Let me get a drink. No, a bigger drink. Right, let’s dive into this one
When this book started I actually felt hope. Actual, real hope. Because we had a storyline – an actual storyline that drew on previous world building and involved Anita working with the police and solving crime and even *gasp* actually doing zombie stuff. It was the same kind of false hope Affliction gave me. Alas, hope is a cruel, fickle mistress
We opened with Anita helping to track down a zombie sex trafficking ring, a ring that has zombies with souls being used as sex slaves which is something that she’s seen before. It could have been interesting, involved lots of police work and woo-woo…. Except after that introduction we then put that entire storyline on hold for over 300 pages, it barely comes up again for the rest of the book. Whyyy? You had a plot here! There was plot! Why ignore it?
So what did we have instead? Endless humping? Actually no, the last few Anita Blake books have actually managed to escape the trap of being porn. Rather than have endless sex we tend to have endless talking about who Anita should have sex with
This is not better.
Part of what consumes the book is the sheer longwindedness of distractions which I’ve said over and over. Anita is investigating a crime, so why are we spending this much time talking about her engagement with one of the FBI agents? Before they even play the tape (they have tapes? Actual tapes? Who has tapes? I’m sure there’s a whole generation of actual adults now who don’t even know what a tape is) with the terribad zombie porn on it, we have 2 solid pages of them discussing how terrible it will be and how the site will bother them. 2 pages. Just play the damn tape already – mooooove.
This is the writing throughout the book. That same scene with them waiting to play the tape comes with an aside about the ethics/morality/opinions of Anita marrying a vampire (why are you discussing it with these people? Is no-one here going to pretend to be a professional?). The entire first chapter is literally “we need you to look at these tapes” which they don’t watch until chapter 2! And even then they start discussing the police force’s acronym before playing the tape. The acronym.
Again I have to say how this continues through the book with lots of pointless moments like super-excessive description of the gym/showers under the Circus of the Damned or just endless recaps of her many many many many relationships or her spending like 5 pages deciding which shifters can share a bed with her so she can heal.
So other than long windedness, what else fills the space?
That’s the problem – there’s less a plot here but more a series of events that don’t really add anything or help in anyway to advance the story or expand anything – they’re just random encounters. Like there’s a painfully long diversion in a book where Anita raises a zombie and it all goes a little wrong so they have to fix it. There’s some ghouls in there as well. And the whole thing could have been cut and made into a short story because it wasn’t even slightly relevant to the main plot, the storyline or add anything to the character or the world building or anything else
There’s some random woo-woo going on which changes Micah’s shapeshiftyness. There’s Jean-Claude and Anita’s wedding. There’s Asher again screwing everything up just because. There’s Narcissus screwing everying up just because.
But there’s also a lot of mini scenes that just bemuse me. Like a scene where Anita has to spend a painfully long time putting an uppity werewolf in his place for sexualising her (more on that later). Or another scene where Anita has to. Oh and one of the werelions is beating up another werelion and Meng Die is being all nasty about it and Rafael is facing fights for leadership oh and the jeweller Jean-Claude has chosen to design their wedding rings is actually secretly in love with… OH MY GODS WHO CARES?! WHY IS THIS HERE! WHY? WHY AM I READING PAGES ABOUT THE DAMN JEWELLER YOU HIRED?! WHY?!
This is the book. Endless, pointless nonsense scenes after endless pointless nonsense scenes all randomly glued together without any sense of whether they’re relevant or not. And it wouldn’t be so bad if I had even the slightest faith that ANY of these storylines would go anywhere. I mean Micah and Raphael struggling politically and facing threats? INTERESTING STORYLINE! Can we do this? Can we examine this? No because we have the fecking tigers
Yes, the fecking tigers. Because of some random prophecy someone just remembered we now have to have Anita marry a tiger. Which means looking through all the various tigers and seeing who is possible and who isn’t and why with lots of angst and pouting and relationship nonsense and hurt feelings and pouting and aaaaaagle whyyyyyy?
Then ironic thing is I’m pretty sure the Anita Blake series is supposed to be totally pro-polygamy, all very positive about multi-person relationships and how wonder they were (Afflication wasn’t exactly subtle about this), but it fails epicly. The polyamory presented in this series is PAINFULLY hard work. Anita’s romantic and family lie is a trainwreck of constant struggle constant angst, constant jealously, constantly juggling and balancing endless hurt feelings and woe. Anita Blake’s love life is one full of angst, pain, upset, various people having their hearts broken, Anita Blake being utterly self-centred and pretty indifferent as to how her clan interacts between them. Generally, polyamory is presented as an emotional trainwork, extremely hard work with lots of jealousy and sniping and spite with a level of drama that consumes your life
It’s not positive.
This book continues the theme of being utterly toxic to LGBTQ people as well. No doubt many people have hard of the Kinsey Scale, raging from 0 (exclusively attracted to people of the opposite sex) through to 6 (exclusively attracted to people of the same-sex)
Well in the Anitaverse it also comes with a contempt level – the higher up the Kinsey scale you are, the less important you’ll be through to you actually being terrible and contemptible and pathetic
So, the main characters are all either completely straight or completely straight but they have one exception no-homo-no-homo-no-homo and can’t mention that exception without totally mentioning how they’re not into the same-sex. Again. These characters are the main, important characters who have a level of respect and importance in the book: Anita, Richard, Micah, Jean-Claude, Raphael. These are the important alphas who may dip into same-sex sex but are definitely straight barring the odd exception
Then we have bisexuals who lean towards the opposite sex like Nathaniel. They’re not as alpha or in charge as the straight-with-exceptions folk but we can still respect them because at least they prefer the opposite sex and only bring up same-sex loving occasionally and when Anita thinks it’s hot (because fetishism continues). After that we have bisexuals who seem to be equally inclined both ways – Devil (yes really) who so far is pretty much a non-character except for moping and his weakness in the last book (yup, that pattern again).
