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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Author:  J. R. Ward
Plot Type:  Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence4, Sensuality4-5, Humor2-3
Publisher and Titles: 
         Covet (2009)
           Crave (2010)
           Envy (2011)
           Rapture (2012)
           Possession (2013) 
           Immortal (2014) (FINAL)  

     This post was revised and updated on 11/10/14 to include a review of  Immortal, the sixth and FINAL novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first five novels.   

               NOVEL 6:  Immortal               

    Ward ties up all the loose ends in this big series finale. As the various story lines play out, we get the mostly satisfying resolutions of the following relationships: Sissy and Jim; Devina and Jim; Adrian and Eddie; and Nigel and Colin. Unlike the previous books, two souls are on the line in this one, and you may be surprised at their identities. I'm not going to attempt to summarize the plot because the interconnections among the story lines make that it an impossibility.

     The Sissy and Jim relationship has always felt a bit pedophilic to me. Sissy is, after all, a teenage virgin and Jim is a 40-year-old mercenary soldier. In this book, their relationship jitters through every emotion you can imagine: rage, distrust, adoration, lust, fear, etc., etc. They have several passionate and graphic lust scenes as well as some tender moments. Both Jim and Sissy have spent most of their time seething in inner rage, and in this book Ward delves more deeply into that problem. in this book, Jim works hard to keep his focus on his soul-saving task and tries his best (but ultimately fails) to keep from being distracted by Sissy.

Devina's gold Louboutins
     Devina is her usual cruel and devious self, losing control of her OCD impulses, adding another pair of Louboutins to her collection, and spending more time with her therapist. And about that therapist: we get some hints that shed new light on the identity of the therapist and the real purpose of the sessions. I enjoyed Ward's method of resolving Devina's fate, although there were a few too many rainbows and unicorn moments for such an evil character.

     I really can't tell you much about the Adrian-Eddie situation and the Nigel-Colin relationship without providing spoilers, so I'll just say that the resolution of the conflict for each pair is quite satisfying. 

     Although I can't say that this is my favorite paranormal series, I have enjoyed Ward's fresh and inventive world-building and her intricate plotting. Ward has even managed to give depth to the long list of primary characters, and that's quite a task in and of itself. This is a series that must be read from the beginning in order to understand what is going on and to appreciate the suspense that builds from book to book.  

     Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Immortal on the book's page at top left.

    This series follows the battle between heaven and hell for the fate of the worldthe ultimate battle between sin and redemption. In Covet, we learn that the great Creator has become impatient with the unending conflict between good and evil in the world and has set up a contest to settle the issue once and for all. Seven mortals will be selected, each of whom is guilty of one of the seven deadly sins (one per book). The first team to win the souls of four of the mortals will be awarded dominion over the physical world as well as Heaven and Hell.  

     On the side of evil are the devil's minions, led by the sly and crafty Devina. On the side of good are the heavenly forces, headed by Nigel, an up-tight gay archangel.  The man in the middle is Jim Heron (aka the savior), whose soul is made up of equal parts of good and evil. Heron is a former black ops warrior who dies, becomes a fallen angel, and must now steer the course of events that determine the fates of the souls of the seven chosen ones.  

Here is Nigel's summary of his instincts about Jim:
    "When the Creator had appeared unto Nigel and Devina, and explained that there would be a final contest, both sides had had to agree to Heron's being the one on the field with the seven chosen souls. Naturally, each opposite wanted its values represented, and the end result was that this massive, war-minded angel standing afore him had equal amounts of the good and evil in him. Nigel believed, however, that the fact that Jim's slain mother was within the walls of [heaven] would be the tipping factor, and he still thought that was true." (Envy, pp. 19-20)

     Each chosen mortal reaches a crossroads of sorts in their lives where they must make a crucial decision between good and evil. Complicating matters is the fact that though Devina and Nigel have selected the mortals, they are not allowed to reveal the identities of the chosen ones to Jim. Jim must figure that out on his own before Devina gets to them and leads them toward the wrong decision, thus condemning their souls to hell. The contest has rules, but both sides bend those rules whenever they get a chance, especially Devina. Jim's two sidekicks, Adrian and Eddie, are both fallen angels who have their own tragic histories.  Each book takes place within a very short time frame (a day or two), and each succeeding book begins just days after the previous one, so the good-vs.-evil duel is presented with a real sense of urgency, and all of the angry emotions and frustrations are fresh in the minds of the lead characters at all times.

