Friday, March 17, 2023

Smolder by Laurell K. Hamilton

A New Anita Blake Novel. Coming March 21 from #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Laurell K. Hamilton. Available Now for Preorder. Smolder.

Vampire hunter Anita Blake is no stranger to killing monsters. It’s part of her job as a Preternatural U.S. Marshal, after all. But even her experience isn’t enough to stop something that is bent on destroying everything—and everyone—she loves.

Anita Blake is engaged to Jean-Claude, the new vampire king of America. Humans think she’s gone over to the side of the monsters. The vampires fear that their new king has fallen under the spell of the most powerful necromancer in a thousand years.

In the midst of wedding preparations—including getting Edward, aka U.S. Marshal Ted Forrester, fitted as best man—Anita gets a call that the local police need her expertise at a brutal murder scene linked to a nationwide slaughter of vampires and humans, dubbed the Sunshine Murders.

But there is more than just a murderer to catch: an ancient evil has arrived in St. Louis to challenge Jean-Claude for his crown, his life, Anita, and all they hold dear. Even with Jean-Claude’s new powers as king and Anita’s necromancy, it isn’t enough; they must embrace their triumvirate or allow primeval darkness to spread across the country, possessing first the vampires and then the humans. Evil will triumph unless Jean-Claude and Anita can prove that love conquers all.

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.
For book #28, Rafael, click HERE.


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Smolder by Laurell K. Hamilton

Book 29
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Smolder is the 29th installment in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. No, you can absolutely not read this as a standalone or out of series order. Do you need to read all 28 books prior? No. As long as you've read most of them, there would be no issue keeping up with the world building.

This review will have a different format than usual, a list rather than paragraph form, while trying to avoid spoilers. We're 29 books deep – fans will understand why I'm making a list. As someone who spent the last eight weeks rereading every novel and short in this series, I feel like a bit of an expert on what readers and fans are looking for in the newest installment, in order to gauge if they wish to read or skip.

1: Edward and Peter open the novel. It was some much needed dark humor and a strong emotional connection devoid of any agenda. Anita needs Edward in her life, as do the readers. We need Edward in Anita's life.

2: Anita finally speaks to her father after 29 novels. While only on the phone, it sets up the next novel in the series, which will include her entire family. Some heavy emotional labor is shown, which serves to make Anita much more relatable to readers. Human. Plucked my heartstrings and drew tears to my eyes, made me remember the Anita that captured my heart.

3: We get a glimpse of Jason. Sure did miss him.

4: Dolph is back, even if only a cameo. He may not speak as Dolph used to, but it was nice to have a grounding force back in Anita's life.

5: Richard is back and he threw one helluva curve ball.

6: We're still dragging a dead horse up a never-ending hill, but it is less than in past novels. The poly negotiations are still there, wish it was toned down even more, but it made sense this time around. I wish Anita didn't get coerced into being with people she doesn't love, let alone even like, but Anita has self-awareness of this fact. FINALLY. I do believe sexuality is fluid, but Hamilton seems to believe you can convince yourself, be coerced, or grit your teeth and bear it when it comes to sexual preferences. I'm not a fan of this narrative. I was born this way – life experience and knowledge made me aware and accept it. Being pestered or forced isn't going to change my orientation.

7: A big bad dragon blows into town. Lots of discussions over this, yet it was left dangling for the next installment. While not a cliffhanger, elements and plots that manifested during Smolder took a backseat, used as a vehicle to push something that has been on the horizon for 29 novels. I assume this will be picked back up during Slay. I just wish this long-anticipated element was more climactic.

8: This wasn't an orgy-filled erotic novel. There was one portion of the novel that was sex-centric. It was more like two scenes that bled into one. The first scene made me hot under the collar, the second was a scene fans have been thirsting for for decades. It fell flat to me. Anita was disconnected. As a reader, I was emotionally disconnected as well. It was almost fade-to-black-esque. It was happening with no details, which would have been fine, but there weren't many emotions either. I understood because Anita was conflicted. I just wish I could get this scene in another's point of view, better yet – two points of view. Anita wasn't the best person to show this "connection."

9: Who here wants to see Kane get TKOed by a human?

