by J. R. Ward
J. R. Ward's new novel Blood Fury is the third book in her “Black Dagger Legacy” series, which might, to the interested newcomer, present a glimmer of hope; in genre fiction, after all, a series can stretch out to the crack of doom – seven books, ten, fifteen are not uncommon, and really, what is that interested newcomer supposed to do when confronting the fifteenth book in a series? Dive in and scratch their head when a character exclaims “Pomegranates!” and 15,000 series fans erupt in delighted applause? Go back to 1947's Book One and spend the next 11 years catching up?
So Book Three in a series about the sexy warrior-vampires of the ancient and secretive Black Dagger Brotherhood might strike that interested newcomer as relatively inviting. But alas, the “Black Dagger Legacy” is a follow-up spinoff of Ward's main “Black Dagger Brotherhood” series, which was started in 1450 as one of the earliest works of Johannes Gutenberg to feature his revolutionary movable type and which has racked up so far 471 volumes. Ideally, later books in a long series should say to interested newcomers, “Welcome! Take a couple of chapters to catch up, and then have fun!” Later books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series assume a deep Russian accent and say, “We must break you.”
In an endearingly nerdy attempt to mitigate this problem, Blood Fury opens, disastrously, with a glossary. The book offers nothing else – no narrative of Ward's fictional world, not even a summary of the previous two “Black Dagger Legacy” volumes. Fans of the series will skip the glossary and jump right in; interested newcomers might wander elsewhere.
Those long-time fans will find Ward's many predictable mindless delights, including her staccato prose line and her snarky humor:
“This is not a romantic comedy,” Novo ground out. “It's a murder mystery with an obvious ending.”
Saxton shook his head. It wasn't like the female or her family could go to the human police: Hi, I don't exist in your world technically, but I am bound by your property laws and am having some trouble with trespassers. Can you help me out?
Oh, and don't mind my fangs.
He could only imagine how worried the family was. Older female, alone, human agitators tormenting her while all she was trying to do was spend the last remaining years she had in peace.
And there was no telling where this would stop.
Humans were a lesser species, for certain, but they could be deadly.
And in this latest book those long-time readers will find something almost new: this is a slightly slower book than its predecessors, almost ruminative. There's still plenty of action – the Brotherhood is still knife-to-knife with its mortal enemy, the Lessening Society – but a larger-than-normal portion of the narrative focuses on two rocky relationships among the vampires, featuring strong-willed characters pursuing cross-purposed aims with a stubbornness that will cause involved readers to shout at the pages, which is something of a Ward specialty. But there are quiet moments too, and they're far more numerous and textured than anything to be found in most of the early Black Dagger books. Long-time fans will find it all fascinating. Interested newcomers, the ones desperately clutching at their glossaries? Well, maybe there are handy YouTube series summaries?
Steve Donoghue was a founding editor of Open Letters Monthly. His book criticism has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and the American Conservative. He writes regularly for the National, the Washington Post, the Vineyard Gazette, and the Christian Science Monitor. His website is http://www.stevedonoghue.com.