Friday, February 5, 2021

Rafael by Laurell K. Hamilton

Long live the wererat king. Rafael by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Rafael, king of the wererats, must fight to the death to defend his crown. He wants Anita Blake, one of his closest allies, with him as he faces an opponent unlike any he’s faced before. He will ask Anita to risk everything to be at his side…

But some of the wererats fear that Rafael depends too much on Anita and her ties to the vampires. They believe that there is only room in America for one supernatural king, and Rafael will turn them into nothing more than food for the bloodsuckers.

Among his enemies, a new challenger has arisen who is younger, hungrier, and has dark secrets that could destroy both the wererats and the vampires. Rafael will go into the magical heart of his people to find the power and violence that he needs to save them all, or die trying.

Don’t miss our reviews of other books in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series!
For book #26, Serpentine, click HERE.
For book #27, Sucker Punch, click HERE.


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Rafael by Laurell K. Hamilton

Book 28
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Audiobook (US)  ~  Paperback (US)



Rage had been my shield against the world for so long that it was like putting on a favorite sweatshirt. Rafael by Laurell K. Hamilton, available February 9th.



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3.5 stars

I love the rats! Rafael’s book feels overdue and I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of his kingdom. We’ve had multiple books about wolves, leopards, lions, and hyenas while the rats stayed an unobtrusive constant in the background.

It feels odd to admit that I don’t particularly love Rafael in his own book. He’s interchangeably calculating, self-serving, whiny, and self-defeating. He’s supposed to be an old soul, but his actions are naive and his interactions with women need work. But he’s interesting. And his world feels fresh and new. Even after a couple dozen books, I was intrigued by the politics and the hierarchies in the rats’ world.

The highlight of this book is the final 40%, where Rafael has to fight a challenger for his title and his life. I love the gladiatorial style fighting arena and the complicated rules of engagement. Anita is strong and she is flanked by Claudia (always a favourite) and Pierette, who really comes into her own in this story.

The weaker part of the story is everything that comes before Anita’s trip to the rats’ warehouse. At book 28, readers who’ve managed to stick with the series know all about the sexual dynamics between Anita and her lovers. We know the power dynamics between Anita and her various lovers, triads, animals to call... Two thirds of this book just rehashes all of these dynamics in long, complicated conversations. I feel like we’ve even read identical conversations before. There’s only one (very vanilla) sex scene in the book and it doesn’t involve any of the men I particularly like. We get a glimpse of Micah and Nathaniel and a moment with Jean-Claude, but the rest is just talk. The strategy conversations are interesting. The power and sex conversations are just tiresome. I'm starting to wonder if any of the long-planned weddings will ever happen – and if I'll still care by the time they do.

My advice? Hardcore Anita fans like me can probably wait until this is released cheaply on Kindle. I’d also suggest fans skip to chapter 15 for an exciting look at Rafael’s world without missing anything in the first 60% of the book. Anyone who isn’t a massive fan of the series will be completely lost and should probably start at the beginning of Anita’s adventures.

4 stars for the latter portion.
1-2 stars for well over the first half.
3 stars in total

Rafael is the 28th installment in the Anita Blake series. No, it cannot be read as a standalone. However, I don't believe there to be much confusion if a longtime reader of the series jumped ahead and read the novel if they weren't up-to-date, especially if they've read at least 20 or so of the novels.

As a fan of the series, a fanatic of the author, I'm going to be brutally honest. If you're not into the tedium of wading through relationship drama that has been rehashed for books upon books, I suggest you skip to around the 60% mark in the novel and read from there.

The first 40% of the novel takes place in a hallway, Anita debating to take a shower, with whom (as to not hurt feelings), with how many (as if after working out you want to do anything but wash the sweat off yourself in privacy), who watches the shower take place (it's a freaking shower!), what will occur in the shower (other than washing herself).

Anita is so conflicted, she can't seem to make a decisive choice, use her voice, or trust her feelings, fearing she will hurt someone else's feelings over what she truly thinks or feels, to the point Anita has lost herself.

