Laurell K. Hamilton
Burnt Offerings (1998)
Anita Blake #7
Look who's come to town. It's the vampire council. Them's a mean bunch of dudes and dudettes. The topranking bloodsuckers and their proxies have come to look into the matter of how a million-year old member of their elite club came to be killed earlier (in Circus of the Damned) and to settle the question of succession. As you may have guessed, rising through the ranks of the undead means killing your way to the top, and you can imagine what this implies about those at the pinnacle of power. Small wonder even the resident master vampire of the city is scared.
So what's up with Anite Blake, our dearest necromancer, licensed vampire executioner, and police advisor for preternatural crime? Directly and indirectly the arrival of the council causes plenty of action in the monster community. A continous string of private and official emergencies keeps Anita busy. A firebug, an arsonist with pyrokinetic powers, is haunting the city. Anita is increasingly sucked into the shapeshifter subculture. Her involvement in the monsters' power struggles is starting to catch up with her in a big way. And she is more than ever entangled in her difficult three-way relationship with an alpha werewolf and a master vampire.
There are only so many ways to kill somebody and Hamilton must come up with new ways to carry the plot. Dominance is a key factor in the communities of vampires and the various kinds of shapeshifters. We are treated to a lot of posturing and submission rituals, if not outright BDSM, which starts to remind me of nothing so much as John Norman's novels. Oops, there goes a vampire's head. Did I complain about missing action?
Another path to holding the reader's interest is character development, and there is no shortage of that in the series. The preternatural soap opera and with it its players keep evolving. Anita, her friends, and their relationships are perceptibly and credibly changing. We don't know where things are headed, except that Anita is becoming ever more powerful, and her distance from the monsters, her humanity, is growing slimmer and slimmer as her conscience appears to be dying under the onslaught of horrors.
In between Anita's flippant style and multi-centennial vampires voicing lines that could come straight out of a historical novel, Hamilton introduces more literary writing. I have started to notice just how good her prose is. Mind you, she isn't at the Bujold level, but it is growing impressive.
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