This week, I'm going to start with my all time favorite book series (yes, a whole series for my first book--honestly, you'll find I tend to read series more than individual books): Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. Now, I'm going to specify that the following post is about books 1-10, because I feel that starting with book 11 and the new genre, it became a new series after that (some might say even sooner).
|The beginning of an entire Genre|
17 years ago, for my birthday, my best friend gave me a book for my 15th birthday (well, 17 years as of June 17th, 2012). She had been talking up this series for two years, since it had first come out when we were in junior high school. Book in hand was the best way to get me to read something and read I did...
|Sneaky girl had given me the second book in the series!|
Discovering that I had been tricked into reading out of order, I immediately sought out the first book to remedy the situation and devoured it. I finished with Circus of the Damned and eagerly awaited The Lunatic Cafe, putting in a call to our newly opened Barnes and Noble Booksellers that I wanted to be alerted the moment they hit the shelves.
When Laurell K. Hamilton initially pitched this series, she hit a brick wall. No one had any idea where to pigeonhole it. It wasn't proper horror and it wasn't fantasy or proper crime/mystery. It was all of the above and this was a stumbling block. Unwilling to let her baby go, Ms. Hamilton busted her ass getting the book out there, reading at conventions, etc. until finally, Ace Fantasy was willing to give the book a shot.
Urban Fantasy was born.
This is an 'unmasked' world, meaning that humans are aware of the supernatural/preternatural creatures inhabiting their world. A fascinating new idea, it explored the legalities of the undead, the monthly furry and many other creatures along the way, from the first person perspective of tough-as-nails Anita. Anita tried to balance her career featuring her own magical powers (the ability to raise the dead), a retainer with the local preternatural crimes division of the St. Louis Police department (RPIT, pronounced rip-it and nicknamed "the spook squad), a side job as a vampire executioner and being a feminist, Christian woman in a world that had accepted vampires as legal citizens.
Anita had this tendency to say exactly what I wanted her to say. The humor was there, the mystery, the sexiness and the drama. What's more, there were vampires and this was something that my 15 year old self was severely "into" (a good 10 years before they were popular). The first big vampire-werewolf-human love triangle popped up and copious usage of one of my favorite words: "fuck" was an intoxicating combination for me.
Click here to read an excerpt (pdf warning!) from Guilty Pleasures, the first book in the series. Click here to buy it.
Over the next several years, my best friend and I would await that call from Barnes and Noble each time a new book came out, drop everything and pester the adults in our lives to drive us there and I'd usually wave to her as she came out and I went in to get my copy. The phone would ring as she reached a part she just had to talk about and I would agree to call back as soon as I reached it. This would go on until we finished the book around 3am, even though it was a school night.
I've followed the series and Anita as she fell in love, had her heart ripped out of her chest (not literally, which is an important note in a series like this). I laughed with her, cried with her, got horny with her... this series was huge for me. I watched her grow and change and meet characters that spoke to me on deep levels to things that were broken inside of me and helped me understand what I was looking for and what was wrong with me.
Then Obsidian Butterfly came out. Everything was wrong. It was the first hardback, celebrating Ms. Hamilton's major success with the series (so it cost me way more than any other and screwed up my whole collection!). The status quo for the books was severely disrupted. It was pulling away from the sex that was starting to suck the series under and focused on the police work again (which was good!) while destroying most of the mystery of a character that relied on that mystery to be... that character.
My interest in the series waned a bit. I no longer ran out to buy every copy. Maybe it was partly that I was entering adulthood, but it was also definitely partly that I just wasn't crazy about this book. It remains one of my least favorite in the series. Now, as a mother, this book is gut-wrenching in several places. It marks the last book of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, in my mind. What follows is Anita Blake: Vampire Fucker. (spoilers under the black--highlight to read) I still enjoy the series, but it's not what it was. Anita is not who she was. Honestly, Anita from Guilty Pleasures would hunt Anita from books 11+ down and put a bullet in her head.
That's why my husband stopped reading. Me, I don't think it's as unrealistic a change as he did and I still enjoy it... mostly. I do wish that she would get some variety for her language in the sex scenes and frankly: cut them down or out. Some tasteful fade to black scenes for anything other than something new and interesting at this point. I'm tired of reading how men have to comment on how wet she is. And she can't keep up with character development--they have all started to sound the same, spouting the same lines as one another and there are a lot of repetitive moments (this is still a problem in the newest book that just came out). This is incredibly disappointing and a departure from the first half of the series. I get that it's been a lot of books, but I think some more effort could be put out. Maybe LKH is putting all she has into the books and I'd hate for the series to end, but I know it's approaching that time. It can't be easy keeping 21 books in your head as you write! And I love her writing, but I will warn you that she uses sentence fragments like crazy. I happen to like that--it feels more natural to the character's head space.
In all, I do highly recommend at least the first five books. Starting with book 11, I would strongly recommend against anyone under 17 reading them. Normally, I would not censor a book (my kids can read all the romance they like), especially over sex, but the sex gets very, very out there. It makes 50 Shades of Grey look tame, I'm sure..
And, if you're interested in my fanart (which is really crappy), I have two pieces. Asher and Nathaniel.
Have you read the series? Who are your favorite characters? Warning, I am not responsible for the comments and they may contain major spoilers, read at your own risk! I would love to hear from anyone who wants to talk about the books!