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Anita Blake by Laurell K. Hamilton

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The review center just looks kind of sad with only one topic. So I thought I'd get the standard kindling and start a fire.

If you haven't read Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton, really you're missing out on one of the great influences of the modern supernatural novel and a great 'what if the Masquerade broke?' source. The novels are funny, scarey, witty, and have a great heroine facing a descent into evil.

Then around book 7 of the series the books take a departure off the deep end to become much more sexual. The latter books form the source of much debate between fans over what constitute good and much debate between the fans and the author over who is in control of a series.

1) So, have you read any of the books?

2) Which books would you recommend for the world of darkness?

3) Do you think that the later work is actually original or just a rip off of the world of darkness?

4) Have you given up on the series?

1) I started this topic so obviously I have some clue what I'm talking about. Yes, I read through to Cerulean Sins. At that point I declared it simply too painful to continue.

2) I would recommend Obsidian Butterfly at the very least as a great book for the world of darkness. Anita has to work with a serial killer to help her old pal the assassin Edward and save a child. Dark, soul-wrenching, and long tortured humanity. I would also recommend The Killing Dance if you want to get into the dark and sexual it has werewolf snuff films and werewolf battles to the death. Circus of the Damned is a nice show of vampire politics where Justicar types visit the local vampire ruler. Bloody Bones is a rare book with fae where they actually get to do something interesting. The scifi book club has some great compliations of these books.

3) Round about Blue Moon the rip off of white wolf gets kind of obvious. The werewolf culture in the book is changed, as is the number of shapeshifters to resemble the world of darkness more closely. Fenris coined it 'the world of dimness' for its similarities. The further on the series goes with its set up of vampire politics the more it becomes like the Camarilla, which is nice for inspiration, but seems a bit unfair that they aren't credited more as an inspirational source. The original books and concepts were, I think, original to the author. Her vision seems to have shifted to resemble roleplaying games she has played.

4) Yeah, as I said I gave up with Cereulean Sins. I recommend that anyone who doesn't have an interest in repetitive porn skip Narcissus in Chains (NiC) , pick up Obsidian Butterfly and then just stop reading. If you like the mix of politics and orgies that start in NiC then keep on reading and you probably actually want to start the series with The Killing Dance, which is where sex first hits the pages.

I do think Laurell K. Hamilton is right in that she cleared the way for sex to mix with the supernatural and deeper plots in the work of other artists and is therefore someone whose early work should be read for forming much of the modern female gothic movement. I also think, however, that her current work resembles more the things found on the bottom of the slush pile. It's not that sex in literature is a turn off, it's that the quantity and number of partners is overwhelming and actually a bit boring as they all seem to be exactly the same. The character lost some of her charm and the world stopped being real to me in Cereulean Sins. At one point I got mad at the author and thought to myself 'now you're just making stuff up to force Anita to have sex.' And then I pulled back, recognized that I was reading a book and that anita wasn't real anyway. I haven't been able to read the series since because the spell was broken and I couldn't believe in the reality of the book.

The author destroying her own reality is the biggest disappointment to me, though I still highly recommend the first books of the series. They are too big an influence in the pop literary and gaming world to be overlooked.

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I would agree with your assessments. I really enjoyed the first several novels, and enjoyed the similarities to the WoD without being a complete rip-off. While the sexual elements didn't bother me at first, as the series progressed it seemed that they became the dominant scenes. That's why I don't like her series about the fae, centered around the character of Merry Gentry. Just too much "elf porn" in that series, and not enough concentration on the drama and interactions of the fae courts. I think that Hamilton has great ideas and premises, but gets too caught up in the sexual relations and not enough on the rest of the story. If she downplayed some of the sexual elements, I think these would be very interesting stories, regardless of any similarities to the WoD.

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I used to love this series when I first started reading it back in high school, and then I realized that Ms. Hamilton seems to almost copy and paste some of the repeat explanations that Anita gives - sure this might be in character, but if you're trying to read more than one book in a row, it can be kind of boring after a while. Especially given the whole love triangle/triumvirate bit. And I won't go into the sex bit, because I stopped reading after Narcissus in Chains. I was so disappointed, especially after Obsidian Butterfly renewed my hope for the series...but then came along a new shapeshifter and look, Anita's doin' him instead of Richard blah blah blah.

And I won't touch the fairy series with a ten foot pole anymore. Merry's gaining more powers faster than Anita did!

But I would still buy Obsidian Butterfly and/or make my friends read it.

