Book Review: Claimed by J.R. Ward

Posted July 26, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Claimed by J.R. Ward

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Claimed by J.R. Ward
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery
Published by Gallery Books on July 27, 2021
Pages: 525
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

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Also by this author: Possession, The Shadows, The Bourbon Kings, Blood Kiss, The Beast, Blood Vow, The Chosen, Blood Fury, “Dearest Ivie”, The Thief, "The Rehearsal Dinner", "The Reception", Consumed, The Savior, Blood Truth, Where Winter Finds You, The Sinner, J.R. Ward, A Warm Heart in Winter

First in The Lair of the Wolven magical realism mystery series, which has a connection to The Black Dagger Brotherhood and revolves around a nature preserve for wolves set near Walters, New York. The focus is on Lydia Susi. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of The Black Dagger Brotherhood books on my website.

This eARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Gallery Books at Simon & Schuster for an honest review.

My Take

I found myself wishing that I had re-read Lover Mine, 8, for more background.

That beginning both saddened and cracked me up. That poor wolf Lydia was so fierce about and the contrast with her interaction with Rick who’s concerned for her safety and caring for the dying wolf.

There are two major conflicts: the hotel going up next to the preserve and the fact that it’s poisoning the wolves and the Project going under from a lack of funds. A lesser conflict is the sheriff whom Lydia accuses of protecting the powerful and not the wolves.

In the veil was a confusing phrase. No, I understand the concept of it, but when it was written in the story, it seemed as though I always had to re-read the phrasing. I dunno. Probably just me.

Hmm, Lydia really is passionate about wolves when she commits that illegal act — one which is, um, revealed at the end. Yep, it just adds to my curiosity (and suspicion) about that sheriff. Then there’s her resolve to do anything to protect her wolves, despite the evidence. Still, ya gotta love her bluntness, even if her wild actions fill me with fear.

Ward is superb at setting up suspicion about the characters, and she maintains it throughout the story. I had so many questions about who and what as I read with everything twisted about by the time I finished Claimed. Oy, my head is still spinning, and I hate that I have to wait for the next in the series. I need those questions answered! The unrequited and unspoken love in here only added to my feelings. I’ll tell ya, I cried at the end.

Peter’s behavior is definitely suspicious, and his disappearance wracks up even more questions. Then there’s all those renovations to his house . . . It seems we should have also been suspicious about the lamentable Rick and his own addiction.

Ward amps up the fear with the mysterious person stalking Lydia, the tracker, the men (man?) in black uniforms bristling with weapons, Daniel’s true purpose and identity, the body’s disappearance . . . and reappearance??, then that humongous surprise at the end. Oy.

So far, Xhex’s and the Brothers’ appearance is minimal. Just enough to attach Claimed to The Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It also has me intrigued to hell and gone as to how Xhex is connected to events occurring around the Wolf Study Project. Those dreams of hers . . . ugh. It broke my heart with all the insecurities Xhex is feeling. Yep, all thanks to third person triple point-of-view from Lydia’s, Xhex’s, and Daniel’s perspectives.

Just who is Eastwind? I gots me plenty of questions about that guy.

Ward does a great job of painting Lydia as a pathetic loner and all without resorting to an info dump! I don’t, however, buy her or Daniel’s insta-love. It simply doesn’t feel right.

I don’t understand why the mysterious they believe Lydia is deep in it. Whatever it is.

We do get backstory on Daniel through that nightmare he has.

LOL, I do appreciate C.P.’s honesty, ahem. Those legality comments about robber barons, the steel industry, today’s Big Tech, the U.S. government? Oh, yeah, *more laughter*.

Yeah, it’s not just the Wolf Study Project and the wolves who are betrayed. This story is more twisted than I could ever imagine. That Ward . . .

It’s a fast pace only slowed up by my questions with colorful characters and plenty of action, for Lydia always does the right thing.

The Story

Lydia Susi is passionate about protecting wolves in their natural habitat. When a hotel chain develops a tract of land next to the preserve, Lydia is one of the most vocal opponents of the project — and becomes a target.

One night, a shadowy figure threatens Lydia’s life in the forest, and a new hire at the Wolf Study Project, the mysterious Daniel Joseph, comes from out of nowhere to save her. He’s a man she intrinsically wants to trust . . . but is he hiding something?

