Chapter 4 begins with Anita complaining about the stress of her life in the upcoming wedding. it also includes one of the worst sentences I’ve ever read. after Anita talks about walking into the bridal gallery making her feel bad she talks about what had briefly made it okay:
Edward trying on clothes had made it fun again, and seeing Peter be a better adult than some of the immortals I knew, and Asher trying, and Kane getting his ass kicked by Peter. Everything fun was associated with the people, none of it with the bridal shop and clothes.
This is not a good sentence and I don’t want to pretend that it is.
I took a break from sporking/technically hate reading the Anita Blake series after I completed my readthrough of Rafael last year. (You can read that spork here)
I gave myself a year off from engaging with the series on any critical level because I didn’t like how much I was getting annoyed by Hamilton’s writing and her politics in and out of her universe. So I gave myself an ultimatum: no more. No more analysis. No more hate-reading. No more rude tweets backed up with screenshots.
I gave myself a year to calm down, chill out, and see if there’s something else I love to hate(read) more.
There was nothing else and, conveniently, the end of my hiatus landed on the release of Smolder, the latest Anita Blake book.
Notes: This big installment has relatively graphic descriptions of violence, my desire to do violence (it’s really bad, I want to end the villain myself), Hector remains a sex pest near the end, body horror, some death by rats, and I guess I might cuss across this. I don’t know. I wrote this all while screaming.
On the surface, it looks as if I’m having mercy on you all by doing a speedrun through the last six chapters of this book.
But I am not.
If I were to have mercy on either of us, I would make up an ending where they all died and then move on to one of the books I want to go over because of how good they are. Instead, I am consolidating the suffering… by making the few of y’all still here go through six chapters all at once because in total that’s only gonna be like 5000 words max anyway!
[I forgot about posting this lol, hence the lack of header. It’s actually being posted in March 22, 2023]
Personally, I think Anita should be allowed to kill Padma.
And she’s right about why she wants to do it too:
“He’s the son of a bitch that skinned Rafael alive as torture because he wouldn’t give the rest of you up,” I said. I’d have tugged on the door handle if I’d had a hand free, but I still had a knife in each hand, which raised the question of how I had planned to open the door in the first place. I realized I’d gone for the wrist knives. I sheathed the one in my left hand in the right wrist sheath, which was on top of the wrist; the left sheath carried the knife on the underside of the wrist so I could draw them simultaneously. I’d carried them almost longer than any other weapon I owned. They’d been the first silver I’d bought after bullets. I tried to feel bad about the fact that I’d gone for a killing weapon first thing, but all I could think was if we killed Hector, it might kill Padma and then we’d all be safer.
But because that would be too easy… she can’t just do that.
Because the rats will then turn against her and Rafael and challenge him endlessly until they do succeed in killing him.
So Anita is like “okay well no matter what, I’m going to kill Hector tonight” and you know what… I want that for her. I love it for her.
Last time, we left Anita panicking over whether or not the rat shifter she’d killed (the one who Hamilton had Anita posit was more Asian than Mexican apparently) had actually meant to murder or just maim her. Chapter nineteen opens with her realizing that he’d come armed with a silver knife and that validates her tearing his throat open and ripping off his arm.
I’m a huge fan of violence, but this is literally overkill. Especially because Hamilton has to justify Anita’s violence. It doesn’t, ultimately, matter if the guy had a silver knife or not because self defense is self defense. It’s wrong to stab people who haven’t done anything to you or your loved ones first.
Not to be Like That on main, but a huge high point of doing these sporkings is knowing that you’re all cringing along with me as I do this. There is no point where you stop cringing across a modern Anita Blake installment, no point at which it stops being concerning, sexist, racist… or all three things at once. So thank you all for suffering along with me once more.
Content Warnings: racism (specifically antiblack historical revisionism and mentions of slavery that are poorly done), transmisogyny, poor representation of intersex people
When we last cracked open Rafael, the titular character and Anita had just realized that Hector was the animal to call and/or sweetheart of a master vampire that wasn’t America’s Next Vampire King Jean-Claude.
Chapter ten picks up with Anita in Jean-Claude’s bedroom, pacing around the bed because he has beautiful, bitchy, blond Asher with him and as Anita puts it “he still wasn’t on my cuddling list”. Mind you, she went to Jean-Claude for comfort but because she can’t communicate worth a damn and say “hey Asher, can you keep to one side of the orgy bed please? I’m still mad at you for not communicating to my specifications”, no cuddles for her.
