Pros: Some interesting developments, lots of revelations, it's still an entertaining world.
Cons: What's up with all the sex?What happened to the Anita of-old?Why is the plot disorganized?
Book ten ushers in several scenarios for our feisty heroine mostly involving mass orgy like scenes combined with an extravaganza of superhuman feats for our now nearly undefeatable necromancer turned Master Vampire turned lycanthrope turned succubus. Yes, indeed folks, Narcissus in Chains, the tenth in an over twenty book series dedicated to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer like world where monsters are a part of the general populace and even have legal status, is sliding down an ever widening chasm that leaves readers feeling alienated. The original impetus of the series, where Anita raises zombies for a living, helping the police investigate preternatural mysteries and chase down the evil doers, is long since gone. Indeed, I cannot remember the last time Anita has gone to her job as an animator. The police barely show up in this particular installment and when they do it isn’t until nearly the end point of the novel. Yes, the old way of things is changing, and its time that readers get down with the plot shift and stop expecting the good-old-days with all their literary glory and true risk to the person of Anita.
In Narcissus in Chains several loosely affiliated plot theards conglomerate together to create an unstable but oddly entertaining storyline. Anita, Richard, and Jean-Claude finally marry the marks, resulting in Anita acquiring Jean-Claude’s ardeur. As Jean-Claude is an incubus – a vampire feeding off of sex and lust – Anita is now a succubus. Simultaneously, Anita gets involved in a fight with some were-snakes down at the local S&M club; she is accidentally clawed by one of her kitties and now it looks like our heroine just might be turning into a wereleopard at the next full moon. Enter Micah, another new main-character-too be and legit wereleopard Nimir-Ra, who is both better endowed then the on-again-off-again Richard and comes with more baggage.
Speaking of Richard, the werewolves are back and they are not in a happy place. Anita is now being ousted as lupa, the pack is disintegrating under Richard’s bleeding heart sentimentality, and Anita must go in guns blazing to reclaim another lover to add to her ever-growing harem and save the werewolves from the flaws of democracy. Oh, and the werewolves are going to execute one of her kitties and she must stop that as well . . . after some sex of course.
But . . . back to the title. Way late in the story, Narcissus, transvestite, hermaphrodite, bi-sexual, S&M loving, dominant werehyena (now that’s one sentence you’ve probably NEVER seen) is involved in something fishy concerning a crazy pan-were with multiple personality disorder and some missing alpha lycanthropes. Naturally, when Anita is not having copious amounts of sex, she is interested in saving the lycanthropes and must come in guns blazing.
While all this is going on, Damian has become a revenant chained in a coffin and Anita might eventually get around to saving him if she can stop having sex long enough to go down and unchain his coffin.
Meanwhile, Micah, Jean-Claude, and Asher are sending some serious homosexual vibes each other’s way, and Anita is unsure if her ever depleting morals are standing in the way of the boys’ attaining true happiness with orgies for all.
So basically, in between all the sex, there are quite a few big plot lines interweaving to create a portrait of a new, emerging Anita. This isn’t necessarily the Anita readers wanted to see emerge from the triumvirate, but this is definitely the Anita that last four books have been leading toward unveiling. Anita, feisty necromancer with some skill and a little bit of luck is now basically immortal and indestructible, ruining a lot of the tension inherent in the original books but ushering in its own interesting situations. Now that Anita is rapidly gaining powers, readers can’t help but become a little curious about what she will become and what bizarre new necromantic powers she will attain. Narcissus in Chains doesn’t disappoint on that score as Anita explores her new found abilities relating to necromancy, lycanthropy, and some other succubus stuff (more on that later). Because of these revelations, I actually started to get into the book and read through it very quickly, excited to discover what abilities Anita would unearth. Yes, sensationalism really does work on me.
However, the main function of the novel, not instantly evident from the ludicrously long plot summary above, is to depict near pornographic scenes of Anita with a myriad of new lovers. Last count, she has six adamant male fans in this novel who would do anything just to bask in the glow of her succubus self. The arduer, this unendurable lust that must be sated before anything can progress, is downright ridiculous and is not one of Anita’s new abilities that I find titillating, although it does lead to some well-done steamy scenes. Most of the scenes, however, are ridiculously clichéd as Anita loses herself, going weak in the knees, usually managing to disrobe and just very-nearly have sex in front of a room full of people, who seem to find this quite normal. Ummmm, no comment. Add to that some disturbing concepts of dominance where Anita overpowers her lovers and talks about how she kind of wants to really hurt them to get her jollies (as in hurt, I mean the ripping out viscera kind of hurt) and you have a recipe for some disturbing erotic conceptual wonderings that effectively distances readers from the relatable Anita of old. Oh, have I mentioned the seeming obsession with rape as a rather decent way to meet a new lover? Not ok. Very, very not ok.
Characterization of secondary players, namely Jean-Claude and Micah, is subpar as they seem to be overcome by desire to the point of functioning like slavering dogs in need of a meal. Jean-Claude’s bisexual nature is way too amped up and his preoccupation with Asher and newfound ménage with Micah distracts from his seductive vampire-in-control self and portrays him as a slave to desire with very little sense or personality beyond finding a new lover. Oh, Jean-Claude you used to be so cool and vampiry. You never sparkled either. Luckily, he still doesn’t; not all hope is lost. But, seriously, the sudden fascination with gay sex is just as strange as the sudden inclusion of Anita as a succubus. What’s up? Are we going all the way for hardcore porn now?
When the novel does get kicking though, it kicks pretty hard with some good old fashioned action scenes, machine guns, carnage, and a villain that, when he finally shows up, is truly stunning. Not as good as the villains of old, admittedly, but a force to be reckoned with. The revelations of the novel, when they are not centered around the succubus stuff, are actually very important in leading the series forward making this an essential read for those who want to understand Anita’s newfound abilities in Cerulean Sins. Likewise, the negative effects Anita’s six months of abandonment named self-discovery, plus her restraints on Jean-Claude, are revealed in such a way to give our tough-as-nails character a little well deserved guilt, making her less of a self-righteous know-it-all. Even the weird relationship thing gets interesting after a while and I admit, like any good train wreck, I kind of got into seeing who was with whom and why. Perhaps it’s the prurient side of myself, perhaps it’s the fact that despite all the problems the series still has a unique and bizarre feel that makes me keep reading on even when it goes too far into the literarily deficient world of erotica. Definitely not the best in the series, but Narcissus in Chains has its own strange charm at times and is crucial to following the marriage of the marks and the developments of the triumvirate into the next novel. Recommended with warnings.
The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series:
The Laughing Corpse
Circus of the Damned
The Lunatic Cafe
The Killing Dance