Short works

Books : reviews

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Roc. 1992

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 13 December 1998

Keleios is a journeyman sorcerer who dream-predicts the destruction of her Keep, and has to battle magic, demons, devils, and herself to get vengeance for her murdered mother.

Reading this only after reading eight Anita Blake novels, Nightseer looks to me a bit like a dress rehearsal for those later stories, but here in a standard fantasy setting. Many of the features of the vampire novels are present: a protagonist who has to battle a succession of monsters, who uses both magic and weapons, who isn't very tall, who has to embrace some evil powers to win, who is forced into an initially unwelcome liaison with one of the bad guys, who has some trouble being accepted by her family, .... Oh, and the careful descriptions of what everyone is wearing.

I don't think this is quite as good as the Blake books -- Keleios isn't as sassy as Anita for one thing. But the story runs at the usual breathless rate (after a slightly slow start) over a few days real time, the battles and monsters are well described, and I like the way the important back story isn't all dumped in some boring linear progression up front, but is gradually revealed over the course of the book.

J. D. Robb, Laurell K. Hamilton, Susan Krinard, Maggie Shayne, eds.
Out of this World.
Jove. 2001

rating : 4.5 : passes the time
review : 27 January 2007

I bought this to get the Eve Dallas "Interlude in Death" novella (which was originally been advertised as being published separately, but never materialised). The theme of the collection is SFnal love stories. The Eve Dallas story, part of a long series, here concentrates more on the police procedural aspects, and probably makes sense only if you've read the others; the Laurell Hamilton is merely an excerpt from a full Anita Blake novel, and probably doesn't make sense even if you've read the rest. The other two novellas are complete in their own right (that is, a beginning, a middle, and an end, all occuring within the published story).


J. D. Robb. Interlude in Death. 2001
Lt Eve Dallas is attending an off-planet police conference, under protest. When a police chief's aide is found murdered, the chief seems strangely desperate to pin the blame on her husband, Roarke.
Susan Krinard. Kinsman. 2001
The empathic Kinsmaen are the bridge between humans and the alien Shaauri. But there are forces on both sides who want to change things. Kinsman Jonas, empathic sense terribly damaged, finds himself at the centre of a plot.
Maggie Shayne. Immortality. 2001
The dark witch Puabi is washed up on a remote island just before a storm, and found by Matthew, who realises she is almost identical to his recently deceased wife.
Laurell K. Hamilton. Magic Like Heat Across My Skin. 2001
Extract from Narcissus in Chains

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Guilty Pleasures.
Ace. 1993

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 23 May 1998

We are in modern-day America, except with vampires legally recognised. You can't put a stake though just any vampire's heart, that would be murder -- you need a warrant first. Anita Blake's 'day'-job is as an Animator -- raising zombies from the dead for short periods of time, usually to settle legal disputes over wills. And she helps out the police department's Preternatural division. But she is also The Executioner: a Vampire Hunter who tracks down and kills rogue vampires. Now someone or something is murdering powerful vampires, and they want her to find and stop the killer. She would prefer to put a stake through her employer's heart.

This is a very successful cross between the vampire and detective genres. It is often difficult to write a successful sf or fantasy detective story, because of the danger of the plot being solved by "and so he got out of the locked room by using [technobabble]". However, detective novels fall along a spectrum from "English country house locked room mysteries", where the reader and detective are swamped with clues and red herrings and have to puzzle out the solution, to "American hard-boiled gum-shoe noir", where the cynical and world-weary detective keeps poking sticks into holes and getting beaten up until the killer becomes obvious.

The latter style can translate well into fantasy -- the critters doing the beatings-up are a bit weird, is all -- and this is what we get here: Blake doesn't so much solve the mystery, as get everybody riled up enough that eventually the killer tries for her. Great stuff.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
The Laughing Corpse.
Ace. 1994

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 12 September 1998

Anita Blake may be a professional zombie raiser, but the millionaire Graynor wants her to raise a very old zombie, which would require human sacrifice. Of course she declines, but he is very insistent. And to make matters worse, there's already a killer zombie on the loose, and the police get her to investigate Señora Dominga, a powerful voodoo priestess. So now Anita has got two new powerful enemies.