When we last left Anita and her unwieldy polycule + Claudia and Benito, they were being homophobic as hell over one challenger to Rafael’s throne (the hella homophobic Nestor) and Rafael just dropped the bombshell that another, Hector, might be his long lost son. This, by the way, should be impossible as born-shifters are incredibly unlikely because of Hamilton’s own worldbuilding.
Either they kill the human mother partway through gestation and work sort of like a chestburster… or the shifter mother shifts during the full moon early on and just… has a period. It’s only recently (the Las Vegas book) where we found out that tiger shifters can “take pregnant women’s beasts” so they don’t shift and miscarry at any point. They only just started teaching other shifters how to do that.
I mean this in the nicest way possible (which is still a bit mean, I know), but Anita really does need to do some heavy work to unpack her issues without unloading them onto other people. Across the series, Anita has increasingly used the language of therapy to get around certain issues with their relationships. There are all of these moments where the different characters make a point of going “we’re in therapy now” or “so and so is trying to work out their issues in therapy”.
But then it’s like… never effective?
Asher has been in therapy for half of his appearances and yet, he’s still really not able to handle the fact that he’s not Jean Claude and Anita’s main man or that Micah isn’t interested in him or that he still has extensive scarring from being tortured like 300 years ago.
Anita is in therapy for every single thing under the sun and yet chapter six still opens with her anxieties over relationships and stress over her not having the love she thought she’d have… all over holding Rafael’s hand and walking with him in-step.
Content notes for mentions of sexual coercion (sort of) and domestic violence.
When we last left Rafael, Anita and co had emptied out the communal showers in the Circus – Jean Claude’s underground lair and the least hidden daytime resting place for a vampire in the history of the genre. For this block of chapters? We’re still at the damn showers.
Content notes: I talk about sexual assault and metaphysical and emotional manipulation leading to such.
We’re all here because I have ongoing issues with the Anitaverse but lack the common sense necessary to stop reading the series even though it has actually repeatedly set off some of my bad brain stuff. As for issues… well, they’re largely things like Nathaniel basically bullying Micah into changing his sexuality to suit him – and succeeding. Anita casually mentions it at the start of this chapter and it is… not great:
We’re back at Rafael, beloveds, and I just… please tell me you see what I’m seeing when Rafael and his bodyguard are first introduced on the page after Anita escapes the bitch-off with Kane:
I was more bothered by Kane than I’d thought, since I didn’t sense Rafael’s energy with his main bodyguard, Benito, right beside him. Even without the otherworldly energy they were both tall: dark, muscled, and handsome for Rafael, more sinister for Benito. They both had short black hair and brown eyes, but Benito had deep facial scarring from something that looked like more than acne, but it wasn’t just the scars. I had other people in my life who had facial scars, and none of them seemed like a villainous henchman in a superhero movie, but Benito did. Maybe it was the fact that he worked so hard being scary as Rafael’s main bodyguard.
Y’all see this too right?
Like the sheer racist cringe on display here? It’s not as bad as the first time that we see Rafael introduced by how gosh darned Mexican he is, but it’s not actually that far off if you’re a recurring reader of the Anitaverse and can clock that this is basically just that? The bonus of Benito being described as menacing because of disfiguremesia – a brilliant term coined by my dear friend Mikaela a few years back – and because he’s Mexican… It just makes me itch.
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.
At least, that’s what Laurell K Hamilton is trying to
convince us and Anita across the twenty-six books in her Anita Blake: Vampire
Hunter series: one of the core themes across the Anitaverse is the idea that shapeshifters are people and
they deserve the consideration that people get.
It’d be an admirable approach to take if not for how Hamilton
sets up shifters and their pack dynamics. Shifter society and the dynamics
between members in a particular group towards insiders and outsiders –
especially if those outsiders are human – really make you question what she’s
actually succeeding at.
For this pint-sized primer, we’re going to be talking about
the main shape-shifter groups Anita interacts with across the Anitaverse –
wolves, leopards, hyenas, tigers, and lions, the lone prey group in the whole
dang thing, swans – and why Hamilton’s worldbuilding and her rationale behind using shapeshifters as metaphor for
various marginalized identities remains more full of holes than a slice of
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