Monday, April 22, 2013

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

The Hammer and the Blade (Egil and Nix #1)The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Hammer and the Blade is fun sword and sorcery adventure. Kemp has done something interesting here. This book is quite low brow in its use of vulgar descriptions: constantly describing puking and spitting and other bodily functions. Yet in contrast, I had to look up a lot of words when I read this, for apparently Kemp has quite a vocabulary. Maybe he was trying to prove that just because someone has a potty mouth doesn't mean they lack intelligence.

As far as a buddy story, this one succeeds on that level. Egil and Nix are tight. We don't get to find out how they met, and they are quite different. But that doesn't stop them from being very good friends who watch each others' backs and fight at each others' sides. Egil is a hulking man, who uses two hammers and a crowbar as his weapons. He wears a tattoo of an eye on his head, a symbol of the Momentary God. He is reflective and tends towards somberness. Nix is smaller, the body and persona of a thief. He reminds me of the trickster archetype. He is quick and sly, and fond of sharp, slender blades. He grew up in the slums, and part of him doesn't want to leave that behind. It's a huge part of his identity. He doubts that he possesses any sense of morality, but the quest he undertakes in this book will prove whether that's true.

While sword and sorcery can tend towards sexism, Kemp seems to want to subvert this. While most of the main characters are not women, there are more than a few secondary female characters that show a lot of depth and the complexity of the female gender. Nix and Egil are forced to reexamine their views of women and how women should be treated continually throughout this story. I really enjoyed this aspect of this novel. Yes, I am a woman, so it makes sense that this would be a crucial aspect for me. But I like to think that men can also be dismayed at how women can be sidelined, maligned, and abused in most cultures, simply because they are women. I am glad to see that Kemp seems to struggle with this as well.

The action/adventure part of the equation is well done. Plenty of fighting and escapades. Tomb robbing and escaping mystical booby traps. Lots of demon and creature fighting, and some fights between characters of the human persuasion. Some of the scenes got a little gory, but I guess that's to be expected in a sword and sorcery romp. While I didn't like some of the vulgar descriptions, I didn't think Kemp went over the top with the violence.

As far as the sorcery, that was definitely a strong aspect of this novel. One of the characters is a sorcerer whose family has a dark pact with demons for their power. And I do mean dark. This storyline becomes a very prominent thread that place Egil and Nix at some crucial moments of defining who their identities are as people and where they draw their line in the sand. As I read it, I marveled at the extremes people go to obtain and keep power, and usually they end up making someone pick up the tab for their actions and ill-gotten gains. Definitely the case in this book. Glad we had some unlikely heroes around to try to make things right.

I didn't rate this book higher because it was just too vulgar for my tastes. I felt like this was a hindrance for me to dive deeper since I just can't stand vulgarity. It's a personal taste thing here. There were other things to like about this novel, such as the fantasy world-building and the humor and camaraderie between Egil and Nix and a few other characters. It was a fairly entertaining novel despite the fact that the vulgarity was off-putting. I will probably continue this series.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein

Daughter of the Sword (Fated Blades, #1)Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't use the term brilliant much when I'm writing reviews. But this is the term that just keeps coming to mind about this book. I knew I'd appreciate it, because I have an appreciation for Asian culture and people, and swordsmanship; and honestly, something about a book with a woman holding a sword on the cover just pulls me in.

This book speaks to me of a writer who loves Japan, both modern and ancient. Someone who has taken the time to investigate and learn the culture, even to the deepest levels. You can't gain that kind of authenticity any other way.

Bein has taken an idea about three swords crafted by a legendary swordsmith and created a beautifully rich novel around them. While this is labeled as fantasy, the fantasy element is that the swords have animus and their very natures affect the destiny of those around them. Bein cleverly unfolds his story with a combination of past and present narrative. I was a bit worried I would find the historical parts dry, but I didn't. It was fascinating. I realized how little I know about samurai and how bushido affects everything about their lives. The insight into this period was crucial in this novel, because the swords are over nine hundred years old. Since I haven't even lived in cities that old, I can't even conceive of owning something that old! But for a Japanese person, not such a stretch. Now add in the fact that these swords have shaped history in major ways!

