“Serpentine” by Laurell K Hamilton

This is her newest book in the Anita Blake series, by now we are over 20 books in so it seems redundant to say spoilers? I did a general review of the series waaaaaaaay back in the day so if you want to read that first, go ahead. I know, “why review a book so deep in a series without reviewing every book beforehand?” First – I started reading Anita Blake loooooong before I even met my co-writer Asteria (who will be back eventually, the apocalypse sucks and she works in a Hospital), so the memory of those early books is pretty much gone. Second – It’s the apocalypse and STUFF in general is just hard to come by. So, unfortunately, I’ll be reviewing like, 5 authors. I updated my Kobo and lost the ability to upload books onto it. I can only get books through the company that bought Kobo. So I have no way of reading a bunch of books that were sent to me. I keep meaning to look for an ereader for my phone or tablet, but neither of those things connect to my computer so I still don’t know how I’d get them onto those devices. So yeah, you get reviews for whatever books I have around the house.

That out of the way I have some super sad news. I think …I think …I think I’m falling out of love with the Anita Blake series. I’ve always loved the fast paced murder mystery with a heavy heaping of supernatural, and Anita’s sharp wit, determination, and the fact she isn’t really like your standard heroine. Little warning is she never shies away from sexuality. It’s not a taboo, they talk about poly relationships and how those work, most of the characters are LGBTQ, so it’s nice to see all of these topics approached without taboo or shame (well, for the most part, it is sometimes brought up to create BS tension).

But now …Hamilton always has a few duds, books that maybe didn’t have a great idea to begin with but, hey, publishers right? But this one …the book is HUGE (well, 400+ pages isn’t truly huge but bigger than a vast majority of her books), and I was literally 200 pages in and turned to my Husband and went “Nothing is happening …200 pages and nothing has happened!” How the hell do you have a plot about PEOPLE’S LIMBS LITERALLY TURNING INTO SNAKES and in 200 pages nothing has happened?

I’ve always had my complaints about her writing. You all know how much I HATE Girl-hate, it’s 2021, time to grow out of that 90s BS. But I also complain about the fact Anita feels the need to explain everything, even if she has a thought about something, she immediately turns it into a 5 page explanation (even when the two sentence explanation works). This books seemed to take everything I hate about the series, and just leans into it. 200 pages and Anita had changed scenes twice because every step she takes they have to stop and talk about emotional things, someone gets pissed, and they have to explain more. I wanted to count, but I didn’t think of it until half way through but I need to count every time Anita says some variant of “what did you just say?” In a page and a half she had said it 4 times, creating conflict that wasn’t there and leading to more emotional talking. Talking about emotions is great, the fact Hamilton has Anita openly talking about therapy, and the fact EVERYONE, doesn’t matter their age, race, whatever, goes to therapy. I love that. But she doesn’t need to stop and have a 2 chapter emotional talk when Anita is trying to have sex with her partners.

Sex. Speaking of. Spoilers? Anita, through everything she has been through with Jean-Claude, has become a succubus. She is still TECHNICALLY human, not vampire, so she doesn’t feed on blood, but sexual energy. So she needs to have someone around all the time that she can have sex with. It’s called the “Ardeur” (I think I spelled that right?) and if she does not feed it she starts draining her animals to call. An animal to call is a Were-Beast that is psychically linked to their Master Vampire, and since Anita is kind of a Vampire she gets an animal too. Most Vampires have ONE animal breed, but Anita has them all. Anita sits on the fringe of Mary Sue, but even though she is naturally powerful she has had to FIGHT for everything. So I will give her that.

