Lover At Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood #11) by J.R. Ward
Rating: 2.5/5Like many who follow this series, I was looking forward to Qhuinn and Blay's story, after so much build up in previous books. Unfortunately, it could not have been more of a disappointment.
Ward's SOP has always been to create obstacle after obstacle between the destined couple du jour, most of them psychological. Sometimes these obstacles are somewhat plausible. In this case, they are entirely imaginary and could've been easily overcome if either character was capable of having a single rational thought. For two people who've been best friends their whole lives, they certainly are terrible at reading each other's body language. They don't know that, though, and they make all kinds of assumptions about each other's motivations and feelings, always to the detriment of progress. A thirty second conversation would have cleared the whole mess up in no time. There was no real conflict here, just stupidity and emo mind-reading. Blay had no discernible reason not to tell Qhuinn he'd broken up with Saxton. None whatsoever. And that simple admission would have saved everybody, including me, a whole lot of pointless angst.
Fortunately--sort of--this idiocy is only a minor portion of this book, despite this being designated "Qhuinn and Blaylock's story". There's also some lesser activity, some Band of Brothers activity, some Trez and IAm stuff, some Council stuff, some Assail stuff...This book truly is a stew, and only the carrots get fully cooked. Meaning, every single sub-plot remained unresolved except Qhuinn and Blay's. And even their resolution seemed trite, rushed and totally out of character for them. It was cringe-worthy, really. Of the other plots, three of them were pretty much set-ups for further books, coupling Layla and Xcor, Assail and Sola, and Trez and Selena (thrown in near the end for no particular reason). The lesser stuff was more about giving Qhuinn some heroic airtime than advancing the enemy's plot - once Qhuinn has his daring airplane rescue, we only hear about the lessers via Assail's POV. Trez's problems with the s'Hisbe gets introduced, but he just runs away and hides instead of solving it. And we are left with a huge (depending on how much you care) cliffhanger re: Sola and Assail. Despite this book being nearly 600 pages, it is impossible to call it a complete novel, since there's an abundance of threads hanging out of it. Ward just took a handful of ideas and threw them into a pot, and didn't give a fig about how it turned out.
I had some trouble with the way the "gay issue" was dealt with in this book. Blay's coming out was so sickeningly sweet, I found myself thinking sarcastically "oh how nice for you", even though I like Blay and his parents and wanted it to go well for him. But it would have been so much more interesting and realistic and just better if there was at least some awkwardness. Nobody's parents are so perfect. And then there is Qhuinn's realization, at the end of the book, that he is, in fact, gay. Excuse me, what? He'd already admitted to himself he was in love with his same-sex best friend ages ago, but he's still denying that he's gay (or even bisexual)? That's beyond cognitive dissonance, bordering on impossible. It makes the scene where he has his big revelation, which should have been powerful, completely ridiculous. Speaking of ridiculous, can we just pause for a minute and consider the fact that Blay considers masturbating while thinking about Qhuinn as cheating on Saxton? If that's the standard, I'm guessing pretty much everybody on earth is a rampant cheater.
Finally, I will have to mention again Ward's language. I can deal with how she turns adjectives into nouns, and nouns into verbs. I'll bite my tongue about the acronyms and abbreviated words. I am thankful she only used the phrase "what's doing?" once in this book. But she really needs to give up on the whole "Old World" dialect thing. It's a distractingly huge fail. One passage, from Layla's perspective, is written entirely in contemporary form, with contemporary language, but Ward can't resist throwing a goddam 'mayhap' in at the end. I've said it before and I will say it again. There is SO much more to dialect than a bunch of "mayhap"s and "herein"s. Just fucking stop.
I don't know why I continue to read this series, I really don't, except that I feel invested, and I keep thinking something cool could happen with it. But not only was Qhuinn and Blay's story the most contrived and drawn-out of them all, but all the myriad subplots that actually make up the vast majority of this book were pretty frickin' dry and boring. There were some compelling scenes -- like Qhuinn's induction ceremony -- but as soon as you start getting into a storyline, the chapter ends and the scene switches to a completely different plot. And this happens at every chapter, and sometimes once or twice during a chapter. There are just too many ingredients in this stew, and they are all bland and half-cooked. Except for Qhuinn and Blay, which gets overdone and soggy. J.R. Ward needs to find a new recipe (or at least go back to the old one).
Other reviews for J.R. Ward:
Lover Revealed (BDB #4)
Lover Reborn (BDB #10)
Covet (Fallen Angels #1)
Envy (Fallen Angels #3)
Rapture (Fallen Angels #4)