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I enjoyed LKH a few years ago when I got Bloody Bones as a birthday present. I read them all out of order, but some of them I couldn't finish because they were too graphic. I'm not a total prude, but there are some things that bother me. I didn't read anything by her for about 2 years. I saw the Merry books, but I wasn't even interested. Then last fall, I came across a book of short stories, Strange Candy. I didn't like them all, and it wasn't like falling in love all over again, but I had great times reading that book. I had taken a bit of a break from RPing, but after reading a few stories, I felt ready to play again and found a group.

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(Swordsman @ Apr 11 2007, 03:58 PM)
That's why I don't like her series about the fae, centered around the character of Merry Gentry. Just too much "elf porn" in that series, and not enough concentration on the drama and interactions of the fae courts. I think that Hamilton has great ideas and premises, but gets too caught up in the sexual relations and not enough on the rest of the story.

(vampirerevenant @ Apr 11 2007, 04:29 PM)

And I won't touch the fairy series with a ten foot pole anymore. Merry's gaining more powers faster than Anita did!

Yeah, the Merry Gentry stories are now slightly better than the late Anita stories, but only just barely. The first book, A kiss of Shadows, you can literally count out a sex scene every 50 pages. Really, go ahead and check me if you have the book. It's sad that Hamilton has gotten that formulaic in her work, but I suppose it pays the bills.

I consider Merrry a little better because at least there's a good reason for all the sex with a succession to the throne at stake. Having a kid to claim the throne is traditional. Queen Victoria's parents and Aunts and Uncles were promised the throne if they had kids, so were going crazy trying to produce heirs. Merry therefore jibes a bit better with reality than Anita does now.

(Kitin @ Apr 11 2007, 11:26 PM)

Then last fall, I came across a book of short stories, Strange Candy. I didn't like them all, and it wasn't like falling in love all over again, but I had great times reading that book. I had taken a bit of a break from RPing, but after reading a few stories, I felt ready to play again and found a group.

Good to hear something about Strange Candy. I've wondered if it was all like the late Anita/Merry books or if it had any non-sexual content in it.

I think one of the sadest things about the fall of Anita Blake is that those who still defend her (including Ms. Hamilton herself) label anyone who has left the series as a prude unable to handle sexual content. I don't know of anyone who left becauseof the sex; I know people who left because of the way sexual relationships were depicted. There's a distinct difference there that boils down to a matter of taste rather than a matter of censorship.

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I think one of the sadest things about the fall of Anita Blake is that those who still defend her (including Ms. Hamilton herself) label anyone who has left the series as a prude unable to handle sexual content. I don't know of anyone who left becauseof the sex; I know people who left because of the way sexual relationships were depicted. There's a distinct difference there that boils down to a matter of taste rather than a matter of censorship.

I agree. The sex didn't bother me. It's when the sex became dominant over the rest of the story that I had a problem.

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(World_Dancer @ Apr 11 2007, 02:20 PM)
3) Round about Blue Moon the rip off of white wolf gets kind of obvious. The werewolf culture in the book is changed, as is the number of shapeshifters to resemble the world of darkness more closely. Fenris coined it 'the world of dimness' for its similarities. The further on the series goes with its set up of vampire politics the more it becomes like the Camarilla, which is nice for inspiration, but seems a bit unfair that they aren't credited more as an inspirational source. The original books and concepts were, I think, original to the author. Her vision seems to have shifted to resemble roleplaying games she has played.

It's the world of somewhat dimness. They need some light so you can better view the humping! Geez.

The later books they suddenly multiply the number of shapeshifters by a factor of 10. Early on, all the werewolves in town fit at Anita's kitchen table and couch. Later in series, its stated there's 500 werewolves in town. Now, mind, this is also AFTER a vaccine against lycanthropy came out, so they should be rarer. WTF?

All the other major shapeshifter groups got a similar huge boost to be in the 100+ range for each critter. Only where there was previously only one or two of a given splat did they not get multiplied.

The power up every book gets really tedious too. I'm waiting for the shooting lasers out her eyes. No wait, we've degenerated to porn, it'll probably shoot lasers out somewhere else...

(World_Dancer @ Apr 11 2007, 02:20 PM) 341763

I do think Laurell K. Hamilton is right in that she cleared the way for sex to mix with the supernatural and deeper plots in the work of other artists and is therefore someone whose early work should be read for forming much of the modern female gothic movement. I also think, however, that her current work resembles more the things found on the bottom of the slush pile. It's not that sex in literature is a turn off, it's that the quantity and number of partners is overwhelming and actually a bit boring as they all seem to be exactly the same. The character lost some of her charm and the world stopped being real to me in Cereulean Sins. At one point I got mad at the author and thought to myself 'now you're just making stuff up to force Anita to have sex.' And then I pulled back, recognized that I was reading a book and that anita wasn't real anyway. I haven't been able to read the series since because the spell was broken and I couldn't believe in the reality of the book.

