Release Reviews: The Beast: J.R. Ward

J.R. Ward
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Expected April 5, 2016

Rhage and Mary return in a new novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a series “so popular, I don’t think there’s a reader today who hasn’t at least heard of [it]” (USA Today).

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world...and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from... 

This installment  is focused mostly on Rhage and Mary, but of course with any BDB book, the other characters are also featured and there are some other side stories going.  But I felt that this one was more focused on the relevant story lines even though there were still multiple points of view as opposed to some of the more recent books. There seemed to be fewer points of view and the chapters or sections seemed shorter so you did not get stuck in a story for too long, but by the same token sometimes it made for quick transitions that left you hanging for a bit until their time came around again. There were a couple of new additions and side stories that became more relevant as we learned more about them, but for the most part this was about the core BDB.

This one starts out and goes right into some serious action. Rhage is feeling edgy and restless and not sure why. And despite a dire warning form his brother, Rhage refuses to back down from danger and it ends up in a potentially disastrous situation. This brings out some really tense moments, mayhem, fear, emotions, and some surprises.

I adore Rhage. He is like a big, sexy, strong, sweet, loyal teddy bear...so he  kind of turns into a raging dragon beast, but even the beast responds positively to Mary and is like a big lap dog. I love his relationship and reverence of Mary. I loved getting to know more about him in this one and seeing some vulnerability and insecurities. I fell for him even more.

Mary is determined, fearless, and his perfect match. She can handle both sides of him. But she is sometimes plagued with her own self doubts and things she secretly thinks about. Recent events put Rhage and Mary into a place where they can talk about hidden issues that have been bothering them and have been causing some distance. And it opens up new possibilities for them.  But due to their history, they also have some challenges to face together and I really loved how the story line progressed.

Most of the other brothers and their mates are back, some featured more heavily than others: V, Jane, Blay, Quinn, Layla, Wrath, and Lassiter were stand outs. Although some of those less than desirable side characters like Assail and Xcor are also in the mix. Layla's story does finally see some progress and V is having some internal struggles to deal with as well. There are some new characters that are introduced that I believe will continue to be relevant in later installments.

Some of their challenging situations are more like the trials and tribulations of working vampires. It deals with normal everyday things like relationship ruts, communication, personal wants and needs, and fulfillment. But their world has that added sense of mystery, magic, and secrets that  could become an issue if the humans get too close to the truth. And they of course still have enemies both against the vampire race and also against the BDB and King.

This was over 500 pages long, but I did not feel like I needed to skim it like I have in some of the more recent books. Although it could have probably been cut down some and had the same effect. I admit I got a little distracted, especially in the beginning, by all of of the pop culture references and some of that seemed overdone or uncharacteristic of the brothers. But overall I felt like it was getting back more into the heart of this series--the bond of the brothers, the connections with their shellans, and the sense of family and loyalty. I love their dynamics and teasing, taunting banter, but I also appreciate the fact that they would lay down their lives for each other.

I had such a happy smile on my face from  some of the happenings in this book. But there are still stories building and evolving. It definitely had some tense and precarious moments. It had humor, action, passion, and emotional turmoil. Overall this felt more like the older BDB books with the core group and I enjoyed spending more time with them again. 

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review. 
The Beast is a return to the relationship of Rhage and Mary. As is the format for this series, there are also segments of the book that focus on the relationships and lives of several other brothers throughout the main plot. What is different for The Beast is the focus on family and what makes a family. Rhage and Mary are not the only childless couple in the Black Daggar ranks, but as Layla’s pregnancy progresses, and L.W. and Nalla continue to grow, others in the house begin to question their own choices and situations.

I skipped the last few BDB books, simply because they were feeling too bogged down with so many different characters’ stories running at the same time. But I missed the Brotherhood and this world, so decided to take a chance and jump back in with The Beast. This felt more focused on Rhage and Mary than I was expecting or even hoping for, so I was very pleased that even in the side scenes, characters were reflecting on similar themes and events as Rhage and Mary.

There are a couple new characters to add to the group, and I can’t wait to see the effects from two of the new characters particularly.

I fell in love with Rhage, Mary, and Rhage’s beast all over again. This was a side of Rhage readers haven’t seen in a long while and it is heart melting. There is still plenty of the hotter kind of heat, but also plenty of sweet.

I love the way this felt like a return to the BDB that I loved -- the focus on the bond between the Brothers, their love for their shellans, and all the crazy antics that come from having so many different personalities living under the same roof. There is a little movement in the fight against the Omega, but this is one of those rare moments where the Brotherhood’s focus is at home rather than on protecting the people. This also made me consider going back and reading the two books I have skipped, if only to get a few pieces of background information that I missed, and rekindled my love for this series and these vampires.

ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 Black Dagger Brotherhood Series
J. R. Ward 
J.R. Ward is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with more than 15 million novels in print published in 25 different countries around the world. Ward is a graduate of Smith College who currently lives in Kentucky. Before turning to writing full time, she worked as a lawyer in Boston and also spent many years working as Chief of Staff for one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation.
Visit her popular website and fan community at www.jrward.com and facebook.com/JRWardBooks.


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