Monday, April 16, 2007

The Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton - Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series

.1. Guilty Pleasures
.2. The Laughing Corpse
.3. Circus of the Damned
.4. The Lunatic Cafe
.5. Bloody Bones
.6. The Killing Dance
.7. Burnt Offerings
.8. Blue Moon
.9. Obsidian Butterfly
10. Narcissus In Chains
11. Cerulean Sins
12. Incubus Dreams
13. Micah
14. Danse Macabre
15. The Harlequin - to be released 06/05/2007 (also see previous Commentary)

Series Category: Crème Brûlée - My All-Time Moan-Out-Loud Favorites. (A+)
Flame Height: 7” out of 9”

Book Category: Crème Brûlée - My All-Time Moan-Out-Loud Favorites. (A+)
Flame Height: 7” out of 9”


I’ve finished my second read through of The Harlequin, and I think my first impressions were an understatement! So much happens in this book that, while I was still processing some of the jaw-dropping scenes, I wasn’t absorbing some of the nuances. While I was trying to relearn how to breathe and was rushing forward to read what happens next, I missed important details.

This book may be as pivotal to the series as Narcissus in Chains. The Harlequin, which appears to take place in early December, probably a week after Danse Macabre, is about truths, and revelations and discoveries. Masks are ripped away and souls are bared. New enemies are identified. We learn of unexpected new allies. Menace and danger become more specific and more personal. This one book could easily be the catalyst for several new story lines or new directions in current story lines.

Compared to professional reviewers, I'm pretty sucky at giving formal reviews. So I thought instead that I would rather organize my comments in a way that's similar to how I would excitedly tell a friend about The Harlequin.

I should first explain my interpretation of Anita’s ardeur. The best analogy my uncreative mind can come up with is, when first diagnosed with a chronic medical condition, your life is turned upside down, you’re angry and you want to fight back, you’re overwhelmed by it, consumed by wanting it to go away, it seems your life has been taken over by it. But eventually, acceptance comes and dealing with it becomes a part of your day to day life. In Danse Macabre, Anita finally realized that trying to defeat the ardeur or beat it into submission wasn’t going to work. And it wasn’t just HER life impacted by the ardeur and her response to it. In The Harlequin, we see that, by accepting the ardeur as part of her life, she no longer must let it RULE her life. In fact, she discovers that the ardeur has nuances she never suspected.

Of course, the ardeur still necessitates sexual encounters. In this book, one encounter serves to reveal some very naked truths (excuse the pun). One is scary and shocking. One is written in a way that we're able to feel the characters’ awkwardness about the act's necessity. And one is so freakin’ hot that we, like the participants, are consumed.

Now, Anita’s asymptomatic lycanthropy? Well that’s a whole ‘nother ball game. It’s getting a bit crowded in Anita’s “den” (okay, SHE refers to it as a dark cave, but that just seems to give a whole different meaning to the point I'm trying to make)! And the lycanthropes and vampires aren’t the only ones that are concerned about it!

Even though Jean-Claude is not physically present in a pretty big chunk of this book, his presence is still felt in nearly every scene. He shows that there can be strength in what, on the surface, appears to be weakness. And events in The Harlequin reveal, without a doubt, who the Master is- of the kiss, of the triumvirate and of the entire St. Louis preternatural community! I know, I know- cryptic and not very informative, but Jean-Claude is more action oriented in this book and I can’t comment on his actions without revealing too much of the story.

Asher is not front and center in this book. Yet we still learn some very interesting, and potentially important, information about him.

I was afraid, after the revelation in Danse Macabre of the ardeur's manipulations, that we would see doubts in Micah’s relationship with Anita. But in The Harlequin, all doubt about their true feelings for each other is removed.

We also see that Micah has earned respect in the lycanthrope, vampire and human communities. Even, albeit grudgingly, from Richard! Now that’s not to say that Micah and Richard are suddenly BFFs- far from it! In fact we get another one of those snark sessions between the two of them where Richard tells him to stop being so perfect. I LOVE their snarkiness! And I have to admit that I’ve wondered whether those remarks from Richard to Micah are Laurell’s wink and a nod to some of the reader complaints that Micah is too perfect.