     Although the plot of each book centers around the fight for the soul of a chosen one, in general, each book contains four different but related plot threads:
> 1. Jim tries to identify the chosen mortal and then attempts to guide him/her towards a correct decision when he/she reaches the critical crossroads, assisted by Adrian and Eddie.
> 2. A soul-mate romance plays out throughout each story. Sometimes one member of the couple is a chosen mortal, but sometimes not.
> 3. Devina interacts with Jim and his sidekicks as she tries to pollute their souls and drag them to the dark side.
> 4. Nigel interacts with Jim and his sidekicks to give them hints and sometimes to interact with his three fellow archangels: Byron, Bertie, and Colin, Nigel's lover.
     Once you get past the exposition-heavy Covet and begin to see how the mythology works, I believe that you will enjoy this series. For me, each book is stronger than the last. The ongoing characters, particularly Jim and Adrian, continue to develop and grow more complex, and the notions of "good" and "evil" become more and more complicated. Devina is a great villainess: shrewd, strong, and sexy. 

     If you've read Ward's BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD Series, you'll find some crossovers among the locations and the characters. Also, this series, like BLACK DAGGER, emphasizes strong friendships that develop among the mostly male characters.

               NOVEL 1:  Covet               

     In the series opener, Ward sets up the good-versus-bad mythology of this world and then goes on to introduce the cast of characters. The first chosen mortal is Vin DiPietro, a wealthy, workaholic businessman who is ruled by his own avarice.

     The lovely Marie-Therese is attracted to Vin, but she's made some heavy mistakes in her life and doesn't want to make another one. Jim is haunted by a tragic demon-caused death that occurs in Covet, and that has a major effect on many of his future choices. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Covet.

               NOVEL 2:  Crave               

     In the second book, the soul-mate lovers are Isaac Rothe, a black ops soldier who finds himself behind bars, and Grier Childe, the beautiful public defender who is assigned to defend him.

     Jim must suppress his dark side and accept the power of true love. This book has a major twist at the end, so PLEASE don't read the ending first.

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from Crave.

               NOVEL 3:  Envy               
     In book 3, the story opens with the capture of a serial killer named Kroner who has been ritualistically murdering young women in Caldwell, a small town in upstate New York. Two police detectives are intricately involved in the case. Thomas (Veck) Delvechhio is a homicide detective whose father is also a serial killer, currently awaiting execution for his crimes. All his life, Veck has felt that his father's psychotic side has somehow manifested itself in him. In the opening scene of Envy, Veck goes to the motel where Kroner murdered his latest victim hoping that Kroner will return for trophies of his crime. Veck intends to kill Kroner in cold blood, allowing his dark side to take over his actions. Instead, Veck blacks out, and when he returns to consciousness he finds Kroner severely injured, apparently by an animal, but Veck still thinks that he might have done the dirty deed. Investigating Veck's involvement in the case is Internal Affairs Detective Sophia Reilly. Veck and Reilly are instantly attracted to one another and fall in love during the course of the story, but not without a whole heap of mountainous bumps in their road to an HEA.   

     In the meantime, Jim makes a deal with Devina that he will have sex with her if she'll just tell him the identity of the chosen mortal. This devilish deal turns out to have a satisfying twist. Adrian and Eddie are up to their usual antics: sarcastic gibes and hot sex with bar pick-ups. Their threesomes push some scenes up to a 5 in sensuality. Up in heaven, Nigel and Colin have a spat when Colin heads down to earth to provide some assistance to Jim and the boys. The plot threads interweave themselves throughout the story as Veck deals with his inner darkness and with his uneasiness about who Jim really is. (Jim is pretending to be an FBI agent, but Veck soon figures out that is a lie.) Ward does a great job knitting the plot threads together and coming up with a complex but coherent story. The angst levels are high for all of the characters as Jim's team suffers a tragic loss, Veck's demonic side gets stronger and stronger, and Nigel fears that he has lost Colin forever.

