Pros: Lots of unexpected revelations, good character development, complex plot, surprising conclusion
Hectic and harried Anita discovers herself encircled by an avaricious business man and his shady cohorts, a mass grave of disturbed 300 year old corpses, unseelie fey magic, an ancient legend come to life, and a war of the vampires. While attempting to appease her boss and his newest client, Mr. Stirling, Anita is hired to raise a mass grave in an effort to discover the land’s true owners. It appears that Anita is the only necromancer in the country who can complete the resurrection sans human sacrifice and new animator in training Larry Kirkland joins her to learn the fine art of zombie raising. The situation soon becomes far more perilous when Magnus, a powerful Faerie and former owner of the land in question, throws a wrench in the necromantic dealings.
Meanwhile, all’s not well in the world as young boys begin to turn up supernaturally mauled – seemingly oblivious in their final moments. As a member of the understaffed SPOOK squad, Anita finds herself torn between solving Stirling’s zombie mystery and the pressing murders. When a vampire nemesis of Jean-Claude’s appears to be connected to the gory shenanigans, Anita discovers the very heart of evil and dares to challenge some of the most powerful and evil entities imaginable leading to a no-holds-barred conclusion complete with action and a few relationship stunners.
While The Lunatic Café plodded along, mired deep in poorly constructed introspection and stiff dialogue, Bloody Bones returns to Hamilton’s original, winning formula amplifying the danger while broadening characterization. In this latest installation, Hamilton delivers a twisting mystery while continuing to steadily develop the details of Anita’s personal love triangle to best advantage. While the plot remains tight and Hamilton dares to go to new horror levels, the most intriguing element of Bloody Bones lies in the further development of Anita and her personal life taking the formerly stoic, no-nonsense zombie queen and making her into a more fully rounded, empathetic human being. With the help of Larry Kirkland, her tender hearted accomplice, Anita rediscovers compassion and goodness, learning to be less trigger happy and more respectful of the sanctity of life. Most importantly, Anita’s standoffish attitude to Jean-Claude finally relents as several very surprising revelations are made concerning everyone’s favorite vamp. As Anita begins to realize that being a monster is not about outward factors, but about the heart, details of her past, most especially her relationship with her mother, are used to construct a highly emotional, tear jerking end that brings readers closer to Anita once again restoring a character that, while flawed, is lovable and realistic.
As Hamilton hones Anita’s personality and develops her background, other characters acquire more depth as well. Larry Kirkland proves himself as an essential ingredient to the tale, adding a much needed element of compassion and innocence, showing that good can withstand the adversity of evil. His training and consequential jading are not only interesting as a character study, but lead Anita to some much needed introspection that further draws the reader in.
Most importantly, while the last novel focused heavily on Richard, alpha werewolf and goody two shoes extraordinaire, Bloody Bones discards Richard temporarily in favor of Jean-Claude. I’ll be entirely honest, I don’t like Richard. His character is flat, stereotypical, and a plot device intended to throw a wrench into Anita’s perfectly categorized world. While I see potential in Richard, and hope to see that potential realized in later installments, it was refreshing to reconnect with Jean-Claude and finally explore his relationship with Anita. While I fear to say too much and spoil the surprise, let it suffice to say that readers will indeed be entirely shocked by several sudden revelations and a peak in character development and interaction. Very refreshing, and much needed.
But of course, even stellar characterization cannot carry a novel without an equally solid and well constructed plot. Returning to the original formula, Bloody Bones starts hard and brutal, almost instantly launching into the main plot. Several stories, all equally interesting are pursued, heightening the drama, the danger, and the mystery. As the story unfolds, like the best of horror tales, readers will be treated to heart rending scenes of personal torment for characters, some freak out gore effects, and several spooky legends used to best advantage. With three main side stories running, Hamilton surprisingly manages to jump from one to another, without ever losing focus on any keeping the story fresh and surprising until the very end.
Building up steadily, the conclusion explodes like the best of dynamite, sparking the reader’s intense interest, delivering some unexpected and emotionally impacting revelations, and enticing readers to delve into the next in the series, The Killing Dance. Hamilton has returned to her wonderful self proving herself a master of tight story telling, weaving a fantastical plot in a very weird world that somehow seems so frighteningly real and relevant. So far Bloody Bones is the best book in the entire series. Highly recommended!
The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series:
The Laughing Corpse
Circus of the Damned
The Lunatic Cafe
The Killing Dance
Narcissus in Chains
Anita Blake Short Story included in Bite