Friday, May 5, 2017

#BookReview - Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Title:  Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 24)
Author:  Laurell K. Hamilton
Genre:  Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher:  Berkley, Penguin Group LLC
Release Date:  June 9, 2015

From the Back Cover:

Anita Blake has the highest kill count of any vampire executioner in the country. She’s a U.S. Marshal who can raise zombies with the best of them. But ever since she and master vampire Jean-Claude went public with their engagement, all she is to anyone and everyone is Jean-Claude’s fiancĂ©e.

It’s wreaking havoc with her reputation as a hard ass—to some extent. Luckily, in professional circles, she’s still the go-to expert for zombie issues. And right now, the FBI is having one hell of a zombie issue.

Someone is producing zombie porn. Anita has seen her share of freaky undead fetishes, so this shouldn’t bother her. But the women being victimized aren’t just mindless, rotting corpses. Their souls are trapped behind their eyes, signaling voodoo of the blackest kind.

It’s the sort of case that can leave a mark on a person. And Anita’s own soul may not survive unscathed . . .

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes 

My Review:

I almost labeled this book as DNF (Did Not Finish), but I'm glad I didn't. My biggest problem with this book was that the actual plot of the story doesn't really start until about 40% in. Seriously. That's almost half the book that was essentially a bunch of emotional and angst-filled conversations that served absolutely no purpose except to recap all 23 books.

I wanted to steal one of Anita's guns and shoot most of the characters.

After the 40% mark, the action picked up and moved along quite nicely. The plot was fairly predictable, especially if you've read the earlier books. Even so, I enjoyed it and it was kind of cool to revisit with some of the older characters. Anita had a few super badass moments that were freaking awesome and reminded me about why I fell in love with this series. We also got to see a little bit more of that vulnerability and uncertainty that makes Anita such a terrific character.

My biggest complaint about this book was the infodump at the beginning. I really wish the author would stop rehashing everything from the earlier books and cut a lot of the redundancy and repetition. We're 24 books into the series now. These aren't standalone books and shouldn't be marketed as such.

Series Review (so far):

I've been a fan of Laurell K. Hamilton's books for years. I first read her Meredith Gentry series (Fey princess series), and when I finished all of those... I turned to these. I was expecting the Anita Blake series to be similar in style to Merry Gentry, but it wasn't.

The Anita Blake books were written before Merry Gentry... and the main characters are vastly different. In the beginning books, Anita Blake struggles with reconciling her religious Christian faith with the fact that she's an animator (or necromancer) and a vampire killer. This conflict was fascinating to me, and one of the reasons I fell in love with the character. She was also fairly conservative in keeping with her strict religious upbringing and avoiding casual sex. The sexual tension was high, but not fulfilled in the early books. There was more of a focus on the action-packed story line.

I don't want to spoil anything for people who haven't read these books before, but it's important to explain a little in terms of a review. We're now over twenty books into the series, and Anita Blake's character has undergone incredible growth and change (which makes sense over the lifetime of the books). However, many readers who fell in love with the earlier books have objected strongly to these changes because it's vastly different than what they loved originally.

I get it. I really do. Characters cannot remain stagnant. They have to evolve. However, Anita Blake's evolution is just a little too dramatic. It's affecting the realism of the character and the series. What once was an action-packed and suspenseful urban fantasy with elements of horror has turned into a vampire-shifter reverse-harem orgy with a bit of a plot twist thrown in.

Do I still enjoy the series? Somewhat. One of the things that bothers me most about the later books is the infodump. I've read all the books in the series, so I keep finding myself skimming over the same old rehashing of the first 23 books. I understand that the author's trying to either remind audiences about what happened previously or not alienate potential new readers... but come on. The story is there, but it's carefully hidden and woven through pages and pages of backstory.

Also, these books have become exhausting to read. The emotional baggage of each and every character is just overwhelming. I either want to smack some of them, or hope that the author's going to kill some of them off. There are a LOT of characters... and a lot of relationships. Almost every character is supposedly in therapy (which they desperately need), but it seems like instead of talking to their therapist off-page, every conversation and interaction is wrought with all the woes of each character's tragic past. It makes me want to grab one of Anita's guns and shoot them.

There's a lot of sex, and this isn't vanilla-style sex. Nope. I don't think our former conservative Anita knows how to even have vanilla sex. The later books in the series have lots of partners (think reverse harem and even full-scale orgy), some BDSM (topping, bottoming, choking, pain, etc.), and even some "rape" type scenes and shifter/human sex (shifter in animal form getting it on with Anita), and let's not forget almost bleeding your partner to death because vampire bites can sometimes be orgasmic.

And now in this book... we've got zombie porn.

That's right. Necrophilia. Rape. All tied up in one book.

This series is not for the faint of heart. It's dark, it's edgy, it's all the no-no's that most publishers like to avoid. But the thing that makes me crack up laughing each and every time... the author's terminology for having an orgasm. She doesn't ever use the word "come" or "getting off" or anything similar. It's always "brought/bring them" or "go". It's really strange and I've never seen any other author do this, especially when the rest of the language is so frank and unfiltered. It actually kind of ruins the really hot sex scenes for me because I keep giggling at the author's avoidance of those words.

So do I recommend this series? Yes and no. I really enjoyed the earlier books (up through Narcissus in Chains, Book 10). But it's after Book 10 that Anita Blake's character dramatically shifts and we hit the crazy sex stuff. I don't shy away from the sex in books, but it's a little hard to believe that the ultra-religious and conservative Anita Blake has changed so dramatically...and in such a short period of time. It just doesn't fit. In part, I suspect that's why the Merry Gentry books (Fey princess) were born. For Merry Gentry, the heavy sex and multiple partners works... it even helps carry the plot. I don't know if it's because the author was working on both books at the same time (they were both released in the same year) or if it was the author's muse that led the way, but I sort of wish that Anita Blake had retained more of her original flavor. Some of the later books in the series tries to recapture that former glory, but at this point, it almost feels like it's too little, too late.

So if you're a fan of the later Anita Blake books, then yes. I recommend giving this one a shot. If you haven't read any of these, I suggest you start with the first one in the series. You could try to pick up this book and read it as a standalone, but you'll miss out on so much. I still think Books 1-10 were the best, and most of the Merry Gentry books are awesome. But most of the later Anita Blake books don't have the same flair that the earlier books possessed.

My Rating:

About the Author:

Laurell K. Hamilton is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of two series that mix mystery, fantasy, magic, horror and romance. Her Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novels from Berkley Books began with GUILTY PLEASURES (now a hugely successful graphic novel from Marvel - the first sexy paranormal comic ever!) and continues with the SKIN TRADE, number seventeen in the series, in which Anita's complex personal and professional relationships with a master vampire and an alpha werewolf continue to evolve. There are now more than 6 million copies of Anita in print worldwide, in 16 languages. Hamilton's Ballantine series features Fey princess and private investigator, Merry Gentry and there are now six novels exceeding one million copies in print. Divine Misdemeanors, the eighth in the series will debut October 29, 2009. She lives in St. Louis County Missouri with her husband Jonathon Green, daughter, one pug dog and one boxer/pug dog.

Author Links:
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