Tag Archives: Anita Blake


I’ve made a huge mistake.

Honestly, that would probably be the right place to stop the review, but I just want to complain more, I so do[1]. Spoilers for Bullet, an Anita Blake novel from maybe 2010?, are a free-for-all from here on in. I will mostly be describing the first half of the book, mainly because the second half goes off the rails and becomes all but indescribable.

Scene one: Anita and her main squeezes (so, like, four of them?) head off to an art school dance recital, partly to reintroduce the characters but mostly so Anita can get a dose of guilt from a four year old and his catty mother about how much sex she has, and with how many people.

Scene two: one of the four dudes I mentioned earlier is in a snit because another one of the four dudes I mentioned has been refusing to bang him, since Anita might not like that. They decide to have a six-way (another dude, who has been on the outs with Anita but who is important to the local power structure, showed up to help) to prove to the pissy guy that he is loved.

Scene three: No, wait, they were all compelled to have the six-way by a dead vampire progenitor who it turns out isn’t dead and wanted to use the lust sex magic to take over Anita’s body and live again. But they noticed in time and stopped, hooray!

Scene four: Some werelion that is pissy Anita won’t pick him exclusively (instead of the two vampires, two wereleopards, and werewolf that made up 5/6 of scene two, not to mention the random other folk she does on the regular) shows up and has beaten some of his pride members nearly to death since he thought maybe she’d banged them too. She uses some of her sex magic to save them before they die, only a vampire who uses death magic has showed up remotely to make them eat each other instead, and in the process of using her sex magic against his death magic, we devolve into instant full on orgy, which nobody can remember when they wake up.

It is important to note that maybe 12 hours have passed so far.

Scene five: That one werelion is still pissy, and picks a fight that results in a lot of people getting hurt, and someone else dying (maybe one of those four people from the beginning?! oh noes), and Anita shoots him in the face so much that he cannot heal from it, what with his head being fully destroyed. Presumably it is this scene from which the title arises? I have no way of knowing.

Scene the second half of the book: Anita is numb from the horrors she has seen, which are apparently just scene five? I’m numb from the horrors I’ve seen too, which comprises maybe rather more of the book by volume. Anyway, the remainder of what happens, in no particular order, are that she exercises off her aggression / numbness[2], finds out about someone taking out an open assassination call on her and the main vampire and the werewolf, uses creepy necromancy powers to drain the lives of some volunteers to save someone else (which makes sense that she would gain a lot of power from that) and then uses inverse creepy necromancy powers to refill the lives of the people she had mostly drained (which makes her completely nonsensically filled up with even more power, instead of drained herself), finds out about a rotting vampire in Atlanta that has gone mad and started killing everyone, and bangs a lot of weretigers because that will be important to them having enough power later to defeat the progenitor vampire that was apparently supposed to be the plot of the book; only after 400 pages of various people negotiating poly relationships, the author realized the book was too large to get bogged down in plot resolution.

It is important to note that maybe 28 hours passed total, and certainly not more than 36. It is also important to note that I have aged five years from the life-draining powers of this book. I didn’t read the third Robin Hobb assassin book partly because Mary was behind (she’s very much not, anymore) and partly because I wasn’t sure I could take more misery.

Well, I am now looking forward to misery that the author intended to induce, since it will be a nice change of pace!

[1] I’ve complained about Ms. Hamilton’s authorial ticks at length, so I shan’t do so again, especially when there’s plenty else to worry about.
[2] Yes, both were a problem. Don’t look at me!


41gFgp0FhpLThree years between Anita Blake books this time. Oops, I guess? I should read things I like next, clearly. Anyway, Flirt was quite a bit better than its predecessor, despite having an equally inexplicable cover. (For one thing, the title actually makes sense.) But the main reason for this is how short it is. Hamilton did not have enough time to throw in the authorial tics that have made me twitch so much, more than once or twice a piece; and the plot doesn’t have time to get buried up its own ass. There is a pointless chapter early on that exists solely to be a mislead about what’s actually going on once the mystery murdery part kicks into gear in the second half, but otherwise: no wasted space. I am impressed.

But it really is a book mostly premised on flirting, which is bad enough if you’ve read the rest of these. It’s also a book in which Anita must once again regretfully use her vampiric sex magic to make some other were-animal fall helplessly in love with her, thus further complicating her life (just as if the enslaved guy doesn’t have, y’know, bigger problems). Pretty much par for the course.

