Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
(Black Dagger Brotherhood Series #8)
In the darkest corners of the night in Caldwell, New York, a conflict like no other rages. Long divided as a terrifying battleground for the vampires and their enemies, the city is home to a band of brothers born to defend their race: the warrior vampires of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown to himself and to those around him. After he was taken in by the Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was- or his true identity. Indeed, the fallen Brother Darius has returned, but with a different face and a very different destiny. As a vicious personal vendetta takes John into the heart of the war, he will need to call up on both who he is now and who he once was in order to face off against evil incarnate.
Xhex, a symphath assassin, has long steeled herself against the attraction between her and John Matthew. Having already lost one lover to madness, she will not allow the male of worth to fall prey to the darkness of her twisted life. When fate intervenes, however, the two discover that love, like destiny, is inevitable between soul mates.
Two words: JOHN MATTHEW.
We'd met him in Lover Eternal, the second book of the series, when he was a tiny, mute kid living on his own in a destroyed apartment building, carrying a big secret. Now, though, he's become a strong, powerful vampire fighting with the Blind King and the Brotherhood. Oh, and, he's in love.
What I love about this series is that in each book we get to know more and more about particular characters while we meet new ones, new mysteries build up while the older ones resolve. Even though they're all written in the third person, Ward switches points of view in such a crafty way that we usually get to live the important parts of events twice, each more exciting than the other. The way she lays out the chapters and the sequence of events makes you whoosh through a chapter and keep going just so you can find out what's going to happen next.
Most of the time, when I was reading about the lessers (the Brotherhood's enemies), I used to try to read quickly so I could get back to the vampires. Since Lash joined them, though, even they've gotten a lot more exciting. Especially in this book, Lash has so much to do with everything that instead of thinking "Die already," I found myself think, "Oh, they're so coming to getcha!" And he's even fun at certain points, which doesn't make him any less evil, but impossible to ignore and even enjoy.
I liked the way Xhex and John's romance worked out: she's a powerful, kinda manly-featured assassin who is used to taking care of herself and not letting anyone in. He's been in love with her ever since the first time he saw her, but he also knows who she is and doesn't expect anything from her. That's doesn't mean, of course, that he doesn't find her and save her and revenge her and give her what she wants. And it's a good thing he does because that's how she realizes that she, too, is in love with him. Most of the hard times they went through in the past bring them together, as well as other surprising things that I'm not going to get into here.
As much as I love John Matthew and loved seeing the world through his eyes, another super-exciting part of the book for me was the relationship between Qhuinn and Blay: it's as if they started cracking and soon there will be a big explosion, which I cannot wait for. I hear Ward's discussing with her editors whether or not they should get their own book or just a novella, and I honestly think they deserve their own book: whoever has a problem with gay characters should feel free to not read it.
Having said that, though, it does look like the next one will be Payne's--The Scribe Virgin's daughter-- book. Up to now it's been the brothers, and not it's going to be a female related to the Brotherhood. It might reveal more about The Scribe Virgin and what she had been up to (no good!), but I'm afraid we're gonna lose John Matthew, whom I'm used to being around. Hopefully J.R. Ward's dedication at the beginning of the book will keep its promise:
I cannot believe you and I have come so far.
Your book is not a goodbye, however--
just another beginning.
But you're used to that...