Plot. Anita Blake raises the dead. That’s her day job (so to speak), at least. But she also slays vampires, whom she seems to really hate – except for Plot. Anita Blake raises the dead. That’s her day job (so to speak), at least. But she also slays vampires, whom she seems to really hate – except for the ones she likes. She’s out – against her will – to discover who’s been murdering “innocent” vampires. But first, there are several chapters of vampire strippers, human vampire junkies, and some Undeniable Sexual Tension between Anita and the vamp-with-the-velvet-voice, Jean-Claude. (Note: This is what I like to call an Anvil Moment. It’s supposed to be subtle, but it isn’t.) And then there’s Anita’s Revenge to bring things full circle at the end.
Throughout the book, the plot seemed to lack focus and a true sense of purpose. This may have something to do with the fact that it’s the first in a series – which I’m sure Hamilton knew at the time – and was merely introducing the characters and setting the scene for the books that follow. But I never felt like I knew exactly what the plot was. Yes, she was investigating the vampire murders, but beyond that it seemed like a mishmash. Zombies and ghouls and wererats (really?) and vampire strip clubs and blood junkies and a vampire church that’s compared to the Latter-Day Saints (because they recruit door-to-door). It was like Hamilton was throwing in as much as she could think of so she could use it later. All in all, a pretty disjointed effort. Not to mention that Anita (of course) manages to win the day in truly campy fashion. And much too easy, too, considering how much effort Hamilton put into describing just how powerful the bad guys were.
In the end, I was left feeling like, Is that it? Yes, the mystery was solved and the bad guys were vanquished, but it was a fairly jumbled mess getting to that point. And of course, the door’s wide open for the next 9 books.
Characters. Anita Blake is likeable enough to not want to throw the book in a fire, as long as you’re willing to look past her leaden humor and utter self-centeredness. She spends a lot of time talking about how tough-as-nails she is (albeit tongue-in-cheek at times) and how despite the fact that she’s just so petite, she can hold her own. She’s called The Executioner because of her prowess at killing vampires and it’s assumed that she gets the cool nickname because she’s better at it than most. (She also sometimes just needs a hug, because vampire hunters need love too.) She believes in god, though it’s hard to tell just how strong her faith is, and she never backs away from a challenge. At times, her characterization seems a bit loose. Is she cold? Compassionate? Angry? Scared? Smart? Stupid? She’s all of these, sometimes all at once. And that would be okay if only Hamilton had the ability to describe emotion better than she does. And instead of coming across as a strong female, Anita comes across as a stubborn and damaged one who’s only playing at being strong. “I am The Executioner.” Yeah, whatever.
There are a lot of secondary characters, human and otherwise. I didn’t like any of the vampires; they were all so one-dimensional. Jean-Claude is an arrogant prick. Nikolaos is ridiculous. She’s not scary or menacing, she’s just annoying. Aubrey is just evil and violent, nothing else. I don’t remember the others.
My favorite characters, strangely enough, were Edward, Phillip, and Zachary. Edward was a cold-hearted bastard, sure, but at least he managed to show some actual emotion. Phillip was sympathetic (to a point; there comes a time when a grown man pouting becomes a little too much) and tragically brave, serving up a couple of Anita’s Big Emotional Moments. And Zachary…well, at least he was interesting. I was actually surprised when his true nature was revealed.
Of course, two out of three of these characters end up dead. Too bad.
Writing. I’ve never been a big fan of first person point-of-view. I find it grating most of the time, being so far into someone’s head. It didn’t help, either, that the person’s head we’re in is Anita Blake’s, whose inner thought processes are at times like nails on a chalkboard. Too many times, her sarcasm falls flat, and when she’s supposed to be scared, I just couldn’t feel it. Her emotions are cardboard and monochromatic. The only time you know she’s scared is when she says she is. The only time you know she’s angry is when she uses the word “fuck.” Otherwise, it all feels the same.
Hamilton’s descriptive powers are a bit cringe-worthy. Her (Anita’s) metaphors are clunky: The sun presses against Anita’s skin like “yellow plastic.” There are a lot “silk” and “velvet” references. And I’ve never seen the word “naw” used so many times before. It’s how Anita answers her own internal – and painfully sarcastic – monologue. It’s annoyingly overused to the point that I almost wanted to go back and count the number of naws the same way I used to count uhs in grad school when I graded student speeches.
I’m going to give Hamilton the benefit of the doubt and say she was just trying to make Anita more accessible to the reader by making her seem like just another human – with human emotions and verbal quirks and coping mechanisms. But to me at least, she was trying too hard and Anita – and Hamilton – just couldn’t seem to get out of her own way.
One more note on the writing. I found it a bit cheesy that the vampires sleep in coffins and apparently are repelled by garlic (this was alluded to once in the book; maybe I’m wrong). Really? Yes, I know that traditional lore sometimes mentions these tidbits, but with all the “modern” vampire stories out there, I was a little disappointed that Hamilton went this route. It all felt a little too…Bela Lugosi to me.
Final comments. I read this book reluctantly after being persuaded by someone who was so enthusiastically positive about the series, she finally convinced me to give it a try. She said I would absolutely love Anita and yet my instinct is to list her as one of the more irritating characters I’ve encountered in a while. I’m glad I gave it a try, though, and am eternally grateful that it was such a quick and easy read. I’m generally a slow reader, but I could flit across the pages of this book quickly without feeling like I was missing anything. I may give the next couple a try just to see where the story goes, but I’m not going to rush out and get them. This is one of those series that I can see myself reading periodically when I want something mindless to read on a vacation....more