If the huge moral event horizon she crossed (unrelated to mental enslavement, no less!) were going to pay off in future books, I think I’d be more interested in what comes next? Nonetheless, this is still one of only two good books I can remember in this series since it made that original hard left turn into awfulness. I’d give you links here, but I don’t want to dig through my past reviews finding them, as it would only waste that much more of my life than I’ve already burned through.


Skin Trade

51nHng3hYnLSee, I even sort of have a couple of things to say about Skin Trade, but then I think to myself, I could not begin to guess what the title actually means[1]. It has no bearing on anything I read, none at all.

And then I think, fuck it, how can anyone else possibly still care anymore? Even the good ones are so terrible.

So. Terrible.

[1] Also, the saw blades on the cover? Equally random and meaningless. Perhaps title and cover are a metaphor for what lies within. There’s a kind of sadistic irony in the fact that it would be impossible to comprehend such a literally superficial metaphor without having read the book.

The Harlequin

Here is why The Harlequin was disappointing to me. It was neither tragically horrid (despite a fleeting mention of the worst-named vampire lord of all time, Auggie) nor blandly boring. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a complaint, big enough to fill a paragraph, and that’s enough for me to be satisfied that it wasn’t a complete waste of my time. But the thing is, it was actually kind of good. If Hamilton hadn’t done this to me once before, I might actually believe that the series could be in the midst of an upswing again. I mean, I did think the first several books were pretty okay. Still, I have good defenses now, and will not be tricked this time!

The point of the book, anyhow, is that vampire enforcers so secret and scary that big, powerful vampires like the ones Anita Blake hangs out with (and let’s not forget ’causes to be as powerful as they are’, by virtue of being a special necromancer with multiple strains of lycanthropy (none inconveniently active, though, as that would cause actual difficulties in her life, due to the many prejudices that abound) and also inexplicable vampiric powers that really don’t seem to benefit her much, just to act as an excuse for the author to throw lots of sex into the story without Anita feeling bad about herself (which I’ve probably already said any number of times by now in previous reviews) while giving the big, powerful vampires some of their power, which I believe is where we came into this parenthetical) are afraid to even mention that they exist have come to town to investigate a local vampire church that is not following the rules of how vampires work. Which is not a legal issue, just a traditional one; they have no lord to whom they all owe allegiance and whatnot, they are their own people. It’s a very American kind of thing, in its way. And of course, while these unnameable Harlequin are in town, they’ll want to see what’s up with the weird necromantic[1] lycanthropic vampiric entanglements that exist here in St. Louis but nowhere else. And that, of course, leads directly to the kind of danger that Anita Blake and her friends are uniquely qualified to shoot and/or (at least, more recently) fuck their way out of.

Except, you see, the sex is actually toned way back, both literally (which, whatever; I am neither particularly pro- nor anti- it for itself) as well as in terms of its plot relevance. Which is step one of how I am impressed with the upswing of the plot. It’s been… yeah, I don’t really know how many, nor do I care to go back and check at this point, but it’s been some number of books in which nothing happened except that Anita learned to control the way needing sex to keep herself alive (yes, literally) affects everything and everyone around her, during which twenty pages of an unrelated plot took place in the background. And that number was too high. So, definitely a nice change of pace, here. There’s still lots of relationshippy stuff, and not all of it of the romantic variety, but I’ve always been pretty okay with how Hamilton portrays her characters, so that’s alright. …although technically I’ve just perjured myself there. But let me catch up.

Decent plot, decent characters, improved percentage of sex fluff. Where, then, are my complaints? They are here! The lesser of them is that, Jesus, there are too many characters to keep track of! Maybe one of these times a ginormous and heretofore never mentioned threat, as seems to show up in more of these books than not, could handily kill off maybe a half- or a dozen characters that do not have speaking lines in more chapters than not? Just so random people can not walk-on soliloquize, and then vanish for another book or two. And I mean, even that wouldn’t be so bad[2], except that there Anita is, all first-person remembering who the person is, when she last had sex with him, and why she continues to care that he is alive. So I can’t even just pretend they’re random new people every time, like I might otherwise try to do. So, yeah, they need to die now, a lot of them. It is okay for her to go back to not knowing the names and penis sizes of her bodyguards now. All I’m saying.

