Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton
Series: Anita Blake #21
Source: Personal shelf
When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…
But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them…
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So I’m off the reservation in terms of my reading challenge for August but I finally got my copy of KISS THE DEAD and I want to talk about it because it was just so darn mediocre. Let me be clear, mediocre for an Anita Blake novel doesn’t mean mediocre for all books ever written — it just means that I loved early Anita and thought we might headed back towards the more procedural/thriller style after the last novel, only to find KISS THE DEAD end up about halfway there.
I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself though so let me backtrack a little. I think Laurell K. Hamilton is a great writer. There aren’t many authors who can sustain a series 20 books in and she’s done that with great success, with the Merry series on the side. I’m in awe of her abilities. But I don’t love her books as much as I used to. I still pre-order them, I’m still super excited when they show up in the mail, but my honeymoon bliss with the Anita Blake books is over. And that’s okay.
In the early books, as I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere, the focus was more on the monsters and less on the sex. In more recent books, there’s a lot more sex, with a lot more more people, in a variety of combinations and iterations. Because I’m not really a reader of erotica or a great appreciator of super smexy scenes, I tend to skim these parts of the books. I have no problems with sex being part of Anita’s magic or her polyamorous lifestyle but I’m not the kind of reader who needs five or six (or more!) sex scenes per book in this series because I read Anita Blake for the multi-demensional “monsters”, the beautiful attention to detail, the characters that I love (like Jason, Nathaniel, and Anita), and the wicked good procedural elements. I like Anita Blake books the best when she’s on a mission and kicking ass. (Side note: I don’t mind the super-sized sex scenes in LKH’s Merry books because they’ve always been about sex and I know that’s what I’m getting with a Merry book.)
In HIT LIST, the last book, I felt like we were really returning to this more procedural line and I was so excited about that. In KISS THE DEAD, we do get some of that, as Anita tries to figure out what’s going on with these vampires who don’t want to have a master, but I feel like this plot line got shoved into second place as Anita’s relationships were pushed to the fore. Don’t get me wrong, there was some great relationship stuff, in particular Anita dealing with her sexual relationship with Cynric, who’s so much younger than her, and with the fact that she can’t love everyone the same way or the same amount. There’s also — finally — a line in the sand when it comes to Asher, who’s been a whiny primadonna for so long. I’m happy to see Anita and Jean-Claude accept that Asher has flaws that they can’t keep ignoring and to see them do something about it. But I wanted more of the free vampires storyline because I thought it was just so neat. And there’s a lot of it at the start, and more at the end, but the middle is basically all relationships, with the storyline I wanted more of turned into bookends. I’m sure there are folks out there who are thrilled with the book and I mean no disrespect but I would have been quite happy to see more, more, and more with the free vampire stuff, not only because it adds such a great dimension to the Anita Blake world but because we get to spend time with Zebrowski, who I have missed so very much. I fell for Zebrowski as soon as he stepped on the page, with his rumpled look and filthy car, and I love that he’s stuck by Anita through everything, even when Dolph was having problems. And Dolph is back, and feeling good, which was great to see.
I feel like this post is bordering on epic so I’m going to stop now and just say that I enjoyed KISS THE DEAD. Not as much as earlier Anita books, not as much as HIT LIST, but it’s still a solid entry in the Anita Blake series and one that I will enjoy re-visiting. It’s great to see Anita develop as a person and start to prioritize her home life but I hope we’ll continue to see her in (non-sexy) action in future stories.