There are some book series that you can begin anytime and never miss a beat because continuity is not an issue. Others, like Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter” series, are books you really need to have been in on from the beginning, and sometimes must review the material twice to “get” it.
My introduction to Hamilton’s Anita Blake series was “Bullet.” Offered a copy of the latest book to review, I figured sure, why not. I soon learned. It was like running from a crazed gunman to find a menagerie of zoo animals stampeding straight at you from the only other outlet available.
I was reeling through the first two-thirds of the book, trying to keep up with all of the characters. Their roles in the current plot left me no time to catch my breath before another disaster and a half-dozen other characters were introduced. I constantly felt lost and in need of a diagram outlining who’s who. Way too much information and too many names and connections were presented way too fast.
Once I finally figured out the hierarchical structure for the St. Louis vampire and were-culture, it made things read so much easier. You figure out that there are three key figures at the top, who form a triumvirate of power, literally.
What’s special about this group is that the right-hand gal, Anita Blake, the U.S. Marshal specializing in vampires and supernatural, also has her own triumvirate of power — literally. She also has a lot of say and a lot of pull over other were-people. This story is predominantly about Blake growing in power, which coupled with the others in her ever-growing group of supernaturals led by the vampire Jean-Claude, she uses to battle evil forces.
The vampires, through their triumvirates and Blake’s connection to the many were-cats across the country, are at the top of their food chain, but make no mistake that Blake is the one with all the pull, literally.
She has a very specific moral compass, which is constantly challenged and pushed to its limits, as are her ties to others in the supernatural world. It’s a very different environment than the one we live in, make no mistake. Even when her anger and pain reign, she tries to do what’s best for all; it’s a tough line to walk.
But she’s the leopard queen and will soon have a tough decision to make that could potentially tie them even further to other were-cats, including tigers and lions.
Keep in mind that with some vampire strength, along with her leopard DNA and blood ties to others, she’s very animalistic in nature, especially when it comes to feline urges – meaning they like to sniff and scratch and rub against each other, literally — which necessitates that the book come with a label cautioning of explicit sexual content.
In fact, as is often the case in life and death and “dark” cultures, sex is a big factor. The power base for Blake, et al is founded on blood and sex, preternatural abilities and trust. If you’re offended by sexual content and situations, which are plentiful in this story, the book is not for you.
If you can see past that and keep reading, you’ll see a woman who grows in power and does what’s necessary to protect her community and the people she loves. She has some tough choices to make, and as in any society, bears the weight of the burdens that fall on her small yet infinitely sturdy shoulders. She laughs, rages, kicks butt, heals, deals with jealous exes, vampires, threats to the supernatural community, all the while taking calls from her “job” at the U.S. Marshal’s office.
Her efforts halt a rough vampire group from mass murders across the country. She also has to pull herself up by the bootstraps to permanently stop a former lover. She also has to deal with loss resulting from some of her choices.
I’d recommend starting with an earlier book in the series to have a better understanding of the dynamics of Anita Blake’s world and how she came to be in her current position. I certainly wondered about some of her history mentioned only in passing in this book. Otherwise, I’d say read it in short bursts so you can process all that’s thrown at you.
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