The Black Dagger Brotherhood
by JR Ward, fantasy (2008)
NAL, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-451-22500-9


As some folks may know, I have always wanted to read and review JR Ward's series of the same name but I can never find the time or the patience to finish the first book in the series. I plan to, maybe one day, finish that book or die trying. In the meantime, a well-meaning friend of mine believes that this, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, may help me get into the series as it is supposed to be some kind of comprehensive guide to the series. She even bought this book for me and mailed it to me all the way to Malaysia. Well, if it is any consolation to her, it hurts me to write this review because I wish I can reward her generosity with a glowing review.

This book is for die-hard fans of the series only. It is like a teenage magazine, full of trivias like the favorite colors of the Brothers Weird. Seriously, as if I care whether Zsadist's favorite color is pink tutti-frutty or whatever. I am more interested in the literacy level of the person who wrote down their names on their birth certificates. Zsadist? Phury? Rhage? I can overlook the fact that we have lily-white guys here playing at being thugs and acting all ghetto, since I see such guys on those TV shows on MTV all the time nowadays, but I can't look at their names without laughing. As for the other stats, come on. At the very least, they could have provided some fluff and crunch that can be used for tabletop role-playing games, which would at least be something, but instead these details are inconsequential fluff for people who want to write Mary Sue fanfiction featuring the Brothers Weird.

The "clarifications" on whatever confusion or continuity errors there are in the series don't mean much to me as I have not read any book in the series yet, but they do provide an interesting insight into how Ms Ward is trying very hard to pretend that she's as, er, adorably kooky as Laurell K Hamilton. I mean, let's face it, the author started out writing contemporary romances that channel old-school Harlequin Presents under the name Jessica Bird. And yet here she is, trying to convince me that she's some kind of medium that probably writes while wearing a thick oversized turban on her head because she will insist that any mistake in the story is due to her "misrepresenting" what her characters tell her to write.

Now, I know that it's cool for an author of a favorite cult series to act like a kooky ethereal/fey creature who hears voices of one's characters in her head while pleasantly floating amidst the high provided by one's favorite hookah, because this will only enhance the mystique among the fans that the author is this mysterious, nebulous, but magnanimous Channeler of Radiant Stories that Make Your Life So Brilliantly Beautiful. Such mystique-enhancement method works for, ahem, some other really big authors of horror and urban fantasy because emo and Goth fans love how these authors seem to live out at least a little the life of their favorite characters. Or at least understand how "real" Zsadist, Lestat, Jean-Claude, Edward Cullen, and company have become to these fans. The fact that some fans have started to call Ms Ward "the Warden" would suggest that Ms Ward is really connecting very well with her fans. But come on! It's a cop out, not to mention insulting, to try to wiggle out of one's inability to keep continuity straight by pretending that there is something wrong in the transmission of information from Xenu to Earth.

And there are continuity errors present even in the new - at least, I think it's new - short story here. This one is an epilogue of sorts about how one Zsadist and Bella, one of the interchangeably weak and pathetic heroines wedded to the Brothers Weird, have this blissful wedded life that culminated with the popping out of the baby whose name thankfully isn't Yilliterate. This one is for the ladies out there who swoon at the idea of such big brawny Wiggers turning into WASP Daddy/Husband of the Year. Where was I? Oh yes, the continuity errors. Just try to keep track of how many months Bella carried her brat. Either the Brothers Weird count worse than they spell or something was lost in translation during the most recent transmission of the story from Xenu to Earth.

Let's see, what else is in here? Ah yes, excerpts from each of the books in the series, because I'm sure many people who will buy this book have not already read those books. There is a preview of the upcoming book, which I'm sure we can't find on the author's website. If you haven't heard, the hero of the next book is Rehvenge. Is it just me or did the Gollum teach these Brothers Weird how to spell? There are also deleted scenes from previous books which have no value to me since I haven't read those books. Besides, these scenes are as interesting as sawdust. They must be the equivalent to a commercial break during the Great Xenu Broadcast.

Also, a question and answer session that is actually a thankfully short ego-polish session designed to reinforce the idea that Ms Ward is currently seated at home bundled up in a big bathrobe and adjusting the antenna at the top of her star-studded turban so that she can receive top secret details from the big Eminem in the sky on what to write down in the next book. How else am I supposed to think when we have a couple of people asking Ms Ward to describe the daily lives of the Brothers Weird? There is also some "insight" into Ms Ward's writing process. See the antenna on top of the giant turban, above.

You know what I think? I'm thinking that it may not be a good idea to release a guide that portray the author and some of the more extreme fans of the series as a little too enthusiastic to the point that the boundary between fiction and real life has blurred for them, let's just say. Take a look at similar "guides" for favorite TV series like The X-Files and Buffy - none of those books have the producers and actors behaving as if those characters are real and will marry all the more delusional fans of the series one of these days. The creative process is spelled out in a down to earth manner - the writers plot, brainstorm, and improve on the first draft. There is none of that "Spike spoke to me in an erotic dream and told me that his soulmate is Buffy" nonsense. Instead, there is some semblance of... normalcy, for the want of a better word, in those guides. This one seems designed to present the fandom and the author as reality-challenged people, which is not a good thing if you ask me.

On the bright side, I've moved the books in the series to the front of my TBR queue. Judging from the excerpts, they seem like perfect source for the "lulz" and I can always use some of that. Does this mean that this overpriced book has done its job where I am concerned? Hmm.

Rating: 43


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