“One thing I’ve learned about vampires–they keep pulling new rabbits out of their cloaks. Big, fanged, carnivorous bunnies that’ll eat your eyeballs if you’re not paying attention.”
– Laurell K. Hamilton, Bloody Bones
This post contains spoilers…
Anita Blake is a necromancer, a re-animator. She brings the dead back to life nightly to answer the questions of their former loved ones and acquaintances. And this is just what she does for a living.
In her spare time, Anita is the Police Department’s secret informant, a vampire hunter with the ominous title of ‘Executioner,’ and the city’s most powerful vampire’s human servant. She is one third of a ‘triumvirate’ consisting of herself, one formerly-mentioned super powerful vampire, and her werewolf ‘on again/off again’ boyfriend.
Did I mention that she has a kickass vampire power known as the ardeur? And that she has the metaphysical capability of turning into were-animals of varying types?
The story started out very well. Anita Blake is a re-animator who has some vague, undefined beef – insert first sceptical eyebrow here – with the city’s most influential vampire (next to the Master Vampire who dies ignominiously in the first book), and is looking for love in all the wrong places. There are some fantastic background characters to deal with here, but we see very little of them amidst Anita’s fury at Jean-Claude for… Well, whatever the hell it is he actually did to her. This would all be good and well if Jean-Claude came across in the novels as an evil-minded monster with no humanity and a penchant for killing innocent people all to satiate his violent thirst for blood.
He doesn’t, however. So the reader kind of learns to like this character.
Oh wait… There was that whole tricking-her-into-becoming-his-human-servant thing. I guess that could dampen a person’s image of the guy. In his incredible defence, though, he finds wonderful ways to excuse his behaviour whenever he ‘marks’ Anita. He was saving her life, he had to in order to protect himself and thus her, and so on and so forth.
And then there’s the fact that Jean-Claude is gorgeous. Influential. Wealthy. Powerful. And – for some reason known only to the author – madly in love with Anita. Oh, and he owns a strip-club.
Where naked werewolves wander the hallways.
Kind of like the Twilight films, but with an added porn soundtrack.
Well, of course, Anita couldn’t possibly sleep with this man, because the fact that he is a vampire outweighs all the above items acting in his favour. So, instead, she falls in love with Richard. A simple soul with a secret.
Richard is a werewolf. One of many were-critters in the city, she is later to find out. And after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Anita turns to Jean-Claude and FINALLY gives in to her lust.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t stop. So many books. So very many more sex scenes. And rather poorly crafted, too, which is also unfortunate. Sex scenes can often-times transform into spiritual encounters, but these, mostly, degrade into pornography.
“I sat on the bed. Neither of us said anything. I wasn’t slick and sophisticated enough for this. What do you say to boyfriend A when he finds you naked in the bed of boyfriend B? Especially if boyfriend A turned into a monster the night before and ate someone. I bet Miss Manners didn’t cover this at all.”
– Laurell K. Hamilton, The Killing Dance
The setting was fabulous! An alternate reality where vampires, and certain other ‘monsters,’ live out in the open, recognised by human society. There is the, of course, the issue of affording rights and avoiding becoming whole-sale victims on the side of the mortal authorities (Sound like TrueBlood? Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries series was not published until at least eight years after the first Anita Blake novel was released), as well as the acceptance of people to this exciting and terrifying new creature in their midst. Over and above that, however, the vampire social structure is magnificent:
Every city has a Master Vampire and subjects, as well as a type of animal that he/she controls. In Jean-Claude’s case it is wolves. This power usually transmutes into the control over were-creatures that fit the sub-species that the vampire’s power pertains to.
And this is only the beginning of it.
But none of this becomes plain enough to the reader. Why? Because we are subject to Anita’s constant moping about things that she has brought upon herself. Anita Blake has a typical ‘hunter’s’ mentality. If it is not strictly human (or, apparently, just a dead human) it does not deserve my love or sympathy. This later transforms into a weird psychosomatic need to copulate with every unnatural thing she can find (eventually explained away by the ardeur – a vampire power which requires the subject to feed on lust). Anita’s leap in logic makes very little sense to her, or the reader, though we are treated to 21 books’ worth of explanation.
Anita is clearly a Mary-Sue character. Yes, she’s pretty. But this hardly explains why absolutely everyone, supernatural or otherwise, is desperate to get into bed with her. Clearly, the author picked up on this because she then proceeds to try and explain this away as well by using a convoluted whirlpool of obscure vampire and supernatural powers.
Well, her attractiveness couldn’t be left to her personality. She threatens almost everyone she meets with a gun, sleeps around with as many men as she likes, and insists that they all only sleep with her. Not exactly girlfriend material.
There is absolutely no problem with making the character you always wished you could be. Writers do it all the time. But a perspective character has to have one flaw.
So that he/she is at least relatable. In 21 books, Anita has not displayed this flaw, she is un-killable, absorbs any attack thrown at her and then makes it her own, and will never stop making every man she meets fall in love with her. She’s like a really beautiful terminator with a greedy, selfish heart.
And a strange love of penguins.
If less time had been spent on sex scenes and needless whining, we may have been able to see a side of Anita that we really loved (perhaps the reason she loves penguins so much), or focussed more on her relationship (not just her exuberant sex) with Jean-Claude, or even learnt to discover and adore this universe that was created to house the novels.