I’m not going to do a single review like I usually do, more an entire series review. I’ve caught up on all of Hamilton’s Anita Blake books, all 20-some odd books. So you can imagine reviewing each one would take a very long time.
The books are a guilty pleasure for me, when I just want a no-thinking, fast-paced, sex-and-vampires type story. I’m not saying that it’s badly written and there’s no plot. Quite the contrary, I love Hamilton’s story lines and each book is narrated from Anita’s point of view. The story has a unique take because it’s told from Anita’s POV so you get her take on everything, and the story has a natural flow because it reads the way most of us talk.
I picked up “Circus of the damned” on a whim one day (always best to start at book three …who starts anything at book one anymore?) and was blown away by the simplest fact about the story. The main character is a 5’3 female. Now, that doesn’t sound like anything overly miraculous, but read as many books as I have and you’ll notice a trend. Female characters are tall and either “willowy” or “athletic”. Anita is a short and curvy spanish/german female who is very proud that her thighs touch. That alone makes Anita feel real to me, she’s no wonder woman, and she’s not built like one either. Female writers tend to write female characters one of two ways – either irritatingly whiny, or so tough they feel fake (and usually whiny). Hamilton does not. Anita is a truly strong female who understands her limitations as a tiny female, and has enough snark, attitude, and wit to more than make up for her small stature. She’s strong without being over-bearing and fake, and she knows when to back off and ask for help. She’s someone I can look up to (well, in my case across at, since we’re the same height); the world needs less Bella Swan’s and more Anita Blakes. (Yes, I went there.)
Beyond ranting about how much I love Anita’s character, the story line is an interesting take as well. It’s your standard typical supernatural book, without being standard typical at all. Anita by day raises zombies (which have become legal; like if someone died before finishing their will, they can be raised to settle it), being a necromancer, (finally taking the evil, black-magic aspect out of it.) and by night she helps the police solve preternatural crimes. As a sub-plot (which sometimes becomes the main plot) Anita is surrounded by attractive men, but it’s no reverse-harem. Many are Vampires, shapeshifters, or what-have-you. She touches on all kinds of lore (ever heard of a Quetzalcoatl?) so she branches her story out from just werewolves and vampires, which we all love, but does get old. And because of her ties to the Master of the City (Vampire who runs the show) she is drawn into the politics of their world. She makes it interesting because these creatures are no longer hidden in the dark and are trying to get their citizenship back. But their world still runs along side the normal human world, and the two don’t always mix well. Anita’s job is to smooth out the ripples, and sometimes kick serious ass when the line is toed.
Hamilton doesn’t shy away from any topic. Anita ends up on some grotesque crime scenes, and has to deal with some seriously messed up clinically insane bad guys. Her books are very adult, and deal with very adult topics.
I think I read in one of her books where Laurell Hamilton mentioned being a monster, and with everything that happens in her books, being an author doesn’t make her a monster, no matter what she writes. Her writing made me feel better about myself (oddly enough) made me feel okay with being a short smart-ass female. Made me okay with being tougher than most females, and able to be in the boys club. As a fellow writer, she opened the door to topics that were strictly for men. So on top of feeling better about who I am, I don’t feel so ashamed of my own writing style. If all of that makes her a monster, then I guess I am too.