The "I must have sex due to the ardeur!' really annoyed me since in one of the earlier books, its established Jean-Claude went several months without sex in an attempt to be faithful. Anita apparently can't go a whole day without fucking something. Yes, he's had longer to get it under control, but it's his darn flaw to start with. If she's just got an 'echo' of what he's got, he sure couldn't have gone without for any length of time. And there's never any referance to it later, which you'd think would be nice to include "gee, I never realized how HARD it was for you to do that for me. wow!" You'd think that would be a nice thing to include.

And yes, I'm going with the crude swear purposely to describe the sex in this series. Because that's what it is. It's generally unappealing because it's largely going through the motions. To compare it to a video game, its like finding the crate of ammo. Yeah, ammo! Anita gets ammo from her bedpartners to powerup. There's little indication there's any kind of relationship going on, that there's any caring, or really any pleasure in it. It's simply getting ammo.

yeah, ammo!

I also read up through Cerulean Sins. I think I may actually have read Incubus Dreams too, but honestly, the description on Amazon is so vague (and sex filled) I can't remember if I read it or not! That's REAL bad...

<fenris goes and mutters in the corner about Anita Blake some more>

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I did kind of like the fact that among all the predator-lycanthropes, there's the few little swan-people. And she's said that some of them could claw and bite you til you're dead and you won' become that type of lycanthrope. *shrug* Still not a big fan of all the structures of the werewolf/vampire societies - especially since it seems really strange that a vampire would be able to command lycanthropes, even when you aren't considering the World of Darkness.

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Now there's an area that could actually be interesting to look at plot-wise. How do the vampires control the were-creatures since the were-creatures are actually diseased humans and not actually related to the vampire's animal to call? I doubt we'll ever get the answer. Though I did spend one book wonder if if because a master vampire could call butterflies it meant that there were were-butterflies somewhere.

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I used to like the Anita Blake books. I think I got to Narcissus in Chains and then stopped halfway. Even though I identify a bit with the character (we are the same height), I just don't like her anymore.

Now, actually, there's another series of books by Kim Harrison, involving a witch Bounty Hunter. So far, not as much sex as Hamilton's books but a very enjoyable read, and the 'world' seems a little better thought out. Imagine a world without ketchup.

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Agreed on all comments about Ms Hamilton and Ms Blake. The first 5 or 6 books I found entertaining but frustrating. You only ever got glimpses of what looked like an interesting take on a familiar universe and I quite liked the heroine's pov although winced at her dress sense (described in loving detail ) But mostly I just sifted in vain for an actual plot beyond Anita's romances with various supernatural types and the later books seemed to be so turgidly full of sex I thought maybe a decent soft porn rag would have been a better use of my money

and I *hated* the Merry Gentry book (or the third of it I actually read) - such a waste of an interesting premise and viewpoint on the Fae mythos. Ah. More excuses to shag superhumanly endowed types . . .. can't wait to read on . . .

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(JadeMage @ Apr 14 2007, 03:35 AM)
Now, actually, there's another series of books by Kim Harrison, involving a witch Bounty Hunter. So far, not as much sex as Hamilton's books but a very enjoyable read, and the 'world' seems a little better thought out. Imagine a world without ketchup.

I love that part of that series. oh noes, TOMATOES! No pizza, all pasta is in cream sauce, no ketchup for your fries... it truly is a world unlike our own. No pizza...

On an only vaguely related note, sinceI mentioned further up thread I couldn't remember if I read Incubus Dreams or not, World_Dancer informed me I *DID* read Incubus Dreams and gave such a horrible report of it, that's why she didn't read it. It was apparantly such a horrible report, I've blotted the book from my mind as well. So...much... badness...

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At this point, I just check out the books from the library, in vain hope that she'll sober up. I do admit, I am in an Anita Blake roleplay. At risk of sounding defensive, I want to mention we are focusing on the supernatural and characters, not the sex. Quite fun, actually.

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I have become convinced that this is what Laurell K. Hamilton wanted to write all along, it's just taken her this long to spring it on us because it's all part of a ploy to get people hooked on her books before turning them into porn.

Well, that's just my opinion, really. >.>

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Possibly, since as World said, she gets defensive when people complain.