It takes some skill to make an inanimate object sinister. But that's exactly what Beautiful Singer is. It's a sword that takes over the owner's mind and leads him hand and headfirst down the path of doom. This is why I don't go in for antiques! The other two swords have their own distinctive natures as well. What was interesting is that the swords can’t make you into something you’re not. They seem to work on the inherent nature of the person. This destiny attached to these swords brings Mariko Oshiro to the front door of elderly Professor Yasuo Yamada, who is the owner of a sword that a violent Yakuza criminal tried to steal. This twisted path could only be destiny, as all the forces send her in the direction of a deep bond with the nearly blind expert swordsman, who takes her on as a student. Because she is the only one who can stop Fuchida, a man who has been seduced by the voice of his own sword, Beautiful Singer.

This book is just so good. It’s amazing how the story just drew me deeper and deeper. I wanted to find out about how these three swords could draw people into relationship with each other from historical to modern times, and not always in a good way. But ultimately, the right people end up in the right places, until we end up in the present with Mariko and Yamada’s story.

If you’re looking for an over-the-top fantasy story with all kinds of out there scenes, this isn’t the book. If you want a book with an excellent narrative building on a concept that seems magical, if you don’t believe in swords that are blessed and cursed, then you’d enjoy this book.

The cultural aspects had major appeal. As I mentioned earlier, the look at bushido and historical samurai was a good learning experience. But equally important was the view into modern Japan. I especially appreciated that the main character was a Japanese woman, who dealt with a society which is profoundly sexist, and she was driven enough to fight for what she wanted and needed in life, even as she ran into stumbling blocks of prejudice within her own agency, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. I admired her drive and determination. I also liked seeing the walls come down between her and Yamada, as she realized that this old man was what she was missing from her life, the companionship and the belief in her that he offered. Yamada, I adored him! No words! I can easily see why Mariko came to love him so much. Relationships can be pigeon-holed because it is the natural way of humans to classify what is hard to define. But they are so complex. They provide what we need in this life in a way that goes way beyond labels. That’s how Yamada and Muriko’s relationship impacted me. And also Keiji and Hayano’s back in the 40s. Heck, all the stories added so much texture to this book.

My feelings for this book are so intricate, that I’m having trouble putting them into words. So I’ll just end by saying I just loved this book so much. It may not hit you the same way, but I hope that others find something to offer them in Daughter of the Sword.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why Easter by Nicky Gumbel (Alpha Ministry)

Why Easter? BookletWhy Easter? Booklet by Nicky Gumbel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read this one at church on Easter while I was waiting for the third service. It succeeds in offering the crucial facts about who Jesus is and why following and believing in him is a life-changing, wonderful and valid thing for those who choose it.  As I have said before about Nicky Gumbel, I love his straightforward, yet thoughtful way of presenting the Gospel and tackling the tough questions that come from people who live in the modern world as to why a man who lived and died and rose again 2000 years ago would affect their lives. People want the truth, and you don't and shouldn't fudge the truth about Jesus. He is the truth.

Short and sweet and very helpful to read.  Great for someone who is investigating the faith, a new believer, or a veteran believer to remind herself what she believes.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

Magician: Apprentice (The Riftwar Saga, #1)Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Magician: Apprentice is an appealing introduction into an epic fantasy series that a newbie can enjoy.  It offers a young hero who is just at the beginning of his journey to find his purpose in life.  Feist offers a fantasy world on the brink of war from a threat that has the capacity to bring great change to Midkemia as they know it.

While the world has a typical medieval-type feel, the variety of races presented give the world an incredible texture. I loved the descriptions of the elves and their way of life, how they are similar and different from the Dark Brotherhood, Elves who have fallen into a darker way of life.  I have to say that the dwarves really caught my attention.  Their beliefs, values and their skill at fighting and navigating the mines of the Stone Mountains.  Of course, loved the dragon!

