Book: Lover Enshrined
Author: J.R. Ward
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: The Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 6
Fiercely loyal to the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Phury has sacrificed himself for the good of the race, becoming the male responsible for keeping the Brotherhood's bloodlines alive. As Primale of the Chosen, he is to father the sons and daughters who will ensure that the traditions of the race survive and that there are warriors to fight those who want all vampires extinguished.
As his first mate, the Chosen Cormia wants to win not only his body but his heart for herself- she sees the emotionally scarred male behind all his noble responsibility. But while the war with the Lessening Society grows more grim, and tragedy looms over the Brotherhood's mansion, Phury must decide between duty and love.
Disclaimer: I'm grading Lover Enshrined based on the whole story, because it is romance-lite. If I graded it on the romance alone then it wouldn't cut the mustard. There are some spoilers in this review, you will have to highlight to see them. This review is long, sorries.
My enjoyment of Lover Enshrined came as a surprise. I will admit to not liking Lover Unbound much at all, and before that Lover Revealed wasn't that good of a read for me either. I had also read advance reviews and ended up not being hyped up about it. But then I started reading spoilers and my interest was finally sparked. Because of being spoiled up to my eyeballs, I knew just about everything that was going to happen, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the story one bit.
Lover Enshrined is 534 pages long. There are multiple POV's in the book, I think I counted about 9 but there could be more. There are lots of surprises, much blood shed and some cringe worthy moments along with tender ones. What I felt was lacking in Lover Unbound was full front in Lover Enshrined and then some.
I'll begin with going over Phury and his first mate Cormia's story thread. Those of us who are familiar with this series know Phury as the "hero" the "savior", the "pansy ass" the addict. He is all of that and more in Lover Enshrined. Phury has taken over as Primale for the vampire race. He is to sire children with the Chosen that will go on to become brothers and other Chosen. This is needed for the race to survive. The brothers numbers are dwindling and the Chosen are dying out. They need more young. The problem is that Phury can't bring himself to begin the process. He should have already completed the ceremony by sleeping with his first mate Cormia, but it's five months after he stepped up to the plate, and he's nowhere near close to doing so.
Mentally, Phury is messed up. He has a voice in his head that talks to him. Phury has named the little downer that voices nothing but negatives, The Wizard. The Wizard points out all of Phury's failures and eggs on his addiction. Being in the horrible place that he is, Phury doesn't fight the voice he plays into it. Which causes him more trouble, keeps him from doing what must be done, and makes him nothing more than an addict.
In Lover Enshrined all of his problems, beginning with the kidnapping of his twin, the years of neglect he felt, and his hero complex come to a head, basically bringing him to a sink or swim option.
I wasn't sure how much I would like a hero that was an addict with a low self worth. I thought for sure that I would hate it, and it's not that I liked it, but overall I thought that Ward did a great job of showing the struggle that addicts go through.
Cormia, Phury's first mate, surprised me the most. I wasn't expecting much and luckily, I got a lot. Cormia has already decided that she loves Phury. Since Phury hardly notices her, she adores him from afar. Phury is slow on the uptake and he makes bad decision after bad decision with Cormia because he doesn't feel worthy of her. He doesn't feel worthy of anything, and his addiction and the Wizard don't help matters at all.
Cormia was not the mealy-mouthed heroine that I feared she would be. She had her own fierceness and spunk and she wasn't afraid to show it. She became just as frustrated with Phury and his hangups as I did, and she told him the things I wanted to say. That basically his strength, all of his self sacrificing, and hanging onto the illusion of Bella, and even the root of his celibacy; the reasoning he used behind it all, was a lie. Which it was.
Before reading LEn I wondered if Cormia would be strong enough of a heroine for Phury, but the further I got into the book the more I wondered if Phury would ever be a strong enough hero for her. Eventually things work out, as they always do in romances, but not without a lot of challenges first.
