|Laurell K. Hamilton|
|Ace Books, 418 pages|
|A review by Kim Fawcett
Who is she? Anita Blake is Saint Louis' own tough-talking, zombie-raising, vampire-slaying force of nature. Life used to be simple for her -- get up, raise the dead, stake the undead, and go back to bed. But lately Anita has found that life gets a bit more complicated when you date the monsters instead of just beheading them.
In Blue Moon, Anita is drawn to Myerton, Tennessee when her former fiancé, Richard, gets arrested on bogus rape charges. Getting him out of jail is complicated by a corrupt police force, an assortment of hostile monsters, and the fact that Richard is going to turn into a werewolf come the full moon, only five days away. How's that for a deadline?
Anita must deal with the local opposition, make her peace with Richard, and manage her personal entourage of monsters. And it soon becomes clear that while Myerton may look postcard-perfect, it can give bad old Saint Louis a run when it comes to supernatural creep-shows.
Ah yes, a new Anita Blake novel. I have to admit that despite my headlong rush for the bookstore to pick this one up, I turned the first pages with a bit of trepidation. Was this to be an Anita-faces-terrible-odds story like the first few books, or an Anita-the-Invincible-kicks-ass story like the last couple? When the series began, it was about one tough human going up against a world of big, bad monsters. Anita survived again and again, but the issue was always in doubt. In the past couple of books, though, Anita grew so powerful that it was honestly hard to worry for her. It was no longer a case of "will she survive?", it was a case of "how many of her opponents will?" This spelled potential death for the series if it continued, and so I cracked Blue Moon with mixed feelings.
Fortunately, I put it down with a cheer. Anita's back! The true Anita, the one who simultaneously bullied and charmed her way into fandom. In Blue Moon, Laurell Hamilton knocks her down a peg or two, making her considerably more vulnerable (and interesting), and giving the series a new lease on life. Poor Anita! Virtually every loose end from previous books comes back to haunt her in this one: her relationships with her ex-fiancé and current lover, her repeated possession by a vengeful spirit, her reluctant status as leader of the Saint Louis wereleopards, her ignorance of her own powers and, in particular, her fear that she is rapidly becoming as much a monster as the vamps and werecritters around her.
Hamilton walked a fine line in writing this book. She had to make Anita more vulnerable to keep the series going, but without making the fall seem artificial. She accomplishes this surprisingly well, without sacrificing either the plot (although the ending is slightly anti-climatic) or her signature style.
Style is one element this book definitely doesn't lack. Laurell Hamilton is the Raymond Chandler of dark fantasy. We're talking pure 90s gumshoe. Anita is the ultimate tough guy -- a big gun, and a bigger attitude. And while she manages to be believably feminine, she scares the hell out of just about everybody who crosses her. The combination makes even the weaker Anita Blake books amazingly fun to read.
One caution: the violence in Blue Moon sometimes rivals splatter horror, and the sex is just as explicit. We're not talking Harlequin romance here. Euphemisms need not apply. Some may find this approach offensive, although personally I find it an integral part of Hamilton's style -- if you've read the previous Anita Blake books, you're well prepared for this one. And this isn't a stand-alone book, so if you haven't read the earlier books, this probably isn't the best place to start.
Blue Moon is the best book Laurell Hamilton has produced recently, and it sets the scene nicely for future books in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series. If she can keep it up, fans have a lot to look forward to.
Kim Fawcett works, reads, writes, and occasionally sleeps in Ottawa, Canada. A day job working as a contract technical writer hinders her creative efforts, but has no effect at all on her book-a-week reading habit. She dreams of (a) winning the lottery, (b) publishing a novel, © traveling the world, and (d) doing all of the above all at once.
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