Plot Type: Erotic Urban Fantasy (UF)
22 Affliction (Berkley, 7/2013)
23 Jason (Berkley, 12/2014)
24 Dead Ice (Berkley, 6/2015)
25 Crimson Death (Berkley, 10/2016)
25.5 "Wounded" (Penguin e-novella, 12/2016)
In her twenty-fifth adventure, vampire hunter and necromancer Anita Blake learns that evil is in the eye of the beholder...
Anita has never seen Damian, her vampire servant, in such a state. The rising sun doesn’t usher in the peaceful death that he desperately needs. Instead, he’s being bombarded with violent nightmares and blood sweats.
And now, with Damian at his most vulnerable, Anita needs him the most. The vampire who created him, who subjected him to centuries of torture, might be losing control, allowing rogue vampires to run wild and break one of their kind’s few strict taboos.
Some say love is a great motivator, but hatred gets the job done, too. And when Anita joins forces with her friend Edward to stop the carnage, Damian will be at their side, even if it means traveling back to the land where all his nightmares spring from...a place that couldn’t be less welcoming to a vampire, an assassin, and a necromancer: Ireland.
This is a first for me: I'm writing a review of a novel that I just couldn't force myself to finish. I read the first 207 pages of this door-stop of a book, and realized that I just didn't care about the plot or the characters enough to slog through to the end (page 708). After 200 pages (a third of the way into the book), Hamilton still hadn't immersed Anita into the plot, and even though I was looking forward to this being an "Edward" novel, Edward himself had not appeared—only his voice on the telephone.
Basically, the pages I read consisted of an agonizingly slow and tedious review of all of the men in Anita's life (and some of the women). Hamilton insists that we know every detail of their hair (color, style, length); eyes (color, shape, changeability); physical build (height, muscularity, shoulder width); and love styles (cuddlers, toppers, bottomers). Then we have to wade through a rehash of the Belle Morte story line and the Marmee Noir (aka Mother of All Darkness) story line along with a review of the situation with the Harlequin, who now must (unwillingly and unhappily) bow down to Jean-Claude as their master and Anita as their queen. Some of the Harlequin (former Vampire Council enforcers) want in on Anita and Jean-Claude's polyamorous orgies, but Anita is planning to limit the number of bed partners she has, so she refuses and they get mad.
The narrative drones on and on as Anita and her entourage reminisce, bicker, discuss various aspects of sex, copulate, shower, discuss sex some more, spar, discuss sex some more, and then do it all over again. We get lots of relationship paragraphs like this from Anita:
"I left my girlfriend behind to make sure the live-in girlfriend of my ex-lover and current vampire servant didn't harm anyone, while I went to have a date with our shared lover. I would have said shared boyfriend, but Echo really only had one person she dated, and that was Fortune...Fortune was my girlfriend's girlfriend, or maybe Fortune was my girlfriend, too. So did that make either of them my girlfriend's girlfriend or just my girlfriend? Was Jean-Claude their girlfriend's boyfriend? Or since everyone had at least occasional sex with each other, were words like boyfriend and girlfriend too old-fashioned to cover it? I was beginning to get a headache, and it wasn't from the dance music." (Note: Believe me, at this point, my headache was worse than Anita's!)
And here is one of the MANY examples of Anita's sex-related musings:
"Damian was very straight, much to Nathaniel's disappointment. My happily bisexual fiancé would have loved for Damian to be at least as friendly as Richard was with Jean-Claude. Oddly, Richard was just about as heterosexual as Damian, but he did bondage with us. There were needs we met in Richard's life and he in ours because of it. Damian was utterly vanilla—not a fault, but for the rest of us in these relationships it made it even more awkward, because we were so rocky road with extra cherries, gobs of whipped cream, and sprinkles on top." (Note: This is from page 77, and after I read it, I truly had to force myself to keep reading.)
Then, just a few pages later, it got even worse:
"Damian snuggled in against me, pinning Jean-Claude's arm between us. Nathaniel snuggled in tighter on Damian's other side, throwing a leg across the other man's legs, which pressed his body tight against Jean-Claude's arm and Damian's side. Nathaniel stretched out his arm across Damian's back and finally must have put part of his shoulder on the other man's back, because he could reach not only me but enough of Jean-Claude so he was able to wrap his hand over the other vampire's side and hold him, too. Jean-Claude raised his arm and put it across Damian's back and Nathaniel's side. Now Damian could press himself closer against me...." (Note: This scene goes on and on and on like this as everyone arranges their arms, their legs, and their snuggly bits. It's like a boring game of Twister played out in Jean-Claude's giant orgy bed.)
