Yay my first real book review! Are you as excited as I am? :D
First, since this is the review for the third book in this series, I want to do a quick review of the first two, Guilty Pleasures and The Laughing Corpse. The talented Laurell K. Hamilton has introduced us to her mixed-genre world, which is the same as our own except for one crucial difference; vampires, weres, zombies and all things that go bump in the night are real, and they are no secret. As far as I know, Hamilton started that trend, so I have to give her her due props for that.
Anita Blake is a twenty-something necromancer and full-time animator; she raises the dead for a living, sacrificing chickens and such for everything from the mundane task of straightening out a will to the more exciting murder witness. All the things that need the cooperation of the dead guy, risen as a zombie. She also moonlights as a preternatural expert for the police, who seem to have a neverending supply of supernatural serial killers to take down, and a state-ordained vampire hunter and killer. Her oh, so impressive fanged body count has given her the nickname The Executioner among the vampire population.
In Guilty Pleasures, we got to see Anita kill a thousand-year-old vampire in the guise of a sweet little girl. In The Laughing Corpse, she had to deal with a money and power hungry sociopath millionaire who hired a voodoo witch to raise a hundreds-year-old zombie, which required human sacrifice to perform, and led to said zombie totally losing it and going on a killing spree that was described to us in all too gory details. Both books showed us a little of one very sexy master vampire, Jean-Claude, who manages to put a new meaning to the term blood and sex. He's gunning for a spot in our Anita's bed, but she's not into doing the monsters. Poor, poor Jean-Claude, right? He's given us enough sexuality in his few short scenes to keep us tearing the pages, rooting whole-heartedly for his attempts at courting to succeed. Only time will tell, Jean-Claude, only time will tell.
Now, to the third book, and the main focus of this review. Circus Of The Damned follows largely in the other two book's foorsteps, defining a genre of supernatural ass-kicking women surrounded by the fanged and the furry. It starts with two fanatics from an organization they call Humans First contacting out heroine for help to find and destroy the Master Of The City. Also known as Jean-Claude. Anita, of course, refuses to help. But by now we all know that her close association to the Master, her knowledge of his identity, has drawn some unwanted attention to her.
Cue Alejandro, ancient Aztec vamp, and Olivier, who makes Alejandro seem like an infant in comparison. Both are gunning for the new Master, and both need Anita's help in finding him. One thing that helps push this novel along is our absolute awareness that Anita holds no loyalties to Jean-Claude, and his death would actually make her life considerably easier. Every time she refuses to give out his identity, she has a small inner battle, questioning the decision.
This is also the installment that introduces one Richard to us, Anita's first clear romantic interest. He is, of course, a complete hunk, but what else could we expect from Mrs. Hamilton? He's Jean-Claude's somewhat unwilling man. Anita spends most of the novel wondering the hold the Master has over Richard, who seems to be a normal human. He's even a science teacher. That doesn't exactly fit the profile for a vamp's right-hand man.
I first read this series a few years ago. I fell in love with the characters, especially Jean-Claude. Hamilton sure knows how to give us girls swoon-worthy men. When I realized that I could only remember the bare skeleton of the plot after those years, I decided to give this series a re-read, and I'm glad I did. This series takes a huge turn later on in the series, showcasing Laurell's aptitude at...erotic scenes. But these first few sexless books really do a fantastic job of introducing us to this world, and are inarguably some of the best the series has to offer.
Now, don't come away from this review thinking the Anita books are spectacular and flawless. They aren't. Hamilton writes her heroine with maybe a bit too much arrogance, and some repetitive phrases and words begin to get annoying after a while. Some of the gore is way overdone. I've found myself cringing at particularly gruesome descriptions more than once, and not in a good way. But for all of that, these books are damn entertaining, and recommended to any fans of the supernatural genre.
Circus Of The Damned - 4 out of 5 Stars