The Savior by J.R. Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Savior progressed slowly following Dr. Sarah Watkins, a biomedical research scientist. However, when it came to the ex-brother Murhder, I could not get enough! I couldn't put the book down. His name screams Old World when names were stereotypical of the warrior, like Wrath, Tohrment, Vicious, Rhage, you get the point. Murhder loses his mind after being tortured in a Symphath colony and is no longer accepted as a member of the Brotherhood. It is a long story but Xhex used to be his lover. He is the only one who has ever been kicked out of the Black Dagger Brotherhood too. We learn later that he was misunderstood and judged unfairly. He spent 20 years in isolation because of it. From reading the book I didn't get the impression he was crazy either. I did sense the other brothers' anger towards him which I didn't think was right. They weren't being very nice to him especially Tohr and V. The only one who believed Murhder should come back and fight as a brother again was John Matthew who Murhder incidentally thought was Darius. I guess they always had a good relationship. I am so happy about how everything turned out for these two. Back to the story... Murhder is on a mission to save a female vampire and find and return her son who was taken away from her. Meanwhile, her son Natelum is being tested in a human lab and is on the verge of his transition into an adult vampire. He will die if he doesn't get the proper treatment from a chosen. Dr. Sarah Watkins is appauled over the secrets and torture treatments being done in the biomedical firm. After her fiancee dies unexpectedly, she sneaks into the facility and plans to take the young boy away from there. She is the first to rescue him before Murhder John and Xhex unexpectedly arrive to save the day. Sarah just gets swept away down a rabbit hole. When one thing leads to another, doing the right thing means that Murhder has to wipe Sarah's memories of everything she knows about the Vampire world, even if it means losing her. As an independent male and free from the rules of the BDB, he asserts himself on occasion but I am still not convinced he is crazy cause he doesn't act it. He seems like he has his shit together when it comes to Sarah Watkins. I guess she brings out the good in him *shrugs Her accepting attitude of the existence of vampires make her job easier and she quickly assumes her role as doctor and works with Manny. Ehlena and Dr. Jane to help them find a cure for a blood anomaly. When John Matthew is bitten by a dark shadow thing, her research prompts her to test out a new theory that might help save him from dying. Murhder volunteers to try it first. It works! Nate has successfully transitioned but his role is not defined fully so he is swept under the rug until further notice :p I am extremely satisfied for reading about my favourite vampires in The Savior.
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The door leading to the hallway and the rooms upstairs slammed open without warning, and in came the missing patron. He was tall, thin, and wide in the shoulders. He had been lodging upstairs for the last three days, and always wore the same grey coat and cocked hat. In his gloved left hand was a heavy-looking leather bag that he never let anyone else touch. Apparently, he even took it to the outhouse.
“Listen to me!” he bellowed after letting the bag down and shutting the door. “And listen well. Until the sun rises, no one may leave this inn!”
Having just emptied a goblet down his throat, Moritz gave the man a look of dull surprise. “What is this? A robbery?”
“I’m afraid not,” the strange patron said. “If it were, we’d all have a better chance of getting through it alive.”
The inn is in an 18th-Century(ish) Germany(ish) country. The strange patron is Conrad Shast, the last member of a noble household turned monster hunter. That's about as friendly as he gets. He goes from town to town, wherever he's called to go to eliminate any one of a multitude of monsters on behalf of a shadowy organization that, well, let me let Shast tell it:
“Few refer to it by name, but it is called the Culling, and it’s been protecting the world from monsters and witches for as long as history remembers. From time to time, others have tried their hands at monster hunting, but it never lasted. In the long run, only the Culling has survived the test of time.
“Officially, no noble is under obligation to aid a hunter. But the consequences of rejecting a plea for help far outweigh their potential cost.”
The Culling is a busy group, it seems, there are monsters everywhere in this world (even overrunning some continents), and, as the man said, they're the only game in town. Generally, they send one or two people to any particular place, but if there's a big enough problem, they will send out reinforcements. During the course of this novel, Shast ends up working with two other hunters. It's clear that no two hunters are alike—there's a variety of approaches, specialties, backgrounds, and personalities (I was a little afraid it'd be armies of Shasts, Miller might have been able to pull it off, but I like this approach better).
