Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward (Spoilers Ahead)

J.R. Ward's Website

Lover Eternal@Amazon

The pleasure of reading a good paranormal romance is in being transported into a fascinating, different world. It may be a little dark and scary, it should be damn sexy, but it is always fun. I think paranormals are appealing to people because they are a true escape from the everyday, mundane world. Also appealing to readers and writers alike, I think that within the framework of the paranormal, writers are able to push the envelope a little bit, explore issues of love and sexuality in a manner that still feels "safe" to many. However, paranormals are often marred by stock characters, stale plots, and worlds without internal logic and inconsistencies. As a devoted reader of paranormals, I have an almost boundless ability to suspend disbelief and ignore the things that I don't like and focus on the things that I do. But more and more, I am unable to do so because I am hung up on the stuff I don't like.

Lover Eternal is not one of those books. It is an example of a great paranormal romance. I am declaring myself J.R. Ward's bitch right here, right now. She rocks. I loved this book. I loved Dark Lover, but I loved this one even more. I put some links at the beginning of this post which lead to summaries, excerpts and other reviews, because I want to get right to what makes the book awesome (in my not-so-humble opinion).

*Increasing Depth into the World--In this book, we learn more about the vampire race and their world, while remaining consistent with DL. No annoying rule changing. While not necessarily groundbreaking (but nice and simple), I find her vampires very interesting, particularly their strict social hierarchy and their almost animalistic nature. I look forward to learning more about the aristocracy and the whole concept of blood slavery in the next book, Lover Awakened.

*Character Development--A romance should be a character-driven story. It is the story of two people falling in love. Honestly, to me the plot is almost incidental. If I can't buy the characters, I can't buy the romance and I don't like the book. In DL, I was impressed by how Ward created a number of distinct characters. In LE, we gain greater insight into the characters, through a number of different p.o.v.'s, and they are even more intriguing than before. In addition, Rhage and Mary were great characters. Rhage, while a larger than life character, did not overshadow Mary, who was no Mary Sue. In fact, she was kind of a pain in the ass at times (but I could understand why). While there was the standard insta-lust, their emotional and physical connection deepened over time in a very satisfying way. This was a very emotional story (gotta love how Rhage fell like a ton of bricks and didn't seem to mind at all. Refreshing.)

*Multiple points of view--This is connected to character development and world building. I felt that the different points of view really added a lot, providing a lot of insight. I think that it makes the readers more invested in the characters also, so that you're looking forward to all of the books. This is definitely a series book, and a lot of time was spent setting up the next book. I wonder if that would bother some readers, but I was psyched b/c of lots o'Zsadist. Which leads me to...

*No fear--These characters have problems, and big ones, and Ward doesn't shy away from their portrayal. More importantly, she doesn't take the easy way out. With the exception of, perhaps, Mary's miracle cure and immortality. That didn't bother me actually, b/c she left Mary infertile. It may seem stupid, but it was better that everything wasn't perfect at the end. And miracle babies are annoying. Similarly, I liked that Rhage was left with the beast at the end. Things weren't perfect, but they loved and accepted each other enough to see it through. Some things happened that would definitely be unacceptable in most romances (i.e. Rhage having sex with another woman, THEN HAVING SEX WITH MARY!!! SAME NIGHT!!). Within the context of the novel, it didn't bother me in the least, and I actually thought that it was one of the most emotional scenes in the book. More of Z's background was given and it is indeed horrific. I'm very curious for the third book, b/c what we're being shown of his character...things could be very interesting indeed. Awesome and disturbing to some, I'm sure. I hope that Ward doesn't wuss out and give us the tortured hero has sex with beautiful nurturing woman and becomes shiny, happy, well-adjusted (maybe just a bit cranky) guy. I have high hopes though, b/c this book was quite different than DL, so I think she'll continue to take risks.

*Writing style--Ward writes in a very crisp, intelligent style that contrasts with a the extravagant, cliche ridden style of a lot of paranormals. Her prose is pretty much simple and straightforward.

Fangirl much? There were some things that bothered me. The slang and pop culture references came thisclose to being too much. I thought that they suited the characters (it's not like they were listening to Mariah Carey or something), but I got a little distracted by it at times. It was very close to crossing the border into annoying. Also, the conflict with the lessers is a bit weak. I can't help but feel that that vampires could kick their asses and call it a day quite easily. The lessers seem like a bunch of tools. Eh, with so much good stuff, I was able to ignore this easily and I admit, I kinda skimmed a lot of the lesser parts, until the end of course, when it got more interesting.

Oy vey, I'm exhausted. I'm going to go start re-reading now.