Sunday, July 02, 2006

Danse Macabre - review

Author: Laurell K Hamilton

Published: 2006

Contains Spoilers

Danse Macabre is the 13th book of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series and it was one that had me torn before I purchased it. After the last full novel (there has been a side novella, Micah, previously) I was scared that Hamilton had really lost her way. Incubus Dreams (book 12) is a book that covers a four day period, has lots of very pornographic erotica but has no real plot. It made me almost give up on the series and that is why I was torn, because, as a reader, I had a lot invested in the characters and yet I was really tempted to stop reading the series.

So I noticed the book had been released and purchased it, despite reservations, and hoped that it was better than the previous novel.

Danse Macabre covers just a two day period and, given that Anita has moved from necromancer and vampire’s human servant, as well as State’s federal marshal vampire hunter, to succubus there is plenty of erotica spilled through the two days. If, however, I am to be fair to the previous volume, much of it was about the changes to Anita’s powers and this book expands on that theme greatly, with the main characters gaining in their powers and, hopefully, solidifying the main story arc to whichever new direction Hamilton is trying to take us. It seems that this direction is a confrontation with the Mother of All Darkness, the source of vampirism it appears, Marmee Noir. I truly hope that this is the case, otherwise Hamilton is falling into the Anne Rice trap, by that I mean that the author becomes so enamoured by their creation that they make the character more and more powerful until there is very little story you can involve them in as there is no opposition strong enough to stand against them in a plot – Rice, I believe, did that with Lestat.

That said there is very little plot to the book. Oh, the larger arc is there and looms unfocused before the reader, but there is no real story for the novel itself, as a stand alone. This is the shame. Hamilton used to be skilled at building the higher arc subtly whilst running a tight story, more often than not about Blake helping the police, or sometimes hindering the police, whilst solving a paranormally based crime. It is true that some of the early books were not the best written, in a literature sense, but they had great plots and great characters. Hamilton’s writing has got better and better, her novels get longer and yet her plots are thinner and thinner. I would rather have the prose a little clunky and the plot good, rather than the other way around.

One might assume that Anita fearing that she was pregnant (to one of her numerous lovers) would offer a plot, but actually it was only the plot of a soap opera and not a real story. One might assume that the visitation of several vampire masters to their city might have offered a juicy story, but in truth what little there was, was thin and both an excuse to examine new powers and to write erotic prose… Oh and to introduce a little more of the series arc, if I’m going to be fair. There is a nice amount of vampire politics in this novel, but that is not going to help the casual reader who wants a good story. It enamours the book to those invested already in the universe and characters, but, then again, there might be little room for plot with the amount of sex going on.

There is a nice coda within the book however, when Blake admits, “I am a succubus. I am a vampire. Maybe not a bloodsucker, but I feed off sex.” There has been debate for some time as to whether a succubus is a vampire and, whilst the two creatures are similar, traditionally one is a demon and the other undead. Blake is neither, she is still human (though she has multiple strains of untapped lycanthropy as well), and the remark does throw a slight curveball into the debate.

I am hoping that Hamilton has managed to get her shift in power levels into order now and that when she writes the next book in the series she remembers that an engaging story is important, rather than a couple of days of erotic, paranormal soap opera.

For now, concentrating on this book and despite how good the actual writing is, I can only give this a below average 4 out of 10.


Mateo said...

Ouch, that's sad to hear. When did it come out, anyways? I thought it wasn't until July...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Actually I didn't realise what an exclusive that was until I just checked. The book is released on 6/7/06 (strangley getting a simultaneous UK release which is unheard of) but I was in my local retailer yesterday and the book was on the shelves so I just kind of bought it!

Guess they had it on the shelves early by accident

Laccramos said...

All I can say is amen to that! I have just finished the book and I am still wondering when the good stuff in going to happen. This is so not cool.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Laccramos, thanks for the post.

What can I say? I'm glad you agree as I worried that perhaps I'd gone insane and missed the plot (as opposed to losing the plot which is more my style!)