On paper, there is so much about Rhev that should make him a terrible hero for a book. His bio reads more like one of a super-villain, than a man you would ever want to fall in love with. Let me see… he’s a half-sympath, drug lord and pimp, and a manipulative liar who murdered his own father. But in Ward’s world nothing is ever that clear-cut or simple. Despite all of his flaws, Rhev is a man you can very easily fall for, you feel his terrible anguish at where his life has led him and will him to escape the black corner he has found himself shut into.
When I first began to read his book, I wondered what kind of woman would Ward have created for him. I thought a tough, life-hardened person, perhaps slightly like Rhev, maybe even an ex-prostitute. Of course, I should have learnt by now to never try and predict where Ward’s storytelling will take me! I wasn’t wrong on the tough, even slightly life-hardened part. But where Rhev is as dark as the cane he walks with, Ehlena is innocent as her crisp, white, nurse’s uniform.
The story is bitter, romantic, violent and very sad at times, much as I’d come to expect from this fantastic series. I often wondered how Rhev was ever going to get his happy ending. The contrast between Rhev and Elena’s lives stark. From the honest, to the illegal, from extreme wealth, to poverty. But these stark difference only served to make the story more engaging and poignant.
Rhev was more than an excellent hero, he was a brilliant one. I don’t think he had one selfish action, his self-sacrifice for love both for his friends and Ehlena was unexpected and sad. I never quite understood why he didn’t kill his half-sister, but perhaps it was more down to the complexity of his life and relationships.
King Wrath has a strong thread in this story. As the war with the Lessers grows in intensity and the size of the task seems insurmountable and you feel Wrath’s fierce frustration with the war that he is in charge of. His actions lead to alienation from his shellan and the brothers, but I desperately felt for him and as always Lady Karma is a b*tch. I never saw the twist coming, but it adds an interesting new dimension to his character. And what can I say, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for George ;-). Payne is a new arrival on the character front, I’m not quite sure what to make of her yet, time will tell I guess. But I like that she gave Wrath some sense of help and dignity.
By now you know he’s my favourite character and developments around John-Matthew in Lover Avenged are really heart-breaking. I was so sad to see his slight hint of vulnerability and innocence shattered. Gone is the boy, and an embittered man emerges. And the surprise ending with Xhex? What a cliffhanger!
Xhex is an interesting character, when she was first introduced I wasn’t sure I liked her. Too aloof, too cold, too masculine, just too. But as we begin to see more back story for her, I began to understand the love she has for Rhev and The Shadows, she’s suddenly become much more three dimensional and really complicated and character. The love story between her and John-Matthew at the moment is brutal to watch, I almost can’t bear it! I might have to read Lover Mine between my fingers!
I think I need to take a moment to talk about Lash, as I haven’t yet mentioned him in any of my reviews to date. The twist about who or perhaps the better word would be what he is completely took me by surprise in Lover Enshrined. His bullying of John-Matthew before that always left me incensed but when I hoped he would get what was coming to him, I didn’t quite envisage him becoming the leader of the Lessers. It has made the threat from the Lessers suddenly become much more gritty and real. I can only see things getting more bloody and violent.
There is very little I can fault about this series. Rhev is most definitely a better hero than Phury was, I loved the darkness in him and the slow blossoming story with Ehlena. The back story was, as always, as good as the main romance, and the war between vampire and Lessers has seriously began to escalate in intensity. I also enjoyed delving deeper into the slippery world of sympaths and wonder if they may add their own contribution to the world very soon.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward
(Black Dagger Brotherhood #7)
Piatkus Books (2009)
Paperback, 719 pages