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Featured Review
Cerulean Sins

Anita Blake: Great American Hero(ine)

By Paula Guran

Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley/ $22.95 / 405p
ISBN: 0425188361
Publication Date: April 1, 2003

Anita Blake's life has gotten more than a bit complicated. Complicated enough to fill ten books -- even though they cover a span of only two fictional years.

She started out as a "reanimator" bringing the dead back to life for a fee, a licensed vampire (and other monster) killer, and supernatural investigator. She hooked-up (physically and supernaturally) with both vampire Jean-Claude, now-Master of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, and Richard, now the Ulfric of the local lycanthrope clan. Together they form a "triumvirate of power." Anita has also become the Nimir-Ra of a wereleopard pard and acquired yet another boyfriend in her Nimir-Raj, Micah.

Along with keeping her sex life in order, Anita's been taking out baddies, solving preternatural crimes, and gaining supernatural powers of her own. In fact, Richard -- who has major issues, honey -- has dumped her because she's now more of a "monster" than the monsters.

U.S. Cover It's taken many pages for Anita to gain her powers and get over her midwestern moral qualms concerning having more than one man in her life at a time. Now, by the end of Cerulean Sins, her eleventh adventure, she finally appears to be eagerly accepting of both.

Cerulean Sins starts with Anita meeting a mysterious client who wants her to reanimate a dead ancestor. The client turns out to be a lethal assassin, but facing down scary dudes is all in a day's work for our gal Anita. That night, she's working a run-of-the-zombie-mill job: raising a dead guy to settle an insurance claim. Things turn less than normal when vampire Asher arrives on an emergency mission: Anita must immediately return with him to the headquarters of Jean-Claude, the Master of St. Louis and Anita's lover. Belle Morte's lieutenant, Musette, has arrived early for a previously scheduled visit. More than bad manners are involved in her premature appearance in St. Louis. The 2000-year-old Belle Morte is a member of the Council of Vampires and the formidable creator of Jean-Claude's bloodline. Musette's arrival is obviously part of a dangerous power-play of some sort.

Anita fights for truth, justice, and the supernatural American way with an intensity ("...just let me shoot would save a lot of trouble") that makes John Wayne look unpatriotic. Her unrequited desire to shoot first and not bother to ever ask questions is just one indication that she's a very American fantasy heroine. It's not bad enough, for instance, that Mussette is a boogeywoman, she's also a near-pedophile who is accompanied by vampire children. This allows Anita to express American disgust with a situation that might not raise an eyebrow elsewhere. Later on, her "American" ideas about sex are seen as étrangement amusant. Most importantly, Anita is impatient with the vampires' old European ideas of fealty and the notion that being an entitled aristocrat is preferable to being a peasant who works for what she gets. George Dubya's diplomatic problems with "Old Europe" would have been more predictable if he'd had Anita advising him. (Hell, Anita, given the firepower and a supernatural cohort, could wipe out any "axis of evil.")

Sure enough, Bella and Musette are up to old-fashioned nasty vampiric politics. Mussette is in town to demand that Asher be sent back with her to Europe and straight into Bella's clutches. And, as Musette quickly demonstrates, Asher's undead life would be truly torturous. Anita and Jean-Claude provide Asher with some protection by making him a sexual partner, but that's not enough to defeat the Duo of the Damned.

U.K. Cover Meanwhile, there's a couple of hideously bloody murders to solve. The murderer appears to be a werewolf and Anita's needed to solve the crime. But Anita's longtime cop buddy, Lt. Dolph Storr has lost more than a few marbles and turned into a supernatural-hating extremist. He gets worse as the murders continue, but luckily Detective Zerbrowski is still on the job. Zerbrowski and Anita's new status as a federal marshal enable her to help the cops.

But that's not all: A couple of human thugs are following Anita's Jeep. Belle Morte invades Anita's mind and feeds off her energy while metaphysically sucking Richard into a temporary coma. Anita encounters a new, and perhaps ultimate, enemy in the form of the Mother of All Darkness. If all that weren't enough, Anita's acquired an ardeur -- a sort of bloodlust without the blood -- that must be "fed" twice daily. Luckily stripper-werewolf Jason can, in emergencies, help satiate her desires.

Will Richard come through and fulfill his duties as one-third of the power triumvirate? Jean-Claude, Anita and the vampires need him and his wolves to combat the bad gals. But even with Richard do they stand a chance? What about that supernatural serial killer? What happened to that mysterious client? Fans of the Vampire Hunter series should be thrilled with Cerulean Sins. Hamilton resolves some quandaries, dismisses some baggage, and comes through with new aspects for her lead characters. Few authors ever manage to make it eleven books in to a series, let alone keep it as fresh and fun as Hamilton has. Her last Anita book (Narcissus in Chains) was weighed down with working out details and determining some direction. Cerulean Sins gets going in that direction and never stops. Like any good series book, it leaves you wanting more. -- (Originally appeared in Metropole, April 2003)

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Copyright © 2003 by Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.