Apparently the plot—whenever it final begins—deals with a vampire situation in Ireland, a country that supposedly has never had vampires within its borders (but this turns out to be untrue). Edward is in Ireland working with the police to solve the mystery of several vampire-bite deaths, and he convinces the Irish cops that he needs Anita and a few of her boys to help him out. Naturally, there is one Irish police detective who hates Anita's guts before he even meets her—which ALWAYS happens, so no big surprise there.
If you decide to tackle this gargantuan book, you have more patience and stamina than I do. Perhaps when Edward finally materializes in the flesh, the pace will pick up and the story will actually be interesting. But I'll never know because, really, I just can't make myself read another monotonous page crammed full of the tawdry, yet boring, details of Anita's strange and sleazy life.
Click HERE to go to the Crimson Death page on Amazon.com where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.
OVERVIEW OF THE ANITA BLAKE WORLD
What can I say about Anita Blake? Anita is the archetypal vampire hunter. Guilty Pleasures was published in 1993, and all of the urban fantasy (UF) heroines who have been created by other authors in the past nearly twenty years owe their knife-slashing, gun-toting, ass-kicking, crime-investigating skills directly to her. If you read urban fantasy, you've seen many heroines who wear knives on their wrists, in their hair, down their backs, and in their boots, and you need to realize that Anita did it first. She has a black belt in Judo and college training in preternatural biology and comparative religion—and she is a trained vampire executioner. By the mid-point in the series, Anita has vampiric abilities never before seen in a human, and she carries several lycanthropic virus in her bloodstream, although she cannot shape shift (not yet, anyway). What a woman!
Hamilton has also written some ANITA BLAKE short stories:
Click HERE for an annotated list of the many characters in the ANITA BLAKE series. Click HERE for book summaries. Click HERE to go to All Things Anita, a wiki for the series.
NOVEL 20: Hit List
NOVEL 22: Affliction
In the meantime, Anita suffers through her usual confrontations with the misogynistic local cops. Those repetitive encounters take up many, many pages of the text. Another chunk of the book is given over to endless conversations between Anita and her lovers as they discuss various aspects of their relationships and wonder about the true meaning of love. Anita's primary lover in this book is Nicholas (Nick), a were-lion who admits to being a sociopath but who also loves Anita. Jean-Claude shows up for a shower scene, and Nathaniel is the third man in a dom-sub bedroom scene with Anita and Nick. Anita keeps wondering why her fellow law enforcement professionals think that she's a slut, but what does she expect when she constantly (and publicly) fondles and kisses her multiple bodyguards and is never without several male escorts. At one point, Anita gripes that "I have to have sex before I can go fight crime." (p. 269) Anita also spends a lot of time in interior monologues thinking about her men and her reputation, and she just can't see what the problem is—why the world can't get over the fact that she and her men are polyamorous. Oh, one more thing: Anita picks up another animal to call in this book. How many is that now—wolves, lions, tigers, bears, etc., etc.
Another small part of the story involves a pair of bible-thumping relatives of Micah's, who scream invectives at Anita and her men and generally make life unpleasant every time they appear in a scene. Anita and Micah are worried at first that his parents won't accept their ménage-à-trois life style, but they soon learn that the family is fine—more than fine, in fact—with both threesomes and same-sex relationships. Who would have predicted that there would be swingers in small-town Colorado?
The book is saved (for me, anyway) when Edward (aka Ted Forrester) shows up after Anita is severely injured in one of the zombie battles. He and Anita swing right into their usual deadly partnership roles, and you know right then that everything is going to turn out all right. Even though Edward is a cold-hearted sociopath (but with a heart and a sense of humor), he blows into each of his appearances like a cleansing breath of clean air. Edward doesn't profess to understand Anita's situation with her men, but he doesn't dwell on it like the other males do. Edward, like Anita, is all about the job—get out the automatic weapons, grab your flame throwers, and let's go after those zombies!
