Tuesday, May 27, 2014

J.R. Ward's 'The King' - Review with Spoilers

Happy birthday to my love, the wonderful Tit Elingtin!

One year ago, I read J.R. Ward's then-latest in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover at Last. I'd been anticipating the main pairing in that one - literally for years. I read the love story of Qhuinn and Blaylock with great relish, all the way up to their happily-ever-after.

I should have been just as excited for this year's installation, The King. I just wasn't that into it. I read it more because of tradition than anything else.

This novel focuses on the original pairing from the first BDB novel, Dark Lover: vampire king Wrath and Beth, the illegitimate offspring of Wrath's fallen comrade Darius and a human woman. When I read Dark Lover, I loved Wrath and Beth's story.  But since they were already the stars of their very own book, it seems a little redundant to have them be the main focus of this one. Their happily-ever-after is already a done deal.

The central drama in this one is whether Wrath will retain his throne as the king of vampire-kind.  He's under attack from the vampire aristocracy, the Glymera. They're being influenced by the Band of Bastards, outlaws from the Old Country whose leader, Xcor, covets the throne. The Glymera conspire to strip Wrath of any real power he has because he's mated to a half-human. They use the excuse of any potential offspring they might have being one-fourth human to mean Beth's bloodline would be ineligible for the vampire throne.

Wrath has no intention of having any offspring, but having a baby is all Beth can think about. They clash over that. Then she goes into her needing period. (Because the hubby's been watching a lot of Star Trek: Enterprise lately, I've recently noticed how the vampire mating cycle in Ward's universe is like the Vulcan one in Gene Roddenberry's brainchild.)

Plot twist! Since Beth is half human, her needing turns out to be superfluous. She's already pregnant when Wrath decides to throw caution to the wind and "service" his beloved. They find out afterwards, when she can't keep anything on her stomach. By then, she's already four months pregnant, human-style.

These always end happily, so no one will be too surprised when Beth gives birth to a healthy, if slightly premature, baby boy who is also named Wrath. Unlike his blind father, Little Wrath has healthy eyes. The kingship situation is also resolved, using diplomacy. Wrath allows his people to vote for any leader they wish to, and they unanimously elect him king for life.  He also regains his passion for the work.

At the end of Lover at Last, we had some loose ends to tie up: would Trez and the Chosen Selena become a couple? Would Assail save the assassin Sola from her kidnappers? Would Qhuinn and Layla's baby be born safely? Would Layla and Xcor get together?

This book answers these questions partially. Trez and Selena get to have sex, but not a relationship…yet. Assail does save Sola - and get revenge on her kidnappers - but they don't end up together either. Their scenes end with her calling out his name into the darkness, and while he hears her, he doesn't answer. Layla and Xcor get together, in theory, but don't have any scenes of physical contact - and her pregnancy is still ongoing.

I didn't find this installation nearly as suspenseful or enthralling as the last one, but I have hope for the next one. If it's mostly about Trez and Selena, that'd be great. I wouldn't mind a Layla/Xcor installation. I'll be pretty bored and disappointed if Assail and Sola are the main characters, because my interest in them is minimal. 

We got a little glimpse into the home lives of my very favorite couple, Zsadist and Bella. In the next book, I'd love to see a little of the wedded bliss between Qhuinn and Blaylock. 

I got this book from my local public library. I was under no obligation to write this review and was not compensated for it in any way. 

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