Even her first novel, Nightseer, had some mention of sex... The main character ended up absorbing the essence of a succubus (granted it was near the middle of the novel), and had someone like Jean Claude (something of an 'anti-hero') interested in her. At least he actually got her to marry him (by blackmail).

The one book of hers that I know of not having sex is a Death of a Darklord... Which was horrible and didn't focus on the Darklord.

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Actually, I'm playing in a game that has aspects of Laurell K, Buffy, World of Darkness and a few other things all lumped together. For example, Kindred (Vampire) characters have 'Clans', but they can have 'out of Clan' powers and they can also move about during the day, though sunlight will harm them.

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That must be fun.

We have just started last month, and in game, we are doing a night time scene... I just don't know if any of the vampires made their appearances yet (or if any have signed up). Almost everyone at the moment are either shifters (I'm one) or mortals/mages. No PC alphas, even though by technicality, Dee could be, since she is the only one that she is aware of.

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Agreed on all comments about Ms Hamilton and Ms Blake. The first 5 or 6 books I found entertaining but frustrating. You only ever got glimpses of what looked like an interesting take on a familiar universe and I quite liked the heroine's pov although winced at her dress sense (described in loving detail ) But mostly I just sifted in vain for an actual plot beyond Anita's romances with various supernatural types and the later books seemed to be so turgidly full of sex I thought maybe a decent soft porn rag would have been a better use of my money

and I *hated* the Merry Gentry book (or the third of it I actually read) - such a waste of an interesting premise and viewpoint on the Fae mythos. Ah. More excuses to shag superhumanly endowed types . . .. can't wait to read on . . .

I'd rather watch a Uwe Boll Marathon than read another Laurell K. Hamilton book.

Game. Set. Match.

Logan

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(vampirerevenant @ Apr 14 2007, 03:40 PM)

I have become convinced that this is what Laurell K. Hamilton wanted to write all along, it's just taken her this long to spring it on us because it's all part of a ploy to get people hooked on her books before turning them into porn.

Well, that's just my opinion, really. >.>

Could be. Not much market for what she's writing now when she started in the early nineties. Though its kind of more depressing to me that way. Not because it appears she always wanted to write porn, but because she was good at the supernatural mystery/politics/romance schtick and she's awful at writing porn. Seems like a horrible waste of talent and sad that she should be bad at the thing she really wants to do.

(AstraKiseki @ Apr 14 2007, 04:37 PM)

Even her first novel, Nightseer, had some mention of sex... The main character ended up absorbing the essence of a succubus (granted it was near the middle of the novel), and had someone like Jean Claude (something of an 'anti-hero') interested in her. At least he actually got her to marry him (by blackmail).

I saw they republished that one. Was it any good writing-wise? I did enjoy the Anita/Jean-Claude romance in the early days when they were doing the I hate you-I love you-I hate you dance. Perhaps it was simply the comparison between Jean-Claude and Richard that left Jean-Claude looking better in my eyes. I despise Richard and always have. Though even that kept me reading since I kept hoping for Anita to finally lay down the law and dump him hard because he was no good for her.

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World_Dancer @ Apr 15 2007, 11:47 AM)
I saw they republished that one. Was it any good writing-wise? I did enjoy the Anita/Jean-Claude romance in the early days when they were doing the I hate you-I love you-I hate you dance. Perhaps it was simply the comparison between Jean-Claude and Richard that left Jean-Claude looking better in my eyes. I despise Richard and always have. Though even that kept me reading since I kept hoping for Anita to finally lay down the law and dump him hard because he was no good for her.

I liked it, writing wise, and I really wish she could have continued it. It had an interesting idea for a world.

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Could be. Not much market for what she's writing now when she started in the early nineties. Though its kind of more depressing to me that way. Not because it appears she always wanted to write porn, but because she was good at the supernatural mystery/politics/romance schtick and she's awful at writing porn. Seems like a horrible waste of talent and sad that she should be bad at the thing she really wants to do.

I hadn't considered the angle that LKH might have helped found the modern female gothic writing movement (I think you mentioned this in your original post) but I can see why. At one point I got so irritated with LKH for wandering off the path of horror/fantasy into (not all that good, you're right) erotic fantasy that I started to pen a similar sort of female antagonist against a demon infiltrated parallel universe thing myself. Now, I'm not a writer but if frustration with LKH motivated *me* to write something on the same lines but less obsessed with crappy porn, I can see how it would galvanise a real writer into action :-)

But maybe the real inspiration for female angle horror/fantasy fiction is actually Buffy the Vampire Slayer* and not LKH per se? Just a thought. I got into Anita Blake in the first place as a Buffy substitute during one of the breaks in the show schedule.

