Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Book 10)
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Warning: Violence, vampires, wereanimals, panwere (shifter who can shift into multiple forms), a bad guy with a dissociative identity disorder, torture, forced shifting, BDSM themes, and general badassery
Length: 424 pages (novel)
Hamilton’s vampire-hunting Anita Blake faces a plethora of foes in her tenth outing. Just returned to St. Louis after six months away, Anita is still no closer to choosing between her lovers–Jean-Claude, a vampire, and Richard, a werewolf. But she has to rely on both for help after two of the wereleopards that she has been watching are abducted at a seedy club called Narcissus in Chains. Anita and her boyfriends rescue the wereleopards from the sinister people holding them, but Anita is wounded in the fight and put at risk of becoming a wereleopard herself. Richard angrily captures the wereleopard he believes is responsible and threatens to execute him. Anita must now rescue that wereleopard from Richard and the werewolves he leads, even as she mourns the apparent end of her relationship with him. Then she realizes that those who kidnapped the first two wereleopards are targeting other lycanthropes. Maybe she will be next. With plenty of steamy sex and graphic violence, this is engaging reading for vampire cultists.
Why I love it?
You know, this is one of those books where you love it, not because a lot of good things happen, but because a lot of realistic and personal growth happens.
I liked seeing the beginning of the devolution of the relationship between Anita and Ronnie. I know this sounds like a bad thing, but we’d like to pretend or hope that our friends come with us on our personal journeys, but that’s simply not true. People grow and evolve from who they were, to who they are right now, at different speed and with different results.
At the beginning of the series, Anita and Ronnie were at the same place in their lives. Both characters were working in male dominated professions (private detective and vampire executioner), and needed to know they were not the only girls tomboyish enough to kick ass, but still have girly moments. They understood the violence in each other’s lives, but could still go shopping and gossip. At the beginning of Narcissus in Chains, Anita had grown harder career-wise, and softer in her love life. Ronnie comes across as the type of woman who values her independence, with serious man-eater tendencies, and a use-men-to-make-you-feel-better vibe. She couldn’t understand why Anita chose to date Jean-Claude, because as far as she was concerned Richard was good-looking, potentially good in bed, striving for a normal life despite his werewolf status, and came with seemingly less baggage and commitment. Ronnie’s inability to understand Anita’s attraction to Jean-Claude made her increasingly insistent in convincing Anita that he wasn’t any good for her. This was what I think will be a divergence in their paths, eventually leading to Ronnie no longer being an as meaningful part of Anita’s life as she was before.
This was a pivotal book in terms of Anita accepting and acting like her ties to Jean-Claude and Richard mean that she has to be more than just Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter and animator. She had to be in control of and at peace with herself, in order for her to be able to fulfill her duties as Nimir-Ra of the Blood-drinkers Clan, the Lupa of the Thronnus Roke Clan, and Jean-Claude’s human servant (why doesn’t Jean-Claude’s kiss have a nifty name like the wereanimals do?). She went off and got a handle on her shit (off-screen, which kinda took the fun out of it for me), and came back willing to be as authoritative and ball busting in her personal life, as she was in her professional life (Elizabeth hadn’t met the new Anita, now she knows better).
I also loved the introduction of this new self-challenging aspect of Anita, where she pushes herself past things that make her uncomfortable, not because she’s trying to be a better guy, but because she’s competing with herself. One of the greatest forces for personal growth is an ability to push oneself for intrinsically gratifying purposes, instead of for external motivation. This is the book where Anita begins to compete with herself, and let the practicalities of dealing with reality motivate her. She hadn’t been ready to talk to Jean-Claude, but she did it to get the information she needed to save her leopards. She hates asking for help, but she pushed herself out of her comfort zone and did it anyway. That’s not to say that she suddenly didn’t have hang-ups or wasn’t resistant to change, but a willingness to adapt can overcome a lot of major obstacles.
I loved how Anita made good on her promise at the end of the last book, of actually being more involved in the lives of the wereleopards. The mere fact that Gregory was comfortable enough to call Anita, despite her long absence, meant that the leopards trusted her sense of duty to them, and her ability to come through on that commitment. The fact that she was able to give the leopards a safer place where they could begin to unpack their previous hurts and really begin to heal, showed that practicality and ruthlessness do not come at the cost of genuinely caring for those under your protection.
There were several characters that also reached emotional turning points during this book. We got to see how much of a future problem Asher has the potential to be. The short scene in Narcissus’ bedchamber, showed that Asher has the propensity to let his hurt emotions take precedence over matters that could mean life and death for the vampires and wereanimals in Anita’s life. Nathaniel finally asserted himself and pushed for Anita to start treating him as a potential love interest, instead of a parent or mentor role. Richard finally acknowledged that he needs someone to be willing to enforce their threat, so another Chimera/Jacob situation doesn’t jepodize the lives of the people he is supposed to protect. His making Anita Bolverk was both an acknowledgment to that, and an avoidance of his own violent and destructive tendencies.
I loved the introduction of Micah Callahan, the man who might finally make Anita’s life a little easier. I thought of him as a female and less angry version of Anita (though living under the thumb of a psychotic man would teach one patience and tranquility). He has the potential to be the most levelheaded master-planner among Anita’s men, so far.
The ardeur. Just when Anita starts accepting her duties to the wereanimals, Jean-Claude had to smack with the ardeur. Of all the things he could have given her through the vampire marks, the ardeur had to be the worst because it necessitated that Anita do things (read: have wild monkey sex with strangers) that her very conservative Catholic upbringing had condemned as being wrong under all circumstances. I’m sure Anita is going to fight being consumed by the ardeur as much as she fought falling in love and accepting the metaphysical ties between her, Jean-Claude and Richard.
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