I've been very critical of both the Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series written by Laurell K. Hamilton, and deservedly so. Coming late to both, Anita Blake started out as an entertaining slice of Urban Fantasy- one of the early entries into the genre (despite Hamilton's protestations, she didn't *pioneer* things). There were some interesting ideas and scenarios despite the gaping holes in logic and worldbuilding and well as the kinda obvious MarySue aspects. It was something you could roll with.
Then the hubris set in. Popular wisdom has it that Hamilton suffered something of pre-midlife crisis and art began imitating life. Hamilton's personal issues and positions began creeping into the series and Anita became less a character and more a caricature. Hamilton's own mouthings and social media responses confirming that Anita Blake is her avatar- a true vehicle for the author to lecture & educate the masses about the glories of polyamory (Hamilton openly lives with her husband and another couple), gym workouts (though vamps & weres don't even need this shit) body shaming (anyone woman who's athletic or slender is a 'boy with breasts' and guaranteed to be a hater, while having big funbags and curves is feminine and means they'll end up on Anita's side) and guns, lots of guns via her books.
Merry Gentry took it further; whereas AB started out as the simple wish fulfillment of being a badass mofo, wheras from the outset Merry was her skewed version of the Madonna Whore complex- an ethical, moral & honorable savior of the Fae race who happily fucked anything that moved. It wasn't until later in the series that Anita began her descent into bodily fluid baths.
To paraphrase Chuck D: this stuff is really bad, I'm talkin' 'bout RAPE!
I know, I know- this isn't anything new to the Anita Blake series. Who can forget the introduction of Micah, one of Anita's true loves, who ignored her protests and forcibly took her in the shower. It's an indication of just how bad this was that the scene was completely reedited in the paperback version into more of 'not expressly saying no' kind of thing.
There's a lot of filler and nonsense in Crimson Death- almost 700 pages worth and it takes literally the first half of the book before the plot gets in gear. But this is where all the sexual politics and dilemmas occur. For those familiar with the series, here's a breakdown:
Damian, vampire daywalker, former Viking and member of Anita's second Triumverate along with Nathaniel, has been having nightmares that leave him literally sweating blood and turns to Anita for help. Adding to this his lover, Cardinale, has been less than supportive of his issues, and knowing Anita's proclivity for having sex with her inner circle, turns into a jealous harpy even though Damian's been faithful to her. After Cardy's kicked to the curb, Damian needs some emotional support and decides to have sex with Anita and Nate. Next morning Anita doesn't really remember what happened, though Nate is well pleased with himself. Turns out he somehow managed to glamour Anita into a few more rounds of sex than she wanted and even coerced Damian- who isn't gay or bisexual- into topping him a few times.
They turn to Jean-Claude for help, who isn't quite certain either, but is happy that this means that through this he can somehow become more powerful than everyone's favorite frenemy, Richard. Nate's protests amount to he kept asking them if they wanted this even as he was exerting his influence upon them, so they never did anything they didn't agree to, so it's ok. Anita agrees, because hey... it's Nate. And they fully expect Damian to be ok with things, too. Turns out he's fine with it because hey- it's Anita and Nate. So thanks for showing him a side of himself he never knew existed.
Nathaniel's only regret in all this is that in the heat of passion they forgot to use condoms.
If you want the crib notes, follow the link to where my buddy, EA Solinas is posting bullet points of the book. Bullet Points for Crimson Death (spoilers, DUH)
Problem is this stuff is par for the series- longtime readers will recall the swanmares who objected to Anita trying to strongarm them in sexual servitude and she concluded that they 'were ours to rape' (sic) and proceeded to force them into it. Or when the local Rex of the lion pride didn't want to have sex with Anita and stay faithful to his wife so she withdrew her protection from him. Or how Peter, Edward's teenaged stepson, lamented how his girlfriend didn't like what had happened between them and Anita chalked it up to 'buyer's remorse'. And let's not forget (how can we?) Cynric the weretiger- whom Anita got roofied into having sex with when he was sixteen (which is legal in Las Vegas, where he lived). Granted, it wasn't their fault (!) but at eighteen his own parents sent him to Anita to be his ward so she could sex him into his full glory. Because in this series sex is somehow now tied to your metaphysical powers, you see. In other words, she attends his PTA meetings during the day and then fucks him at night.
