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.
One of the most infuriating things about urban fantasy as a genre is that one of the most familiar representations for Black readers (and of Black people) comes in the form of the magical Negro figure.
The Magical Negro is the white man’s idealized version of black people—a cross between faithful slave servant who walks with his head down and a superhero too conservatively demure to wear a cape and too grateful for the benevolence of white people to slit their throats for past atrocities. He may drop his “r’s” and use incorrect subject-verb agreement (because a literal incarnation of the perfect black stereotype, by definition, can’t be smart), but he is the incarnation of the friendliest, most loving, loyal dream of a human being.
And that’s the heart of it: magical negro characters literally exist to serve (usually, but not always) white characters on their quest to great magical power.
They exist to use their magical talent (which sometimes isn’t even actual magic but uncanny ability to be exactly what the white protagonist needs to fix themselves) and provide education to prepare the naïve non-black protagonist for magical success. Unless you’re lucky, there’s rarely any attempt at fleshing out the magical negro character or acknowledging either his talent or blackness beyond what those things can bring the hero.
In the biggest and most popular series, the main characters are either outright law enforcement – like my book bae Peter Grant in the Rivers of London series – or they’re like Anita Blake, characters who don’t actually have badges worth anything but are set up as The Law in their neck of the woods.
I’ve read dozens of urban fantasy books in my lifetime and many of the books hinge very closely on these main characters in law enforcement or who are adjacent to law enforcement or… who have very close relationships with cops.
Hello, Darlings, and welcome to what will hopefully be a slightly shorter episode of Stitch Talks Ish.
So episode five is all about Laurell K. Hamilton, which I’m sure nobody actually wants, but everybody’s getting. Because despite the fact that I keep saying I’m done with her, her books are really bad, I’m not done with her, even though her books are really bad. That.
We are here because when I see her work, by the time I see it, it’s like, wow, she’s still like that, you know? And it’s not like I have anything else to do. And there are only so many Kpop, K-hip hop related pieces I’m going to be able to make without you guys just straight up showing up here and fighting me. So I have returned for the roast. I cannot promise that I will do anything else. But I have returned to roast Laurell K. Hamilton, which if you’re new to my site, to my social media, I’ve been doing this for a really long time— for me, like, five years minimum.
When I started my website, I started using her stuff as a regular feature. So I was doing The Great Big Anita Blake Reread, where I would reread her books and talk about like the good, the bad, and the just plain ugh, and I’d stopped because we started getting into the book that were just uncomfortable. And I don’t know if I’ll ever return to them—depends on how bored I get.
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
The last installment, I told y’all to make sure that you had alcohol ready because we were getting into the really stressful parts of the Anita Blake series. While it’s not as rough as I expected, it’s still something that drove me to crave a drink or two.
Narcissus in Chains is the tenth book in Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and the start of what I view as the downward slide of the series’ trajectory.
Set some six months after Obsidian Butterfly, Anita has finally decided that she’s ready to restart things with Richard and Jean-Claude so that their power base isn’t left vulnerable. She makes this decision right around the time that a mysterious shapeshifter starts targeting the people in the various packs that she has sworn to protect. Which is great timing considering the power boost that they all get as a result of her return.
While the official blurb for the book makes it sound like a dark mystery and a battle for Anita’s very soul are bound up in the novel (“Nothing can save Anita from a twist of fate that draws her ever closer to the brink of humanity–to finally surrender to the bloodlust, the beast, and the desire transforming her body and consuming her soul.”), the actual book is… way more boring than you’d think.Read More »
– The button that Monica Vespucci is wearing when she and Anita first meet echoes a repeated message in this series about how vampires are people too. But people you know… suck. So vampires do too, and not just because it’s how they get nourishment.
I’m trying to make my work more accessible to a larger audience so that means Patreon-first recordings of me reading my longer essays and parts of my various series at the $1 Tier before they get put up here.
If there’s a post you couldn’t make it through because of its length and would prefer having as an audio file, drop me a line and I’ll bump it up the list!
As I’ve dragging my heels on finishing Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake #10) for the next installment of my reread series, I’ve realized that there’s one small problem with how I talk about the Anitaverse. I keep assuming that you all have already read the series and are familiar with how everything works and therefore I don’t slow down to explain things that are probably confusing to the uninitiated.
So for the next two or three months, I’ll be writing mini-primers to three of the biggest worldbuilding bits that are semi-constant across the Anitaverse that I haven’t explained (but really need to before I keep going any further).
For this month, I’ll be covering the ardeur.
Content warnings for this primer: descriptions of sexual assault, “fuck or die”/”sex pollen” scenarios, rape culture, and sex-negative feminism framed as “sex positive” feminism, homophobia, a reference to an adult having sex with a teenager
“I thought you would be angry with me for giving you the ardeur, the fire, the burning hunger.”
The ardeur is first named in the thirteenth chapter of Narcissus in Chains after Micah assaults Anita in the previous chapter while she’s under her first brush of the ardeur.
In the chapter, after Anita shamefully admits to having sex with Micah (and again, it was rape), Jean-Claude confesses to having hidden this power from her and to denying his own hunger for sex because he know she wouldn’t approve.
Here’s the first of many issues with the ardeur.
Prior to this book, there’s nothing within the Anitaverse that tells us that Jean-Claude has this power hidden within his body.Read More »