It's all zombies, rather than vampires, this time, although the new Master vampire, Jean-Claude, makes a few appearances, trying unsuccessfully to get Anita to acknowledge she is his human servant. Anita herself is just as competent, sassy, and put upon, and the mixture of the grisly and the comic in scenes works well. I particularly appreciated the 'gross-out' contest when examining a gruesomely bloody corpse -- it felt to be a very real coping strategy in an otherwise almost unbearable situation.

I'm definitely hooked on this series.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Circus of the Damned.
Ace. 1995

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 20 September 1998

I had been stabbed, beaten, shot, strangled, and vampire-bit in the space of four months. There comes a point where you just have too many things happening too close together. I had battle fatigue.

Battle fatigue or not, Anita Blake gets no chance for rest and recuperation here. There's a rogue master vampire on the loose, killing humans, and challenging Jean-Claude for the city, with Anita caught in the middle as they both try to make her their human servant. And the fanatical Humans First are gunning for her. To top it off, Edward, known by the vampires only as Death, is back, with a contract out on the Master of the City. Will Edward force Anita to reveal the master's identity? Will Jean-Claude force Anita to let him give her his Third Mark, to save her from Alejandro? Well, as we've come to realise, it's rather difficult to force Anita to do anything she doesn't want to.

Rather less gory than The Laughing Corpse (the blood is just splattered on the walls, not drenching the carpets), but with a deeper menacing evil, the same breathless pacing, and a wonderful battle for the climax.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
The Lunatic Cafe.
Ace. 1996

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 12 October 1998

I've put my rating down slightly on this one, for one reason only: a little too much on the interpersonal relationships, not quite enough fighting the monsters. Despite that, it was still great fun. And the penguins are beginning to come to the fore...

Richard the werewolf and Anita are now dating, but she's not sure she really wants to be involved with a non-human. To make matters more complicated, the vampire Gretchen wants to kill Anita for taking Jean-Claude away from her, and Jean-Claude wants to kill Richard for taking Anita away from him. And rather in the background there unfolds the Mystery of the Missing Lycanthropes.

Despite my wanting more gore and less angst, there are lots of new kinds of monsters here, and some great moments, in particular when Anita meets the alpha-male werewolf Marcus and his pack, and the final set-piece slugfest itself. But Anita has certainly let herself in for a complicated time in the next book (which I will definitely be reading). But if I were Anita I'd leave Bert's employ, and go independent -- the steady employment is surely not worth all that hassle?

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Bloody Bones.
Ace. 1996

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 18 October 1998

Ooof. So is this what I get for complaining that The Lunatic Cafe has too much on relationships and not enough monsters? Well, Bloody Bones is monsters all the way down, with a non-stop action-packed climax that takes up about the entire final third of the book.

Anita Blake has been called out to deepest Missouri to raise some very old dead, to help settle a land dispute. But not only is there more going on in this dispute than meets the eye, while she is there she also gets involved in tracking down some extremely old renegade vampires, with some 'help' from Jean-Claude, but none from the local police.

The tone of the series is getting darker, richer and deeper with every book. At the start, Anita is just The Executioner, a vampire hunter sure of herself and sure that fighting the monsters is the right thing to do. Now she's not so sure that all the monsters are all bad, or even if she is still one of the good guys, as she gets more and more necromancy powers. And the price she has to pay for each new victory just keeps growing. But even if she's not quite sure anymore what she is fighting, that doesn't stop her fighting every inch of the way.


Laurell K. Hamilton.
The Killing Dance.
Ace. 1997

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 19 October 1998

There are only two things you can do when you're dressed like Barbie Does Bondage; you can be embarrassed or you can be aggressive. Guess what my choice was.

