85 points, 4 ½ stars
Warning: Attempted rape
Anita Blake is small, dark, and dangerous. Her turf is the city of St. Louis. Her job: re-animating the dead and killing the undead who take things too far. But when the city’s most powerful vampire asks her to solve a series of vicious slayings, Anita must confront her greatest fear—her undeniable attraction to master vampire Jean-Claude, one of the creatures she is sworn to destroy…
“Most hatred is based on fear, one way or another. Yeah. I wrapped myself in anger, with a dash of hate, and at the bottom of it all was an icy center of pure terror.”
Typically I write reviews for others. Not this time. This will be full of spoilers, both for present and future books. They will be filled with rants and maybe even a little gushing. I don’t want to read these again.
If you have read them before: Enjoy my pain.
If you haven’t: Enjoy my pain.
You have been warned, we’ll see how long I last.
I started to read reviews of the later Anita Blake books for a laugh. Instead I got trapped and now I wanna reread the series. I’m starting from the beginning. Lets see how long I last.
It is easy to see why this series became popular in the beginning and why fans continue to return to the series they love even when they’re so heartbroken at what it has become. Or in other words: It takes us a long damn time to give up.
Guilty Pleasures in the debut in the series, and it is actually really solid. Especially for a debut. The characters are well established, the world is solidly built with room to grow, and the story is interesting while also being slightly terrifying and a little bit sad. At the time, publishers were at a bit of a loss as to how to market it, since Urban Fantasy was a nascent genre at the time. This series actually established a lot of the tropes we see in urban fantasy, even today, despite the reputation the series has. In fact, it is impossible to not see the influence after you’ve read enough of the series.
In these pages, you can see the core of the entire Anita Blake series. Everything is here. Everything that has happened in the series started here, in this book. As different as the series has changed, it has stuck to this core scaffolding. And if you read way too much into it, like I do, you can make so many excuses. Take for example Philip: it isn’t until after Anita is bonded to Jean Claude that she starts crushing on Philip and liking him. Just saying, it could have been a hint of the ardeur.
This is a very rich book, full of life. The world building is just great. It is easy to feel like you could live in the world Anita does. It isn’t flat, you can see that there is more to everything than is being said. You feel that there are levels in everything, but especially power, and nuance to the societal structures that I just don’t typically see in urban fantasy. Unfortunate that I don’t even.
The thing that strikes me the most is just how few characters are introduced in this debut book are still in the series 26 books later. And how few of them she is currently fucking. Of all the characters in this book, the only ones still around are Anita herself, Jean Claude, Edward, Rafael of all people, and occasionally Zerbrowski and Monica (weirdly). And of those, she is only fucking Jean Claude and occasionally Rafael – for power not for lovers, duh. Every single other person has been chased off because they don’t believe in her “lifestyle” or they become “jealous” of her. Or she outgrew them. Or something.
Anita, have you ever considered that it is you, not them?
It was interesting to see all the characters I had basically forgotten about, though, since it has been so long since they were relevant. Or around. And so few of them are colossal assholes, which means they have that going for them over the current set!
Then there is the story! Argh! Why can’t all the books in this series be like this? There is actual story is contained within these pages. Sure, it is just trying to find out who is murdering vampires. But it is soooo much more than that. It is Death (Edward) coming to threaten Anita so he can use her to get to kill a master vampire. And you’ll believe he’ll actually torture her, too. It is Jean Claude putting the first and second vampire marks on Anita, tying them together forever. Without her permission. And you can tell he likes her. It is Anita being resistant to vampire charms, all on her own – but her adapting to the vampire marks even as she hates them. And it is about the world that Anita lives in, the vampire world. It is just good.
There is also something to say about the atmosphere. I said before that marketing Anita Blake was a challenge without urban fantasy being as prevalent as it was. But the closest genre Guilty Pleasures resembles other than that? Horror! This book is horrifying. The terrifying kid master vampire. The fact that Anita gets caught in trap after trap with no way out. The fact that she is forever tied to a vampire against her will. It is fun.
The good isn’t going to last.