Shast is a classic loner, a wandering knight à la Jack Reacher or TV's David Banner (but with less of a sense of humor). He comes to down, gets his prey and the money he (and The Culling) is owed for that service and moves on. No friends, no family, no entanglements. The particular hunt he's on when he takes over the inn is a little trickier than most (and will end up being a lot trickier in the end)—he eliminates the monster, but not the source of the infestation. The source has moved on and has likely infested at least one more city by this point. So he has to hit the road to track down the source.
One woman in the inn was so changed by her exposure to the monster that she can detect the hidden creature (not that she wants to), so Shast brings her with him to expedite the hunt. The city guard also dispatches a knight old enough to be her father to act as chaperone and guard. Eventually, they cross paths with another hunter after the same target. She's into poisons, explosions (Shast prefers a good knife) and making sure her enemies suffer. She joins this grim band as they continue to track down the source, eventually reaching the capital city and discovering things are worse than they thought.
It's not a smooth journey, and there are distractions and obstacles (both monstrous and human) along the way. The group is not united in any way, and most aren't that willing to be participating, but there's not a lot of choice offered any of them. Putting this in an 18th-Century(ish) setting is a great idea—you get a little bit of technology (guns, primarily), but not enough that swords, horses, traveling on foot and slow modes of communication aren't the flavor of the day. You get a shifting prominence of nobility, a rising middle class, and a church struggling to survive in a hostile world, also. It's a tumultuous time, not helped at all by the creatures plaguing the citizenry. It's also a great change from the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Miller's previous series.
And I wish I had time to give good descriptions of these monsters—and you'd be better to read them for yourselves anyway. The first one we see is simply disgusting and disturbing (and, boy howdy, am I glad we don't get a bunch of them). Some aren't that bad (relatively speaking, anyway), but a lot of them could be nightmare fodder is Miller used them a little differently. None of them are easy targets for the Hunters, but it's only in large numbers that they're a giant threat. We don't seem to get anything that you've seen before (at least nothing I've seen before), which is great. Nothing against trolls, orcs, vampires, wights, etc.—but I appreciate seeing something new.
A common thread, it hit me this weekend, to all the books I read—Crime Fiction, SF, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, even General Fiction, Non-Fiction or Theology—is that the worst enemies, the greatest predators, the most dangerous threats to humans aren't aliens, monsters, demons, or whatever external threat you can think of. It's humanity, our neighbors, our leaders, those like us. And as horrible as the creatures that The Culling targets may be, there's something hundreds of times worse. Miller using that reality, reflecting that in his fantasy, is my favorite part of this novel (the competition for that was stiff), it'd have been easy and understandable to make a parasite that can control its host—or some other creature—to be the ultimate evil that Shast and the rest contend with. But Miller took the better—and harder—road. Which speaks good things for this new series (and bodes ill for how things are going to go in future installments).
Speaking of future installments, I know he's already getting things ready to release the sequel in a few months. I can see a lot of options for what that sequel will hold—Character A's next hunt, or Character B's hunt/attempt at redemption, Character C & D going forward (together or separately), or a completely new batch of characters in the same world. All of which are pretty appetizing—I'd prefer A or C and/or D to another group or B—but I can see any of those working. Miller's earned my trust at this point, and I'll take whatever eagerly.
This is the sixth work I've read from Miller (you can read about the four novels and one novella of The Nameless Chronicle here), and I love watching him grow and develop—he's learned a lot from that last series, and is applying those lessons well. This is more assured and better executed than those—and I had few complaints about them! Jump on to this one at the beginning of what promises to be a great ride.
It has been a long while since I read a BDB book, and I remember why, J.R. Ward likes to jump around in her plots; so many things going on that it makes for an exhausting read. It was enjoyable, but don’t expect to be able sit back and relax and enjoy an easy read. This one was intense, SO much was going on, the passion was good, the action was strong, and it was nice seeing all the characters again. V is on a bad path in this one and shame on him for not being happy with Jane and their relationship. From reviews of the next one, The Thief, that I have read, I have heard it is a lot about them and V’s possible choices he decides to make. Not sure I’m ready for it. Layla and Quinn and Blay have a lot to deal with in this one and I did really enjoy their scenes. There are also a few shocking, but good, surprises in this installment. Overall, not my favorite in the franchise, but not the worst either. It is a good read. If you have been following along with the BDB series, this is a good one and you shouldn't be disappointed--just go into it expecting all of the different plots. If you haven’t, I do recommend giving it a try if you like high intensity vampire romances, just prepare yourself for Wards writing style-too many plots going on at the same time. Blay and Quinn's book is still my absolute favorite in the series.