As the stakes get higher, and one of Lydia’s colleagues commits suicide, she must decide how far she will go to protect the wolves. Then a shocking revelation about Daniel challenges Lydia’s reality in ways she could never have predicted. Some fates demand courage, others require even more, with no guarantees. Is she destined to have true love . . . or will a soul-shattering loss ruin her forever?

The Characters

A loner, Dr Lydia Susi is a researcher and scientist passionate about wolves, who has been working at the Wolf Study Project as a behaviorist for the past two years. She has a minor in IT. Her paternal grandfather, isoisä, raised her and had lived to be 101 years old and still appears at critical moments.

Daniel Joseph is a loner, a drifter who never stays long in one place. He’s applying for Trick’s job. Uncle Louie is the only man in his family with a sense of humor. Not. Mr Personality is Daniel’s oldest friend and ally.

The Wolf Study Project (WSP)
Dr Richard “Rick” Marsh is their veterinarian. Candy McCullough is the feisty receptionist with a car that smells like her name. Trick is the groundskeeper who quit. Peter Wynne is supposed to be the executive director, their boss, but he hasn’t shown up to work for ages. C.P. Phalen, a wealthy businesswoman, is the new board chair for the WSP.

Walters, New York is . . .
. . . near Deer Mountain and really more of a village, it’s so small. It’s also very friendly. Sheriff Thomas Eastwind is a pragmatic guy who seems to know too much with plenty of his own secrets. Alonzo. Anthony and Phil.

Doris seems to do hair and is a friend of Candy’s. The flirtatious Susan is a cashier at the IGA and is married to the fire chief. They have five sons. Paul Gagnon is the local mechanic. The diner is attached to the IGA where Bessie is a server. Bessie is married to Susan, the grocer’s husband’s brother. The Pine Lodge is run by Candy’s sister and brother-in-law (who are also Susan and Bessie’s first cousins by marriage). Miser has a slow tractor. There’s another Bessie, Bessie Farlan who’s married, although I suppose her husband could be Susan.

Lincoln High School has a glass case with photos that raises questions for Lydia (and me!).

The Black Dagger Brotherhood lives . . .
. . . up on a mountain in the mansion Darius built (Dark Lover, 1). Xhex, a.k.a. Alex Hess, is a half-breed sympath/symphath who feeds off humans’ toxic feelings and is the shellan of John Matthew, a Brother (Lover Mine). More Brothers (and others) include Qhuinn and Blay (Lover at Last, 11, and A Warm Heart in Winter, 18.5); Vishous who has bad dreams about people’s futures; Rhage who’s married to Mary, the household therapist (Lover Eternal, 2); Butch; Lassiter, who is a fallen angel and the new Scribe (The Thief, 16); Nate (The Savior, 17), the adopted son of Murhder and Sarah (The Savior, 17), has just gone through his transition and isn’t long out of the same kind of lab Xhex had been trapped in; and, Autumn, who is Xhex’s mahmen (Lover Reborn, 10). Fritz is their doggen, a butler who adores taking care of everyone.

Trez Latimer (The Shadows, 13, and Where Winter Finds You, 17.5) has a new club, Blasphemy, to add to his emporium of legal and not-so-legal businesses. T’Marcus Jones is one of the bouncers, a new hire.

The Colony is . . .
. . . home base for sympaths/symphaths, sociopaths with special powers, and Xhex’s family. Rehvenge “Rehv” is their half-breed king (Lover Avenged, 7). Horace, a.k.a. Blade, is her brother. Who also appears to be Daniel’s big boss. Huh? I sure hope Blade gets his soon!

Corrington Hotel and Resorts is the company putting up the new luxury hotel next door. Corrington himself is in charge.

In the veil occurs twice in a 24-hour period when morning transitions into night and vice versa. Isaac Silverstein had been the kid in Lydia’s math class. WNDK is a television station.

The Cover and Title

The cover feels spare yet is full of detail with its deep gray background and full moon taking up almost half the cover. Below it is a “border” of evergreens with a ground-covering mist below it. Below that, it gradates into a black bottom. An image of Daniel takes up the entire vertical center from nose to ankle in black jeans and a ripped black T-shirt from which those muscled arms appear. The author’s name is in an embossed mint-green with white highlights and a black shadow, starting at Daniel’s crotch. Below this is the title in white with a black shadow. Below that is the series info in white with a black shadow. It’s encased between a curved mint green diamond on either end.

The title is about Lydia and Daniel, who have Claimed each other.

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