Now me, I see Micah as the character that can best be described as the most true to life man in Anita's life. He goes to work, he takes care of his family, he’s there when he’s needed, and he does whatever needs doing. He’s the one that Anita can let down all her defenses with and just simply be a woman loving a man. He possesses a quiet sort of strength and love that doesn’t seek or require the spotlight or drama. He’s like millions of men whose names and lives will go unnoticed by everyone but his friends or family, but to them he’s a true hero.

Again, though, my real life may color my perceptions of Micah. I've been married to someone very much like him for nearly 25 years. They're the kind of men you can go the distance with.

I need to preface this by explaining my feelings about Nathaniel. I don’t dislike him, I just am not attached to him, I’ve yet to connect with him. I’ve just never thought of him as a permanent character like Anita, Jean-Claude, Richard, or Micah. In my mind, he’s more than a secondary character, but not quite a main character. He’s easily dismissed by me. (Good grief, I sound like Richard, don’t I?) After he stepped up to the plate in Danse Macabre and now The Harlequin, I find him less easily dismissed, still not quite permanent, but not as temporary either. I have no doubt that he loves Anita and she loves him, but, particularly after some revelations in The Harlequin, I’m just not sure what flavor of love exists between them. Anita even refers to Micah and Nathaniel’s reaction to her pregnancy scare in what, to me, is a revealing way. Instead of saying that they were ready to step up to the plate and be daddies, she says they were ready to be daddy and NANNY. So, my interpretation is that even Anita may not see Nathanial as one of the “heavyweights”.

When we first met Nathaniel, it was tough for me to get past his meekness, his dismissal of himself, and the fact that he was just so damn young. I just didn’t, and still don’t, have a point of reference to understand him. I pretty much had to ignore his age completely and make him older in my head. What has made that even more necessary is that he is now 20 years old, and because of book chronology versus real life chronology, my oldest son and daughter are now the same age. EEK! So I think I’ll have to leave the interpretations of Nathaniel in The Harlequin to those readers that DO connect with him- and I know there are a lot of you. I still have to make him older in my head, which is more difficult to do with this book, and I know I’m not capable of forming a fair assessment of him or his actions.

Richard is still one of the most amazingly complex characters I’ve ever “met”. I adore him even though he pisses me off, he tears my heart out, he frustrates me. He is trying to get his head together, but with Richard it seems like, for every step forward, he takes three steps back. Going back to the analogy of a chronic medical condition, Richard, unlike Anita, is still at the stage of NOT accepting that his life is now changed permanently. Of still being angry that this lycanthropy has happened to him and necessitated a profound change in his life and his perceptions of himself. The “Why me? I don‘t want this!” stage. Adding to his conflicts, part of him embraces and revels in his new life, but he just can’t seem to let go of his original visions of the future he always assumed he’d have. And he can’t create a new, whole Richard until he accepts his new reality.

Many of the most important revelations in this book are Richard’s. Some so painful that I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I actually found myself cringing and thinking “No, Richard, don’t do it!”. Through both his actions and his words, he reveals some truths so profound, that I’m not sure if, now that the poison has been ripped from his wounds, whether healing can now begin, or whether the wounds will remain raw and bloody. Only Laurell knows. Although I suspect that even she won’t really know for sure until her characters tell her.

Jason is a bit wrapped up with his new girlfriend and so isn’t on stage except for a brief, but emotional, scene. BTW, I can’t remember if this was ever revealed before, but Jason is wolf because of Raina.

Edward finally learns the truth about Anita’s current life. But ever practical, he gathers information from several sources, digests it, then proceeds to deal with it’s effects on his current objectives. We do get glimpses of the effect that Donna and her kids have had on him. VERY interesting glimpses! And yes, as Laurell said in her blogs, Peter does come to St. Louis with him. And it’s a very different Peter than we saw in Obsidian Butterfly.