This year is the 20th anniversary of the series, and I've been reading them from the beginning. One surprising fact that surfaced in this book is the length of time that Anita and Jean-Claude have been together. In one of their infamous shower scenes, she tells him, "I still marvel that you want me, that someone beautiful as you wants me after six years." (p. 280). How can 22 books take place within a six-year period? It hardly seems possible, but I guess it's true. Early on, I loved the series and the original Anita Blake character of the first six books, but since the ardeur entered the picture with its continuous ménage-à-many BDSM scenes, my love has turned, not to hate, but to "Meh." The only books that really hold my interest any more are the books in which Edward makes an appearance, so this book was O.K. for me as soon as he showed up.
This is a doorstop of a book: 570 pages. It could have been edited down to a more manageable length by deleting the lengthy, detailed descriptions of every single man who appears in the story—from eyes to hair to lips to musculature to clothing, we get it all, every time for every man. The males' descriptions are generally positive, but the women don't fare nearly as well.
Towards the end of the book, Anita has a few instances in which she is suddenly and violently nauseous, which has Nick gazing at her thoughtfully. Maybe I'm just making more of this than there is, but in my experience, every time an urban fantasy heroine starts running for the bathroom with her hand over her mouth, there's a baby in her future. If that's the case, DNA tests will definitely be the next order of the day for Anita.
NOVEL 23: Jason
Instead of a plot, Hamilton gives us two sex-oriented story lines, if you can call them that. In the first, Jason asks Anita to help him convince his human girlfriend, J.J., of the importance of rough sex to his life. The silliest dialogue on that topic comes from Nathaniel as he gives J.J. a food analogy: that for close-minded, unimaginative people who don't know what they're missing, plain vanilla sex is the meat and rough sex is the spice, but for sophisticated, open-minded sensualists (like Anita and her crew), rough sex is the vegetables, and if they don't eat their vegetables, they won't be happy and healthy and "would sort of die inside." All of them nod their heads wisely as they totally agree with this freaky comparison. It's the most unintentionally funny scene in the book.
The group dialogue and Anita's condescending, pretentious, self-centered interior monologues are cringeworthy. By this point in the series, Anita is an egotistical, sex-obsessed, intolerant bore, and her friends are her enablers. Just as in every other book in this series, Anita's interior monologues also include endless descriptions of the characters' physical beauty, hair colors, hair lengths and styles, eye colors, and clothing.
One new piece of information that we learn is that Jason's life-long number of lovers is in triple digits, while Anita claims that hers "was still under thirty lovers." Hard to believe that it's such a low number (low being relative to the characters in this series), but I'm not going to go back and count them up. The weirdest thing is that all of them call this "dating."
You could save yourself some money by reading the Wikipedia bondage entry and imagining Hamilton's characters speaking the words and/or demonstrating the concepts. I am so glad that I borrowed Jason from the library instead of buying it. Otherwise, I would be furious at wasting my money. From now on, I'm going to follow my instincts and read only the books that feature my favorite character, Edward, because those books always have great action plots, and they rarely include Anita's sex life.
The book includes an excerpt from the next book—Dead Ice—which will feature zombie porn. Oh, goodie. (Not!) Click HERE to go to the Jason page on amazon.com where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt or click on the "Listen" icon to hear an excerpt.
NOVEL 24: Dead Ice
Why, oh why, do I keep reading the ANITA BLAKE series? I guess that I just keep hoping that Hamilton will eventually find her way back to being the good writer that she once was and that she will write a novel that allows Anita to involve herself in something resembling a plot. It is definitely time for another Edward (aka Ted Forrester) story. Those are the only books that actually have solid plots and very little sex, mostly because Anita generally leaves her boy toys behind when she and Edward head out for a real adventure. Unfortunately for readers, Dead Ice is not an Edward novel.
Because Hamilton has a no-edit clause in her contract, she has produced a cumbersome, disjointed 566-page book that comprises two zombie-related story lines along with chapter after chapter of relationship melodrama. Unfortunately, Hamilton crams the zombie plot lines into just a few chapters—less than a third of the book—while she dumps in multi-chapter blocks of sex-related dialogues, sex-related arguments, sex-related physical fights, and actual sexual acrobatics—all very repetitive and all very monotonous. In an unusual move, Hamilton has her characters talking about sex more than doing it, which makes the book even more tedious than usual. (The first sex scene doesn't come until chapter 7.) The weirdest sex scene is a creepy three-way that involves an open wound—talk about disgusting!