     The "envy" in the title belongs to Devina, who envies the love between Veck and Reilly. Here, she shows her feelings to Jim:
     "I f---ing hate them." Devina said, crossing her arms over her breasts.
     Bet you do, he thought. Because those were two people in love right there. And the envy was killing her, her face screwing down tight, eyes lighting up with hatred. She wanted that with him. Ha. Ha. (p. 293) 

     Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Envy on the book's page at top left.

               NOVEL 4:  Rapture               

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Envy.

    This book could be titled "Redemption" because it brings back Matthias, who made a terribly wrong decision in a previous book, but is now being given a chance to redeem himself. In the opening scene, Matthias wakes up naked on Jim Heron's grave with only fragmented memories of his past. As he leaves the cemetery, he stumbles into the path of a car driven by Melissa ("Mels") Carmichael, a newspaper reporter. The plot follows the development of their romance as Matthias gradually remembers the awful things that he has done throughout his life, and Mels struggles with her suspicions that Matthias may not be the good man she wants him to be.

     In the meantime, Jim and, especially, Adrian are grappling with their emotions after the loss of Eddie Blackhawk. They have to learn how to control their animosity toward each other without Eddie's help, and they struggle with that every day. We learn a great deal more about the secretive and vicious XOps organization for which Jim and Matthias worked as assassins. We also get some insights into the childhood experiences that shaped Matthias into the cold, cruel warrior that he has become. One very interesting scene gives us some astonishing new information about Jim's faithful pet, Dog, and his love for turkey subs.

     Devina has a great scene in which she visits a therapist in an attempt to control her rampant OCD. We feel some sympathy for her as she works hard to curb her compulsions, but then she commits some disgustingly despicable acts and we see her as she really is. One of the most diabolical and horrific strategies Devina uses in this book is to mess with Jim's mind by playing on his yearning for Sissy, the young girl Devina has imprisoned in her well of souls.

     This is another great addition to a top-notch series, with a compelling plot and well-developed lead characters. All through the book, we get more and more insight into the primary characters, particularly Matthias and Devina. Mels is a good-enough heroine—tough but vulnerable. (She's a black belt and always carries a gun. How handy is that?) Mels goes through an inner transformation as the plot moves along, working through her long-suppressed emotions about her father's tragic death and her difficult relationship with her mother. 

     This may be nit-picking, but there is one small authorial tic that becomes a bit annoying, and that is Ward's constant use of acronyms for various expressions (e.g., an old Toyota is a "POS car"; Jim checks the DOB on his driver's license; a waitress is a POA; Matthias checks out of the hospital AMA; Mels "wanted to I-L-Y the man"). Within four consecutive pages (425-428), all of the following acronyms are used: ITCPUIPUSBASAPHR, and VP. Granted, most of these are familiar acronyms, but such heavy usage comes across as trying too hard to be trendy and sometimes interferes with the flow of the story.

     All in all though, this was a book that I couldn't put down—always an indication of good story telling, which is what I have come to expect from J. R. Ward. Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Rapture on the book's page at top left.  

                 NOVEL 5:  Possession                  
Warning: This is not a stand-alone novel. You need to have read the first four novels in order to understand the mythology, the context, and the character histories. Check out my "World-Building" section (below) for a brief overview. Also, this review has spoilers for previous novels.

     When Jim Heron (aka the savior) makes a deal with the devious, demonic Devina to give up one of his victory banners in exchange for the freedom of Sissy Barton, he has no concept of the far-reaching and tragic consequences of his action. With Jim's attention on poor Sissy, who is trying to figure out exactly what has happened to her, the battle for the next soul becomes a secondary event in Jim's life, and many people suffer as a result. Here are the main story threads for this novel:

     1. Jim tries to help Sissy adjust to her new non-dead condition by having her revisit her pre-death locations. Naturally enough, Devina tries to throw a wrench into the developing relationship between Jim and Sissy. As Jim and Sissy grow closer, they discuss their previous lives and we learn some tragic details about Jim's childhood.

