Obsidian Butterfly – Anita Blake Series By Laurell K. Hamilton
So, like once a year I re-read this series in preparation for the next book being released. If you’ve never read these books, this is my favorite one in the series, followed closely by Dead Ice (but you won’t get most of what makes it entertaining to me – like laugh out loud at inappropriate moments in the story funny, if you haven’t made the commitment of reading the whole series so start with Obsidian Butterfly). This book is the book in the series that I send people when I want to introduce them to Anita Blake.
The first time I read one of her books, it was this one. I picked it up at the grocery store in Malibu on my way to a long boring day shift at a restaurant I was running. It hooked me, like hooked me strong enough that I was reading pages at stop lights because I NEEDED to know what happened next. I mean, who doesn’t love a story about a necromancer who hunts terrifying monsters when she’s not raising the dead for a living (you know, to sign legal documents or so people can get closure, etc) who’s best friend is a sociopathic contract killer who may or may not want to fight her someday? Girls with guns. It’s a winning combination.
I’m not the only person devoted to Anita Blake, the series has inspired a graphic novel adaptation and some impressive cos-play. There have been talks about a movie and a TV show but thus far I haven’t seen anything that says that’s a definite go. I always get nervous when they turn a book series I love into a movie or TV show….
Truthfully, if I hadn’t started here I wouldn’t have enjoyed the beginning of the series nearly as much. After reading this book I hunted down the first eight books and read them in order. Laurell K. Hamilton started writing these books in the early 90s and the first one or two has a very nostalgic early 90s flavor for me. Her grasp of the characters voice, the dynamic of their relationships and the way they interact, the believability of the characters and Anita, the main characters struggle to process her personal shit really coalesces in this book. It also features Edward, one of my favorite characters in the series, one of Anita’s best friends who’s nickname is Death (Anita’s nickname is The Executioner). In a lot of ways, this book can stand on it’s own. There’s enough back story to explain the interactions and enough action to keep you turning the pages.
What I love about this series, more than anything is that not only is Anita a badass, she’s not defined by the men in her life. Her relationships are a big part of the storyline, but she’s the prince charming, the rescuer, the hero, not the princess waiting to be saved and frankly, she sucks at sensitivity and self awareness. Which means she stumbles about her interpersonal relationships with about as much grace as any of us can count on in real life, it’s wildly humanizing. When I read this, more than 15 years ago now, this was still a new concept in fiction, it was revolutionary. This was the first time I had come across a book where a woman was so completely dimensional. She has relationships that don’t work out easily, in part because she makes choices that are hard and eventually involve learning to accept herself, what makes her, and the people she loves happy. She does her best to do right by the people she feels responsible for and more often than she is comfortable with it, involves being ruthless while feeling gutted by the fact that her options are not easy. She functions in a mans world, consulting for the police as a preternatural expert, and she discusses the difficulties of being a woman in the policemans boys club without the bitterness used in so many stories to explain so many womens experiences.
Eventually, many books later she finds a way to make her ever escalatingly dangerous life work, with a dose of brutal, emotional honesty that I admire more than I can express, Laurell illustrates how non-traditionally structured relationships can work, you know, with the addition of magic, vampires, were-animals, succubi/inccubi, necromancy, zombies and way too much media coverage, in St. Louis, or perhaps despite it all. On some level, I believe this is a reflection of her personal life, as she’s very open about the poly-amorous relationship she and her husband have been in for years.
This is definitely an adult series and there is a reason it’s shelved in the paranormal romance section. There is sex, and a lot of it. Mostly straight, some kinky and in my opinion, it takes wayyy too long for Anita to get herself a girlfriend. But hey, everyone has their journey, I just know that all of us queer fangirls sent up a cheer when it finally happened. The thing I like best about it though is that Anita, who comes from a conservative, mid-western background, works through her issues in an effort to be ok with what makes her happy. While what makes her happiest may not be what works for me, you’ve got to admire her for doing the work and getting the clarity. It’s a bonus that she’s ruthless shot who loves her stuffed penguin and good coffee.
The series is fast paced, racy, funny and touching with a more than healthy dose of sex. Laurell K. Hamilton consistently pushes the boundaries of what our culture expects of women and writes an example of a woman who is flawed but does the work to dig her way through her issues to continuously find a way to make her life work. Basically, I heart it all.