Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Kiss The Dead

by Laurell K. Hamilton


Vampires: your sparkly star is waning. Neck-manglers have been brooding, growling and spilling bodily juices over the page in the same frilly-shirted style for years now. This is especially true for the 21st outing in the Anita Blake series (except for the sparkly bit). After so long, how do you maintain interest in a relationship?

In Kiss The Dead, Laurell K. Hamilton's answer is to change it up with a wide range of different love interests, and at least as many villains. Anita is working as a US Marshal, which means she can slay as many bad vampires as she likes and it's all legal. In this story she's on the trail of a group of rogue vampires who want to be independent of the influence of any master. Some of them would rather die again than live under the yoke of a leader. But Anita knows the undead hierarchy is there for a good reason. Without a master vampire the rogues are at the mercy of their own uncontrolled emotions. Someone is creating vampires who are too young, too old, or otherwise unsuitable when turned. And when a raid goes wrong and some police end up dead Anita and her colleagues have to hunt down undead who know they're under a death sentence, and are therefore extra dangerous because they have nothing to lose.

This book has plenty of confrontations, but when bullets aren't flying it's quite touchy-feely. Anita argues over the morality of torturing vampire prisoners when lives are at stake, then shares details of her personal life with a new cop she barely knows. She has to walk on eggshells due to the jealousies and sensitivities of certain co-workers, some of whom don't seem to deserve her efforts at tact. And of course this would hardly be a real Anita Blake book without the trademark bonking, although that doesn't kick in until almost half-way in. Then the story alternates between steamy bedroom scenes and taut shoot-outs and hostage crises.

Anita is super-fit, and she has powers that would make Superman feel under-equipped. She notices people's heights quite a lot, but the fact that she's a short woman is entirely negated by all her other strengths. Now, whilst I find it gratifying for a woman to be the one everyone looks up to and expects to save the day, there's a drawback to having a character who's too strong. There's a lot less tension when Anita is under attack because we know she's so difficult to hurt, and it's harder to identify with someone who seems to have so few vulnerabilities.

This lack of tension continues in the bedroom (or shower, or wherever seems handy) thanks to Anita's overly perfect magnetism. There are so many squeezes in her life it takes ages merely to re-introduce them all. The very detailed sex scenes are steamy and explicit. However they lack the uncertainty that you might get with a less confident or uninhibited character. Anita is just so sure of her own attractiveness. Her weaknesses are all emotional rather than physical, but the slight guilt she experiences over not being sufficiently in love with her umpteenth man wasn't urgent enough to make me care. There are all kinds of kinks in the bedroom bits, but after a while the descriptions of "boneless, breathless, eye-fluttering" pleasure start to blend into one another.

Anita's main dilemma is how to protect the people she loves whilst balancing all their conflicting roles in her life. This is brought to the fore when the vampire Asher throws a tantrum about his love life, and ends up getting people hurt. It moves the story from the high-octane to the ridiculous, but this fluctuation of tone is characteristic of this novel. The parts where Anita and her friends duke it out with desperate vampires are gripping, especially when anyone other than Anita is in danger. However the main character has grown too tough and perfect, and her relationship problems are far too A-list: which hot, beautiful man will she concentrate on next? The danger is seeping out of this vampire hunter's world, and with it some of the excitement.

30th July 2012

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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