My RATING: 3.5/5
I'm just gonna come out and say it: I am a huge hypocrite and I kind of despise myself. After spewing out any number of invectives against the sexism and self-plagiarism of Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood #2) when I reviewed that book yesterday (see here) - what did I do as soon as I got home last night? I got the third one in the series! Argh, why do I own a kindle? Such a bad choice for impulse-driven people like myself.
But...ahh! Despite everything I just had to find out about Zsadist! Damn you, J.D. Ward, you draw people in against their will, just like your brotherhood!
This book was so much better than the first two. The plot was more exciting, and Zsadist was the first character in the series that really seemed like an actual, multi-layered person. I began the book expecting another carbon copy of the first two. But Ward surprised me many, many times. I was surprised by the development of Zsadist. Zsadist spent 100 years as a blood slave...where unspeakable things were done to him. He was freed long ago, but still understandably has a bit of baggage (understatement) and a couple issues when it comes to intimacy of any kind (huge understatement). Still, given the previous two installments, whose male characters also had some dark pasts, I figured Zsadist would rebound from his centuries-old angst within the first quarter of the book once his beloved took him in her arms. Actually, it took him until the very last chapter to come around. This pacing, while frustrating and at times heartbreaking, was completely believable and made Lover Awakened a much better book than the previous two.
The plot also surprised me. After that sugar sweet, squeaky clean ending of book 2, it didn't occur to me that Ward would ever kill off a good guy. But she kills off two of them in Lover Awakened, and it's completely unexpected and devastating.
The sexism that I ranted about in my review of book 2 is still definitely alive and well and infuriating, which is why I cannot give this more than 3.5 stars even though I read the whole thing hungrily in one sitting, staying up til all hours of the night to finish it. Women, for the most part, are basically regulated to the house, their primary function to clear the table after dinner and to produce offspring for the men. Still, in this book, some of the females did get involved in a few fight scenes. Bella actually saves the day at one point: hoorah.
Sexism aside, Ward's vampires are precisely the kind I love. They are paradoxically both more and less than humans. They have a much greater thirst (no pun intended) for life; they feel everything, both physically and emotionally, on a much more intense scale than a human does. But they're also far more driven by the animal side; primal instincts can easily get in the way of higher reasoning. I find the whole thing fascinating.
I often wonder what it is about vampires that I find so intriguing, and I think Ward is one of those authors--like Anne Rice-- that really hits the nail on the head in the way she writes about vampires. it goes back to Thoreau's desire, voiced in Walden, "to suck the marrow out of life." Life can be so dull as a human--both in its monotony and, relatedly, the fact that our senses and desires can be dulled so easily if we don't make a real effort to keep them alive. Do you ever find that you want to want more things, to feel more deeply, to be passionate about something, but you're just too tired, you'll try harder tomorrow? If you were a vampire, you'd automatically perceive the world a billion more times sharply than a human. You'd be more alive (even though you're unfortunately undead...heh heh heh); both your pain and happiness a hundred times more intense; your existence richer and more meaningful.
Right now the main desire of my heart is a heaping bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Do you see what I mean?