I got into this series while I was in high school (around 15ish) after it was recommended to me by the boy I was dating at the time. He was 16, dyed his hair black, smoked, wore skinny jeans, had a lip ring and told me he had to get electroshock therapy every Monday to manage his schizophrenia or something like that – all of which I thought officially made him the coolest person who could possibly exist. Alas, my relationship with this edgy punk lasted only three weeks – but it started me down the path of a much longer but no less turbulent relationship with Anita Blake.
The first 9 books of this series are something truly amazing, especially for a girl in high school who liked scary monsters and mysteries but was lacking a female window into those genres. Anita was tough as nails, no-nonsense, sarcastic and broken in a way that seemed revolutionary to me. These kinds of female characters seem a dime a dozen now, but I give LKH a lot of credit for helping to trailblaze the woman led smart, sexy, supernatural horror thriller novel. This first part of the Anita Blake series and it’s particular brand of feminism is a product of its time (the first book came out in 1993) and has more than a few themes that are problematic in light of how much cultural attitudes towards white 90’s feminism has shifted – but it was still a story I desperately needed and in some ways still do.
With her Browning, penguin stuffed animals, sassy coffee mugs and the ability to reanimate the dead Anita spends 9 books facing down a terrifying and wildly entertaining cast of zombies, vampires, shapeshifters, voodoo priests, evil circus performers and every other horror staple you can think of. She has a classic torrid love triangle with a hot werewolf and an equally hot vampire – both of whom are well fleshed out characters in their own right, with their own struggles and needs that often conflict with Anita’s. Her relationship with Edward, a fellow monster hunter, is still one of my favorite slow burn literary friendships to this day and the book that really expands on the development of that friendship, Obsidian Butterfly, is my favorite novel in the series.
Unfortunately, Obsidian Butterfly also marks the endpoint of the true Anita Blake series for me. In some ways I think that’s because there was no real way to top the stakes (Anita and Edward hunt a vampire so ancient she may actually be an Aztec goddess to save a child), but I think it marked such a huge change in LKH’s personal life that she started taking the series in a direction that is much more supernatural romance than horror thriller. That in and of itself doesn’t really bother me, it’s her series and if she’s in a happier romantic place herself then more power to her.
What bothers me is that outside of Anita’s romantic relationships and explorations of polyamory – some well written with great thoughtfulness (Nathaniel, Jean-Claude) some not so much (ugh Asher) – there really isn’t much story post-OB. The monster hunts, the murder mysteries, the explorations of Anita and her complex relationship with her own growing powers and dark past actions are still lightly touched on but all in all, will take up maybe 100 pages of a 500-page novel.
The rest will be spent on ever more elaborate sex scenes (which sounds titillating and is at first but you’d be surprised how fast that gets old), relationship negotiation and Anita’s strange growing dislike of other women and their strange immediate dislike of her (usually because of their uncontrollable jealousy of her many hot boyfriends). It varies from mildly interesting to eye rollingly cringy. And towards the end, almost as an afterthought, the book will wrap up the monster murder mystery in a few rushed pages and an epilogue.
And yet…I keep reading them. Every once in awhile LKH writes an entry in this series that reminds me of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter I loved so much in high school (hello Affliction, you gave me such hope). Heavy on the action with a well explored, very creepy monster and 1-2 pretty hot sex scenes = ideal Anita Blake.
So I let LKH keep stringing me along because when she’s on her game it’s too good not to read. I’ll leave you with some final thoughts: I miss Ronnie, Olaf needs to die in a fire, Serpentine is completely skippable, and it’s been 14 books but Micah is STILL boring.
End of rant. If you’re also in a bad relationship with this series, hit me up! We have some things to discuss.