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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

NARCISSUS IN CHAINS
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley/ $22.95 / 432 pages
ISBN: 0425181685

I was told an anecdote about a bright MBA-type in a major publishing house who, when Laurell K. Hamilton's NARCISSUS IN CHAINS hit the top ten of the New York Times Bestseller List, pooh-poohed it as an aberration, a fluke. After all, Berkley just doesn't publish New York Times hardcover bestsellers. There was a lukewarm review in Publishers Weeklyand Booklist summed the novel up with "plenty of steamy sex and graphic violence, this is engaging reading for vampire cultists."

They aren't getting it. This grrl's got something going and she's gonna be selling lots of books for a long time. Laurell K. Hamilton may not be Shakespeare when it comes to style or plot, but, like Willy the Shake, she pleases her audience and knows how to keep them coming back for more. She's writing 21st century female-adventure-supernatural-thriller fantasy; stories of great imagination and sheer fun carried by her characters. Hamilton's probably closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs than she is to Anne Rice. Some academic hoohaw said that Tarzan was Burrough's answer to the 20th century "crisis of masculinity"; Anita Blake may be Hamilton's answer to a crisis in femininity. John Carter had his Dejah Thoris, the princess of Mars ("Dejah Thoris caught her breath... and gazed upon me with dilated eyes and quickening breath, and then, with an odd little laugh, which brought roguish dimples to the corners of her mouth..."). Anita Blake has her master vampire and her werewolf king. In twenty years some doctoral student will be examining Hamilton's work, too.

Cover NARCISSUS is the tenth in her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series for Berkley. (A CARESS OF TWILIGHT, due out in April 2002, will be the second for Ballantine in her new fairie princess fantasy series that started last year with A KISS OF SHADOWS.)

Hamilton doesn't write horror, exactly, but it's certainly supernatural and frequently violent. Plus Anita has, over the course of the series, become increasingly inhuman and gone further in her explorations of the taboo. Perhaps it is a mild form of subversive dark fiction, but it subverts nonetheless.

After a sojourn in the desert southwest and an introspective celibacy in book #9, OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY, Anita is back on home turf in St. Louis ready to cope and couple with boyfriends Jean-Claude, a vampire, and werewolf Richard. All is not right with their magical power triad -- the separation has increased their vulnerability. Before mending any holes in auras Anita has to go to an S&M club, Narcissus in Chains, and rescue ultra-submissive wereleopards Gregory and Nathaniel. In the fray she becomes "infected" with wereleopardism. This is a profound development in Hamilton's universe as it makes Anita one of the "monsters." The fall-out is complicated -- both sex-wise and plot-wise -- but it keeps the reader turning the pages and occasionally drooling.

NARCISSUS IN CHAINS is definitely not the place to start reading in the series as it's a turning point for character, author, and fans. [Devout Anitaists advise starting with BLOODY BONES (#5), THE KILLING DANCE (#6), or BURNED OFFERINGS (#7).] It is also not just a freak-bestseller or for "vampire cultists" -- it's a classic of its kind. (September 2001) -- Paula Guran (From "Waves of Fear", Cemetery Dance #38

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.