Flirt: Anita’s bevy of boyfriends is becoming a literary problem

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter FlirtFlirt by Laurell K. Hamilton

I never thought I’d be nostalgic for Micah. Back then, it seemed a little much to charge mass market paperback price for a novella. Enter Flirt: a novella in hardback. This is one case where the format of the book affects the star rating. Flirt would be much more palatable in an anthology, or even as a mass market paperback. At hardback price, I can’t recommend it.

The early chapters are a mix of the interesting and the tedious. The good parts involve Anita working at her job as an animator, something we haven’t seen enough of lately. She meets two clients who want their late spouses raised from the dead. Their reasons are very different, but both are “wrong” reasons. Anita turns down both jobs. The boring parts involve Anita’s introspection about her various boyfriends, which takes up way too much page space, and the incident that inspired the entire novella: a flirtatious encounter with a waiter. As Hamilton mentions in the author’s notes that follow the book proper, this was based on a real event, but I think it was probably more interesting to live through than to read. It reminded me of being in college and thinking my late-night pancake-eating expeditions would be the stuff of great novels if I wrote them down.

The plot thickens when one of Anita’s rejected clients decides not to take no for an answer. The client will have the dead spouse raised, even if it means taking Anita hostage and threatening her boyfriends’ lives. This part of the story is actually pretty compelling. Anita crosses a couple of ethical Rubicons, but she does it with just the right amount of introspection: enough that the reader knows she’s horrified at the choices she must make, but not so much that the story gets bogged down in angst. Yet this sequence leaves the reader with a feeling of “oh no, not again” when it sinks in: Anita has added another man to her stable.

Anita’s bevy of lovers poses a huge problem in the series, and I don’t mean a moral problem, I mean a literary one. There are simply too many characters for Hamilton to juggle. Nowhere is this clearer than when Damian is briefly mentioned in Flirt. How many books has it been since we even heard Damian’s name? It’s been even longer since he did anything interesting. He seems to exist primarily as a metaphysical canary in the coal mine, signaling when Anita’s power is running low by starting to keel over dead. Yet Damian is supposed to be a major character. He’s one of Anita’s lovers, and part of one of her triumvirates. Now there’s yet another hunk in the mix. I realized, after finishing Flirt, that I’d have welcomed a tragic death for this new guy. That way, Anita could have her moral crisis without adding anyone to the regular cast.

Overall, Flirt is best seen as a quick “snack,” and mainly for those already addicted to the Anita Blake series. Get it from the library or wait for the paperback.

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter — (1993- ) There are omnibus editions of these available. Publisher: Introducing Anita Blake, vampire hunter extraordinaire. Most people don’t even bat an eye at vampires since they’ve been given equal rights by the Supreme Court. But Anita knows better — she’s seen their victims… A serial killer is murdering vampires, however, and now the most powerful vampire in town wants Anita to find the killer.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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