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Reviews of books in a series, with a focus on urban fantasy.
Other genres include mystery, paranormal romance, and crime thrillers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hit List (Anita Blake, Book 20) by Laurell K. Hamilton


I liked it. Mostly. Sure, there were a few aggravations. There has to be a policeman of some sort in every book who is out to get her, some male in a position of authority over her who hates Anita just because she's a woman and she's killed more vampires than he has. It's well beyond old. And there were a few paragraphs all in a row where various men's hairstyles were discussed. It was just too much.

But mostly, it was a good book. Not great, but not bad, either.

Anita is away from home solving crimes with Edward. Olaf and Bernardo show up at some point, and the action is pretty good. I like that Anita fights some people by being a bad ass and some people by making friends with them. I like the camaraderie she has with Edward, and I enjoy watching them work together.

If LKH's books show us what she happens to be working through in her life at the time, then Hit List shows us that family is important to her right now, that she's discovered the value of family and friends and that day to day life is currently more of a focus than the sex and whatever power exchange they have going on in her apparently poly house. Not that the power exchange is gone, just that it's happening in the background now while life takes the reigns at the moment. Her vampires and werewolves are all about the power exchange, but when everything is working like it's supposed to then everyone has their place and no one has to remind anyone who is in control and who is not. I think the same can be said of a long term power exchange relationship, things ebb and flow and there are periods of time that no one has to do any reminding of who makes the decisions and who follows those decisions... it's just the way it is. It would feel odd speculating about her private life if she weren't as open about it as she is, but I've watched things since somewhere around Burnt Offerings or Blue Moon, and I've come to the conclusion that she writes relationships for Anita that mirror whatever is going on in her life at the time. She has to go away and figure things out on a spiritual level... so does Anita. She discovers BDSM in a big way and we start seeing storylines that explore power exchange, and how pleasure and pain are interlinked.

Here is the blurb for Hit List:

A serial killer is hunting the Pacific Northwest, murdering victims in a gruesome and spectacular way. The local police suspect “monsters” are involved, and have called in Anita Blake and Edward, US Marshals who really know their monsters, to catch the killer.

But some monsters are very real. The Harlequin have been the bogeymen of the vampire world for more than a thousand years; they are a secret so dark that even to speak their name can earn you a death sentence. Now they are here in America, hunting weretigers…and human police.

The Harlequin serve the Mother of All Darkness, the first vampire. She was supposed to be dead, but only her body was destroyed. Now she needs a new one, and she’s decided that Anita Blake’s is the body she wants. Edward thinks the serial killings are a trap to lure Anita closer to the most dangerous vampire they’ve ever hunted. The vampires call Edward “Death,” and Anita the “Executioner,” but Mommy Darkest is coming to kill one and possess the other, and she doesn’t care how many others have to die along the way.

At twenty or so pages to go I was sure we were going to end on a cliffhanger. But I was wrong, the plot was wrapped up and we were given a few plot possibilities for future books. I was a bit disappointed in the resolution at first, but then there was a single line that just made it work for me. Without giving a spoiler, it's the idea that God made the darkness and the light, the darkness isn't bad while the light is good... both are creations of God and thus both are good. So yeah, while I'd have liked a little more oomph to the resolution, when I look at it metaphysically -- it was very nicely done.

I do have one question that kept nagging at the back of my mind: Publishers are insistent that underage sex not be allowed. Even the erotica book publishers won't allow even a hint of it. And yet we had Anita and Cynric, and we have it discussed back and forth a whole lot in Hit List. What made Berkley decide to allow it? It's not that I want the epublishers to do down that road, because I absolutely do not want to read about underage sex. I'm just wondering what made this exception okay in the book publishing world.

But back to Hit List: It was an enjoyable book, a nice change of pace, and I look forward to seeing Anita back in St Louis again for the next book.  I think time away from her men every once in a while is good for her, to help her settle back in her own skin for a little while. I'm also glad she isn't as ruled by the ardeur as she once was, though of course she does still have to keep an eye on all of her various appetites. Hit List lets us see Anita as mostly human for the majority of the book, and it was a nice change.

Anita has a lot of men in her life, and I like most of them and am glad that she's happy with all of them... but it is my hope that she'll go back to having her own life again now, having time every day away from them, in her own skin, without all of their dramas ruling her life. I want her to go home, but I don't want that to mean the whiny little dramas have to start back.

As for the writing elements:
  • The plot with Mommy Darkness is getting old and personally I think LKH has hung onto her too long. She's a great villain, someone worthy of Anita and her men, so I understand why she keeps being brought back, but I'm beyond ready to move on. She isn't a constant source of annoyance in Hit List, so the plot was mostly a good one even though, as you can tell from the blurb... she's back.
  • Pacing was well done.
  • Prose and dialogue were excellent in places and royally sucked in places. I have no idea why that might be, but some of the writing was beautifully done and some of it felt forced.
  • Character development was excellent.
  • World-building continues to be nicely done, though I don't believe we get anything new as far as world building goes in Hit List, it was consistent with previous world building and that's enough for a series this developed. 
I'm going to give Hit List an 8 of 10, and I am moving the series to an 8 of 10 as well.
  • Book Rating: Hit List: 8 of 10
  • Series Rating: 8 of 10

1. Guilty Pleasures
2. The Laughing Corpse
3. Circus of the Damned
4. The Lunatic Cafe
5. Bloody Bones
6. The Killing Dance
7. Burnt Offerings
8. Blue Moon
9. Obsidian Butterfly
10. Narcissus in Chains
11. Cerulean Sins
12. Incubus Dreams
13. Micah
14. Danse Macabre
15. The Harlequin
16. Blood Noir (2008)
17. Skin Trade (2009)
18. Flirt (Feb 2010)
19. Bullet (June 2010)
20.  Hit List (June 2011)


    1. I just stumbled upon your site and thought you might be able to answer a question for me about the Anita Blake series. I have read the first 9 books (I just finished Obsidian Butterfly) and noticed that some of the books have a lot of sexual content and others have little to none. I can't figure out which are which prior to reading them. I don't mind some sexual content, I'm a big fan of Charlaine Harris afterall, but I draw the line at supernatural orgies. Advise? Thanks!

    2. Obsidian Butterfly is the last sex free book.

      I don't think it reaches the level of metaphysical orgy for another book or two, but the sex starts ramping up from here.

    3. don't expect them to be free, but lets get real. If I'm going to pay that much I will buy the hardcover. I think E-book prices should be about half what the actual book costs. When prices come back down, I will start buying again.