Then we get the trainwreck – bisexuals who prefer the same sex like Asher are dramatic, pathetic, destructive, selfish and utterly incapable of keeping their shit together with Asher almost causing massive political crisis because he’s so pathetic and useless and ridiculous and emotional. And there’s his gay partner, Kane, who is just evil, spiteful, selfish, dramatic, jealous and willing to manipulate things to destroy everything while dropping nasty homophobic topes. Of course Anita had to humiliate him as well. Then we have Narcissus, a gay, intersex man who has his genitals described in an ultra other-ing manner, is manipulative, selfish, ineffective, a terrible ruler losing the respect of his capable werehyenas (i.e. straight) as opposed to his old, easily manipulated, weak gay cohort. Naturally Anita puts him in his place and humiliates him. We have a brief reference of Jade, the terribly abused lesbian who hates all men who they keep trying to force into a relationship with a man anyway because who cares about abuse and how dare a lesbian not want to have sex with men – she’s just petty and weak and pathetic and causing drama. Oh and we reference J.J. Jason’s girlfriend who is totally a lesbian in a dedicated long term relationship with Jason because gay people not having sex with the opposite sex is intolerable.
Anita seems to be shopping for 3 new bisexual women to add to her harem, possibly because we’ve finally realised just how few women there are in this series. But even that is fraught – with minimal female presence in this book we still have one woman proving how strong she is because she is so big and strong and muscly (therefore, like Claudia, has sufficiently transcended feminity in this series’ eyes so she can be above contempt) and a woman she keeps beating on sobbing away because she’s so female and weak and female and thought she could be as good as the others but no she’s just too small and female.
We then have Meng Die who is sexual and evil and sexy evil and evil sexy. That’s pretty much it. We have Lita, a new wererat guard who is sexually out of control and unprofessional and needed putting in her place. We have another female guard who was leery of the male dominated locker room and got Anita to escort her…
…look there aren’t a lot of women in this book and when they appear it’s for very brief moments – like Manny’s wife or the 3 bisexual recruits – but despite these tiny roles we have a lot of them either being evil and/or sexy (needing put in their place by Anita) or weak and needing rescuing/supporting be Anita. This is a pattern with this series. Again.
Ok, POC – they’re there. Look that about all I can say. Anita has her Latino heritage but, as we’ve said repeatedly no cultural context and every time her black hair and dark eyes are mentioned we also hear how very very very very pale she is. What is the racial equivalent of “no homo”?. We have Raphael but other than being there and needing help there wasn’t a lot more
There were a large number of POC when taking into account side characters and the 8 gazillion guards. But lots of Black, Latino and Asian guards doesn’t really change the fact that they’re pretty much names but the main characters are all pretty much White. We have Manny make a brief return but, again, it was pretty limited and even that was largely focused on his terribad past and Anita rescuing his family
Inevitably this is getting really really long so I’m going to hit something else: Consent and rape.
Anita finally confronts the weretiger rape orgy where the Mother of all Darkness used her woo-woo to force Anita and 3 weretigers to have sex. Anita confronts that it was rape… but it’s not to analyse the importance of consent, or even really to acknowledge that the other three men were victims. It’s used for an excuse to justify why Anita doesn’t want the 19 year old in a relationship with her
This is where the book series has reached. We can’t analyse rape and consent as issues in their own right. No, it is there so Anita has an EXCUSE not to marry a teenager. And it says so much that we need an excuse. Oh and that she’s so silly for feeling embarrassed about going to parent’s evening the school for the teenager she’s fucking. Uh-huh.
Facing this terrible realisation Anita seeks comfort… in the arms of Micah. Micah. Who raped her in Narcissus in Chains. Oh and we still have Nicky around, the werelion Anita mind controlled and has to follow her every single instruction no matter how casual yet she still doesn’t see it as ethically compromising to decide he’s her “lover” and have sex with him. If anything, the brief attempt to address consent issues just highlights how terrible this series is with consent.
I’m also going to say again how terrible this book – this series – is at calling out any kind of prejudice. There’s not even the slightest attempt at subtlety so we have the werewolf deciding to thrust his genitals at Anita so she can spend a scene saying how terrible he is. This happens all the time in this series – people throw out ridiculously overt bigotry even in situations where even someone with half an ounce of sense would tone it down just so Anita can Teach Them a Lesson. Microaggressions, coded language etc Nope, none of that – it’s the big hammer of over bigotry or nothing.
OK this got seriously long and I finish another Anita Blake book disappointed. Because for a moment I had hope, I had a brief brief moment of hope that this book would have some plot. Just some plot – but it was not to be. The book meandered off into ever more confusing and unnecessary tangents before finally realising they needed to get back on track… but only at the very end of the book and to a very hurried, belated conclusion.