With the Mother of All Darkness gone, sucked down the drain like a swirly, Laurell Hamilton is now struggling to find a story arc for this series, something to pad out the pages of her fantasy life between the sexual olympics. Before anyone gets too excited about the outline, remember what series this is and who's writing it. And re-read that blurb; it takes just about that long to resolve this scenario- the first 7 out of the 50 chapters. And once it's done, you already know what comes next. This book can be broken down into three categories- Plot, Sex, Wangst. Believe it or not, Plot wins. A basic page count breakdown goes like this: Plot- 46%, (Actual) Sex- 13%, Wangst- 41%. But as the majority of the wangst relates to sex, you could well say that it makes for over half the book. Because of that the story can't help but crash and burn, but not exactly for the reasons you'd think, and it actually has a few redeeming features.
**Potential Spoiler Alerts**
The Good: It's Old Home Week as several long time friends finally make their return. Dolph, Zerbrowski, Larry Kirkland; yes, Virginia- RPIT's back! And there's actually flashes of a story and some interesting plotlines dropped in here like bread crumbs. Alas- Hamilton herself is both the bird who's scooping them up and the child lost in the woods as a result. She drops these nuggets in for the sole purpose of filling pages and never takes the time and effort to develop the myriad and possibly intriguing threads she could weave into the series. All save one: someone very important is on the verge of a career change. But why not follow these other threads and see what manner of tapestry they may form? Why, you ask...?
The Bad: Because then the book couldn't be dominated by- you guessed it- SEX!!! While the amount of time spent on getting busy is by comparison, greatly diminished, it continues to dominate the story. Everything not directly related to the main plotline about the unbound vampires is focused upon having sex, talking about sex, who's (not) having sex with whom, who should (not) be having sex with whom...
Hamilton has always berated detractors of the ridiculous sexual politics in the series with a tired, trite analogy that it would be alright if a man did it. Well, let me ask you: if a 30-year old man not only had a bevy of beauties whom he kept leashed to him via his mighty 'Staff of Power' but deflowered a 16-year old girl, becomes her legal guardian and continues to have sex with her even though she's still a minor in HS, often after PTA meetings... would that be alright with you because it was a man doing it? So how do you justify Anita's relationship with Cynric? Hamilton bends over backwards trying to and fails miserably by giving readers chapter after grimy chapter of Anita struggling with the idea of it all only to have Cynric decide the issue by telling her not to attend the PTA meetings. Oh, ok then- that makes everything all better: having the adult defer to the wisdom of their jailbait lover. Now imagine that between a grown man and a cheerleader- still good for you? And this is the conflict that fuels most of the wangsting Anita does.
There's also some drama with Asher that leads to an interesting development and a pathetically comic one. Asher starts a fight, slightly injuring Anita in the process and the only concern about Anita's health afterwards is that she won't be able to give anyone oral sex for a while. Even worse is a sex scene between Mephistopheles and Anita the aftermath of which is just plain nasty, and not in a good way. I can only imagine that this was included as a middle-finger to give all you vanilla-sex-missionary-position-prudey-prudes to hate on, because it was beyond tasteless. Which brings us to...
Teh Stoopid: Where do I begin? How about at the beginning: first off, turns out the preview chapter offered up in the Beauty ebook wasn't even a full chapter; only about 2/3rd of it (Nice way to promote a novel by ripping off your fans before it comes out). Cops aren't allowed to have holy items in the room when interrogating vamps because of some dopey law (mainly because Hamilton couldn't come up with anything better than this stupidity), then Anita goes to a hostage scene in hoochie wear, not only not bothering to change into protective gear along the way but only doing so AFTER the crisis is resolved... because of some dopey law (see previous statement). And for the record, can we ever be shown any of the events that lead up to these laws being made instead of them just being contrivances to prop up the lack of imagination in this series... I guess I answered my own question, huh?
Dolph's been to the same lobotomist Richard went to in Bullet; now he's just as cool with the whole 'Vampires are People, Too' groove as Richard now is with passing Anita around like a party favor. Dolph resolved his years of hostility in one retroactive paragraph. And Larry Kirkland- friend and protégé- suddenly turns into a Hater as well, but also gets replaced just as quickly. How's that for characters growing and developing?
Then we get one of the single worst passages you'll ever read. An angry cop tries to take a swing at some vampires that have been arrested. Anita intervenes and ends up feeding off his anger: "sipping it through the muscled bunch of his arm... swallowing the thick, red fire of his rage... smelled his blood beating just beneath the bitter sweetness of his anger, so that he was like a piece of cupcake with dark, bittersweet icing that could be licked away, to the warm, moist cake and then the hot, liquid center where the sweetest, thickest chocolate lay waiting like some hidden treasure that would make the anger even tastier." Thanks for ruining Tastycakes for me, Laurell.
Oh, and why don't these vampires want to bind themselves to Jean-Claude and, by proxy his doxy, Anita? What great, soul-crushing evil has JC perpetrated against these newbie vamps? Being a Master of the City, JC draws power from the lesser creatures to heal his people, so much so that... (wait for it)... they can't even grow their hair long, while he can grow his out.
Nope, not kidding. Not even a little.
Indeed, JC's been doing this precisely because Anita likes his hair long. It's as if the entire premise of this book is based upon none of these vampires ever having seen Troy Polamalu in a Head & Shoulders commercial. Or maybe they did and that's what set them off.
And where would we be without Anita complaining about being under suspicion for her relationships with paranormals? Well, in light of this new development of unsupervised vampires running loose in the city, what does Anita do? Why, she knowingly compromises the investigation by telling JC, of course; never mind that this is EXACTLY the kind of thing everyone's concerned about with her- the sweeties may be in trouble, and that's all that matters! Later in the book when a couple of investigators come and talk to her, she conveniently forgets she's done this and twists the conversation into being all about her zexxy life, which makes them jealous whiner babies. If they weren't such Keystone Kops and let her get away with it, this coulda been something. And speaking of her paranormal relationships, Hamilton also trots out the Hater Brigade; you know, all them skanks what can't get their own menz so keep pushing up on Anita's guyz. You'd think even Hamilton would get tired of this crud by now, but hey- they're her fantasies.
Get this: once RPIT locates the nests of the rogue vampires it's agreed to go in at dawn after they're asleep to take them out. Easy and simple enough, right? But there's a crisis for Anita to resolve, after which she goes home to get it on with Nate and Micah, and doesn't get the call to go out until when? Two hours before sunset!- and no, no one else has staked a single vampire anywhere yet. So what happened to getting to the vampires at dawn, or right after lunch? Stop asking, because it ain't explained.
Before I forget, the master vampire mentioned in the first chapter, Benjamin? He operates via his human servant, Weiskopf, and damn if this ain't one of the most god-awful, dip-stickiest, incompetent and wimpiest Master/Servant combos you'll ever see. Because that's what it takes in Anita-land- villains dumber than vampire hunters too stupid to kill vampires at high noon.
Enough already. Hamilton's lost her fershluggin' mind. If there was any doubt that this series is now only about sex, this book will remove it. It'll also remove your desire to continue reading it any more.