Yet again, LKH has managed to produce a book that has left me repeatedly checking the dust jacket for a "plot sold separately" warning label. What little plot there was existed as a vehicle to transport Anita from one sexual encounter to another, much like you see in some better-quality porn movies where the director actually attempts to piece together the orgy into some sort of semi-cohesive story.
Unfortunately, this leaves me really missing the Anita Blake of old, where there was actually some mystery and suspense and jeopardy, where there was a story outside of the question of how many men Anita can have intercourse with in a 24-hour period. Frankly, this Anita Blake is quite boring. It's the reason why even "better quality" porn movies are still bad.
What little plot there was was also quite predictable, as it's been the only plot we've seen over the last three books or so. Anita has sex. Anita gets a new power. Anita's new power complicates things so that she has to have more sex. Anita has sex with someone else, who is somehow affected by Anita's new power. Anita gains yet another man for her harem. Someone wants to test Anita's new power. Anita has sex to defeat that testing. Richard pouts about Anita having sex, so Anita has sex and/or fights with Richard. Anita pieces together a rather obvious mystery that somehow involves all this sex, and has sex one last time. The end.
It's getting so these books can be written by a computer with a fill-in-the-blank form, rather like mass-produced Harlequin novels. If I didn't seem to care what happens to some of the characters, I think I would have given up on them by now.
LKH: Stop bringing new men to Anita's bed. It's been done, she has enough, and frankly we'd rather read about the existing ones with whom she has a relationship than read about new ones we couldn't care less about.
Since there's no plot to speak of, I'll analyze the book on a character-by-character basis:
Richard: You know, once I liked Richard. If you has asked me up to "Narcissus in Chains" I would have said that Jean-Claude's the guy you have one-night-stand with, but Richard's the one you have a true relationship with. Now, I just want him to die, or go far away and never darken Anita's doorstep again. He's just a whingy, self-absorbed prat who has to make ever single scene about HIS drama. Anita can be in the middle of a life-threatening crisis, and it's still All. About. Richard. I'm SO over it.
Jean-Claude: From the very beginning, I've found him smarmy, smug and irritatingly lacking in anything resembling sincerity. I started applauding for him when he started calling Anita on the fact that she was doing things that were hurting other people, but I still never found him to exhibit enough genuine emotion for me to ever buy the concept that he truly loves Anita. Recently, however, he's found a rather surprising streak of sincerity somewhere inside himself that, if it hasn't completely convinced me, at least has me willing to admit the possibility that he might actually love her.
Micah: I love him. When he was first introduced, he was a non-entity, but since "Incubus Dreams" I've been sold. There's something about his manner, his quiet, "let's take care of business now and deal with the drama later" way of handling things that reminds me of my own husband.
Nathaniel: Again with the love. I've always had a soft-spot for the underdog characters, the "innocent" (not sexually, but spiritually) ones that don't seem capable of hurting anyone. I was right there with Anita when she refused to have sex with him, because there was something so dependent and needy about him that it really felt like it would be victimization, like child molestation. But once he grew up, I was sold. And this new, more aggressive Nathaniel...rawrrrr! Yummy, yummy...you go right on and put that mean old wolf in his place, kitty!
Asher: Completely legitimate grievances on his part, but like Richard, I get tired of the fact that frequently it's All. About. Asher. Unlike Richard, however, Asher seems to understand when to give it up and take care of business.
I've loved Asher from the start, and wish we could see more of his interactions with Anita just as a couple. We've seen them have sex, but we've never seen them have a relationship.
Damien: I keep hoping Damien will become a master vampire somehow and move on to bigger and better things. He's a decent guy, but I can't seem to make myself care about him.
Jason: Charming and entertaining as always, but I hope he never moves out of the "friend with benefits" catergory into the core of Anita's harem.
London: non-entity. I couldn't care less.
Requiem: non-entity, but at least a somewhat appealing one.
Graham: not even a remotely appealing non-entity.
The others: I lost my score-card...who are they again?
And last but not least, Anita: Frankly, the ever increasing power-gains are getting tiresome. Like I said, it's boring and predictable and it's been what the last four books have been about. She's bordering on paragon at this point, and paragons are never interesting. She's got a slight streak of humanity left that keeps her from being a complete paragon, but even her flaws have been softened or taken over entirely by the men in her life (such as Richard with her rage) which puts her in jeopardy of being so perfect as to impossible to relate to. As for the sex, we get it already. She's wildly multi-orgasmic when the majority of women have to work hard to have even one. She can deep throat with near anatomically impossible skill and does so with great relish, but doesn't like to swallow. She never gets chafed or sore and is always tight even when having sex six times a day. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. It's old. Move on.
Marmee Noir: Somehow, I don't feel even the slightest bit of concern here, because of course Anita will find some wild new power that enables her to defeat the Mother of All Darkness and prove once again she's more vampire than the biggest, baddest vamp. At least we know LKH knows the Chekov principle, as she didn't leave the gun just sitting on the mantle.
I'll give this series one more shot, and then I'm done and shopping for books that actually tell a story.