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Narcissus In Chains
Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley Books, 432 pages

Narcissus In Chains
Laurell K. Hamilton
Laurell K. Hamilton has never wanted to do anything but write, so she earned an English degree. A brief fling with wanting to be Jane Goodall earned her a biology degree as well. She met her husband, a confirmed reader of fantasy and science fiction, at college.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Blue Moon
SF Site Review: Burnt Offerings
SF Site Review: Nightseer
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

I once read somewhere that the average viewer goes through three emotional stages while watching a porn film. First is embarrassment: no matter how much of a voyeur you are, part of you is still stuck on the idea of it being forbidden. Next is amusement -- at the bad hair and makeup, tacky sets and unbelievable dialogue. Finally comes boredom.

I bring this up because reading Laurell K. Hamilton's latest outing with Vampire Hunter Anita Blake, Narcissus In Chains, feels very much like, well, like watching a bad porn film. For those unfamiliar with the series, Anita Blake lives in a world where the supernatural is a fact of life. Unlike the relatively closeted creatures of Anne Rice's books, here vampires, werewolves, etc. are acknowledged -- if not completely accepted -- members of society. Anita herself has two otherworldly "boyfriends": sexy Jean-Claude, an ancient vampire with a penchant for black vinyl; and Richard, a hunky, soulful guy who just happens to be a werewolf.

Anita's sensitivity to paranormal forces, including her necromantic ability to raise the dead, first drew her into the supernatural demi-monde. Through the eight previous books of the series, her relationships with Richard and Jean-Claude have deepened and continue to get her into trouble with dangers both human and inhuman -- sort of Modesty Blaise meets The Exorcist.

Narcissus In Chains, book #10 in the series, opens with Anita marking the sixth month of avoiding Jean-Claude and Richard. "I'd been a rock for half a year... Why such drastic measures? Frankly, because almost every time I saw them, I fell off the chastity wagon." But it's not just the sex. A previous encounter with the two guys has left all three with nasty holes in their auras, holes which leave them vulnerable to psychic attack.

What brings them together inevitably is trouble with the pard, or tribe, of were-leopards Anita has been babysitting since their alpha died. One were-leopard, the ultra submissive Nathaniel, is being held prisoner at a B&D club called Narcissus In Chains. Anita doesn't know where the club is, so she calls up Jean-Claude, who does. He also reminds her about those pesky aura holes, and convinces her that the three of them should do a ritual to repair them before Anita faces the villains holding Nathaniel. Meantime, Richard has got troubles of his own. As Wolf King, Ulfric, of his pack, he faces challenge by an upstart named Jacob who would undo everything Richard has accomplished. The three carry out the ritual in the main room at Narcissus in Chains, broadcasting the inevitably sensual experience, much to the vicarious enjoyment of everyone else in the club. During the exchange, Anita also absorbs some of the men's powers and vulnerabilities.

Finally she gets around to rescuing Nathaniel -- remember Nathaniel? -- but during the ensuing fight she's tainted -- perhaps infected -- with lycanthropy; she won't know for sure until the next full moon. In the meantime Micah, the charismatic head of another leopard pard, easily seduces her in the shower, thanks to the hungry arduer she's inherited from Jean-Claude which requires her to feed on lust every day. Micah claims the chemistry between them proves Anita is his soulmate, and offers her the full support of his pard if only she will accept him.

As if that wasn't enough, Jacob, Richard's rival, convinces the wolf pack to force Richard to dump Anita. Anita's channeling Raina, the sexy evil former leader of her own pard, as well as Belle Morte, the sexy evil vampiress who used to order Jean-Claude around. And the other were-groups in town -- rats, swans, what have you -- are all eager to swear loyalty to Anita in the face of vague threats from some approaching deadly force.

What this all boils down to is a soap opera of Fellini-esque proportions. Though Anita's determined to be independent, everything and everyone only ties her more tightly to the supernatural tangle around her, like the silver chains at Narcissus' club. Eventually, after massive helpings of were-political backbiting and chaos, sex and violence, the novel wallows to a muddled close with all the important plot points resolved in an epilogue rather than within the story itself.

Hamilton has created a unique world and quite a few interesting characters, but she doesn't take them anywhere you want to go here. Maybe next time.

Copyright © 2001 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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