|Reading one of Laurell K. Hamiltons Anita Blake books
is like eating a cinnamon truffle. Outside its smooth and sweet, but inside is a
series of complex flavours and an unexpected spiciness.
In this latest book, a group of
vampires is protesting the rigidly hierarchical system that vampires live under. Some
members of the group have turned to violence to make their point, and this endangers Anita
and her sweeties, among others. There is a short investigation and the danger is stopped
in its tracks.
The first Anita Blake novel came out in 1993; over the last 19 years, the heroine has
aged about six years. Shes matured considerably in that time, and changed a great
dealjust as real people do. As a young woman she was very sure of her limits, and of
who was a "monster"; as a 30-year-old her limits have changed, and her standards
regarding what makes someone a monster have become less absolute.
Characters need to develop and age, or they become cut-out figures. (Look, for
instance, at Stephanie Plum.) The kinds of changes Anita has gone through are believable
(well, within her particular version of the world anyway) and compelling. Many characters
from the original book(s) have fallen by the wayside and new characters have appeared,
stylishly and beautifully drawn.
Though all of this is admirable in the long term, Hamilton focusses on character (most
notably Anita agonising about whether she has become one of the "monsters") at
the expense of plot. This 359-page book has a plot that can be summarised, without losing
subtleties, in a short paragraph. Because of the nature of Anitas supernatural
powers, much of the second half of the series focusses on sex, specifically on
Anitas increasingly unusual sex drive and sex life. Some of the books could in fact
be best classified as porn with plot.
However, theres a flavour of realism to the way things work out in the books. In
real life events dont build to a climax the way they do in books and movies, and
resolutions are often anticlimactic. And Hamiltons writing style is compelling and
subtle, making all the Anita Blake books (even the porn with plot) a joy to read.
One nit to pick: Hamilton has, in at least three instances, repeated herself in this
book by describing or explaining the same thing in the same way. And this is in a book
where the dedication reads, in part, "To Missy, welcome aboard, a continuity editor