark.

scooper said...

I definitely think that you nailed this book. I hated the Casper aspect. If I had went into this book blind, I prob. would have thrown the book (and a fit) before picking the book up and finishing it because it was a WTF moment.

I too, hadn't thought about the Darius/rape possibility.

clare said...

I've not visited Jr's forum for ages (it's way to one-sided)so interested to read your review.

For me:
~ I bought the first to books together, so DL doesn't really standout by itself, just an intro it was given I'd be reading the sequel.

~ I really liked LE; Mary actually had some depth and Rhage came across as a lot more than his image. Was surprised though because at that point the build-up for Butch and Marissa went further than the Rhage-Mary intro.

~ LA, Good, I liked Bella nice to have a heroine that knows her mind and the hero as the traumatised one. Build up got outta hand but some great moments. Like them both.

~ LR, meh. Found this book irritating! all the clothes and price tags the hinting about Butch and V the convenient he was a vamp all along idea. I skipped to the JM bits. Where after LE I'd have welcomed B&M's story by now I was championing B&V and feel JR coped out somewhat. Led everyone along with either no intention or not the courage to go there.

~ LU I found all the implications of this book off-putting there's that false-coyness over writing about bondage out of place on such a strictly controlled forum. Personally I don't want to read BDSM books so I didn't know what to expect. As it is the V&J dynamic wasn't that strong overall, had a major WTF reaction to the Caspering it just feels wrong. Part of me was still crying out why not B!

Phury ~ I'll read his book because we've come to know the characters and he's one of the original crew. Really hope his book is void of the heavy music references and posturing as it's not how I see him.

Also be nice to have a good female character written. Casper was so pleased at the thought of going off to work at the shelter! just seems a space-fill to me. Ignore the 'I belong to you know' stick, they all have to completely sacrifice their lives for their mates! Butch turned vamp and stronger. Beth vanished and went from journalist to husbands assistant. Mary froze and lost her purpose. Bella lost autonomy. Jane Caspered. Marissa I don't know that I'd call that liberation?

Anyhow I talk to much LOL I should do my own gripe/blog. The point being I don't know if I'll bother after Phury's book, for me that'll be the end on the set.

Sweet said...

Great review Lesley, there are lots of points that I totally agree with you on.


The whole feeling that Jane could have been replaced with Butch at any point in time just really made the romance aspect of this book fall flat to me. I really don't like when my heroines are totally replaceable or interchangeable with other characters. The sad thing is, I'd have loved for Jane and Marissa to get bumped off early in the book. Then have the rest of LU be about V and Butch coming together. How awesome would it have been to see them with each others names carved in their backs. :P


The whole ghost ending didn't really bother me , it was that it was SOOOO underdeveloped. I'd have preferred Jane to stay human and for them to have to overcome that hurdle in time or not at all but deal with it and move on. The ghost thing just seemed tacked on and disjointed. I think that is a big part of why lots of people hate the ending.


I'm also with you in thinking that Phury's book is going to be a make or break book. If Phury's book doesnt bring back the magic so to speak , lots of readers I feel will not pay the hardcover price for Rehvenge. Then there is the fact that aside from Tohr, Phury's the last of the original brothers. I for one will continue with the series full steam ahead, but LU has cured me of waiting on pins and needles for the next installment. As of right now I'm really not feeling Phury or his heroine. I'm looking forward to seeing more Rehvenge and the continuing story of JM and Xhex with I absolutely LOVE by the way. There is also the little tibbit floating out there that says Blay is gay. That just creates all kinds of drama so, I'm super interested to see where that goes.


A quick side note, Lesley I see that you didn't give LU an actual grade was that intentional or no ?

LesleyW said...

Naomi - As far as I'm aware Xhex is pronounced Hhhex, this is from JRW's message board. But I know what you mean. :)

Scooper - I'm also glad I knew about the Casper situation before I bought the book.

Clare - I still want to read John Matthew and Tohr's book. I'm also finding the idea of Payne intriguing. So I guess I'm still a little bit hooked. :)

Sweet - Not giving it a grade. I guess it was intentional. I kind of have this thing about not giving a grade when I'm an obsessive fan of a series, 'cause I'm hardly objective. But I'd probably give Lover Unbound a B/B-. Overall I enjoyed it more than Lover Revealed, but less than Dark Lover (B+), Lover Eternal (A) and Lover Awakened (A). As of this moment that's how I'd grade the series.