I wasn't sure about the Tsurani storyline initially, but it takes this story in a different direction from what I initially expected. It sets up an incredible culture clash takes this novel to a wider focus as the Midkemians have to work together to stave off the invasion of forces from another world.

Initially, it seems that Pug, our young magician apprentice, is the center of this story.  But it becomes clear that various characters gain the focus of Feist.  Starting out like a coming of age story, and I suppose it continues to be one in some way, this story becomes one about people dealing with their world being invaded by a formidable group of people whose values are completely alien to their own, and who seem invincible.

One detractor I'd have for this story is that it's not a standalone.  The story doesn't end on an obvious cliffhanger, but you definitely have to keep reading to find out what happens to all the pivotal characters.  With a massively overflowing to read list, I am not eager for too many series to add, but the strength of the story and the good writing here, guarantees I will be back for more.

Fantasy Beginner Rating (explanation: Scale is based on whether this is a good book for beginner fantasy readers or it is better for one who has read a lot of fantasy.  High-Good starter book.  Medium-Okay for a beginner.  Low-May be confusing for a novice fantasy-reader.):  High.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead (Three Parts Dead #1)Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three Parts Dead is a fantasy novel that teases at the senses and perceptions of the reader. Gladstone takes some fantasy concepts and weaves them into a creation that has its own flavor and feel. It's not urban fantasy in the common sense. It's not epic fantasy, either. It's a novel that forges its own path. 

Gladstone takes the sticky territory of faith and belief in a deity and asks the reader to trust him and to follow where he's going. For those readers who are believers in God and who consider themselves religious, it will take some trust not to assume that Gladstone is attacking the system of belief and devaluing it. In fact, he gives the reader something to ponder and does not do this at all. While I don't believe that my God needs my faith to keep him alive, I did like how Gladstone examines the intrinsic relationship aspect of faith.  Faith requires trust in your God.  Faith requires a commitment to keep believing despite what circumstances may show.  In the case of this book, the character of Abelard acts as a stand-in for a person who lives a life of faith.  The struggle that is inherent in living in a world in which belief in God is steadily becoming an oddity and many have rejected such an idea and consider it irrelevant.  With Abelard, he faces that crisis of faith and that anguish of being confronted with the idea that his god doesn't live anymore, and the hole within that comes from that lack of communion with him.  At the crux of faith is that understanding that what one believes does benefit that person, even when others lack an understanding of how this happens.

Tara represents the skeptic.  The person who has trained herself not to subscribe to a faith-based way of life. Tara feels that she has it together, and has all the power within to make prescribing to faith in God unnecessary to her life. She feels with her education and her life, she is above having faith in a deity, and almost has a smug way of looking at Abelard because she sees things on a higher intellectual level and outside of his faith-based worldview.  While Tara treats Abelard kindly, underneath there is a smug attitude that she'll show him that he doesn't need God. That the concept of a deity is just something that can be used to achieve some sort of end-goal. Look how well she's done.  I'm not picking on Tara here. I'm just commenting on how her character acts initially in this book. 

Both Abelard and Tara are younger people, who have a ways to go in their life experiences, although what they have experienced is not to be dismissed. Both have a lot to bring to the table, and I feel they learn a lot from each other, and working together, they can achieve an important purpose in this novel. 

And then there is Cat. Cat's character is not as well developed as Abelard and Tara.  I felt that she is in transition and hasn't learned who she is as a person, what her identity is. But in that, she is a stand-in for that person who is searching for something to ground them in their lives. Who they are and what they stand for in this life.  How does faith or lack thereof tie into this?

The world-building is its own character.  Gladstone doesn't give much of a frame of reference, because Alt Coulomb, the home of Kos The Everburning feels modern and ancient.  The city's very machinery is powered by the god they pay homage to.  You have touches of modernity,  and even with Tara's agrarian origins, it feels as though the story is set in the present, but in a different world.  The idea of Justice and the Blacksuits was another concept that was both alluring and unsettling.  I have to say that with the teasing touches that I get in this book, I end up with more questions and wanting more of this world-building.  This world that Gladstone created could easily sustain several books. 