The second thread in this story that interested me was Rehvenge's, the half sympath, half vampire, owner of the club ZeroSum, and Phury's dealer. In Lover Awakened we learned that Rehv was being blackmailed. This book reveals the person behind the blackmail, delves into his twisted relationship with that person, and answers a few questions about Rehv while adding on a crap pile more. Rehv is a complicated character, he's forced to hide his sympath side with the use of dopamine that is negatively affecting his body. Things with the blackmailer add insult to injury in relation to that, and we find out some interesting info about his sexual ... ahem ... technical difficulties or something. Spoiler: (((Rehv has a barb. Yes, a barb attached to his penis. Like a cat. ;o)))
I was hoping that the excerpt at the back of the book would provide an answer to the Rehv's future mate question, it didn't. The excerpt was a snippet from the compendium that deals with Bella and Z. Yawn I'm a little tired of those two. So there are no solid facts on who Rehv's mate will be, but I have my ideas.
Along with Rehv we see more of Xhex, the female half sympath that's a bouncer in Rehv's club. Like all of Ward's characters there is more to her than her outwardly hard-ass appearance. I found her interactions with John intriguing as well as the way she handles her sympath side. We know that Rehv uses dopamine to dull his sympath senses, Xhex uses something a little more archaic. Talk about painful.
We also get more insight into the Sympath side of their world. Which totally freaked me out in ways that left me wanting more. Strange, I know.
Then there is the John, Qhuinn and Blay. These three are really good together. Their friendship came off the pages as they grew into characters that I was able to see more as adult males than boys. It wasn't until this book that I saw John as anything other than a pretrans, even though he transitioned in Lover Unbound. John is still dealing with the loss of Tohr, the vampire that he looked to as a father. He's coming into his own, finding himself sexually attracted to Xhex, and dealing with past demons that find their way to light.
Qhuinn becomes fleshed out in this book. We find out more about the playboy that gives us a deeper sense of his character. Qhuinn's family life sucked and I felt for him.
Sheesh, Ward does tortured males like no other.
Speaking of tortured males, Spoiler: ((( Ward went "there" again with Qhuinn and Blay... totally V and Butch style, ya know? And like Butch and V, it amounted to nothing. I'm not bitter about that because I saw none of the chemistry between Q and Blay that I did between Butch and V. Yes, they love each other, but the attraction was was a little too one-sided for me to become invested. And a good thing I didn't because Ward cut it off at the knees again.)))
Next up are the Lessers. Yup, they have a POV again. The book starts out with a big surprise that deals with the Omega. This revelation makes the Lessers a bigger, badder match against the Brothers than they have previously been. In LEn the blood shed hit it's highest point in the series and things look like they are only going to get worse.
Lastly, I'm going to touch on the relationship between Phury and Z. The twins. Z took a tough love approach with Phury's addiction. He pretty much admitted that he couldn't deal with facing Phury's death. He had his own worries with Bella's pregnancy, so he had to quit worrying about Phury. I had mixed feelings about this, mainly because Phury gave a lot to Z, did a lot for him. Sure, Phury was messed up in the head, but for Z to pretty much wash his hands of him ... I didn't know if I liked that angle too much. But after thinking on it, I've come to the conclusion that not only is that who Z is, that is, in a way, what Phury needed. Z never tried to be the savior, he's not made up that way, so expecting him to act the part for his brother, the way Phury had for him wasn't a realistic expectation.
Aside from that I still found their interactions to be touching. What it all boils down to is that they love each other. How they show it may be different but they do love each other.
Overall, Lover Enshrined was a good book. But if you're looking for a big romance, you will be disappointed. While Phury and Cormia are the romance story in this book, they were not the only focus. They are two of many. The book has a "Love during war time" vibe, with a lot going on but a thread of romance seaming through at the same time. If that makes sense.
All in all this is a way better book than Lover Unbound, at the same time it's very different from the previous books. It is the start of something new and I have a feeling that the rest of the books in this series will play out in this same vein. For me, Ward proved that she hasn't lost her edge or her writing skills, if anything they have improved and expanded. If I was rating this book based on the romance then the grade would fall somewhere around a low C. Because I'm grading this on a story scale, Grade A-.
In the spirit of the books release, I will be giving away a copy of Lover Enshrined. If you want to be entered in this giveaway simply drop a comment telling me who your favorite BDB shellan is and why. Why shellan? Because the males always get love, what about the females, huh? Since I want to be as fair as possible, the winner will be picked randomly using a number generator. First commenter is number 1, second number 2, so on and so forth. Contest ends May 30th.