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In Full Stride,
This review is from: Circus of the Damned (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) (Mass Market Paperback)
Having led off with "Guilty Pleasures" and "The Laughing Corpse," Laurell Hamilton has laid all the necessary groundwork to make this series work. In "Circus of the Damned" she builds on the previous to volumes give a fuller, and more frightening picture of an alternate earth where vampires, werewolves and other monsters are commonplace members of modern society.
While helping the St. Louis Police investigate a pair of human murders carried out by an unknown vampire pack Anita Blake realizes that there is a new master vampire in the city. One that is intent on terrorizing the populace and challenging Jean-Claude as Master of the City. In a series of startling confrontations she finds out there are not one, but two such vampires. The first, Alejandro, was young when the Aztecs were spilling the blood of sacrifices. The other, Mr. Oliver, has roots that extend into time immemorial. Either vampire is powerful enough to challenge Jean-Claude, and neither has any intention of observing the uneasy truce between humans and the undead.
In addition, Anita must deal with a Lamia, weresnakes, out-of-control zombies, and a whole host of vampires that are envious or opposed to her relationship with Jean-Claude. And Jean-Claude himself keeps pressuring her to take the third and fourth marks of the vampire, becoming his human servant. If dealing with all the really bad guys isn't hard enough, Anita has to deal with a new romantic interest, Richard Zeeman and an overly enthusiastic apprentice animator, Lawrence Kirkland. Did I mention Edward the assassin and a very large number of werewolves?
When the conflict between the three masters come to a head, Anita finds that she has become one of the focuses for the battle to come. Not only Jean-Claude, but Alejandro as well, are intent on having her as human servant. Alejandro, however, has no intention of being polite, and is capable of forcing the role on Anita - the vampiric equivalent of rape. The story moves fluidly from scene to scene, building steadily to the inevitable and spectacular final showdown which has enough surprises to satiate even the most finicky reader.
Hamilton has proven herself willing and able to handle complex plots and still keep her characters from becoming two dimensional. "Circus of the Damned" is no exception. All of the characters, from the illustrious Jean-Claude to the lowliest human servant come brilliantly to life. The effect is hypnotic, and I find Anita Blake stories too easy to read in one or two sessions, leaving me looking forward to her next book. With this, the third in the Anita Blake series, Laurell Hamilton fully demonstrates the strong writing skills that have made the vampie hunter a best-selling series.