I absolutely loved the idea of the gargoyles.  How they had made their mark both literally and figuratively on the city.  The buildings were scarred by their talons.  The descriptions of their unworldly and intimidating beauty spoke to me as a visual artist. 

The concept of craft and magic was also alluring in this story.  The manner in which Tara used her powers.  The concept of altering reality through the use of craft.  The idea of the God Wars, a background piece of history which proves integral to the plot, but is not described in great detail. This is another area that could easily be picked up if the author chooses to write more stories in this world.

It's so hard to condense my thoughts into a review because this book had my mind running.  Some aspects lost me a bit and I would find my mind wondering. But then another scene or concept would grab my attention and refuse to let go of it.  I guess that's why I couldn't give this five stars.  Part of me wasn't fully satisfied with the story.  I felt like there were two many goals with this story and the author wasn't sure what kind of novel he wanted to write. Part mythical fiction, part occult detective novel, with some probing insights into human psychology and the power of belief.   What I was glad about was that he didn't take this opportunity to attack organized religion. That just gets old.  I think that there is so much more to probe into when it comes to matters of faith than just beating the drum about how the church manipulates and takes advantage of believers.  I think we know that this is possible and happens more than any believer would like.  Let's put that aside and explore other aspects of belief and how this can clash with other worldviews, or how belief is not as foreign and unfruitful as we might assume.  While Gladstone only scratches the surface here (since this book isn't 1000 pages), he delivers something thought-provoking that I could appreciate.

Three Parts Dead has something to offer the genre of Fantasy. I would recommend it.

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

Gideon's Sword (Gideon's Crew #1)Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

This is the first book by these authors that I’ve experienced.  This one was on audio at my library, so I took the opportunity to read it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this book was very good.  At the most, it was somewhat entertaining, but the writing was just odd and didn't succeed with me.  Gideon is a strange character.  He never quite comes off as completely competent. Instead, he seems to bumble his way through situations. He is a fast talker and has a way of getting people to tell him what he wants to know, but I didn’t really count that as a significant skill. He's intelligent, but still slow on the uptake at times. I know that as a reader, we often have oversight in a situation that the character lacks, but I like to think that the main character can use the brains the Good Lord gave him. And I hate when the villain continually out-thinks him.

This book has this 'off' feeling that never goes away.  I had hoped things would come together, but it stayed weird, and not in a good way, over the course of the book. I would use the term 'half-baked' to describe this book. Ingredients in this novel could have come to a good finished product, but they just don't.

While I don't like paper tiger villains, I felt that the villain was way out of Gideon's league.  I didn't get this David and Goliath feeling where you have an unlikely hero who has the odds stacked against him and triumphed. Instead, I felt as though Gideon didn't have a chance against Nodding Crane.  I was actually wincing at how inept Gideon was at times.  I really hate being so harsh in my criticisms, but it's how I felt.  I always hope for the best when I read a book, and this book never got to be better.  It's just barely at 2.5 star read.

The saving grace was that I did listen to it on audio. The narrator, well-known actor John Glover, brought this story to life with his clever vocalizations and personifications of the dialogue. This is one of those cases when a good narrator can stave a sinking ship from going down, or mostly.  While this book is not a good one, it was at times entertaining because of the narration.

I might seem foolish, but I want to try the next book, since it is also at my library on audio. My hope is that Gideon does get his act together and has learned something from his experience in this book. I'd like to see that Gideon has something to offer as a hero in future books. Maybe the authors have a better grasp on his character for his next outing.  I'm holding onto my hopes!

