(or, the Black Dagger Brotherhood phenomenon)
Reader beware: spoilers up to the sixth book peppered willy-nilly throughout, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, please don’t keep on reading. Thank you.
And with that taken care of, let’s dive in.
This here is not a review, and please note that I’m not trying to bash JR Ward—nor complaining about where I want her to take the series or what I want her to write or anything remotely like that.
No, really, that’s not it.
It’s more like a rambling wondering as to why and how this series is still so successful—and there is no doubt it is successful. Not only is it selling like crazy (just count the number of reviews up in the blogosphere) but it definitely engenders strong emotions in the vast majority of its readers (check out the many threads discussing the series).
I don’t know if I can shed any light on the matter, but that won’t stop me from trying. (It never has, really.)
Personally, I am a firm believer that, you either drank the Kool-Aid and will remain addicted—either as a guilty pleasure or as a rabid fan—for a good long while; or you didn’t, and therefore are unable to understand what the big deal is.
Me, I’m still addicted, albeit reluctantly.
Bottom line, though, what is it that makes this series so addictive?
Generally speaking—as in, ninety nine times out of a hundred—faulty world building will yank me out of a story. Now, excellent characterization may compel me to overlook shoddy world building in favor of concentrating on the characters, caring for them, and wanting to know their fate. By the same token, I may enjoy a story where the world building is superb while the characterization is flat.
But frankly, neither is really the case here.
I mean, the world building becomes shakier the more complicated it gets—all sorts of questions from the previous installments pop up again and again, and the contradictions abound.
For example, if only the Primale** can impregnate the Chosen—which was established in Lover Unbound and reaffirmed in Lover Enshrined—then why had the Chosen hoped that Rhage would take Layla—whose needing time was near—in Lover Eternal, the second book? And let’s not even think about the inbreeding! *shudder* and *shudder* and *shudder*
And all those poor abused “h”s! Just imagine trying to actually read these novels out loud—huh?
It is not the characterization.
I know for a fact I’m only one in a long list of people who wonder (and not in a good way) at many of the characters in these books. The more frequent complaints stem from Ms Ward’s heroines and their doormat tendencies, but then there are also the lessers (equal parts stereotypical villain and boring placeholders) and Lash (the stereotypical popular, spoiled, insufferable, rich, only child) and the doggen (Fritz, butler extraordinaire, need I say more?) and the glymera (fancy name for a Regency era London aristocracy transplanted, awkward dress and all, to the present), and the Omega (oh teh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeebol, it’s so bad) and the Scribe Virgin…
Ah, someone may say, I know what it is—it is the writing!
Beyond the fact that characterization and world building are definitely part of ‘the writing’ there’s this other little thing…
The writing is not all that extraordinary either.
The brand name dropping and the weird slang that all of the characters use (all of them, from males in their early twenties to vampires hundreds of years old, male and female—one voice), often interrupt the flow of the dialogue and the narrative. People like me—and really, I’m not on the endangered species lists, I promise—often have to pause, read again, and wait until our brains find the meaning behind the similes, comparisons, etc.
Then there’s all the tell tell tell and never show thing. For example, from the first book onward we are told that Zsadist is true to his name, a bastard of Olympic proportions. Butch “senses” it pretty much upon laying eyes on him for the first time. All the Brothers say this—and they’ve known him for close to a century. Hell, Phury knows this about his twin. Yet, at no time does the reader see Zsadist behaving in any way that justifies all the mistrust and distance and what not—quite the opposite, in fact.
Drop in a bit of Deus Ex Machina every other book (two examples: Butch has Wrath’s blood and the Omega can travel back in time, and track his son once the latter dies—convenient much?) and I would normally scream in frustration and never look at the books again. (Instead of, you know, re reading each of them several times already, as I have done with the BDB)
So really, I ask again, what is it that makes this series so addictive that I read Lover Enshrined in one sitting—even as I bemoaned the contradictions, and the language, and the characterizations, and the writing?
I know, I know! It is the originality in the themes and elements and…
No, sorry, not that either.
We are swamped with vampire books these days (romances, urban fantasy, romantic comedies, you name it, we have it, by the dozen) but even back when the first BDB came out there were several ongoing series with vampires with different myths and boundaries. Christine Feehan’s Carpathians and Maggie Shayne Twilight vamps come to mind, but I’m sure many readers out there who read much more widely than I do can name several more.
Okay, what is it then?????
It has to be the Kool-Aid.
**(am I the only one who wants to read primaTe there each time?)