Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 10)

Narcissus in Chains - Laurell K. Hamilton This for me is where the series went to crap. Before this I'd rate no book in this series lower than a four, but this one falls off a cliff. I held on and read to book 18, Flirt, because I had genuinely loved the series until this book, and back then once I invested in a series I kept with it, and with the books published up to The Harlequin, momentum kept me going, at least until I had to wait for the next book to be published. But Hamilton did something here that made me want to hurl the book against the wall. I thought, she didn't just do that! But she did, and it wasn't an aberration or anything that was ever "fixed" and so completely changed the direction of the books from fun paranormal noir to soft porn. To explain what went wrong and how I felt, first I have to explain what originally appealed to me, then what Hamilton did here, and thus get into spoilers. So if avoiding them is important to you, you might not want to read beyond the next paragraph. When I grew up there was no Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who appeared not long before the Anita Blake novels appeared. (Although Anita as a necromancer had appeared even before that in a short story.) There weren't many kick-ass action heroines around, so growing up I really appreciated them. I loved Anita's voice at first. She was a tough-as-nails take-no-crap woman in a male-dominated milieu and I found it easy to root for her. She had her vulnerabilities and hangups, but I thought Hamilton was pushing her in an interesting direction. I liked the dynamic between Anita, Jean-Claude and Richard. Jean-Claude, the vampire, started out fairly menacing, and the whole plotline with the different marks, with Anita struggling to remain human, resonated with me. Richard the werewolf represented something different: someone struggling himself to remain human, but perhaps in vain given his basic nature. And you could see Anita struggling not just between the two men, but what they represented. Learning that not all such "metaphysical" creatures should be seen as monsters, but struggling with the darkness within herself and where to draw the line. And I liked that Anita had a web of relationships beyond men she was romantically involved with, such as Dolph her colleague on the police force and her friend Ronnie Sims. Spoilers Start Here--for this and future books All that changed with this book. In this book Anita becomes a "succubus" because of the ardeur that forces her to have sex to feed it, and forces men to have sex with her who are drawn by it. So the fuel that drives the plots of the Anita Blake series from here on, a series that had been focused on a independent, tough take charge heroine... is rape. I hated that. And this book also adds one of my least liked regular characters in the Anitaverse--Micah--as well as marks the increase in importance of Nathaniel, a character I loathe. After this book Richard and Jean-Claude become more and more marginalized until in some books all we get are brief telephone conversation with them. And the sex takes over until there's little plot or scenes beyond the bedroom and Anita has an entire harem of men never developed beyond eye and hair color. That hadn't changed up to book 18.