Anita Blake, aka The Executioner, with over 20 vampire kills to her name (and those are just the legal ones), now finds that she is the hunted. There's a $500,000 contract out on her, dead. Edward must find out who ordered the hit. To make matters more complicated, Richard and Marcus must bloodily resolve who will be leader of the pack. On top of all this, Anita's complicated ménage gets distinctly steamy, and very à trois. Although with alpha werewolf Richard becoming less human as he fights for the pack, and Master vampire Jean-Claude becoming seemingly more human as he fights for Anita, it's difficult for her to decide who to choose.

It's fascinating to watch Anita's progress through the series. She has stayed as uncompromising and tough as ever, but she's getting a hardness that frightens even herself. And by the end of this book, because she's a much more powerful Necromancer, possibly even becoming one of the 'monsters', she finds herself paying a price and in a situation she would never even have considered in the first book. Still great stuff.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Burnt Offerings.
Ace. 1998

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 1 November 1998

I usually have to meet someone at least once before threatening to kill them, but I was about to make an exception.

Reading this on Hallowe'en, being interrupted by trick-or-treaters, was a surreal experience...

A few books back Anita Blake killed Mr. Oliver, a powerful member of the vampire Council. Now the council has come to town, suspicious of why Jean-Claude won't take his seat with them, the seat that Anita unknowingly won for him. They put Jean-Claude and his human servant Anita through a series of gruesome trials, partly to determine the truth, partly for their own sadistic pleasures. And there's a firebug on the loose, too.

Very little of the original police procedural format, of Anita battling the monsters on behalf of the police, remains. Now she mainly battles monsters on behalf of other monsters, who are seemingly less monstrous -- maybe more 'human', certainly more complex -- as she gets to know them better. And that's straining her relationship with the police, too.

Throughout the series, Anita has been growing more and more coldblooded, numbed by the horrors she deals with, and the line between her and the monsters has grown constantly thinner. In Burnt Offerings, the only thing separating Anita from the monsters is a thin film of sweat.

-- Christina M. Schulman, April 1998

The changes in Anita herself through the series continue here. Her attitude to her scars has reversed: she used to cover them up, now she aggressively displays them. And initially pretty much a loner, she has taken on personal responsibility for Jean-Claude's vampires, Richard's werewolf pack, and now a pack of wereleopards, too. And her relationship with Richard and Jean-Claude is threatening to tear her up. [There does seem to be an obvious resolution to this choice -- but presumably her attitude to relationships hasn't liberalised sufficiently, yet.] Her life is getting really complicated.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Blue Moon.
Ace. 1998

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 6 December 1998

Being possessed by anyone would have scared me. Being possessed by a sociopathic nymphomaniac sadomasochist I had killed personally was too frightening and too ironic for words.

Richard is in jail back home in Tennessee, accused of rape. So Anita goes to help him out. But there's just a few little problems on the way. The local police are framing Richard for some reason; Richard's bodyguard werewolves don't trust Anita; there's a full moon a few days away, and if Richard is still in jail then, his cover will be blown; the local Master vampire Colin thinks this is just a takeover bid, and refuses Anita permission to visit his territory; and to top it all, Raina's munin is beginning to possess Anita. And when Anita is finally forced to do something that she thinks makes her one of the bad guys, it's a bit of a problem, because she has to battle a demon, who has power only over bad guys...

Rather more sex and rather less detection than I would have liked. But it's still a gripping series, with some good twists, and a couple of new monsters. Anita finally seems to have solved the problem of choosing between Richard and Jean-Claude: the obvious solution, but with some less-than-obvious consequences.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Obsidian Butterfly.
Ace. 2000

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 8 November 2000

Edward, "Death", has called in the favour Anita owes him for killing one of his backups. He asks her to help solve a series of gruesome murders in Santa Fe, so gruesome they have even Edward rattled. She finds herself embroiled with bigoted police lieutenant, a pair of scary backups, and some very surprising revelations about Edward's cover life.

