Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Serpentine by Laurell K. Hamilton

Vampire hunter Anita Blake has managed to overcome everything she faces. But this time there's a monster that even she doesn't know how to fight...

A remote Florida island is the perfect wedding destination for the upcoming nuptials of Anita's fellow U.S. Marshal and best friend Edward. For Anita, the vacation is a welcome break, as it's the first trip she gets to take with wereleopards Micah and Nathaniel. But it's not all fun and games and bachelor parties...

In this tropical paradise Micah discovers a horrific new form of lycanthropy, one that has afflicted a single family for generations. Believed to be the result of an ancient Greek curse, it turns human bodies into a mass of snakes.

When long-simmering resentment leads to a big blowout within the wedding party, the last thing Anita needs is more drama. But it finds her anyway when women start disappearing from the hotel, and worse—her own friends and lovers are considered the prime suspects. There's a strange power afoot that Anita has never confronted before, a force that's rendering those around her helpless in its thrall. Unable to face it on her own, Anita is willing to accept help from even the deadliest places. Help that she will most certainly regret—if she survives at all, that is...

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Book 26
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Anita’s road trip books are always my favourite and they are always better when Edward and the four horsemen take center stage. This is the story of Edward’s wedding weekend – a wedding weekend that is quickly overshadowed by murder and the discovery of a terrifying family of snake shifters.

As always, this story starts slowly. Really, really slowly. It takes a good portion of the book for Anita to explain her current relationships and attempt to help her men through their various insecurities. There is actually much less sex than I’ve come to expect from this series and once the murder mystery starts, the focus is almost completely on Anita’s work as a Marshal. The actual murder mystery is exciting and after so many books, I was pleasantly surprised that the author managed to come up with a few fresh plot devices.

I find it interesting that Anita now uses the language of the polyamorous community to describe her complicated relationships because Anita’s experimentation with polyamory started years before there was much public awareness of polyamory. I was intrigued by various characters’ desires for alone time in this book and I was also interested in the way Anita’s circle of partners has shrunk considerably since the ardeur-fuelled orgies a few books back. This book focuses on the relationships between Anita, Jean-Claude, Nathaniel, and Micah. With engagements in place and a long history behind these four, there are some thoughtful observations about the work that goes into sustaining long-term relationships. Maybe not as sexy as the orgies once were but probably more meaningful.

I really enjoyed this story – but I don’t think I’m capable of an impartial response to any book in this series. I’ve been a fan from the very start and beyond the vampire porn there are moments and observations in so many of the books that have resonated with me. So many of Anita’s musings about identity, relationships, and power have made me reflect, made me think, and have ultimately made me stronger. I have taken different things from these books at different moments in my life and after twenty-six books, I am way too emotionally invested in Anita Blake to offer a neutral critique. I’m already looking forward to the next book.

Disclosure: I had not read past Hit List, reading the previous books in the series dozens of times each. However, being so far behind didn’t offer much confusion. I easily caught up to speed, without spoiling much that may have happened in those books I own yet have yet to read.

At the start, I found the relationship issues to get rather tedious, reminding me of parents (the characters) bickering in front of their children (the reader). Wading through this manufactured strife/angst, during the beginning 25-30%, I was close to DNFing multiple times. They fought over everything big or small, taking offense to everything, where the plot stopped for the reader to sit through their conversational therapy. Everything was tedious, difficult to get through, with the entertainment value of watching loved ones fight.

Things readers will want to know: This simmers down. There is little to no sex, what is there is fade-to-black-esque. The bickering is classic LKH, so I rolled with it. No fangy fun. No hungry Anita, needing a harem to feast. Shifters, not vamps. Police procedural.

Finally, once the cast gets to the Florida Keys, the novel flows into a mystery to solve, which had me reading quickly, wishing to know what happened next. This was classic Anita Blake.

What I loved: The feeling of homecoming as my favorite characters made an appearance. Edward ‘Ted’ has always been one who most intrigued me, and I’m thankful and applaud LKH for maintaining Anita and Edward’s best-friendship by keeping it platonic yet emotionally connected. Olaf ‘Otto' Jeffreys. If Olaf is in a book, I’ll read every word, and Anita and Olaf's interactions were fascinating and had amazing payoff for the reader. Peter. Peter. Peter. I need more Edward, Peter, and Olaf monster hunting with Anita. Peter needs to join the Four Horsemen, make it five somehow, because Bernardo is awesome too. The Four Horsemen was pure perfection.

What I didn’t love: The parents bickering in front of the children (characters vs reader). The polyamory discussions that went past educational. I am a firm believer in polyamory, but this went beyond organically unveiled. These two issues roll into one, and felt like beating a dead horse (the reader's patience). The swimming pool scenes were beyond irrational, with women written that give the female gender a bad name, while emasculating men for their inability NOT to flirt or tell women NO.

Overall, I struggled at the start but eventually fell into the storyline. I do believe Serpentine was a worthy installment and recommend to fans, as I never pass up the chance to push Guilty Pleasures at new readers. I plan on reading those books I’ve missed before the next installment, which I cannot wait to get my hands on.

Well, I'm not sure where to go with this review. I’ll start by saying that I've been a fan for many years of the Anita Blake series and I've read them all. But did not read book #23 or #24. After Jason's book (book #22), I pretty much gave up. When this came up for review I decided I'd give one of my favorite authors another chance. I have to say, I'm pretty indifferent. I don’t think things have gotten any better for my longtime favorite. I was over 40% into the book and not a single thing was happening in the plot. You're in for total over descriptiveness (which was always present but exacerbated in the past few books) of clothing, scenery, hair color, facial expressions. There's bickering about who gets to have Anita's attention, and even Nathaniel became a bit whiny! Micah's character is usually my rock when things get crazy, but he was sort of never really present, always on the phone or out of town. There's hardly any Jean-Claude in this one except a brief scene in the beginning. Not even really good steamy scenes. The story FINALLY kicks in around the 80% mark with a murder scene and abduction and then does this Scooby Do ending where it all wraps up with one bad guy giving all the plot points and who-done-its. I was determined to finish this, and it took quite a bit of skimming. I love these characters, they're like old friends to me after 22 books. I'd love to see something better come out of this!

Laurell K. Hamilton is a full-time writer and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series and the Merry Gentry series. She lives in a suburb of St. Louis with her family.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #26) by Laurell K. Hamilton to read and review.

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