The Harlequin (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #15) - Laurell K. Hamilton, Cynthia Holloway For once, I actually can relate something resembling a PLOT that occurs in this book! YIPPEE!

Anita Blake is at her workplace (don't faint!) and meets up with Malcolm, the leader of the Church of Eternal Life. Two of his vampire followers have Execution Hits out for them - executions that Anita is set to enact - but Malcolm hints that his followers have been falsely accused, that there is another threat. And then, while on a date with Nathaniel (and between his pressuring her to do BDSM, something she is not comfortable with, but feels she must do to keep him around), she receives a white mask - the calling card of the Harlequin.

Of course, that is much too boring for LKH at this point, so we degenerate into the usual Ring around the Rosie with:

Richard Angst!

Nathaniel Whining!

Sexism!

And our favorite:

Tacky clothing descriptions!

These books have gotten so cliched at this point, with all the same LKHisms, that I needed to do something to spice it up. So I invented Anita Blake BINGO!!


I would have done the Anita Blake Drinking Game, but I listen to these at work, and they don't let me work while intoxicated.

By the end of the book, my board looked like this:


Yes, I was a little disappointed too that LKH never called a man's schlong "velvet muscle" either.

"The Harlequin" is a much better novel than "Incubus Dreams" and "Danse Macabre". That said, I'm not really giving this book that much of a compliment. Reading the drug facts on a laxative bottle is better than either ID or DM - and at least the laxative doesn't pretend not to be about sh!t.

"The Harlequin" actually has a story; a beginning, middle, and end; an actual PLOT. You know, the thing I've been whining about since "Narcissus in Chains"? Well, that plot, that story isn't half bad. I rather liked it. The existence of the Harlequin was interesting - the vampires have always seemed rather free-roaming and governless. What keeps them in their places? Why don't they try to expand their reaches more or cause more trouble? Well, the Harlequin does that. They are above the Vampire Council and operate on their own terms. Even Marme Noir, the Mother of All Darkness, fears them in a way.

But I knew that an interesting plot like this was just too good to be true, and I was right. Just when LKH starts making me nostalgic for the earlier books (and in case you don't know, when I first read those books, I really didn't care for them - now, I'm like "WOW, I wish I was reading THOSE books!"), she has to resort to her sloppy writing and author appeal - and spending pages upon pages upon pages talking about, whining about, or arguing about sex/relationships.

Despite an improvement in the quality of the book (i.e. the inclusion of an actual PLOT), Anita Blake is still a horrible person. She continues to be a sexist pig and morally bereft; this time, she basically sentences a man and his family to death because he wouldn't sleep with her (he was married and wanted to honor his vows). She and LKH try to justify the action as more than just about sex, but it falls flat:

"...we couldn't afford to have any ally that wasn't with us completely. It wasn't just the sex. There'd been no lion in his pride good enough to be a bodyguard. Not a single one. You couldn't be that weak and survive."


Anita Blake is our HERO. She is not supposed to send people to their deaths; she is supposed to PROTECT them. And why does she need to sleep with someone ANYWAY? She has a Triumvirate of her own, not to mention being a million other things. Why couldn't she call on those powers to fix the situation, instead of calling Magic HooHoo Power to save the day? Oh, but we wouldn't have had a sex scene involving bestiality otherwise. Silly me.

The sad fact is: if one of Anita's men asked to sleep with someone else, more likely than not, Anita would refuse. She is mad at Richard because he is not "faithful" to her. When Nathaniel wants BDSM and Anita does not, Anita does not even entertain that maybe Nathaniel should see another partner to partake in BDSM - even though she is sleeping with 6+ men on a regular basis.

For someone who is a necromancer, a Numir Raj of her own Leopard pack, the Bulvark and Lupa of Richard's wolf pack, Jean-Claude's human servant, and basically a succubus, all while holding a whopping FOUR strands of lyncanthropy (wolf, leopard, lion, and tiger) while never once having to shift Anita Sue is dumber than mud. No, wait, that's an insult to mud. Seriously, half of Anita's conversation is:

"Am I missing something?"

"What do you mean?"

"So?"

"What are you saying?"



This is not the Anita of earlier books. No, the woman is no Sherlock Holmes, but the things she is CONSTANTLY ASKING THESE QUESTIONS ABOUT aren't rocket science. They are things that even I, the densest person in the world, can figure out. If *I* can figure out how to get from A to B, then Anita Blake, who is supposed to have worked on multiple crime scenes as a paranormal investigator/consultant (besides the laundry list of fancy modifiers behind her name), should be dancing circles around me.

This will seem odd, but I will stand in defense of Anita for one thing. A subplot of the book is Nathaniel wanting Anita to do BDSM with him. Anita doesn't want to - it scares her. But Nathaniel and EVERY MALE she encounters pushes her to try it. This is NOT ACCPETABLE. This is NOT HOW YOU DO BDSM. You do NOT force one partner to accept it to help you get off. A BDSM lifestyle should be about mutuality - BOTH partners need to be equally interested in it. So, if Nathaniel really can't live without it and Anita really doesn't want to do it, then they need to BREAK UP. It's not a BIG DEAL, like Anita makes it (of course, she's a greedy child that grabbed too many cookies from the cookie jar and refuses to let any go). It's just two different personalities with different sexual desires, and it's OK if Anita doesn't want to or can't do BDSM; both should grow the f@#$ up and move on.

