I know I said I was done with this series.
I’ve said it at least twice and you’d think it’d stick by now since the past three books have been objectively poorly crafted and have contained content I know I don’t like as well as content that has been a trigger for me in the past. Despite the fact that I don’t read things I dislike – and tell y’all to do the same all the time – I couldn’t help myself. Rafael is the book I knew from Day One of its announcement that Laurell K Hamilton had no business writing because of its focus on Mexican-American wererat and titular character Rafael.
It’s not because Hamilton is a white woman, by the way. It’s because she has a habit of writing really racist-ly for her characters of color and not growing or engaging with it. Almost thirty years into the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and Hamilton still trades on and writes stereotypes for the characters of color that populate her books.
So here we are with a book that really shouldn’t exist and a spork I shouldn’t be doing because I know I’m just gonna get mad by the end.
Chapter one opens with Anita working out with my wererat wife Claudia and working on building her newly gained supernatural strength (from the previous book, I believe). Claudia is a memorable character despite rarely getting an onscreen opportunity to shine… because she’s six and a half feet tall and I’m a weak queer mess for big buff women.
One thing about Hamilton is that her Anita POV never fails to remind you that women only care about men… (even the queer ones actually).
What were we talking about between lifting heavy objects? Men. You can take the human out of the girl, but you can’t take the girl out of the wererat, or something like that.
But ah, they’re not just talking about any man…
“But Rafael is literally tall, dark, and handsome. His house is beautiful, and the pool is so nice I’m beginning to want one. He’s polite, well-spoken, a gentleman.”
“All that is true,” Claudia said.
“So why doesn’t he have more lady friends?”
They’re talking about Rafael and his inability to get a keep a good girlfriend apparently. This is in between Anita testing out her new strength and showing off for Kane, one of the guards that comes in when she and Claudia are mid-workout and Asher’s hot hyena shifter boytoy, and… let’s talk about that for a second. My main recurring worldbuilding comment about the Anita Blake series is actually that Hamilton ties everything into metaphysics and not… actual physics. Anita is functionally human – not just human passing, there is nothing genetically different separating her non-shifting body from that of a regular human – and she’s also tiny. She’s 5’3”, maybe 120 pounds max, and yet is here going to lift 3 times her bodyweight?
And the explanation we get is… supernatural strength?
Sometime-ish supernatural strength at that?
I would like Hamilton to get better at worldbuilding. Please. Just for me.
Speaking of Kane, let’s talk about the fact that despite Hamilton being some kind of queer herself and writing queer characters, the homophobia just jumps out by how she’s chosen to write Kane as a whiny threat to Anita’s throne. Here’s how he’s introduced in the chapter:
“Two reps, that’s all she can do at that weight, and she’s supposed to be our queen,” a male voice whined from across the room. It was Kane, one of my least favorite people. Perfect.
And here’s how he’s described as he struts his way to Anita in the gym:
“Anita can’t win unless she sucker punches you first,” Kane said as he strutted his way through the full set of free weights with a few machines and big metal frames of the squat rack. He was six feet even just like Helios, but where the former teams guy was starting to let his blond hair grow out, Kane still had his hair shaved down to dark stubble with that high widow’s peak at the front so that the skin went back from it sharply, which always made me want to ask if he’d started shaving because he was going bald, or if it was just a fashion choice. I knew it wasn’t a military buzz, because Kane had never worn a uniform, he didn’t have the discipline for it. “Kane, we’re here to work on your form in the weight room, not make trouble,” Helios called after him. Kane blinked big, dark brown eyes at me, because he was close enough for that kind of detail. “It’s not going to be any trouble,” he answered the other man, but his attention was all on me. The lack of hair left his face unadorned so you could see he had good bone structure and was handsome, almost prettily so; the body that showed around the tank top, exercise shorts, and jogging shoes wasn’t bad, but it was more a body that was lean because he was built that way than lean because he worked out and watched his nutrition.
If you remember what I talked about back during my spork of Shutdown: Hamilton does this thing where she needs you to know that the character she sees as a threat to Anita isn’t all that and a bag of chips. With Elaine it was that her hair wasn’t as dark as Anita’s and she turned out to be secretly homophobic. With Kane it’s starting with her getting in snide mental digs at Kane possibly going bald, being too undisciplined for the military (and as someone with military in their family… that’s hilarious), and having a nice body because he was built that way and not because he did anything to deserve it.