But the bigger complaint was… okay, I’m going to delve into spoilers here. I don’t care enough to make a cut, but in the unlikely event that you do, I’m probably not going to make any further points from here, so you can stop reading now. Okay? Okay. So there’s this werewolf on-again off-again boyfriend of hers, Richard. And he’s been pissy for a good long time because she keeps having sex with more and more people and gaining more and more inexplicable powers, whereas all he ever wanted to be was a normal happy human. And he’s grown gradually more emotionally abusive toward her, which at first didn’t bother me because it started out as genuine confusion, not abuse, but the willful disregarding of anything she’s ever said to explain, which honestly may just be a symptom of how repetitive of an author Hamilton is but I will choose in this instance to take as evidence that he either started out abusive after all and it wasn’t obvious to me or else he got that way as he realized that there were never any consequences for it, has removed my small sympathy for his position. And now, he’s moved on to physically abusive, and I can’t tell if I should be crediting Hamilton with a subtle transition instead of the misogyny I’m seeing, but Anita again tells him it’s okay, more or less. I think you’d have to read the chapter or two to understand why it’s a fine line and I can’t actually be sure which is going on, but it looks more like physical abuse than sexual kicks to me. Anyway. He then piles on more emotional abuse, and eventually, at the climax of the confrontation with the Harlequin, the state of their relationship is a key component of the outcome of that battle.[3]

And at this climax, her magic sex power is turning into magic love power, which is again a nice thing; but Richard, in his role as stand-in for the audience, is justifiably paranoid that as soon as he gets involved, letting his guard down and all you see, it will turn back into sex magic, and there he’ll be, trapped in the middle of yet another deus ex orgica. And she gets all pissed off because he doesn’t trust her to know what her magic is like, even though she actually hasn’t for books on end and also never got mad about any of the abuse, but apparently this is where the line is. So, anyway, still in his stand-in for the audience role, she lets him have it for not being willing to accept her for who she is, multiple live-in boyfriends, powerful sex magic and all. And the so-thinly veiled goal of this is to say, look audience-as-Richard, Anita has done nothing wrong and she’s a good person and you should maybe stop judging her so harshly now that I’ve done my part by at least remembering that the plot should exist as more than atrophied connective tissue for my sex magic scenes. So, give a working girl a break, huh? And at first I was pissed off in the way that people get when they’re going to be ashamed but they’re not ready to embrace that yet. Except, no, wait, I realized: I was never annoyed with Anita for being immoral, the way Richard-not-quite-as-audience-like-as-he-thought would have me believe of myself. I always would have been more okay with her if she had embraced her sex magic right off the bat instead of being so negative about it herself for so long. No, what bothered me was that the writing was so clearly designed to justify her shift from mystery-solving necromancer to… well, whatever she is now, when the fact is, it shouldn’t have needed justification in the first place. So for Anita-as-author to justify it to Richard-as-audience now, and try to excuse hundreds of pages of truly awful prose in the same gesture?

I guess I had a little bit more than one paragraph’s worth of anger after all! Which, in a mistaken way that I simultaneously acknowledge and disregard, makes me feel better about the book after all.

[1] A pun that, I assure you, I never grow tired of.
[2] Seriously, who am I really fooling here? This must be what Stockholm Syndrome feels like.
[3] Which should also be a thing in my complaints list all by itself[4], but I’ve pretty much just accepted that metaphysical confrontation is Hamilton’s shorthand for mixing relationship drama with plot drama and moved on, because at least it’s better than all the sex-as-plot that had previously been going on.
[4] While I’m speaking of stuff I forgot to complain about, Jesus, the repetition. I mean, yeah, plot repetition too, and I know I’ve said this in previous reviews, but how can you write, again and again and again, ‘He was wondering why I did that.’ “You’re wondering why I did that, aren’t you?” He looked ashamed, but nodded. “I was wondering why, actually.” “Here’s why I did that:” …and so on. And, okay, as offended as I am by my question above, a better question is, how can you fail to edit that out, again and again and again? Jesus!

Danse Macabre

So, here’s a possibly interesting tidbit about Danse Macabre. When I first knew of its existence in hardback, I wasn’t yet halfway through the series, and it looked like a lot of change was in store ahead. Anita was going from a zombie animator and vampire killer and unofficial detective to federal marshal? Cool beans! Pregnancy scare? Sure, fair enough, she’s got a boyfriend and maybe a second one. This would have been 2006, I guess?

Also, that probably wasn’t interesting at all, but it was pretty much the only thing I could think of to type that wouldn’t be dripping with vitriol, and it seems fair to give my readers a safe haven wherein they can decide to not keep going.

