• Well Red

Fifty Shades of Anita Blake

Title: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter Series

Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Edition reviewed: 1993 – current

Publisher: Orbit

Rating: **/***

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Horror/ Dark Fantasy

Setting: Primarily St. Louis, Missouri

Difficulty: Easy

Series: Yes. Currently 27 books

Always spoiler free – but as this is a series review it’s hard to be completely spoiler free. Sorry.

Trigger Warning – abuse and violence

I asked my dad to send one of my Laurell K Hamilton books because I thought it would be perfect for my new bookstagram theme (Seven Deadly Sins) specifically ‘Lust’. He sent me a random mix of about eight of them, (I own about twenty of the series) which obviously meant that I picked them up to read again. Time to be candid - I’ve not read the latest two Serpentine and Sucker Punch yet, although I expect I will get around to them eventually.

Anita Blake is a badass vampire hunter. Sanctioned by the US government to perform vampire executions she has been nicknamed ‘The Executioner’ by the vampires as she has one of the largest legal vampire kill counts in the US. Oh, she’s also raises zombies on the side. And helps the police on the side as preternatural expert. An overachiever, one might say.

The series starts off innocuously enough. Anita is an animator (raises the dead for a living – in this universe she uses the term zombies), who helps the local police in St. Louis solve preternatural crimes on the side. Her college degree coupled her vampire executioner status and ability to raise the dead seem to make her uniquely qualified to do this task despite being about 23 years’ old at the start of the series (yeah, I don’t quite get it either). In the first few books Anita helps solves murders and learns more about local (and national) vampire politics. Jean-Claude, a local vampire, is enamoured. Anita is less enthusiastic. Monsters are monsters, right?

WRONG. Here’s the thing. The first few books, which came out early 1990s, are interesting. Dark, brooding, a little bit of flirting and danger. They were certainly different to anything I’d ever read, when I started reading them at about 18, shifting from YA to adult fantasy fiction. They do a good job at character development, while having some sleuthing and danger to make things interesting. Twenty books in and Anita is still solving mysteries…sometimes…on the side. She’s mainly managing her complex love life. The switch in the narrative comes at around book six. Anita goes from practically a sheltered (vampire killing) virgin to having her own harem in the space of…about three/four books. It steadily gets more and more focused on Anita’s sex life, with one of the central principles of the series being that Anita essentially becomes a succubus.

The book delves into…look, the series kind of turns into a list of Hamilton’s sexual fantasies. The description of Anita is somewhat similar to Hamilton’s physical appearance which is kind of disturbing, and while the earlier books had a semblance of plot, a lot of the later books have a very rough plot that are held together by Anita moving from beau to beau. You know for plot reasons. I don’t have a problem with a vampire Mills and Boon plot line and I appreciate that Anita is written as a strong female character who questions and then embraces her sexuality, but the sex is gratuitous. That I’ve stuck with the series this long is because I have some hope of getting a conclusion and also I’ve grown fond of the large cast (there are some characters I’m particularly found of - Nathaniel, Jason, Micah, Jean-Claude) and want to see their stories nicely concluded.

Another chief issue I have is that Anita’s character does not mature. She’s having the same issues, the same inner monologue, in each book. She’s always the smallest, the men never take her seriously, she has issues with self-esteem, and she has to be the baddest bitch in town. It gets old, very quickly, because it means the plot line remains very similar and she always has the same conversation every book. We get it Hamilton, men are sexist pigs.

After reading a couple of the books I’m also reminded that the writing isn’t particularly great either. It’s not bad, but it’s not the finest fantasy fiction I’ve read either. It’s just…okay. Passable.

A warning too - all the books feature violent crimes and usually quite extreme violence against the main characters; Hamilton leans into that heavily. Similarly, the romance starts vanilla and gets more extreme with each book. It’s actually the same with the extended supernatural universe – it starts with simple Vampire and Werewolves, but each book adds a further level of crazy powers/new creatures/new preternatural fights.

Anita is a powerful female character that owns her sexuality, is violent, advocates therapy, has a moral compass(ish), takes no shit from anyone and doesn’t need saving. We stan a female character that breaks the traditional fictional female character mould. But I can’t get over the character’s inherent flaws, the succubus plot line and her lack of growth. There’s another thing that I have issues with, but that leans into spoiler territory, sorry. If you think you’ll enjoy a Fifty Shades of Grey supernatural book that features sex (obviously), violence and murder…this is probably your jam. Otherwise, I would give it a miss.

Well Red Reviews

Would I recommend this series? Err, you know what? Probably not.

Favourite quote(s): n/a

Listening to: BlackPink/K-pop

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