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Sunday, April 07, 2013

A Willing Surrender by Robyn Donald

A Willing Surrender (Harlequin Presents, #976)A Willing Surrender by Robyn Donald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My feelings about this book are conflicted. I did like the intensity with this story.  I felt that the connection between Clary and Morgan was fated in an impossible to rationalize away.  However, I just couldn't reconcile the relationship with Susan away.  I know that Morgan didn't know that Susan was married when they got together, but he continued to sleep with her after he knew and was willing to take a separation as enough to continue his adulterous relationship with another man's wife. I know my issues stem from my incredible distaste for adultery.  I tried to tell myself what Clary told herself, what Morgan did prior to her was his business, but it was too sordid for me to just chalk away. So I could understand how hard it was for Clary, on multiple levels.  In addition to unresolved issues from her father's destruction of his own marriage, I think that she was in a very difficult situation with her love for Morgan in direct conflict with her loyalty and love for her brother, the wronged husband.  I like that Donald didn't minimize this issue, but it was something they both had to deal with face on.  Morgan's way of dealing with it was interesting, and in a forceful way, probably the most direct solution to the problem.

I love a possessive, jealous, obsessed hero, but something about Morgan didn't sit right with me. Maybe I didn't detect enough vulnerability from him early enough on.  He seemed a lot more controlling than I like in a hero. While I love a stalkerific hero, I don't like controlling heroes, and Morgan is definitely that.  On the good side, his devotion for Clary was undeniable.  He showed that what he felt for her was different from what he'd felt for women in the past.  This is one of those books where I can say definitively that I wouldn't be happy with a man like this in real life.  I'm not sure how many women could be happy with a man like Morgan, with his controlling, somewhat inflexible (the world bends to him and he doesn't bend to the world), and yes, manipulative personality.  As an only child, he has a hard sort of self-absorption that expects others to fall in with his own wants and needs. That is not to say he is incapable of generosity or acts of kindness.  They are just on his terms.  Not sure that would be the ideal marriage partner, honestly.

I decided to give this book four stars because it has a lot of intensity and depth to it, which does appeal to me as a reader. Additionally, I felt a mixture of very vivid emotions as I read it.  When I read books, I want to experience the books on a visceral level, and I did feel that with A Willing Surrender.  Yes, this is one for readers who can't resist a stalkerific hero, but there were aspects about Morgan's character that compromised my ability to like him as a hero, especially his unethical response to the issue of sustaining an adulterous relationship with another man's wife. He even admitted his jealousy and possessive feelings towards Clary. Put on the other man's shoes!  It was like he didn't consider what that might do to another man whose wife he was sleeping with. And it wasn't like he was in love with Susan and truly couldn't let her go. That's undesirable to me.

I know I have massively over-thought this book.  What can I say?  I can't leave my brain behind when I read books.

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Friday, April 05, 2013

Scoundrel by Zoe Archer

Scoundrel (The Blades of the Rose, #2)Scoundrel by Zoe Archer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With Scoundrel, Ms. Archer takes us adventure-loving romantics on a splendid journey around the Aegean Sea on the hunt for mystical treasure. Readers who enjoy Indiana Jones will get a kick out of this book, with its very real magic and a dash of steampunk-like adventure.

London is an admirable heroine. Despite the way she was raised, she wants to live her life, and have something grand to contribute. It took a lot of courage for her to break free from her family's expectations and restrictions, to realize that she was essentially orphaning herself. I loved that she was three-dimensional. She is both beautiful and intelligent. She is womanly and strong. What she isn't good at, she strives to improve. While loving a man like Bennett was a huge risk, she took the chance.

Bennett isn't my favorite type of hero. While I love a dangerous and edgy hero, I just don't have a taste for womanizers. I did like that though Bennett doesn't have a problem with loving and leaving women, he really does respect women and cherish them in his somewhat shallow way. When London comes into his life, he learns what saying "I love you" truly means. She doesn't force him to change. Instead, his love for her changes his feelings about his life with one woman in it. I liked how courageous Bennett was and his exploits help to make this book incredibly fun and exciting.

The romance between Bennett and London was good, but it's hard to me to get excited about a supposedly dead end/finite relationship in which sex is the main component. With that expectation that nothing would come of their time together except some good sex and companionship, I felt kind of sad for Bennett and London. What I did like was that each time they came together, it got harder for Bennett to hang onto his beliefs about love and forever afters.