Because, Jesus God, this is a fucking terrible book. It spans 48 hours leading up to a vampire ballet performance, which latter part might have been pretty cool to watch, I guess? It was ten of the maybe fifteen pages where I didn’t want to claw my eyes out of my head while reading it, anyway, so I can’t help but look upon the scene fondly, y’know? In the meantime, there are these five hundred pages spanning these 48 hours, in which nothing of any interest happens. Anita might be pregnant, and she’s going to be sure to be strong about it except for fighting with all of her friends, or maybe that should be the definition of strength instead of an exception. But she also just might carry a bunch of impossible virii and be way stronger than anyone yet suspects, instead of being pregnant. All those Master Vampires they’ve invited to town for the ballet might have been a bad scary idea that will destroy their lives, or maybe they’ll gain all kinds of new power by having giant vampire orgies instead. She’ll certainly have to manage the expectations and feelings of her myriad emotionally crippled boyfriends, sure the normal ones like Richard and Nathaniel and Jason, but let’s not forget all the awesome non-names we can throw around, like Haven or Wicked or Truth or London or Asher or for fuck’s sake Requiem! And as if that weren’t bad enough, the Master of Chicago is named Augustine, which would be like a breath of fresh air except that he’s older than perennial fan favorite Jean Claude, and yet everyone calls him Auggie. AUGGIE!!!!

It’s like… well, I know I’ve mentioned Mary Sue before, but to sum up right quick, Mary Sue is a character in Star Trek fan fiction from probably the ’70s, who was written as a stand-in for the author, and she shows up every main character you’ve heard of on the Enterprise, she’s the one person with all the special skills and talents to save the day, plus pretty much everyone wants her in the worst way. It’s not that Anita Blake is a Mary Sue kind of character. It’s not THAT SIMPLE. It’s like, in these last few books, Anita Blake is the character that the original fictional Mary Sue would have written, if she herself were an author in addition to her many space-faring talents.

The worst part? I actually finished the book. I don’t exactly know how. I mean, at the beginning, I wasn’t angry, I just wanted to quit because it was so unpleasant. But it felt at that point like I was having an unfair personal reaction to some story elements, so I persevered. Eventually the relief of that part of the plot fading out of prominence got me through the interminable middle section in a bull-rush. And by the time I realized that every time I read more than a page at a sitting, I got angry, I was a) almost finished and b) didn’t have access to the next book I wanted to read. And by the time I solved that problem, I was really almost finished, and the old idiotic completionism had kicked in. But, seriously, I think I accidentally got a little drunk on Wednesday night because I was reading, and if I couldn’t focus on the book, I wouldn’t have to read anymore. I don’t so much no longer care about these characters as I sincerely want them all to die in a fire. And I’m in the unique position of being able to make that happen. But it seems like I shouldn’t?

Anyway. Here’s what does happen: Anita gets threatened in dreams by the First Evil, or the Queen of the Damned, or someone like that. The Mother of Night, there we go. Anyway, she’s the very first vampire, and she’s been waking up gradually for a few books now. And then later, Anita talks to a guy who was made a vampire by that one chick, and who might be the Arthurian Merlin instead of just a vampire with a similar name, and who is certainly the first dude in a long time that might be more powerful than our merry band of sex-starved heroes. Which might matter, except he wants to sign on with them instead of oppose them? I guess I just ruined the book, but if I can tell you every single plot event that occurred in only two-ish sentences, it may just be that someone else ruined the book first.

God! I can’t stop being pissed off about this!

And all the fucking horrible verbal tics! “That wonderful Gallic shrug that meant everything or nothing.” “[This or that sexual pecadillo] just flat did it for me.” The repetition between thought and action, along the lines of, say, someone asks a question, then our author types, “I didn’t know the answer to that. ‘I don’t know the answer to that,’ I said.” I mean, the first few and others that I thankfully can’t recall offhand, there’s no reason for you to read them and understand how, after a dozen books of the same phrases over and over again, I am boiling with fury at the memory. But that last repetition thing? Who is possibly allowed to write like that?!

Okay. Okay. I’m stopping now. Fuck!

Narcissus in Chains

61OauXqsD6LTo be clear, this is not the worst book I’ve ever read. It might well be the worst book I’ve ever finished, though. I’d try to make a case for the fact that I’ve been in a poor mood the last week or two, but the fact is, I hated it and nearly quit reading long before the mood started. If I was in jail on a deserted island and this was the only book available, I might have to renounce literacy. Let this be a warning to you.

The funny part is, I was praising the last book for being so much more on target than the couple before it. The way this was accomplished, I have since realized, was by taking our Anita out of her home turf, out of the range of her various boyfriends, and putting her somewhere completely different with a man with whom she has only a strictly professional relationship, and helping him solve a mystery. How did I realize this, you ask? By virtue of the fact that Narcissus in Chains is the exact opposite of that book in practically every way.