     2. Cait Douglass, an uptight art professor with an unhappy romantic past, hooks up with two men: Duke Phillips is a city road worker by day and a nightclub bouncer at night. G.B. is an up-and-coming singer/actor. Both are sinfully attractive; both have tragic pasts; and both want Cait. This is the soul-mate romance part of the plot, and one of these three is the at-risk soul.

     3. Up in heaven, Nigel takes an unthinkable action, one that will certainly have a devastating effect on the outcome of the soul war.

     4. Jim's sidekick, Adrian, is still grieving over Eddie's death, but he tries to make up for Jim's negligence by trying to identify the current soul who is approaching the good/evil crossroads of his or her life. In one satisfying scene, Adrian finally beats Devina at her own game.

     5. Devina still has the hots for Jim and is determined to get him into bed once again, and she's extremely jealous of his feelings for Sissy. Devina is still seeing a therapist for her OCD, and her therapy sessions are always good for a few chuckles. She is also taking yoga classes to keep herself calm: "The yoga instructor popped into her visual field, that clueless, perma-happy, I'm-regular-'cuz-I-eat-organic expression making Devina want to force-feed her Hershey bars until she died from hyperglycemia." (p. 248)  

     Once again, Ward has some surprises in store as she lays out a seemingly straightforward plot, but then inserts some unexpected twists and turns near the end. The plot of this book really changes the series story arc, primarily due to the severe consequences of Jim's actions in saving Sissy at the expense of his savior duties. The relationship between Cait and Duke is startling in its immediately fierce and graphic sexual consummation (on a cold concrete floor before he even knows her name). Their relationship remains at a high sexual level, but when they try to converse in between sex sessions, they feel awkward and uncomfortable. Eventually, some of the reasons behind theirüber-lustful behavior (especially Duke's) is made clear, but throughout most of the book, the relationship seemed improbable to me. Even though Cait had made up her mind to liven up her life, I can't imagine that a neatnik, buttoned-down woman like Cait would jump into a torrid sexual relationship with a man to whom she has barely spoken ten words. 

     Otherwise, though, Ward has done a great job with the plotting, the characterization, and the action. Most of her plot twists are unpredictable—but they are all plausible and grounded in the earlier events in the story (if the reader just knew what to look for ahead of time). All in all, it's another solid addition to the series, and I can't wait to see what happens to Jim and Sissy in the next book. Also—great cover art! Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Possession on the book's page at top left.


  1. Book 3, "Envy" is scheduled to be released 09/06/2011.

  2. I often do not comment on blogs but your blog has such a method and writing model that I have no choices but to remark here. Nice submit, keep it up.
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  3. Will there be any more for fallen angles and if so when . read the four i have . read somting about Adain but that was it. would like to have them all
    thank you

  4. I just finished the series and I must say your comment that each book is stronger than the next is exactly how I felt while reading them. By the time I got to Immortal I was busting to find out how it was all going to fall in place. Granted, not as good as BDB but a nice change of pace while still enjoying J.R. Ward's writing style.

  5. I set Possession aside months ago and haven't gone back. Ward's writing style is grating on my nerves after reading other authors in the genre. I'm barely 1/5 into Possession and already annoyed with Jim, his dumb obsession with Sissy (and what is with Ward's female character names?). The age difference alone is borderline pedophilia, and since Adrian (literally) emasculated himself in the previous book, I've got no one to root for here. I'm not at all interested in Cait, can already tell Mr. Nice Guy musician will be the "bad guy / soul-in-play", and the whole idea of the players on the field not knowing who the "ball" even is is beyond ludicrous. Guess I've just outgrown these books, having read better authors who don't give me headaches reading their work. And PS, is this blog still active? Can't find a way to follow or get a newsletter. I got an update about this series' comments (likely from way back when I began reading Possession), and somehow managed to do that. But, I'd forgotten about it since then, and obviously forgot how to get anything newly posted on this site.