I’m writing this review after a second reading and it’s not because the book was THAT good. It’s the opposite, actually. There are times when books are just not meaty enough to leave a remarkable impression regardless of whether or not one had an enjoyable time reading it. And that’s exactly how I felt about this one. I can’t say it was bad but more like status quo, you know? More of the same. Nothing to see here. Move along, folks.
One of the reasons why this didn’t leave a lasting impression is that it felt more like a continuation of The Beast instead of a story that focuses on the next trainee, Axwell. I mean, there are other subplots that vied for my attention, too, of course, but this series was supposed to drum up lovin’ feelings fans had of the BDB series. Unfortunately, JR Ward just can’t help herself. After all these years of reading Ms. Ward’s books, I should be used to it by now, right? The fact that she chooses to not have a focal character in every book she writes has become her M.O. since the beginning of time. So I shouldn’t expect any less.
Because I was more invested in reading about Rhage & Mary’s journey towards parenthood, Axwell and Elise’s story took a back seat. The definitive crux of my problem with this book lies in my disappointment stated above. That it was an extension of The Beast rather than a thorough introspection of Axwell’s storyline.
In any rate, I still enjoyed it. Axwell came from a poor family with no prospects whatsoever (besides enrolling in the BDB Training program, that is). He’s virtually an orphan since he lost his father to the raids. His mother had long since abandoned them before then. He’s carried a guilt with him for ignoring his father’s call on the night he was killed. He’s angry at himself and at the world – more particularly to the members of the Glymera. His mother took off to become the mistress of one of those people so he doesn’t really have a good opinion about them. (You can practically smell the romantic twist from a mile away, don’t you?) He ended up being employed by one as a personal security detail. And yes, you guessed it, to Elise – whose life has gotten even more restrictive since the murder of her cousin.
As for Mary & Rhage, if you’re following the series, you’d know that they were in the process of adopting a girl whose mother just recently died. Bitty has seen the worst kind of abuse at the hands of her father. It took Bit a while to get used to being loved and cared for. She was very wary at first but soon warmed up to the idea that she, too, deserves some good in her life. But all the physical abuse her body has suffered also left her with some permanent damage that if not treated might leave her invalid after her transition. Reading about the way Havers tried to correct the break in her bones had my eyes smarting in tears. Bit was allergic to any kind of anesthetics, so you can just imagine the torture this kid went through. We also learn that the uncle she was talking about was not imaginary at all which had Mary and Rhage going crazy for the uncertainty of losing Bitty.
I have a complicated relationship with JR Ward’s books. Yet no matter how I complain, I end up going back to her year in and year out. It’s like being in a bad relationship sometimes. No matter how bad it gets, I’m the weak one who keeps giving the bastard the second chance.