There are WAY TOO MANY characters, particularly male characters. I counted how many characters there were. Let me share my findings:

Named Male Characters with at Least One Line of Dialogue: 37

Named Female Characters with at Least One Line of Dialogue: 9

Male Characters Brought Up in Conversation (Do Not Appear in Novel): 5

Female Characters Brought Up in Conversation (Do Not Appear in Novel): 11 Technically, one of these turns out to be Soledad, but I am concealing that because the women are treated separately

This is f-ing ridiculous. There are easily FOUR TIMES as many men than women with dialogue. FOUR TIMES. Some of these characters only get a few lines of dialogue - dialogue that could have been given to another character and you wouldn't have known the difference. To me, this says that something is TERRIBLY WRONG with the characters if you can give one the dialogue, and it is not jarring. Not to mention, it is impossible to keep up with who is in the room, why they are there, and what is so notable about them anyway (and why the frak there needs to be 60 people in a room at any point in time - it used to be that the only bodyguard Anita has was herself and her Browning!). It's worse in the final action scene when there had to be over a dozen characters. I honestly couldn't keep track of them - I'd be like, "Oh, such-and-such is here too?"

As if this isn't bad enough, take a look at the "bad guys":

Evil or Ambiguous Males: Malcolm (according to Anita), Edward, Olaf, Giovanni, Pantalone, Joseph (according to Anita) -> 5

Evil or Ambiguous Females: Soledad, Marmee Noir, Belle Morte, Columbine, Thea, possibly Perdita (who is a spy of Thea), Julia (Regina of Lion Pride), Mercia, Nivia -> 9

NINE females to FIVE males, when there are FOUR TIMES as many males as females? How can ANYONE call this book a feminist work? (And by and large, LKH DOES call Anita Blake and these books feminist works.)

But that's not the worst of it. This book is one of the most sexist, misogynistic works I've ever read. Lines like:

"...like a version of the guy greeting that friends use sometimes when a handshake won't do but they're too manly to hug." -> Because hugging is exclusively for women.

"I was a lot of things to Edward, but I was not a girl." -> Because being a woman is like YUCK!

"A man's ego is a fragile thing, sometimes." -> And a woman's can be stomped on with no damage?!

"Truth's quiet voice came, 'A lady always makes a man want to be better than he is.'" -> And a man can't make another man want to be better? Or what about women criminals? Do THEY make men want to be better?




Do not call Anita a "feminist" when she slut-shames other women. Do not call Anita a "feminist" if she considers a woman who wants a man to stop having sex to be experiencing "buyer's remorse". Do not call Anita a "feminist" if she has no compassion for another woman. Do not call Anita a "feminist" if she despises anything that is traditionally feminine (cooking, cleaning, dresses, makeup, etc.) and considers it less than "man's work". Do not call Anita a "feminist" if she demeans hugging, being polite, and outbursts of emotions and considers them less than a "man's stoicism". Do not call Anita a "feminist" when she sexualizes nearly every man she comes across as if he is merely a hunk of flesh for her to have sex with.

Call Anita what she is. Hypocritical and two-faced. Heartless. Judgmental and bigoted. Rude. Narcissistic. A self-centered, leering, perverted jerk who is the female counterpart to Michael Bay (and his weird obsession with Megan Fox and any other hot girl).

And then there's LKH award-winning writing! I don't have as many quotes (I'm sorry about not having an overwrought clothing description for you!), because I was playing bingo, but here are a couple for your reading pleasure:

"Jean-Claude and I fed off him. We both fed the ardeur off him. We fed on him,and through him, we fed on every person he had brought to our lands. We did this massive feed on them all."

""Maybe God isn't the sex police, Richard. Sometimes I think Christians get all hung up on the sex thing because it's easier to worry about sex than to ask yourself, 'Am I a good person?'"


"The Harlequin" is yet another book in the Anita Blake series that has miles of potential and goes nowhere with it. There are too many characters with too many intricate connections to remember anymore. Anita Blake continues to be an unlikeable, sexist beast, who dominates any conversation with whining about her stupid relationships and justifying all the sleeping around she does (LKH: I DON'T CARE who she sleeps with or how much, I want a f-ing story!!). And all the interesting developments - Marmee Noir, Belle Morte, and The Harlequin - are left in the dirt, like a toy flung out the window on a cross-country journey.

If you've liked the more recent books, I'm sure this will be up your alley. If you want Anita to return to her glory days, this is better than the previous couple of books. But I would approach with much caution.

Now, if you're like me and like to understand a phenomenon and read "So Bad It's Good" books, then pick this one up - but please don't feed the cash cow!