The Anita Blake Series
Reviewed by Joanna, age 21, South Wales, United Kingdom
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
The series centres around protagonist Anita, the vampire executioner of St Louis. A necromancer with strong morals, she's tough and knows her own mind so certainly that it seems no situation could occur that would ever compromise that. But, of course, as true to life as ever, circumstances do compromise her thoughts, views, and morals, and with time, these stern viewpoints are constantly questioned and re-evaluated. This has to be one of the reasons that I find Anita such a compelling and believable character, as opinions one holds now may well change in five years time, depending on what life throws your way. This can be an uncomfortable notion for some people, and to lay it out so bluntly probably makes it so, but with Hamilton's series the changes in Anita are so slight and gradual that neither she nor the reader notices until it gets to a point where she is forced to make a decision and reflects with the reader on how that decision might have taken a very different path a year or a month or even a week ago.
Characterisation is key to any believable story, as I find myself drawn to characters the same way that people are drawn to people. Hamilton creates a convincing sense of first impressions and Anita's vampire lover Jean-Claude demonstrates this perfectly. At the beginning of the series he comes across as creepy, manipulative and selfish, but as the series and characters progress I find myself admiring him for his openness about who and what he is, sometimes despite myself. Anita is caught in something of a love triangle between Jean-Claude and werewolf Richard, which may sound very clichéd but details all of the complexities of feelings beautifully. Anita is said to be in love with both men, although they are hugely different. Jean-Claude accepts that he is something of a monster, and whilst he regrets some of his past actions, his regret is only addressed when appropriate and isn't made a huge deal of. Here I cannot help but compare him to Buffy's Angel, a character who dwells so deeply in his regret that at times it consumes him, and Jean-Claude's self acceptance is probably one of the most admirable traits about him. Everyone has regrets, but whether you let them consume your life or not is a decision that only each individual can make.
Richard, Anita's werewolf lover, is a man of very high and uncompromised morals who believes that he truly can change the way things are for the better. He tries hard and doesn't come off naïve despite his hopefulness. He appears to be a much sounder love option for Anita, his calm and passive qualities juxtaposed with Anita's harshness and anger at times making him seem like he could be the man to change Anita for the better as she struggles to come to terms with some actions she is forced to take, usually in order to save someone else. Their relationship is rocky from the outset, partially because she is not a werewolf but is given a position of authority with the clan, which meets a mixed reaction. The main issues with Anita and Richard's relationship is that despite the fact that they are very much in a traditional sense of love, both parties are stubborn, unwilling to change at times and always feel like the changes they make are never going to be enough for their partner. Richard despises sharing Anita with Jean-Claude but for complex reasons relating to plot and Anita's personal feelings, she can't break away from either man.
Anita's love life grows more complex as the series continues, with her and Richard's relationship ending and a new love interest, Micah, being introduced. I cannot say too much on Micah as I haven't finished reading the entire series yet, but from the outset he seems to accept Anita, and claims that he will go to any odds to be with her, even if that means sharing her in whatever sense with Jean-Claude. Although this seems like the perfect option for her, I am intrigued to see where Anita's path takes her next with this relationship, as there are bound to be problems along the way.
Anita's ideals are compromised not just romantically throughout the series but also in terms of her hero status. Beginning as a highly esteemed necromancer, she gains positions of importance within the vampire, werewolf and wereleopard communities. The responsibilities she upkeeps take their toll and her loyalties between the different underworld groups is strained at times, meaning that she turns from being willing to help anyone whose need for help is justified to having to choose her friends and battles very carefully, as a number of enemies present themselves. Often disliked for her human status, she questions her own humanity based on her mindset, which to me suggests that she half-fears but is forced to accept that she has been hardened from her morals and has changed remarkably in some ways from book one until book fourteen (which is where I have read up until).
Hamilton has captured the essence of human nature in a vivid and believable series where the chance to understand even the most horrendous acts is presented and explored. Perhaps this series hits close to home with me in particular as I am a very strongly opinionated person, but often find myself reflecting on how my opinions in different circumstances and situations modify themselves, but on the whole I think the idea that everyone progresses or at least changes as an individual over a period of time is something that everyone can relate to. Anita changes because of the things she has gone through, and sometimes drifts from her friends, makes new enemies, but finds new companions along the way. Definitely worth reading. I give the Anita Blake series 5 out of 5 stars.