* And not repeat not Charmed!!

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I hadn't considered the angle that LKH might have helped found the modern female gothic writing movement (I think you mentioned this in your original post) but I can see why.

I think that mantle really goes to Anne Rice.

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(hojhena @ Apr 17 2007, 01:49 PM)

I hadn't considered the angle that LKH might have helped found the modern female gothic writing movement (I think you mentioned this in your original post) but I can see why. At one point I got so irritated with LKH for wandering off the path of horror/fantasy into (not all that good, you're right) erotic fantasy that I started to pen a similar sort of female antagonist against a demon infiltrated parallel universe thing myself. Now, I'm not a writer but if frustration with LKH motivated *me* to write something on the same lines but less obsessed with crappy porn, I can see how it would galvanise a real writer into action :-)

But maybe the real inspiration for female angle horror/fantasy fiction is actually Buffy the Vampire Slayer* and not LKH per se? Just a thought. I got into Anita Blake in the first place as a Buffy substitute during one of the breaks in the show schedule.

* And not repeat not Charmed!!

I wrote up some stuff about buffy under the modern female gothic thread, but I'll summerize the two problems with that here. Modern female gothic by definition is written by women largely for women (see the very feminist slant of early Anita Blake and Tanya Huff's Vicki Nelson which is also an early series in this area). I do not in anyway mean to discount men as readers, they're simply not the main target. Joss Wheadon is male, but he does follow a lot of the conventions of the female gothic and writes a strong protagonist, plaudits for him.

Buffy hit the glass ceiling hard at the end of the series unlike the female gothics. Modern female gothic have power that they can parlay into a decent living wether it comes from their mundane skills, their supernatural skills, or their sex appeal. They aren't necessarily the richest women around, but they make enough to get by and/or have a professional reputation. Buffy's failure to get a successful career may account for part of the reason the last two seasons were awful (other than the overall drop in the quality of the writing). In high school/college she wasn't brilliant but she got by as the average American girl. After college she got to work at the equivalent of McDonalds and later as a truly awful school councelor (statutory rapist Buffy anyone?). A better option would have been Buffy does police academy thus parlaying her physical skills and Chosen One status into a career. In any case, Buffy doesn't end up with any political pull amoung the demons or the humans, has no career of any sort, and has to play single parent to her sister.

I never got into Charmed because its more Supernatural Romance with some other stuff thrown in. Modern Female Gothic has romantic elements and relationships to it, but they are not the central part of the story. Much of the story is more adventure/mystery/horror and the women's lives are about finding a place for themselves in the power structure surrounding them. Anita Blake was very good at this, but has now deviated off into somewhere else, I don't know where, since despite the sex there's little love and romance going on.

(zenten @ Apr 17 2007, 01:53 PM)

I think that mantle really goes to Anne Rice.

Please give me a series or even a single stand alone book she wrote that follows a female protagonist. I'm mostly familiar with her Vampire series, which does not fit the criteria. I know she wrote a series about witches, but I can never find a summery of what the books are supposed to be about. If you are only looking at modern female writers who write in the gothic genre the agreed upon reigning queen is Daphne Du Maurier.

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Please give me a series or even a single stand alone book she wrote that follows a female protagonist. I'm mostly familiar with her Vampire series, which does not fit the criteria. I know she wrote a series about witches, but I can never find a summery of what the books are supposed to be about. If you are only looking at modern female writers who write in the gothic genre the agreed upon reigning queen is Daphne Du Maurier.

Ok, you're using a narrower definition than I thought. Although the female witches stories do still fall under your definition, I think.

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Short definition: Female Gothic literature refers to women writing gothic novels for a largely female audience that use supernatural elements to make statements about women's place in society. There's some argument about the 'modern' teminology, but that's a very technical off-topic argument.

You can find examples on the thread about the Modern Female Gothic.

Anyway, LKH predates almost all the other writers of this style of literature. Possible exceptions are Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde novels and Tanya Huff's Vicki Nelson. I'm unsure if the Tregarde novels are female gothic, I haven't had the chance to read them yet. The Tregarde novels were also canceled after three books because they weren't selling well, and lack of success does not start a style change. The Anita Blake books seem to have done well from nearly the beginning. Huff predates Hamilton by two years and one book. Huff is less prolific (she's written only five books and assorted short stories) and took long breaks between books, but her works are still popular. Since the two ladies are contemporaries, it seems they both deserve credit for the change in writing style/sub-genre. Sometimes LKH seems to pat herself on the back a bit over it, but her claims about her impact on modern literature are true.

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