10: There are still characters that I just feel are a waste of page-time. They pop up out of nowhere, lend nothing to the story or the series, but are just in the way. There are less of these every book as Hamilton gives Anita self-awareness to not cave to the boundaries she's set. There needs to be more boundaries. The biggest issue is how these characters are devoid of character traits outside of appearance and neediness. They're just there, in the way, popping up out of nowhere, and I'm unsure why they're included. There's no emotional connection. Most of Anita's tigers to call and two of her three brides are just one-dimensional cards tossed on the table in the discard pile to muck up the game.

There was an entire section, that even JC commented on how these people kept stepping in their path to distract them from the matter at hand, minutes from dawn when he dies for the day.

Imagine you're running to the bathroom before you pee yourself, but everyone you pass grabs your arm and forces you to talk for an hour about things that happened a decade ago. The closer you get to the bathroom, the more people who refuse to hear your no or pleas for a toilet. They grab you and refuse to let you go, ridiculous, unnecessary conversations. One has the audacity to tell you to suck her breasts. (You have to pee, remember. In this case, JC is about to crash for the day and needed to do some metaphysics before that happens.) Then all the sudden, your creator forgets you were on the way to the bathroom and doesn't even make you pee your pants. This is Anita with all the people around her, with Hamilton driving the bus.

Dawn is in a matter of minutes, JC is in a panic, why is kissing Angel important RIGHT NOW? WHY? Just kiss her and get it over with and walk away, why discuss it. Why even stop in the hallway. Nod and walk by – King and Queen in a crisis, no you don't matter right now, Angel.

I read this entire scene in pure frustration, unsure why I had to deal with this tedium. It always feels so forced and cringy. It ultimately tied together, but it could have been tied together without Angel. She wasn't the tie, her brother was.

As a woman who enjoys other women, I find pushing women at Anita uncomfortable and cringy. Society pushes us enough, experiencing this via Anita's eyes is not sexy – it's exhausting and painful. At least we don't have to suffer through Jade, but I wish Envy and Angel would go away. The guys with them aren’t the issue. But insufferably dealing with Angel being demanding when they're in a metaphysical crisis seemed ridiculous at best. It just left me thinking, "Go away! I'd rather have Kane on scene. At least he fits the dynamic happening." (My wish was granted seconds later. Ha!) Hamilton forcing Anita to pretend to want women... the readers don't buy into it. It's like lying to yourself and everyone around you realizes but you.

11: I'm glad the characters are in therapy, but mentioning this in every conversation is now another dead horse being dragged up yet another mountain. Is it a conversation? A negotiation? Verbal combat? They're all so insufferable. It's not as bad as in previous installments but I hope Hamilton keeps whittling this down to a minimum. I couldn't have people like this in my life, yet everyone in Anita's life is like this. It's why I understand Anita's need to go out of town for Marshal business with Edward. How refreshing that violence is easier than clingy, needy, emotional vampires. All of them start to sound the same when the whining begins. I wish Hamilton would write a scene where Anita just walks off and they don't realize until later that they've been whining to one another and mommy left. I think they all need more therapy. Less talking to each other and more to their doctors.

12: JC screaming "Enough!" "You will keep a civil tongue in your head toward my queen, or I will tear it from your head and let you wait in silence for it to grow back." JC's balls dropped. I just wish he would do this more often. Tell people to step off and get out of his face and leave Anita alone. Stop the whining. Be king. Why suffer from the weight of all the power if you can't tell your underlings to back off?

Overall Thoughts: Anita seems more self-aware, less likely to be coerced, even though numerous characters are nonstop manipulating her for their own ends. While not a cliffhanger, Smolder felt like half a novel since the plot threads introduced led to nowhere. I don't mind this, as I understand how difficult it is to successfully write what should be two novels because the plot was so big. But that doesn't mean that it wasn't obvious that the novel took three or four misturns, as if it wasn't sure which type of novel it wanted to be. Wedding. Cop. Relationship BS. Metaphysical Crisis.

I enjoyed Smolder, read in two sittings as I needed to go to bed for the night. It wasn't as frustrating and tedious as previous installments. It's always a homecoming to read characters that you know like the back of your hand. As Anita gets more powerful, now that she will be queen, I understand how everyone and anyone around her would need her, push her, pressure her, and hide behind her. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. I just wish Hamilton would write Anita's nearest and dearest to be soft places to fall, to be her equals, to help instead of hurt. Otherwise, this experiment in the ultimate poly group is more like abuse than love with Anita as its victim.



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 K. Hamilton

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ARC provided by


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided with a free copy of Smolder (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #29) by Laurell K. Hamilton to read and review.

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