Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Blood Kiss by J.R. Ward

Blood Kiss by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy, Book 1
Publisher: Signet
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9780451475329
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
J.R. Ward Reading Order

Paradise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself…be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.

And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated--and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power...on the field, and off.

Blood Kiss rocks! J.R. Ward’s first Black Dagger Legacy book is sexy, fun, exciting, utterly addictive, and totally kickass. It’s also a tightly-written, character-centric paranormal romance that is unquestionably my favorite Black Dagger Brotherhood-verse story since Lover Revealed.

As the daughter of the king’s First Advisor and a member of one of the Founding Families, Paradise is at the near top of the vampire aristocracy food chain. But she wants more than the life the glymera would have for her. Now she has her chance. The Brothers are recruiting for their training program and Paradise is seizing the chance to learn to fight, to be a soldier, to break free from the box society would put her in and become her own person. Just making the cut to get into the Brothers’ training program is harder and more terrifying than she could have imagined, but Paradise has an inner strength none can match, which is why I loved her. Paradise wasn’t born or raised to be a warrior, but she’s got grit, heart, intelligence, and a determination not to fail that I admired. Paradise isn’t perfect – that would be boring – but she has that perfect mix of kindness, strength (physical and emotional), and guts that make her an awesome heroine. Even when she’s out of her element, or thrown for a loop, Paradise doesn’t quit. And her classmate Craeg definitely throws her for a loop…

Craeg is a civilian vampire with a chip on his shoulder. His family was murdered during the raids, so he has nothing but the Brothers’ training program to work for and he is all business. Except Paradise is throwing him off his game, threatening to be a distraction he can’t afford and could never have anyway. Craeg is as easy to love as Paradise is. He’s a soldier to his core, but he carries internal scars and a heavy burden of anger in the wake of his family’s murders. He doesn’t want to care about his classmates, but it’s clear he does. And he definitely doesn’t want to notice Paradise, but everyone knows what happens when two vampires are destined to be together. Their chemistry is electric right from the start and their romance is by turns fiery, sweet, and sexy as hell. Every up and down, every time these two are on the page, you can’t stop reading and I loved it.

Paradise and Craeg are unique, fully drawn characters in their own right, but if I had to draw comparisons to the original BDB series couples I’d say they are most like Marissa and Butch. It’s fitting, then, that the second storyline of Blood Kiss involves those two. Happily ever afters aren’t easy, even for a couple as in love as Butch and Marissa. It’s no spoiler to say that Butch puts Marissa on a pedestal – he always has. And though both readers and Marissa know that Butch admires, respects, and loves her strength and intelligence, by placing her in a defined category he limits their relationship. It’s natural Marissa would grow frustrated with this and with his unwillingness to talk about his life before he entered the Brothers’ world. I absolutely love that the issues Butch and Marissa face are ones that seem like a natural progression for their characters; it’s a fitting and extremely satisfying follow-up to their story in Lover Revealed.

Blood Kiss is the first book in the Black Dagger Legacy series and it’ll leave you hungry for more. Paradise and Craeg’s classmates are intriguing (I especially can’t wait to learn more about Novo) and will have me grabbing future books as soon as they’re released. The concentrated focus on the four main characters rather than worldbuilding gives the book a different feel from the later Black Dagger Brotherhood books and also helps to make this new series stand on its own. You don’t have to be current on the original series to enjoy Blood Kiss, but you should probably at least have a familiarity with the Brothers’ world before diving in (I recommend at least having read the first four BDB books, Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, Lover Awakened, and Lover Revealed).

If I talk more about the characters than the plot of Blood Kiss, it’s because (1) the characters are fantastic and (2) the story is one best uncovered on its own. Ms. Ward includes twists, turns, connections, and revelations that are far too spoiler-ish to talk about. Suffice it to say you’re in for a treat. Between the training program, romance, mystery, danger, and glimpses of some beloved characters, the book is a fast-paced page-turner. Just don’t start it late at night or you’ll be up reading into the wee hours of the morning.

It’s been more than ten years since I entered the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Blood Kiss reminded me why I first fell in love with Ms. Ward’s writing. Her world envelops you, the characters grab your heart, and the story is one you’ll finish and love so much you’ll want to dive right back in again. I cannot recommend Blood Kiss highly enough and I am more excited than ever to see what Ms. Ward has in store for the recruits, the Brothers, and their shellans.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.