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Long before there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was Anita Blake Vampire Hunter. Long before Twilight was even a blip on the sparkly-vampire radar there was Guilty Pleasures, the first of the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, first published in 1993. Now in its 21st full length novel, The Anita Blake series continues with Kiss the Dead.
Not for the faint of heart, this is a series that is certainly adult in both concept and content. The writing has changed over time, going from R rated to M rated over time, no doubt to match more adult expectations. As a whole, the style has remained very much the same, with quick witty banter and charming original characters that come alive. Memorable characters from past novels often make returns into current Anita Blake books, showing Hamilton’s ability to create versatile relevant characters.
While Vampire literature used to belong in the horror genre, Anita Blake took a different approach to the Vampire genre. Different from the Anne Rice style of painting slow, beautiful pictures, this series is more akin to a master chef creating a fantastic dish. The chef then refines the dish 20 times over and the result is the Anita Blake series as we know it today. With every successive novel the same dish reappears more finely tuned, its character advanced in subtle ways.
Considered by many to be the game-changing series for the modern vampire genre, Anita has had many imitators. The standard by which many vampire literature fans hold the genre, this series crosses multiple genre
s and appeals to diverse audiences.
Imagine mixing in zombies, mobsters, police, military, vampires, assassins, multiple were-animals, spirits, family, religions, law, history, romance, politics and you would only come close to the boring half of the Anita Blake series. The exciting half is how Hamilton weaves these stories together, incorporating elements from many facets of life and human history. Her understanding of both the human and paranormal psyche is constantly evolving, bringing real life issues into the world of Anita Blake-Vampire Executioner. Hamilton’s writing makes the Anita Blake universe appear real and functional, something that many authors fail to do.
How though, is this any different from its more modernly produced contemporaries? W
here other characters are trite and haphazardly created, Laurell K. Hamilton has managed to create characters that are timeless arc types and yet also continually plausibly evolving as well. How she achieves this affect is through shaping the classic arc types such as the Lothario style vampire into a character torn between his lust for freedom from a cruel taskmaster and the love that he yearns for with Anita. Another example is using the character of the street urchin, vulnerable and jaded beyond his years. Anita rides to his rescue several times throughout the early half of the series but the latest installments shows his growth into one of Anita’s most steadfast supporters.
Anita Blake has grown in skills and personality as the series progressed. Already shrewd and jaded, as well as a bit of a prude at the beginning, her character has matured plausibly as one might when doing police work, hunting vampires and living to tell the tale. She has learned to find love where she can despite being burned badly in college. When she can, she dates but as the series has gone on, the men that she invariably finds herself with are all of the paranormal persuasion. The conventional bit of her relationships is the unenviable task of keeping her paranormal life as a vampire’s human servant and her work as a federal officer separate.
What really sets Anita Blake apart is her uncontrollable necromancy that if not used, summons spirits and zombies at random. Rarely in books or comics does a hero or heroine have a power that goes out of control past the first initial stages of story building to show that the character has grown into their cool and otherworldly power. Anita’s character on the other hand has such a strong connection to death that her control of the dead now extends beyond zombies into controlling lower level vampires as well.
A strong, bitter personality is what originally drove Anita Blake forward in life. Her character has a sense of justice that wavers between upholding the letter of the law and destroying personal morals in order to save important lives. She would rather not kill a newly risen vampire who begs for their undead life yet, if they’ve committed a crime, Anita will look into the eyes of those she must kill because she knows they are criminals and that these deaths save lives.
That’s one of the key factors in the Anita Blake universe, that vampires are subject to their own set of laws. Just as a human cannot assault another human, a vampire cannot enthrall a human with their vampire powers because it’s illegal. Thus, a vampire has as much chance if not more than say a werewolf who changes shape. In the case of a were-animal uncontrollably changing shape and killing people, Anita’s work with the police has earned her any number of monikers including ‘The Executioner’ for having the highest kill vampire count of any human being. Thus, even as she senses a burnout might be approaching, she still looks into the eyes of those vampires or were-animals that have committed crimes and does her job. It is only her friends and growing family of loved ones that keep her stable and happy since every death weighs heavily against her sense of practicality.