Anita is a petty fucking weirdo.
I also just… I don’t get why Hamilton keeps doing this. I’m working on my second (ish?) romance novella and yeah, the villains in the way of the Happily Ever After are probably real obvious, but they’re not written in a way that makes my disdain for them obvious. Hamilton makes it clear when Anita has beef with someone and why. Even if you missed out on the initial Asher-Kane-Anita conflict from a few books back, she makes sure that you know that she still hasn’t given up on that grudge. A decade from now, if the Anita Blake series is still ongoing and Anita hasn’t murdered Kane by then, we’ll still be subject to endless back and forths where Anita harps on end about Kane being The Worst.
Speaking of being The Worst: Hamilton still sucks when it comes to writing bisexuality… or characters who understand that it’s a thing. Because she has Kane lose his ever loving shit over the love V they’re in
“Why are you taking her side? Did she fuck you like she fucks all the other men?”
“That’s out of line,” Helios said.
“So, you did fuck her!”
“Oh, for the love of God, Kane, it’s not my fault that Asher is bisexual and not just gay the way you want him to be,” I said.
“He’d be gay if it wasn’t for you,” Kane said, and he had moved so he could see me around the other man.
“Asher is Asher, he’s over six hundred years old, I didn’t change any of his sexual preferences.”
“Liar!” He screamed it at me.
“I’m not sleeping with your boyfriend, Kane.”
“But he still wants you!”
“And that is not my fault,” I said.
Doesn’t this read like the reverse of the shit with Ellen in Shutdown? Rather than Ellen getting angry that Richard was sort of conditionally queer, it’s Kane getting pissed because Asher isn’t gay. And let’s remember that Asher has always been bisexual? He just has a preference for dudes which is fine. If I were Kane, I’d be pleased as punch that Asher is into me even if I didn’t have the greatest personality –
But Hamilton has Kane going into hysterics and basically accusing Anita – who’s known Asher longer than Kane has – of luring him to the heterosexual side with her magical vagina. He’s mad enough to try to eat her face and then he goes on this whole fucking rant about how Kane doesn’t get bisexuality and that Asher is always gonna need something Kane alone can’t give him.
And y’all –
This is some bullshit.
Hamilton is who doesn’t get bisexuality. She never has and apparently, she never will. I remember when she first started workshopping both her sexuality and Anita’s and you know what, I love that she feels so comfortable figuring shit out in her own worlds and her love life… but does she have to be messy on main about it?
Like in what world does she think the responsible way to go about this is to have Kane go on a biphobic rant out of nowhere and then tack on some ableism – on Anita’s part – to make the dang thing an even bigger mess with her internal monologue taking the shape of:
I didn’t argue, just took my towel and left my water bottle by the weight bench. I didn’t want it badly enough to get that close to Kane when he was having one of his fits. I was beginning to believe that his possessive jealousy of Asher was just that insane, as in something was broken inside Kane that needed either talk therapy or medication, or both. Crazy in love wasn’t just a phrase for Kane and Asher, which was one reason I wasn’t sleeping with Asher.
Kane’s relationship with Asher is literally used to be like “this is why Nathaniel-Jean Claude-Micah-[ASSORTED TIGER SHIFTERS]” aren’t fucking Asher. Because Kane is that annoying apparently. Or that prone to violence?
There were people here who were in love with Asher; too bad we all hated Kane, and he hated us right back.
I don’t think Kane is going to be the big bad for this book, but I’m willing to be cash money that he’s not going to come out smelling like roses considering that he went into hysterical hyena mode over the reminder that Asher isn’t a gold star gay… almost two decades after Asher’s bisexual blond ass made his first appearance onscreen in the Anita Blake universe outside of Jean Claude’s tragic backstory.
I’m only on chapter one and I’m tired.
How am I going to make it through… uh 31 chapters with my sense of self intact? Who knows! I’ll try to smush the chapters together so it’s not a chapter-by-chapter sporking, but we’ll see how long the suffering gets dragged out.
I know I promised y’all that I’d stop doing these and clearly I sucked at keeping that going… but I promise sporking Rafael will be entertaining as heck and rude to boot.