Here's the soap opera situation as the book opens: Anita and Jean-Claude are planning to get married, but additionally, Anita, Micah, and Nathaniel will be getting rings in a commitment ceremony to show that they are also married to Anita—just not legally. Then the clan tigers force their way into the discussion. They believe in a prophecy that the Mother of All Darkness will return if one of them isn't included in Anita's commitment group. Now, Anita and her bed buddies must decide which Tiger will get the ring, so they discuss the pros and cons over and over again. Most of the candidates are men, but a few women are also in contention, giving Anita a chance to practice her woman-on-woman kissing skills. Adding a "Ewwww" factor to the proceedings is the fact that one of the tiger candidates is Cynric, a high school senior. (Remember, Anita is 31 years old at this point.) And then there is Asher—always an extremely unpleasant character—who takes some sexual actions that outrage all of Anita's allies, even his best friend/lover, Jean-Claude. Anita and her groupies discuss and argue about these issues for hundreds and hundreds of pages. They are like a bunch of jaded swingers whose lives are so narrow and limited that they spend all their time hashing and rehashing the same old tiresome relationship issues that we get in every ANITA BLAKE novel.
Here is part of a paragraph that mirrors many, many others in its barrage of ho-hum details: "Micah, Jean-Claude, and I ended up sitting at the far end of the oval with me in the middle so that I could lay a hand on Jean-Claude's thigh and hold Micah's hand. Jean-Claude's arm was across my shoulders so that his hand rested on the back of Micah's shoulders. Dev sat beside Micah, who he wasn't that close to, but tonight seemed to huddle near him, not touching, because Micah didn't let just anyone touch him casually, unless they were part of our pard. Other flavors of animal had to earn the right to casual touching from Micah. Come to that, neither did Jean-Claude and I, but Dev was on my touching list. Domino and Crispin were on the side by Jean-Claude but had given themselves a seat between so they weren't crowding him. Dev was as close to Micah as he could get and not touch him…" And that's just half the paragraph; it goes on and on in this same vein. Dead Ice is stuffed (OVER-stuffed, actually) with this type of repetitious blather. A good editor would have red-penciled this entire paragraph out of existence because, really, who cares about the minutiae of the seating arrangements? We already know that Anita will the centerpiece, surrounded by her sex-obsessed lovers.
The first zombie story line involves zombie porn movies. This story starts out strong and at first I had my hopes up because I thought that it would be the heart of the book. Someone is using voodoo to raise beautiful dead women as zombies and then coercing them into horrific sexual antics that are filmed for profit. The most horrible part is that these zombies appear to have retained their souls, so the women know exactly what is happening to them. This plot line harks back to The Laughing Corpse when Dominga Salvador, a voodoo priestess, tried to kill Anita when Anita refused to help her raise zombies to be sold as sex slaves. You should be able to figure out who is raising the zombies about half-way through the book because Hamilton throws in some fairly obvious clues. This should have been the main plot. Unfortunately, it nearly disappears into the melodramatic morass that is Anita's life.
The second zombie story line features a centuries-old dead man Anita raises as part of her Animations Inc. business. Usually, the zombies are passive and biddable, but this one asks questions, looks like a live human, and appears to possess emotions. Anita knows that the zombie's unusual behavior and appearance won't last, but one of the clients has developed a sexual attraction to the zombie and refuses to believe that he will soon turn into a rotten mess. Anita has never raised a zombie like this one, and she's not sure how it happened. This story line reads like a short story that was accidentally plopped into this book solely because of the zombie factor. It should have been published separately as a novella.
One astonishing factoid (on p. 44 of the hardcover edition): When their jeweler asks Anita and Jean-Claude how long they have been dating, they agree that it has been about six years. Anita agreed to date Jean-Claude back in book 4, Lunatic Café, so that means that all of the adventures in the next 20 novels have taken place over a period of just six years. Hard to believe.
At this point in the series, you get what you expect—a bloated mishmash of melodramatic relationship babble and promiscuous sexual debauchery interspersed with a handful of underdeveloped plot elements—a glimpse of what might have been. The cast of characters has gotten so large that most are completely undeveloped. I found it impossible to keep track of each one's supernatural heritage: Vampire? Werehyena? Wererat? Weretiger? Who cares? Click HERE to go to the Dead Ice page on Amazon.com where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.