I liked the secondary love story between Athena and Kallas. They challenged each other in pivotal ways and forced each other to reevaluate their own preconceived notions.

I like this world of magic where each culture has objects that are vital to them. There are a few 'wow' scenes in this book that I ate up. Let me say that if you are a Greek Mythology geek, you will too.

This book has some interesting things to say about Imperialism, the belief that one nation should forcibly ensure their superiority over others. I can't get behind that, even if I do have my share of patriotism simmering within. I could understand how Bennett and London and some of the other English Blades must have felt.

All in all, a very good book. While Bennett isn't my favorite hero in this series so far, I did like him. He was fun and exciting. He knows how to kick butt and he showed how much he did love London in the end.

Looking forward to the next two books, Rebel and Stranger, particularly my geeky darling, Catullus!

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Lover at Last by JR Ward

Lover At Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11)Lover At Last by J.R. Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*Disclaimer*--I have endeavored to make this spoiler-free, but beware anyway.

It’s been a long time coming, but readers of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series finally get to see the culmination of the romantic entanglement between Qhuinn and Blay. While I wouldn’t have called myself Team Qhuay, I had hopes that their love story would be satisfying, and I can gladly say that it was! I am very much in love with this series, and each year, I look forward to reuniting with the Brothers and their loved ones, allies, and associates (and antagonists), and spending time in that busy little city of Caldwell, New York. While there was a great deal of nervousness of how this book would hit me, I am a happy reader. I found that I couldn’t give it less than five stars since I enjoyed it so very much. A book that has my eyes and attention stuck to the pages like Super Glue and happily (or otherwise) talking to myself and the book has to be a five star one in my mind.


Qhuinn is an acquired taste. His ‘don’t care’, abrasive personality and highly promiscuous behavior did not endear him to me, although I did respect his loyalty to John Matthew and Blay, and as a result, to the Brothers. He evolved beautifully over the course of the series, growing into the worthy male he always had the potential to become. With this book and the previous two, Ward showed me that his personality was shaped by a childhood of being denied what every person should have in this life, loving acceptance from his parents and family. Qhuinn more or less raised himself. I do have to say that when I take this into account, it’s amazing he turned out so well. Deep down, he is a very wonderful male with a good heart. It’s interesting that some of the gentleness that calls to me from a male of worth was first brought to light in his relationship with Layla. While I never saw them as a future mating, their interactions showed a strong bond of friendship and caring, and the courteous way he treated Layla warmed me to Qhuinn, as well has his loyalty and bravery in fighting for the Brotherhood. With this book, I felt as though my heart was scraped over with sandpaper as I saw truly how it was for Qhuinn in his life. The mindless sex didn’t work for me, and it still doesn’t. But I can see that this was just a way to hide from the pain. In the end, Qhuinn made me cry and showed that he deserved Blay’s love. I was happy to go through his journey or realizing what truly was important in his life, and the one consistent in his life was his friend and beloved Blay, even though he couldn’t admit for a long time that his heart desire to love and be loved by Blay. I literally hurt for him, as he looked back on his past actions with excruciating regret. I know we all wish we’d made different choices, and our hearts cry out for acceptance and unconditional love. I felt so much for Qhuinn as he went through this painful process. At the end of this book, I realized that I truly loved Qhuinn, he has become one of my favorite characters in this series, which is saying something!


I have always loved Blay. I loved him just as much now. He has so much to offer others, and his center is strong and complete. Being around someone like that is so good for you, because we need that pillar of strength in our life. Qhuinn certainly did. Even when he wasn’t being very kind to Qhuinn. I can certainly understand why. It’s very hard to keep loving someone who clearly doesn’t want your love, or at least that is how they act. Despite that, Blay still showed love in his intent and his uncalculated actions, which speaks volumes. The acts he does on behalf of Qhuinn definitely speak of unselfish love, and even when he was being nasty to Qhuinn, I could look past that to the why of his behavior. I didn’t find his viewpoint as strong as Qhuinn, but I guess that Qhuinn is just a more vibrant character in the end. I think that it’s because Blay has known who he was for a long time, and what he wanted. He just had to wait until that person was ready to be claimed. But for what I saw of Blay, he remains a beloved character for me. I feel that his steady nature complements the windstorm that is Qhuinn.

