So does anyone remember back when Anita Blake used to actually solve murders? Yeah me too. I miss that. Oh, and she also used to avoid having sex with vampires. I miss that too.
I’m not going to lie, I LOVE a good paranormal romance. Though technically Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series was around before there was a ‘paranormal romance’ section in book stores. The Anita Blake series was my first introduction to modern paranormal stories and I loved them all immediately. Anita is a necromancer who raises zombies for a living, since all the paranormal stuff is ‘out of the coffin’ now (to steal a term from True Blood. Which I also love, but that’s another post entirely). Wereanimals and vampires and a ton of other things besides are all real and all just trying to live their lives in normal society. Anita also happens to be a vampire executioner and a federal marshall in her spare time, which includes assisting the police to solve paranormal crimes and hunting down and killing rogue vampires. The stories were interesting and witty and had fighting and crime solving and a female lead. Anita was tough and strong and could shoot guns and fight bad guys. What more is there to love? The series is full of male eye-candy (well as much eye candy as you can have in a book) but Anita was always completely against casual sex. She didn’t succumb to the flirty guys even though they all seemed to lust after her constantly (OF COURSE).
Anita isn’t exactly relatable due to all the zombie raising and vampire hunting and killing. But she also was constantly being underestimated by the men around her due to her size (she’s just over five feet tall) and the fact that she’s a woman, which did ring true to me. In a lot of ways Anita was able to be the smart-ass that I always wished I could be when people underestimate me. Everyone can relate to being misunderstood or discounted, especially in work situations. The police cases were also interesting mysteries with some sort of new and scary paranormal bad guy in each book.
And….then Anita decided to have sex with one of the main vampire dudes. And then the books started to royally suck.
It was really unfortunate, actually, because I so enjoyed these books. Don’t get me wrong, these are not works of literature, but they were the ultimate guilty pleasure books for me. At least for the first five or six books Hamilton attempted to make them about a mystery with an actual plot. Now? In her latest book, The Harlequin, Anita spends 400 pages having sex with multiple partners, talking about EVERYTHING (I don’t think Hamilton has ever heard the term ‘show don’t tell’) and having paranormal visions about vampires and werewolves that ultimately do nothing to advance the plot. There no longer even IS a plot that I can determine. My mind boggles that Hamilton manages to fill so many pages with such utter rubbish. How can I have read 150 pages and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED?!
Of course, this is the FIFTEENTH book in the series and I’m still reading them. Yes, I’m pathetic. But at least I got this one at the library. I refuse to pay money for them anymore. The thing that bugs me the most is they are SO badly written. I think they’ve probably always been badly written but at least the plots were engaging enough that I didn’t mind. Now? OH I MIND.
See here’s the thing. Ok here’s the first thing, anyway. I find Anita’s characterisation extremely juvenile now. Or as if she’s written by a juvenile. Hamilton goes to extreme lengths to describe how sexy Anita is and how every man in her vicinity wants to have sex with her at every opportunity. And yet Anita spends the majority of the book downplaying her appearance, seemingly so that men can tell her all the time how gorgeous she is. There’s even an entire chapter that goes into intense detail about how Anita wasn’t wearing a bra at one point and she had to wear a tight tee shirt. Why do I need to know this? How is this advancing the story? Is her lack of a bra going to somehow tie into the non-existent plot? Are her bra-less boobs going to suddenly burst out of her shirt and distract the bad guy? No? Then I don’t need to know about it. SHUT UP HAMILTON. It just reminds me of the stories I used to write when I was twelve and was intensely insecure with boys. None of the boys I crushed on would ever come up to me in class and tell me how gorgeous I was, so I’d just write a story about a thinly-veiled version of myself and have those guys go up and tell HER! Genius! Except not. And do you think it’s a coincidence that Hamilton is also just over five feet tall and bears a resemblance to Anita? I THINK NOT.
Second thing, I wasn’t kidding when I said Hamilton depends excessively on dialogue passages to pad out her book. The amount of dialogue is unbelievable, and goes a long way to explain why so little actually happens in the plot. It’s because all they do is stand around talking! Usually about Anita’s relationships, which is SO BORING when she’s dating about six different men and they all have problems. I can’t even keep track of all these guys and I’m supposed to care about all the different ways they’re not emotionally fulfilled? The dialogue also comes across extremely stilted, with people sharing far more information than would seem normal and in very odd ways just so that the conversations can delve deeper into all the emotional problems. I was desperate for Anita to get distracted and go kill someone just so something could happen, anything!
On a related topic, as I said before there was FAR too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing.’ Anita would constantly make a statement, and then follow it up with ‘they just would’ or ‘it just would.’ For example: But if their sons could be as powerful as Thea, or even close, then suddenly Samuel’s family would rule the East Coast. They just would. I felt like we as readers were supposed to read that and think, ‘oh, ok Anita, if you say so!’ It bugged me. A LOT.
Oh, and, if Anita says one more time that someone ‘let me see in his face’ some ridiculously complicated emotion that would be almost impossible to just ‘show’ on your face, I will throw that book across the room. Anita does a lot of ‘letting people see’ things in her face, which just makes me want to vomit. STOP TAKING SHORTCUTS AND WRITE ACTUAL DESCRIPTIONS. God.
Breathe…I am breathing…
There aren’t a lot of books that make me as infuriated as Hamilton’s books do. Maybe the Twilight books, but then I only read the first one before I did literally throw that book across the room and vow, NO MORE. Alas, I just can’t give up on Anita even though it PAINS ME how much these books suck now. They are complete and utter crap and yet I’m still reading.
But you don’t have to! If you’ve seen these books on the ‘paranormal romance’ shelf of your local bookstore, don’t make the same mistake I did! You’ll get sucked in too, you’ll think these books are good, but trust me. As soon as Anita and Jean-Claude get it on, RUN AWAY! It’s all downhill from there.
p.s. Try Kelley Armstrong, if you want a good paranormal romance. LOVE HER.