I devoured the first eight Anita Blake books in the space of as many months, then had to wait nearly two years for the next one. In that wait, although it has not been as long a time for Anita, she seems to have matured a little: occasionally she acts reasonably, rather than just shooting off her mouth -- or sometimes she shoots off her mouth, but then apologises. Weird.

More characterisation here than earlier, as Anita yet again has to re-evaluate her feelings about things, and yet more agonising over her descent into monsterhood. I miss the more sassy, self-confident Anita. But the action is as exciting as usual, and the finale, where she finds herself in a kind of fight completely outside her experience, is great.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Narcissus in Chains.
Berkley. 2001

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 24 January 2004

Anita's come home after her six months away, to sort things out with Jean-Claude and Richard. But things have been going to Hell in a handbasket while she's been away, and it's up to her to pick up the pieces, to save the wereleopards, the werewolves, and a few wereswans and vampires for good measure, whilst tangling with some pretty nasty werehyenas. And the problems with Richard seem to be worse, and there's a fascinating new wereleopard on the scene, and she's worried that last fight might have infected her with lycanthropy, and ....

Hmmm. Let's be honest, the reason I read the Anita Blake series is to enjoy the sassy protagonist blowing away the bad guys with a big gun. Not to watch her agonising over which monster she's going to sleep with next. And certainly not to watch her sleeping with them, then agonising about it afterwards.

So, waaay too much sex, and not enough action (but the action is pretty cool when it does happen).

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Cerulean Sins.
Orbit. 2003

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 13 February 2005

The night starts off reasonably for Anita -- she has a straightforward job of reanimating a recent corpse to establish the cause of death. But things rapidly spiral out of control: the vampire Musette, Belle Morte's servant, arrives in town three months early, before negotiations are complete, causing chaos and consternation; there's a werewolf serial killer on the loose and Lieutenant Dolph is acting angry; and some rather spooky men are following Anita around.

Still rather too much emphasis on sex, but lots less angst, and rather more action this time around, as Anita gets to blow away, or at least severely inconvenience, several different classes of bad guy, and gets to be The Executioner again. Also, in a quite clear foreshadowing, we discover Belle Morte isn't the Big Bad after all, but that Something is Stirring....

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Incubus Dreams.
Berkley. 2004

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 7 November 2005

There's a gang of vampire serial killers on the loose, so the Executioner gets called in to deal with them.

That's about it, really. Except that the first murder happens on page 15, the second one not until about 400 pages later. In between there's a lot of sex, Anita helping calm a riot, sex, Anita raising a zombie, sex, Anita fighting a few other battles, and, oh yeah, sex. Plus, of course, the obligatory agonising about it afterwards. So, like Narcissus in Chains, waaay too much sex; unlike it, the vampire-fighting action isn't that good when it finally does happen. Hmm. This may be the one when I have to finally admit that the stories I started reading with enjoyment have moved off in a completely different direction, never to return.

Laurell K. Hamilton.
A Kiss of Shadows.
Bantam. 2000

Laurell K. Hamilton.
A Caress of Twilight.
Ballantine. 2003

Laurell K. Hamilton.
Titan. 1992

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 1 January 2003

I wanted some semi-comfort reading: something familiar, but also something that I hadn't read before. So what better than a Star Trek novel by a favourite author?

Picard, Worf and Troi are negotiating a peace treaty on Oriana when the Enterprise is called away by a distress call. Then things start to go wrong: one of the leaders is assassinated, and Picard is charged with his murder. Now Worf must find the real killer and continue negotiaions. But Troi is finding it difficult to read the Orianans...

The plot is fairly straightforward. The most interesting, alien, aliens are the ones the Enterprise goes off to rescue, and I would have like to have seen more of them. We do get given a reason why Worf is drawn to Troi. However, Hamiliton's writing improved dramatically in the later Anitia Blake stories.