As before, I feel sad about Saxton. I think they both knew it wouldn’t last, because Blay’s heart was elsewhere. But I still pain for Saxton that he had to let go of Blay, even though he had fallen in love with him. It was the right thing to do in the end. I hope high hopes that Saxton will get his happy ending. He deserves it.


If there was a couple who weren’t more meant for each other than Qhuay, then I can’t name them. Their love has traveled some tough roads, with lots of pain and anguish along the way. But anything forged in fire is built to last. I feel that way about Qhuinn and Blay together. Like most of the other Brotherhood couples, they have found their place on the shelf in my heart as I smiled at their happy resolution at the end of this book. I do feel that Ward did them justice.

The Brothers

We get more of a snapshot of all the Brothers in this book than anything else. Instead of focusing on the established characters, Ward spends most of her attention on the newer characters and of course, Qhuinn and Blay. However, I just love catching up with the Brothers. They have me laughing and sometimes crying. They watch out for each other and love each other, even if it’s in a dysfunctional way. To me they are real people. Maybe that’s sad, but I can’t feel any regret about my psychotic belief that these are real people!


Layla is a character that many feel conflicted about. I like her. I like her just as much as I did before. I do like that she is taking measures to root herself in newly found autonomy. There were moments in this book that I cheered her on seriously, because she showed the potential I felt she always had. While she is not Qhuinn’s true love, I really like their relationship, how she sees the good in him and loves him dearly. She had faith in him when I didn’t and probably few others did. That means a lot. But more than this, she is her own person with her own destiny to fulfill outside of Qhuinn or her Chosen status. I’m glad she grabbed for that with both hands. I am so glad that things are going okay with the situation that arose out of the last book. I can say no more without spoilers.

Developing Storylines

When I read a book, I go through a period of wondering where an author is going with a storyline, but I am willing to take the ride. With this book, there was a fair amount of that initially. Especially with Assail and the Band of Brothers. While Assail was intriguing in the first book, he is doubly so now. That male is fierce and very, shall we say, ‘antiheroic.’ His interactions with a certain lady and some of his shameless comments definitely had my heart beating fast. He has that pull I look for in a romantic hero, for sure. Let me just say I am eagerly waiting seeing where things go next with Assail. He is turning out to be quite the character.

The Band of Brothers storyline is another one that is in flux. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of it, but I am definitely feeling the Xcor/Layla connection. The scene in the car made me feel so deeply for them. The writing was so good on that scene. The imagery embedded itself in my consciousness, and I felt this aching poignancy of that moment. Call me Team Xcor/Layla! As far as the BoB’s war against the Brotherhood, this promises to be intense. I love the Brothers, but I can’t say I want to see the BoB hurt. I am feeling kinda invested in these guys. I don’t think of them as full-on villains right now, but more like antiheroes. Maybe that’s good that they aren’t so cut and dried. But more layered and complex in their motivations.

I am gratified to see Trez’s storyline develop. At the same time, I wonder, what about iAm? I guess Ward has to pick her battles, and she chose to work with his story first. The Shadows have me very intrigued, and I want to find out more about their origins. Trez is definitely in the hot seat. While I don’t like his method of dealing with it, I definitely can understand his feelings of being trapped by his destiny.

Summing Things Up

I haven’t followed reviews of this because I don’t like to let that affect how I view a book. I tried very hard to avoid spoilers before I read this. In all honestly, the new Brotherhood book is a highlight of my year. And I was not disappointed. While many dislike JR Ward’s writing or have become dissatisfied with the series, I am not one of those. I felt that she showed that she cares about these characters as much as I do, and puts a lot of energy and creativity into writing these books. I’m happy with the result. I’m back on the merry-go-round, because now I am starting the year long wait for the next book. It’s hard work being a Black Dagger Brotherhood fan, but there are payoffs!

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