In which I lament my broken literary heart and the end of my love affair with Laurell K. Hamilton’s writing.
Hate and love are two very opposite emotions, but a little nudge in either direction can change one passion into the other. I was once madly in love with the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. I couldn’t miss a moment reading her next horror-laden adventure. Sneaking snippets between classes in college and staying up into the wee hours of the morning trying to complete our latest assignation. I was voracious. Obsessed!
Finally, a female horror character that was what I would want to be if I was a Necromancer, crime-solving vampire executioner. Anita Blake had dignity, a strong belief of right and wrong, confidence, sexuality without slut factor; a bastion of feminine strength and independence. And most importantly, she was as much along for the ride as the reader was. In a supernatural world, Anita Blake was a very relate-able, witty character with depth. She would skid through a tough situation by the skin of her teeth and a snarky remark.
And then just like that, she betrayed me. She changed.
She was none of the things that made me fall in love with her. Hamilton guided Blake’s story into some sort of Mary Sue monstrosity where Anita seemed less of her own character and more of an extension of what Hamilton wanted to be. Entire novels were dedicated to the amassing of unexplained, plot-convenient power and sex. Lots and lots of poorly written, fan-fic quality sex. It wasn’t hot. It wasn’t sexy. It quickly digressed into the realm of seedy peepshow.
What happened Hamilton? How could it have possibly gone so very wrong from something so very right? What did you do?
In the beginning, Anita was a horror heroine. She had a job. She raised the dead for a living or solved mysterious, supernatural crimes. She policed the underworld and kept all of us normals safe. With just the right amount of sexual tension between her and Jean Claude, the vampire, it was positively scrumptious. She solves the mystery of the book. Maybe someone you liked dies making the story have so much more meaning and weight. Both you and Anita work your way through the horrors together and come out the other side stronger.
There are vampires, traditional voodoo zombies, weres, an intriguing, sociopathic hitman, Edward, and fairies. Scary fairies, like the ones from old-time fairy tales, not this new fangled sparkly bullshit. It was amazing. The stories had depth and things happened and the characters grew. Hamilton killed beloved characters. You were emotionally invested! Anita started dating alpha werewolf, Richard, who was smoking hot, but had some identity issues. It was touching and romantic. She solved crimes and saved people and experienced some scary-ass shit. But she still had Jean-Claude lingering.
At some point, Hamilton said, “What the hell! She can have BOTH of them!” Okay. I’m still with you here. Kind of hot. And then she adds another were, and then another, and a few more vampires. Wait, huh? Then Anita stops having a job or really solving crimes or doing anything at all. All she does is have sex with her, sometimes unwilling, harem of sexy, supernatural men and acquires greater and greater power that she doesn’t understand or control. A new aspect which always conveniently shows up when the situation looks dire, making the dire situation more of an inconvenience. Hamilton no longer has Anita rely on her wit or skill to save lives, but has Anita rely on the power she has because of her “human servant” tie to Jean-Claude. Power that is only controllable because of the sex she has to have with her various men. An addiction, if you will, to sex. A complete dependence. Anita can’t function without men and if she’s not satiated she could die! There are nine regular lovers; one is her “Bride” and then the random men she picks up and discards along the way. And then Hamilton proceeds to completely emasculate these men by making them weak and addicted to her. Worshiping Anita and whining about needing more of her time. None of these characters ever develop, grow, or die. Hamilton just has them trot on out when Anita needs a feeding and then they go back to being strippers (for real) when she’s done with them. Less horror, more sex. Does this sound silly? It’s because it bloody well is silly. It’s down right stupid.
The series currently spans 20 books. Books #1 (Guilty Pleasures) through #10 (Narcissus in Chains) are great. The most amazing are the first five. You’re introduced to some amazing characters that I still cherish (Yay, Edward!). I still recommend those in a heartbeat. I also recommend her short stories, Strange Candy. But continue on through books #11 to #19 at your peril. They are not worth the time. With thin attempts at an actual story, each of the books from #11 on have little to do with the “story” described and more to do with the minutia of Anita’s romantic squabbles. The actual EVENT of each novel after #10 only occupies maybe 40 pages interspersed within Hamilton‘s ramblings on Anita’s sex life. I don’t think I would have been so horrified if Hamilton wrote like this from the beginning
I had idolized Hamilton’s writing. I wanted to be a writer like her when I grew up. Someone with a fantastic character and series. But then the writing quality started to drop. The stories became lackluster and cheap. I have never been so angry at the metaphorical rape of a character’s essence than I was with Anita Blake. Everything of value in her is gone. She is a shell of a once great female character. I honestly have not read the last four books that Hamilton has religiously put out each year. I couldn’t. The pain of seeing something I loved so much be turned so foul is too much to bear. The last book I read, The Harlequin, was so bad I literally threw it across the room.
I get what you’re trying to do Hamilton. I get it. Anita was once a good guy. Now she’s literally in bed with the monsters and has to come to terms with being a “monster” herself. That her world has been turned on its ear and she has to come to terms with that. It’s just that your execution freaking sucks! I know that Hamilton is still selling books and I know people are still fans. That’s fine for them. But for me, I lost a hero. I lost an idol. And women lost ground in being taken seriously as horror writers. Hamilton is no longer the horror writer she once was. There are all sorts of flowery ways that you can describe Anita’s evolution into something epic and worthwhile, but let’s call a spade a spade here. Anita went from an ass-kicking woman in a horror-laden man’s world to sporting the character complexity of a cheap blowup doll.