Dear gods. I’m almost stunned. This is gonna be a long one.
This was, quite frankly, the worst Anita Blake book of the entire series. Yes, I’m aware of the very rocky road of this series. I have followed it from its early moments of awesome as it careened every downwards, occasionally showing sparkles of hope but ultimately plunging deeper into the abys and hitting rock bottom and then positively wallowing there
Well, this book went deeper. At rock bottom it pulled out mining equipment and made a spirited effort to reach the centre of the earth. And may have achieved it. If I was not already 25 books into this series I would have DNFed this book so hard, formatted my tablet, exorcised said tablet, burned it and then scattered the ashes over at least 3 different bodies of water. I honestly don’t even know where to begin because there’s just so. Much. Awful.
Ok, let’s start with the rapetastic, misogynist, homophobic shitstorm that is Damian, his partner Cardinale and this utter trainwreck of awful
Firstly, we have to remember that all women in this series are terrible if they are not Anita. Oh, since the very very very straight Anita who is still straight decided to start having sex with women in the straightest way possible there are some female names following Anita around pretending to be full characters while fawning and serving but not exactly existence (And, hey, I’m generous about calling Anita Blake characters, characters-I’ve even accepted Micah as a character rather than a walking penis). Fortune, Echo, Magda – they’re just names that drift around behind her without actually doing anything – which is lucky for them
Because when we actually have a woman? They become a parody of awfulness – Cardinale is presented as utterly irredeemable, unreasonable, incapable of being professional or mature or sensible. Her every attitude is treated as utterly unacceptable – the idea the she actually wants a monogamous relationship with Damian is considered not to be love but “obsessive jealousy” (this applies to anyone who wants monogamy in this series because Laurell K Hamilton has decided this is a sign of deep emotional damage and evil); she is violent, emotional, uncontrollable – and literally says she would rather Damian be dead than with anyone else. She commits the unforgiveable sin of decorating their shared room with flower prints (how dare she be so female!). She also literally loses her shit because Damian has the temerity to LOOK at other women and feed on them (he is a vampire, she is a vampire). She is incapable of doing her job properly because she can’t stop stalking Damian.
Oh and she’s thin because she’s starving – just in case you thought for a second Anita was saying something almost complementary about her. And in case we weren’t clear we have this:
Cardinale is like the ultimate drama queen, an extreme girl. Let’s not be subtle about the misogyny, let’s just lay it out there.
Of course Anita, we’re reminded repeatedly, is “one of the guys” and Damian, a man who is literally a thousand years old, says “You don’t think like any woman I’ve ever met”. She’s not like those other terribad awful women, guys! Don’t worry!
She also coins the phrase “girl trap”. This is when terrible, manipulative, awful, emotional, unstable woman asks mean unfair questions of her long suffering man who cannot possibly give a good answer so is being set up for an argument. She uses this phrase a lot.
So having established that Damian’s long term monogamous girlfriend is the absolute worst, we throw in some woo-woo reason why Damian absolutely has to have lots of sex with other people (monogamy is evil!) and we run into the next great trainwreck of this book – rape.
Damian agrees to sleep with (non sexually) Anita and Nathaniel because of their woo-woo bonds which means if he doesn’t he gets terrible nightmares (remember, this is the series where if you don’t consent to all the sexy times, the magic will force it on you and absolutely no-one is allowed to ever say no to sex). Nathaniel is bisexual (this book, it tends to alternate depending on the author’s mood) and wants to have sex with Damian – Damian is described as “very heterosexual” and “homophobic” because he doesn’t want to have sex with men (yes, as we’ve seen repeatedly before, while Laurel K Hamilton is happy to include the shit storm of homophobia we’ve seen repeatedly, and continually degrade and demean gay men and lesbians, she also thinks homophobia means “not wanting to have sex with your own gender”. Which is, y’know, what “heterosexual” actually means.) So to get past that hurdle Damian borrows Anita’s magic to mind control Damien to having sex with him.
Let’s repeat that – Nathaniel uses magic to rape Damian. Not only rape him but he uses this magic to change Damian’s sexual orientation so he’s bisexual (for Nathaniel only – of course – because these books never deal with LGBTQ orientation, only as a fetish – which I’ll come to).
Anita’s concern about all this? Is how hot she finds two men together – and concern about the lack of using condoms. They don’t have the slightest concern that Damian has just been raped and his sexual orientation magically converted (which is revolting and terrifying).
What’s almost ironic is through this Anita has finally acknowledged that the Mother of All Darkness raped her and several weretigers by mind controlling them with mystical woo-woo and into an orgy they don’t remember. Excellent that this is finally acknowledged as rape and Anita has issues form that, especially about having sex with the men who were involved – except we go from that to her cozying up with Micah who raped her on first meeting and no-one even coming close to acknowledging that Nathaniel did the same thing in this very book to Damian and Anita, including forcing Damian to completely discard his sexual orientation – and there’s not even a second of acknowledgement of this even while labelling the previous rape. How can someone not draw the comparisons?
Of course Damian isn’t mad or upset or even slightly perturbed by this because why would he be about a rape that Anita is getting off on? He even recriminates himself for daring to have issues about having sex with another man (how dare he not wanting to have sex with someone he’s not attracted to!)
We end up with Nathaniel being sad that Damien may be angry with him so Damien gives his rapist a hug – and then keeps on hugging and comforting him. He even strips off in front of Nathaniel, his rapist, to turn him on. And he says this:
“I love that you both want me”
This. Is. His. Rapist. Not one day after the rape and he’s stripping off in front of him and saying how much he loves that his rapist is turned on by his naked body.
Anita notes “I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen him so relaxed and happy before”.
Hahaha, yes isn’t it wonderful how rape and mind control totally help with centuries of abuse! Dear gods I need a drink with this… Damian has been RAPED INTO HAPPINESS aaarglebaaargleeeaaaaar
We also continue the theme of no-one having a right to say no to sex. See, Jean-Claude is concerned about sexual contact with Cynric because when he joined them he was under 17 and he’s still under 20 – Jean-Claude sees him as a child an even calls him “nephew” because that’s how he envisages that relationship (which I prefer to Anita’s “I’m having sex with this boy and also going to parent’s evenings as his guardian at school” approach. Because uckies uckies uckies). Well clearly Jean-Claude has to get over that because how dare he have sexual reservations about anyone?! Nope that is now allowed in the Anitaverse so we have an awful scene of them bringing Cynric into a foursome with Jean-Claude, Anita and Nicky – because Jean-Claude cannot have any boundaries, no-one can.