Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review: Cerulean Sins by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 11 of the Anita Blake Series

 Musette, the representative of Belle Morte, her vessel, is in town as an ambassador. And she’s three months early.

Normally such an unexpected, uninvited visit would be met with hostility and a quick boot outside the territory. But Belle Morte is their Soudre de Sang the head of Jean-Claude’s line, he owes her fealty and loyalty. It’s a tricky maze of vampire politics to navigate, especially since Belle is bitter about Jean-Claude and Asher leaving her and her embassy is determined to be as difficult and provocative as possible.

Anita also has a police case, a brutal serial killer is stalking St. Louis. But investigation is stymied by Dolph who is increasingly losing himself in his hatred of vampires – and anything not entirely human, including Anita herself.

The international terrorists looking to recruit Anita don’t exactly simplify matters.

And behind them all is something bigger and darker. The Mother of All Darkness, the founder of the vampires, their council, their laws, the oldest and greatest of them is waking up. And she has noticed Anita.

There is quite simply too much going on in this book. Too many threads, too many fragments of storylines that don’t go anywhere, don’t do anything which leave the actual 3 storylines: the serial killer, Belle Morte’s visit and the Mother of All Darkness raising her ugly head.

And they were completely lost by the endless mini-storylines, exposition, excessively long descriptions, unnecessary elements and navel gazing.

Take the plot fragments – I’m actually going to cheat here since this is a catch up review and I’ve already read all the books to Book 21 so I’m also going to say which plot fragments never become relevant.

Stephen and Gregory’s abusive father is in town. Relevance? None.  As far as I know he’s still hanging around in book 21, kicking his heels. It doesn’t even develop characters because these 2 increasingly fall off the radar.

International terrorists want to recruit Anita for nefarious schemes. Relevance? None. No, really. Set up this massively juicy plot point, bring in her FBI guy and all and it’s used in a short story later. That’s it. There are entire chapters devoted to tracking these guys!

Valentina and Bartolomé have their back stories explained (at length) and are then hang around forever more. Role the play in future books? A brief, irrelevant guest appearance by Valentina!

Another major distraction was people losing their shit, then everyone having to shovel it afterwards. Anita goes to the crime scenes?

ARRGLE RAARGLE! Dolph loses his shit! RAAAWWWRR!!!

Anita having sex?

AARGLE RAARGLE! Asher loses his shit! RAAAWWWRR!!!

Confronting the big bad guys in a scene that could mean the difference between Belle taking over the city and crushing them under her thumb?

AARGLE RAARGLE! Richard loses his shit! RAAAWWWRR!!!

Guys, triage. Seriously. If you can’t deal with your ridiculous shit at least learn to put your shit on hold until after the big bad has left town. This isn’t even comic. Richard actually confronted the big bad and asked her to wait until he’d finished his relationship drama.  They had a whole damn argument while Musette/Belle stood and watched.

The only people who we know will never lose their shit in this series is Jean-Claude, who is constantly clearing up shit, and Micah, who has no shit to lose because he’s an ambulatory penis. I love how everyone’s so surprised and impressed at how accommodating he is – of course he is! He’s a blank slate! A blank slate with a huge wang! That’s all this character is!

Even when points are relevant to the books we have massive, ridiculous descriptions and conversations about them in absurd, irrelevant detail. They spend pages discussing which of their people are safe from Musette demanding her team have sex with them – and it never becomes relevant because she never does. Not only are all their plans rendered pointless, but they were ridiculous to begin with because they didn’t know half of Musette’s party. They even make a big production about how Faust is safe from demands because he’s gay and none of Musette’s party is gay so they can’t force him to have sex (oh yes, the wonderful logic here? “Forcing someone to have sex with someone they find repugnant is rape”. So forcing a gay man to have sex with a woman or forcing a woman to have sex with a child. Except, forcing someone to have sex is rape – repugnant or otherwise – it doesn’t matter if it’s Quasimodo covered in sheep dip or Ian Somerhalder covered in chocolate).  Then they turn round and introduce Paolo, a gay vampire and a sex predator! Who they also spend a gazillion pages talking about so they can justify putting Micah in eye make up. Ye gods above who cares! He’s wearing eye make up. It’s pretty. Move the story on for crying out loud!

Or we have Anita’s sickness after being fed on by Asher and his orgasmic flashbacks (no, really, he causes sex flashbacks with the added amusement of Anita being capable of causing grievous bodily harm during her orgasm flailings). It adds nothing to the story except Asher’s angst.

We constantly get these delays, these exposition for no damn purpose. Asher panickingly summons Anita to come quick, Musette has arrived early. So off they hurry and spend pages describing a feudal system to Anita, pages describing how Jason is scared, pages worrying about the Ardeur, pages describing how Asher is scared, pages describing Damian’s bond to Anita, pages describing how Damian keeps her calm and why and… what was the emergency again? I’ve forgotten?

And the descriptions? It’s constantly over the top but at one point Anita spends four pages describing Asher and Jean-Claude’s clothes. Four pages.

There were so many distractions in this book that I actually forgot there was a serial killer running around. I found the introduction of the Mother of All Darkness fell flat because we spent so long describing the whole situation, which had already followed a similar, intangible, psychic attack from Belle and all those descriptions and, nestled among it, is a psychic link with Richard – oh and the terrorists following in a car – that the whole thing is just lost. This is supposed to be the biggest, baddest enemy Anita will ever face and she’s kind of lost in the distractions.

Inclusionwise we have some background POC, some animalistic Black vampire/weres, predatory gay men, Belle having weird rules about not being jealous of men only women, Anita’s and Richard’s uckies with bisexuality and Asher being dramatic as usual.

Anita adds two new lovers to her stable this book: Asher, who she sleeps with to keep him safe from Musette and she’s still not sure how much she loves him is based on jean-Claude’s memories/Asher’s sexy powers (and orgasm flashbacks). And Jason, who she sleeps with because the ardeur hits and she has to – as an added bonus she starts by trying to feed the ardeur without full intercourse (as she prefers with Nathanial, as Jason knows) but Jason decides that if this is his only chance he’s going all the way. She begins to protest but doesn’t have chance. Uh-huh – yet again, this is not sexual agency.

Claudia makes a brief appearance so Anita can point out (at length) how ridiculous it is to treat her as harmless with all her muscles just because she’s female, which is good. We then have visits from Detective Arnet who is jealous of Anita because she has Nathanial. Detective Tammy, who is fainting and pregnant – and spitefully tells the whole force Anita is pregnant as well. And we have another police detective, O’Brien, who tries to play glory hound because she’s afraid Anita will steal her thunder (making it the second time female police detectives have been jealous of Anita’s “success”). Of course, we also have Musette and Belle Morte – the evil evil seductive sexy women who want Anita’s men. This isn’t a great showing.

This could have been a good book. It could have been a great book. But the excellent plot lines are buried and utterly overwhelmed in irrelevant rubbish, drama, angst, sex and melodramatic writing. You don’t read this book, you mine through it.