Anita is deep in there somewhere, and she needs to leave town and all of these emotional vampires behind (some of them actual vampires, namely Asher) and get some perspective, allow herself to be herself, and be around people who actual care for her happiness and mental health. Return with some perspective and break off romantic relationships with individuals who should just be family/friend/metaphysically bound/coworker – they do NOT need to be her partner. The power imbalance of being in a romantic partnership with someone who is your subordinate is creepy at the very least. Partners are equals. If Anita is their Queen, she cannot be their equal.

This would solve the marriage conundrum as well. At this point, I hope Anita never marries, as I do not like many of them in how they do not put anyone but themselves first, coercing Anita into a position they all know she doesn't wish to be in. Toxic. Abusive.

In the end, after 40% of a novel, Anita takes a shower, and after such deliberation, said shower takes half a page. I was at a loss with that, to be honest, and closed out the novel because of it.

Rafael, a strong character I've adored since he debuted in the first in the series. The Rat King, a force to be reckoned with, loyal and logical, selflessly putting himself at risk to protect his people and the people of others. Almost a male version of Anita. The voice of reason, older than Anita, acting as a mentor and advisor when she needed advice the most.

To be honest, I wish Rafael had stayed in the same category as Edward, with no sexual interaction between them. I could respect him more had it stayed that way.

Toward the latter portion of Rafael (the novel), the reader learns how the magical system for the rats differs from the other wereanimals.

What bothered me greatly, especially in the first 60% (other than dragging their relationship like a dead horse) was the hypocrisy. Anita is upset with Rafael for taking advantage during a metaphysical event, leaving her feeling as it was nonconsensual.

After the reader was subjected to over a hundred pages of various characters shaming and coercing Rafael for not sleeping with a woman they specifically picked out for him (in that shower that barely took place, his NO making the shower short). Not once had Rafael shown interest, acted as if he needed to bed anyone else. Perfectly content in his position in Anita's life. (One of the easiest people in her life, but since he wasn't being demanding, clearly he was lying and needed more attention, right? Versus taking a King at his word.) Anita took his NO, after demanding explanation, as if Rafael had to defend his reasoning for not wishing to have sex with a random character.

As a long-term fan, having read the initial books numerous times and the later books several, I still do not know half of the later people added to their poly group. They're just there, coming on scene to mix things up, so many that they have zero personality and take away from the character development for the initial characters, lessening their relationships with Anita. This particular woman's name starts with a P, and I've never found her particularly remarkable or memorable, only the name sparking my recollection when she randomly pops up. Why P was so necessary at all in Rafael's novel, I have no idea. Perhaps just so readers didn't forget her, because I forget her the instant her name isn't on the pages.

After Anita pushed this woman onto Rafael, where he had to give his entire history as to why he didn't want to sleep with P, "Told" instead of "Shown" in a long dialogue... Nathanial comes in, also guilting/shaming Rafael for not sleeping with the woman, because she's so beautiful and it will hurt her feelings. Nathanial just couldn't rationalize why Rafael said no.

Which of those scenarios features nonconsensual themes? Overstepping during metaphysical powers, or actual rape culture shown on the pages?

I wish LKH would worry more about these characters professions, friends, hobbies, and getting lives of their own, instead of focusing on who is going to sleep with whom. There is so much emotional baggage Anita is dragging, adding more people to occupy the people before, but then she takes on these new people's problems as if they're hers, and so on... that I'm starting to loathe every single one of these needy, clingy, emotionally stunted individuals, many hundreds of years old acting as children. These are not her problems. I have problems in my own life, and it just stresses me out, the tedium and mental/emotional abuse from having these individuals in Anita's life. It's beyond toxic and not a good representation of a poly relationship.

My suggestion, skip to the end, where the action starts, where information of how the rats function both mystically and as a society, as that was interesting, but buried beneath so much filler that has been regurgitated over and over so many times.

Recommended to long-time Anita Blake readers and LKH fans. If you're in the relationship angst camp, read the entire novel. If you find it tedious, skip to the part where that ends. Most of the novels are on my reread list, Rafael is on par with Jason, where I wished I hadn't read it the first time.



Author Bio

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.

Connect with Laurell

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It’s incredibly intimate when someone is trying to kill you up close with a blade or their hands, the kind of intimacy that will give you nightmares. Rafael by Laurell K. Hamilton, available February 9th.



Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Rafael (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #28) by Laurell K. Hamilton to read and review.

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