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Mixed Review: The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series by Laurell K. Hamilton

Abbie Lammel November 15, 2018 2354 10 4

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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.

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Post comments (10)
  1. James on June 1, 2019

    Vampires is not at all like in the movies or books. Sure, I understand. You are young you have the whole world open to you. You can be anything that you choose if you apply yourself and try hard to work toward that goal. But being a Vampire is not what it seems like. It’s a life full of good, and amazing things. We are as human as you are.. It’s not what you are that counts, But how you choose to be. Do you want a life full of interesting things? Do you want to have power and influence over others? To be charming and desirable? To have wealth, health, and longevity? contact the Vampires Lord on his Email: richvampirekindom@gmail. com

  2. Katja on August 30, 2019

    Girl I feel you on this. I too discovered the novels when i was a teen and fell in love with Anita because we have all the exact physical features and i finally found a snarky af character i could enjoy! But just like you, i started to lose interest because the series stopped being about the tough-as-nails supernatural necromancer and MORE about how many love scenes Laurell could fit between crime scenes. I have honestly been skimming through the book to skip over the sex and dig into the carnage, but it never leaves much to the story after that. And like you said, its SEXSEXSEX-crime scene-SEXSEX-beasty-SEXSEX-resolution in 10 pages. Admittedly, I’ve stopped on Crimson Death, picking it up to try to finish once a year, but ultimately reshelving it each time because i trip into another unnecessary sex scene. I’ll take your advice and skip Serpentine. This is so sad to admit, because I loved these novels for so long 🙁

  3. LexieMonster on September 9, 2019

    Exactly,Yes!!! I just recommended the series to a friend’s and told her to stop with OB, which is my favorite too. I’ve given up on finishing the series ( I think I got through book 20) because I stopped caring about most of the characters and got tired of the constant sex.

  4. Crystal Scott on October 1, 2019

    Nathaniel is garbage. A whiney character who should long ago have been canned. I am soooooo tired of hearing about his hair. There’s so much I could say but that… That is the main focus. Nathaniel should have been strictly a mild curiosity used once and left behind. I really cant stand him.

  5. opheliablack on January 5, 2020

    Thanks for wrapping up all my feelings about this series in a pretty bow. I stopped reading at Narcissus in Chains (can’t even remember if I finished it) and thought I’d just pretend that it ended at OB. Now I kinda want to read Affliction, but am so far out of that fandom I think it’s best just to stay out.

  6. Charles Newton Starnes on July 31, 2020

    Thanks for the review. I saw that she was releasing a new book and I’d wandered away from the series for the same reason as everyone else (too much sex. Not enough story) but I was wondering whether she’d mended her ways. I guess not. Might as well keep skipping this series and pretend it ended on a high note instead of frittering away it’s earned good will.

  7. Danielle Dunscombe on April 27, 2022

    Until I saw your review, I thought perhaps it was me. In series #10 Narcissus in Chains. I don’t want all the sex crap in these books. Seriously, I can read a soft porn or more for that. I too like the tough vampire slayer and don’t like having to fast forward through all the sex scenes.

  8. rideordiebrownsfan on January 3, 2023

    Appreciate your review so much! I got into the series about 15 years ago through a reco from a friend – she actually gave me the series through Hit List. Exactly as you describe, LOVED the first set of books and then I started falling off after OB. I read the next 11 books and by the last 3 I was struggling to finish them. It took me about 2 years to read all 20 books so it has been a decade since I really thought about the series. Amazon recommended her upcoming book Smolder and I was like huh, the series is still going? I had no idea. I looked it up and found that she wrote another 10 books with Smolder being the 11th! I am not sure that I want to pick up this series again for all the reasons you and other commenters listed. It stopped being about bad a** Anita and more about the sex scenes. I am no prude but I am reading an entire book for entertainment not to get off. I can find that elsewhere. If I can find a cheap copy of Beauty I’ll give it a shot but definitely not going to drop money on any of these books. It will be nice to hang with Anita again, even if she is not who she used to be. Hell, I am not who I used to be either, lol.

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