Think I had a couple of dvds like that.
I've no idea what Hamilton thinks she's accomplishing with all this. Her sales are tanking, readers are constantly noting how she seems reluctant to even continue either series and when she finally gets dragged kicking and screaming to the publisher these are the results. I'm kinda done trying to psychoanalyze this shit; I'm just gonna take it at face value and call it for the bullshit that it is.
Just how horrible a reading experience this was for me? I have a massive headache just remembering this shit pile enough to write a review. Out of the twenty-three chapters, I quit somewhere in the middle of chapter twenty, so I am calling this read.
There are no highlights, no one redeeming thing about this novel.
Reasons for Hate:
1. The writing needs an editor in the worst way. Not just a copy editor (although a C.E. should charged double for working on this), but a story editor to kill about 9/10ths of the characters in the story. Too much characters being horrible to each other and not one plot line to speak of. Needed another editor to cut down on some long-ass winded sentences that took up an entire paragraph.
Also the writer thinks she is clever with her dialogue and "insights" into heterosexual relationships borne out of manipulations and game-playing of the Regency era - more like badly written erotica set in Regency England.
2. The Characters:
Dutton - Man from the title is an idiot and has very aggressive views of sex that lead to what we now call Rape Culture.
Anne, Lady Staverton - TSTL who thought she was clever but kept making things worse among the characters. She had her sights set on making Dutton her lover, then dumping him. She was way in over her (empty) head. I wanted to punch her in the throat throughout reading. Never ending sequence of changing eye colors - first it was grey, then emerald green (to go with her red hair of course!), then hazel, then pewter, then I gave the fuck up caring.
Sophia - half-English, half-Native American courtesan who rose through the ranks and married a titled man who left her a widow. Now she is back in London and ready to find her next prey, er husband. Anne's mentor.
Elizabeth Grey - Native American niece of Sophia and the human punching bag for London's high society matrons, widows, and virgins. The abuse she took was ridiculous.
George Grey - Native American nephew of Sophia and a "good" Native American, who knew, appreciated, and displayed English manners. He was the cute Beatle. Didn't stand up for his sister ONCE. In fact, often he was part of the pile-on.
Bunch of Bitches (Jane, Eleanor, Louisa, Penelope, Toni, Bernadette, half the fucking city) - they gossiped and hated on each other. Way too damn many of them. Absolutely no need for any of them in terms of plot or character development.
Bunch of Sad Sacks (Ruan, Riathby, Quinton, the other half of the fucking city) - they gossiped and talked about horses. Way too damn many of them. Absolutely no need for any of them.
3. There was no other plot line other than Anne getting Dutton into bed so she could have sex with him then throw him out and ignore him until he begs her to love him. Ditto Sophia/Ruan. Elizabeth was supposed to go after Mr. Prestwick, but she was not having any of this English society shit. Bunch of the other female characters were horny/lonely and into manipulations and game-playing.
4. The non-stop racism directed toward Elizabeth Grey/Native Americans. Seriously, this author gave us both macro-aggression and micro-aggression on the racism thing. Even her brother and Sophia threw her and their race under the bus in order to look more appealing to the English. Fuck all of them.
5. This "storyline" was about the length of a novella or short story. A full length novel with this flimsy "storyline" was a tedious bore at best and rage inducing at worst.
Needless to say, I will never read anything by this author again. This is a prime example of erotica dressed up in a historical time period being promoted/sold as historical romance. 0 stars.
I should note that I have yet to see the film that this book came out of. The first half of the book, the section that ties most closely to the film, is the best. The second half of the book contains essays from various writers, well chosen for the most part. The problem is that because of space, many of the essays are short and therefore lack depth. If you have read other books about rape such as Rape is Rape: How Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis, the second half of the book really doesn't add anything to the conversation.
That said. I finished this book right around the time when a major college rape case had reached it's sentencing part. Consider the following impact statement and then read this book.
And quite frankly, one of those really short ebooks that could get away with charging 5 bucks.
The theme of the book is simple - No means no. Using the infamous and famous 50 Shades of Grey as a launching point, Trevithick presents many different ways in which no means no. There are various languages, pirate talk, Vicky Pollard, and so on. Zombies and vampires are included of course.
Beautiful social commentary.