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A good series has character progression that brings out new and surprising twists. The characters become real to readers through their imperfections. So despite being superhuman, and near immortal in some cases, Anita Blake characters are wonderfully endearing, flaws and all. They grow as we do, mature as we do and make mistakes as we do. As opposed to watching a movie and telling the person on screen that the killer is behind them, the reader becomes the people in the book through the eyes of Anita as she lays their insecurities on the table.
What kind of mistakes her characters make is also what separates many of her characters from those of her contemporaries. Ever seen a vampire down on his financial luck and stuck as a toady for someone else? Not often in many other series are vampires depicted as more than a gorgeous blood drinker, men and women both. In Anita Blake, there are vampires and were-animals who are low in the power structure and are powerless to do anything about it.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of gorgeous men and women within the series, there certainly are and fans have long since given living faces to the people described in these books. A bevy of sexy and sultry characters exist within the book series, including of course Anita Blake herself. Many of the men are strong and leading men in their own right but still capitulate to many of Anita’s demands. Anita is a self described small woman with male companions that sometimes tower over her but she makes up for it with plenty of presence. While Anita is more tomboy, preferring to wear a suit to be a groomsman at a friend’s wedding, her steely core and sassy wit keep the men on their toes and there is never a dull moment once the clothes start flying off.
The women too have earned a special place in Anita’s heart as her characters respect for the female gender has that ‘us against the world’ mentality sometimes. Many of the women in the Anita Blake series are anything but weak and dainty with examples like body guard and were-rat friend Claudia being able to bench-press large cars and shoot ambidextrous. Others like Nikolaos, Jean Claude’s former master that Anita killed, free the Master Vampire to rule over the city.
A favorite topic amongst some fans is their top 3 or 5 characters. On the top of those lists is usually Anita herself, as well as her Vampire sweetheart, Jean Claude and Anita’s platonic mentor, Edward. Jean Claude’s rise as Master of the City is due in part to Anita’s assistance and so even from early on in the series, Anita has had a serious attraction to him. Too bad he’s more trouble than he’s worth some of the time since he has a whole host of issues to content with while he’s with Anita. A leading man to her leading woman, Jean Claude also puts up with a lot from Anita due to her independent and stubborn nature because he loves her deeply. An initial lust and quick roll in the hay is never something Anita would have accepted and he knew that.
Nicknamed ‘Death’ by the vampire’s in St. Louis, Edward is one of the few male characters that has absolutely no attraction to Anita and he’s completely human. That doesn’t mean he’s weak by any means as Edward is a contract assassin grown bored with hunting humans and has taken to moonlighting as a hunter of the paranormal. The only shiny thing about this guy is the long end of his sniper scope and the icy glint in his eyes as he hunts.
An addiction to blood that makes vampires weak is a classic and traditional storyline, but no one asks why, they just accept that’s how vampire biology works . The later novels of Anita Blake make her face insurmountable odds, against more than just one hungry vampire. Simply put, bloodlust isn’t enough to motivate an entire storyline and Laurell K. Hamilton knows it. How Hamilton has plausibly made vampire hunger more than a trite excuse is to think about what really affects the paranormal. The depth of her writing makes it so that readers question every piece of paranormal lore ever written and gives a large majority of those myths a plausible logical reason. So in this case, zombies rise because there is power in their death to reanimate them, were-animals can control their shape-shifting with practice and experience. This level of thought is rarely seen in a series, especially from the onset.
Allegiances and debts factor into blood hunger in the Anita Blake universe because a Master Vampire has control over those he sires or protects in his territory. Throughout the series there is also a conscience or social responsibility to the Anita Blake universe seldom found in other works in the same genre. This is evidenced by Anita Blake’s character saving both the powerful and the weak, her loyalties determining who she helps rather than some freestanding agenda. Her jaded yet sarcastic heroism adds depth and dimension to her personality.
This concept of both building a social aspect to the paranormal as well as saving people based on loyalty is found only in one or two works by other comparable authors but warrants specific mention. Nowhere else is there such a mature view of the paranormal as many authors make their characters powerful and exciting but not real enough to remember. After all, as Anita Blake says “Vampires are people too,” indicating that they have wants and needs, allegiances and fears just like we do. Thus, rather than being a rare and mystical set of beings, the paranormal inhabitants of the Anita Blake universe are viewed as people with a dash of caution and prejudice thrown in for good measure.