Anita returns home, ready (thanks to some unfortunate lessons learned in New Mexico) to come to terms with her relationships with vampire and werewolf, both emotionally and parapsychologically, I guess. (They share some kind of power between them, you see.) In the process of doing so, she discovers just how badly the things she has been ignoring in her life for the past six months have collapsed and goes about setting them right. Meanwhile, there are plenty of new players in town to create distractions and complications for all concerned. Plus, a little fraction of a mystery? Sort of? As has happened before, I’m willing to admit that everything tied up much more neatly than I had expected, in the last 40 pages or so. But that’s pretty cold comfort. It’s fine for Anita to not see the strings connecting everything together, but after enough times that I can’t as a reader, it starts to become an exercise in futility. I’m simply not paranoid enough for these books, I guess. All I know is, the mystery part seemed so backburnered that by the time the bad guy was revealed as having tried to kill Anita twice before, I had no idea who they were referring to, and couldn’t find any indication of it at a couple of earlier points in the book that I thought might be applicable. And then, sure, a few pages later, I figured out what they meant. But somehow, that seems like a pretty bad sign. This is all I’m saying.

Obsidian Butterfly

61fzp0DkFALApparently, I have read nine Anita Blake books over the past year and a half. That seems like kind of a lot, although the year and a half part brings it back down to reasonable levels. Here’s the awesome thing, though. For the first time in a little while, I really liked this one. In Obsidian Butterfly, Anita is called upon by her mysterious assassin friend, Edward, to join him in New Mexico for an old-fashioned creature hunt. They, a Native American bodyguard-for-hire, and a mysogynistic German serial killer must all join forces with the local police and the Feds to track down a creature that is killing a lot of people, and skinning but leaving alive a lot of other people. Since Anita Blake’s bread-and-butter is killing the vampires, the demons, the forces of darkness… well, okay, that’s somebody else. But Anita does it too, generally speaking. If you’re unaware of her, she’s this book series chick who raises zombies to ask them questions, and sidelights as a legal vampire executioner, whenever they get too uppity and outside the law. And those skills translate into hunting down were-creatures, witches and other spellcasters, fairies, and all the other non-mythical creatures that inhabit her Earth and go rogue from time to time.

So of course I’d like that, except that lately the series has run to vamporn more than detective-y awesomeness. Which is what made this book so much better than lately. All of the ‘Who will I choose?’/’Getting my hump on is immoral, but he’s so dreamy!’/’Check out this awesome new power I have thanks to my ongoing relationships!’ stuff has been put on hold, to settle into an old-fashioned investigation and hunt. It’s possible that this reset to the early series values marks a Vampire Hunter renaissance, and I’m really going to like the next few books? It’s a nice thought.

Especially because the editing was atrocious, and having to deal with that in addition to lame storyline will make me very sad. The badness was due to repetition. If there’s one thing I really understand about this book, it’s which people have empty eyes signifying that their soul has eroded away. Because I was told about it on an average of once or twice per chapter, spread out among a very few number of characters. And this book has 60 or 70 chapters, just so we’re clear. But even worse than that are the moments when Anita monologues internally about her opinion on this person’s motives or that person’s effectiveness, and then speaks those thoughts aloud (presenting them almost exactly the same way she thought them) to some character or other that was in the room with her when she was thinking to herself, all on the same page. Speaking as someone who can maintain attention to the plot for longer than 90 seconds at a time, this was an exercise in pain. It’s possible that this speaks to just how much I enjoyed the plot, that I was only rolling my eyes at the prose rather than having it make me want to claw them out.

Guilty Pleasures

My current book is kind of vampire porn. Less self-absorbed than an Anne Rice offering, less explicit than Vampire Vixens, the first Anita Blake novel is of the approximate quality of a decent Buffy novelization but rated PG-13 for adult themes. (So, a lot like Season 6, except for the part where Buffy novelizations are, as a rule, trashy.) The thing is, I heard that it turns into a real train wreck somewhere down the line, plus I have a soft spot for the undead as entertainment. So, here I am.

In an alternate 1990s where our hero raises zombies for a living, vampires are lobbying for the right to vote, and bachelorette parties can be held at the vampire strip club Guilty Pleasures, it’s easy to be jaded. But even an ex- vampire hunter can be caught by surprise when the police and the city’s master bloodsucker both want her to find a criminal who has been murdering very powerful vampires.

Will vampires be slain? Will there be existential angst? Will there be a variety of possible love interests? Will our heroine have skills that are incongruous with her appearance, thus causing people to constantly underestimate her? All this, and a promise of more zombies to come in future books. So that’s alright, then.