Yep, as Laurell said at some signings, Olaf and Edward had a deal- Olaf would stay away from Anita so long as Edward promised to bring him in as backup the next time Anita needed it. Let’s just say that Olaf’s parting gift to Anita by the end of The Harlequin is a new recurring nightmare. *shudder*

-Belle Morte-
Creepy, scary, unpredictable. Fortunately for everyone, she doesn‘t spend too much time visiting Anita in this book. ‘Nuff said.

-Marmee Noir/ Mother of All Darkness/Mommy Dearest-
Scary revelations. A specific threat arises because she knows that the Anita/Jean Claude/Richard triumvirate has not exchanged the fourth mark. Oh, and let’s just say that I’m pretty sure Anita hopes Marmee Noir never pulls her name in the Christmas gift exchange.

There’s also a revelation so profound that I whispered a gasping “oh. shit.” We now know why Mommy Dearest is waking up. Truly a gasp worthy moment.

At the Las Vegas signing for Danse Macabre last year, Laurell said that there IS someone else out there like Anita. But we haven’t met him because Anita is not aware of him yet. I just hope that when she does meet him, that he turns out to be an ally- she’s going to need all the help she can get!

-Malcolm-I’ve gained a whole different perspective on him. A complete 360 in how I view him, his motives, and his objectives.

-The Deaths-
Sorry, but no, I am soooo not saying who dies! I will say that the death that Laurell blogged about, the one that effected her so much, does cause grief in the characters, too. Interesting though that, while the other characters truly mourn that death, it is another death that effected me more. Although I suspect it was more emotionally wrenching for me because it was colored by people in my real life. And no, I’m not talking about “my” death in the book! (see previous Commentary)

-The Pard-
Cherry does have some scenes in this book, but unfortunately, we don’t catch up with the rest of the pard . They are mentioned as a group though.

-The Kiss, the Wererats, the Hyenas, the Swans, the Lions, the Wolves, and others-
Members of all have important placement in The Harlequin.

I think that covers everyone. One final comment- the very last paragraph in the book opens the door to a possibility that alot of us have said we’d like to happen. Whether it does happen, or it goes as far as we were hoping, is anyone’s guess- even Laurell’s, I suspect. She did say at a signing that it wasn’t going to happen, but I’m hoping the characters tell her otherwise!

Oh, and did I mention that another character from an earlier book makes a surprise appearance and their presence in this book has a huge impact? Yep, and I actually threw my fist in the air and squeaked “YES!” out loud. Hoo-yea!

So hopefully I’ve piqued the interest of those readers that had been feeling a bit disenchanted with the ABVH series. And for those of you like me, that still eagerly anticipate each new thrill ride that Laurell sends us on, who, while reading her books, lose all sense of this reality and become a part of Anita’s reality, well I have some bad news…


Sorry, couldn’t resist.


Ann(ie) said...

Hm... don't make me start reading Anita Blake, damn you!

QB said...

BWAHAHAHA!!! Just be warned that you MUST start at the beginning of the series to really get to know the characters in the Anitaverse!

I recently got my oldest niece addicted to LKH's Merry Gentry series. Now she's obsessed! (And no, I didn't corrupt a kid- she's mid-thirties with 3 kids.)

Fictionwise has both series as ebooks so that makes it a bit easier on the credit card.

Both series are amazing. You'll forget you're reading a book. And when it's finished, you'll want to head to St. Louis and catch up with these people!

Ann(ie) said...

Can I just say, this new template looks kickin. It's much easier on the eyes while retaining the pastry shop look and coloring you had before. Two thumbs up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these. I was dieing of boredom at work and you made my day! I'm going to go blog about it!! lol

QB said...

Welcome Yesenia!!! I'm always thrilled to meet another LKH fan and I'm so glad you enjoyed my teasers.

Thanks Annie! Yeah, the other layout was buggin' me too but, since I'm a complete HTML dipshit, I just had to wait until I could find the template I wanted AND it was easily modified. I still have some tweaking to do though.