One of the big drama’s in this book is Anita isn’t having enough sex with her lovers and they are becoming jealous of her work. I see this a lot, hell, in my own life. It makes me so mad, people work to have a better life, food, a roof, and some work to help other people. My husband is out of town for 2 months to cut trees along the rail line so trains have better vision at crossings (meaning they can see if people are there). I complained in the whole “I’ll miss you” thing, but I didn’t stop him, I wasn’t truly mad at him, just selfishly sad cause I miss him. But some of the guys he works with have partners that bitch and complain and give them ultimatums when they have to leave for work or do extra work (one guy has to be home every other weekend or else he loses rights to his kids). I literally don’t understand. So the fact this ended up in the book just pissed me off (cause the book already contained nothing but all the things I hate about the series). Nathaniel is pissy, Micah is pissy, Jean-Claude is barely in it. It’s childish. I think that’s what bothers me the most – every situation is approached with a childish attitude. Every person approaches a situation with “it’s my way or the highway and if I don’t get my way I will throw a tantrum”. It’s tiring to read.

Let’s move onto my favorite topic …Girl Hate. The Irony of this book is Anita quotes feminism things and talks about equality and whatever, yet EVERY SINGLE WOMAN in these books is a raging bitch only out to steal Anita’s men. Literally that’s their only purpose (even her female guards hate her). They are all rude and cruel to Anita even if they don’t know her. And as soon as they find out the attractive men are dating Anita, they do everything they can to steal them. Only to prove how much these men love Anita, of course. But Jesus Christ, it is an old method of building tension and frankly, pardon my language, I’m fucking tired of it. Women are already portrayed horribly in the media (the amount of catty bitchy women in media vs the amount of actually catty bitchy women in real life is VASTLY different, like 100 – 1), we don’t need a female author to perpetuate this shit in the guise of making her Protagonist better. There are other ways to do it, so just fucking stop.

With that off my chest (my husband could hear my grumbling every night and asked “This is going to be a really angry review isn’t it?” he knows me too well), onto the actual story.

Micah, out of town on a Were-Beast job (he runs a coalition to assist Were-Beasts), calls Anita for help. He can’t find an answer and the family he is trying to help finally allowed him to seek outside assistance. They are not were-snakes, the family believes there is some kind of curse placed on them. When they get older (triggered by puberty kind of thing), limbs will randomly erupt into a nest of snakes. Micah showed Anita pictures of people with snake clusters sticking out of sleeves, or legs. Not a typical lycanthrope. They don’t bond with those snakes the way a Were bonds with their animal, they don’t control the change, but if the snakes are cut off the arm will grow back, like a Were-Beast. They are pulled in with the task of finding the root and curing this apparent “curse”.

Now for my next problem. Most of these books are Crime first, Anita bullshit second …but this books flips it. Edward (AKA: Ted Forrester) is getting married and everyone is invited. It also happens to be in the same area as the snake curse family so it was perfect. The beginning of the book was getting ready to head for the wedding, and then the wedding and hotel where the Girl Hate can run rampant.

And more random plots crammed into the end of the book (her last Merry Gentry book did the same)! A girl goes missing, Edwards step-son gets stabbed with a fountain pen, and suddenly Anita’s crew is looking suspicious and dangerous.

I hate how much this book bothered me, she is one of my favorite authors. Before I could ignore this stuff because it was overshadowed by the really cool mystery. This book flipped it, and like I said, highlighted everything I hated about the books. It’s hard to ignore it and skim through when that’s all there is.

I also learned I missed a book before hand so there are a few things they bring up that I don’t understand. One good thing about the series is you CAN miss a book because she explains everything so well (sometimes too well) and each story is kind of it’s own element, so you can enjoy the story even if you don’t know the history of the characters. That’s the only thing you’ll miss, is the growth of the characters and why Anita is so powerful.

There is character growth …sort of. Anita mentions her therapy and trying to conquer her anger and learning to talk more, which is awesome, so there is that. Other characters grow and change in response to Anita’s growth.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything else I liked about this book. I will still keep reading Laurell K Hamilton because I do adore her, but if I get too many of these I might not be able to go on. I did not enjoy reading this. There were a few parts that got really good and felt like more of the first books, but that vast majority of it was a drag to get through. And when my partner can hear me grumbling about it, you know it’s bad.

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