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The first eight novels in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series are collected in three hardback volumes of which "Black Moon Inn" is the third. "Club Vampyre" had the first three novels ("Guilty Pleasures," "The Laughing Corpse, and "Circus of the Damned"), and "The Midnight Cafe" had the next three ("Lunatic Cafe," "Bloody Bones," and "Killing Dance"). That last one is the pivotal novel in the series because Anita finally chooses Jean-Claude, the Master Vampire of St. Louis over Richard, the werewolf middle-school teachers. But we now know that nothing is every settled in the world of Anita Blake when it comes to either her tangled love life or her growing supernatural powers. The stories collected in "Black Moon Inn" are a notch below most of the previous stories, but are still part of the premier horror series of our time.
I expected there to be a let down after Anita made her big choice in the previous novel but "Burnt Offerings," the seventh in the series definitely tries to top what has gone before, as several members of the Vampire Council arrive in St. Louis intending to deal harshly with Jean-Claude. Remember back when Anita killed Oliver, the ancient vampire who wanted the U.S. to strip away the rights given to vampires? Well, it seems Oliver was a member of the Council and Jean-Claude has refused to take his place as custom dictates. Plus, the triumvirate established between our heroine and her two paramours is also potentially threatening to the Council. Then there are a couple of vampires with mondo grudges against our little group. Meanwhile, there appears to be a pyrokinetic arsonist running around and the anti-Vampire groups are escalating their attacks.
This story continues Hamilton's interest in providing graphic sexual violence as she continues to up the horror ante. But her novels continue to end the same way, with Anita discovering she is more powerful than she or anybody else thought and turning the tables on the bad monsters at the last minute. Each time this trick gets turned it becomes less and less impressive, and if Jean-Claude or Richard or someone else were to save the day once it would not be a bad thing since it would break what is becoming the standard formula of these novels. The political intrigues of the Vampire Council are quite interesting, and the powers of the Traveler and the Master of Beasts suggests bigger and badder vamps yet to be met. Or maybe, horror or horrors, Anita's dad will show up (he is not at all happy about Jean-Claude).
In "Blue Moon," the eighth volume, Anita drops everything to rush to Tennessee where Richard has been arrested for attempted rape. Obviously somebody is trying to frame Richard, who was down studying Lesser Smokey Mountain Trolls to finish up his M.A. degree in biology. "Blue Moon" focuses on Anita as the lupa of the Thronnus Roke Clan lukoi and Nimir-ra of the pard, although her being a necromancer, animator, vampire hunter and human servant all come into play. Her ability, and willingness, to call the munin becomes crucial. Hamilton continues to expand the roster of monsters and their ilk with not only a sorcerer and a psychic this time around, but also a full-fledged demon. The final fight between good and evil in "Blue Moon" is rather anticlimactic, since the most important development in the book happens in the aftermath of the battle.
I think that this was an excellent move on Hamilton's part, because the constant attempts to top the confrontation with evil from the previous novel ends up tampering with the credibility of the story being told. This novel is about Anita's relationships, not with Richard and Jean-Claude, but rather with the supporting cast of Jason, Nathaniel, Zane, Jamil, Cherry, Asher and Damian. "Blue Moon" is not a great novel in the series, but it is certainly above average and whets our appetites for the next adventure. One thing that is absolutely clear now is that the Anita/Richard/Jean-Claude triumvirate is never, ever going to be over. Final warning: while the level of graphic violence has abated a wee bit, the sexuality of these novels escalates greatly from this point on in the series (to the disappointment of many fans). These are novels for adults and I pity the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans that stumble upon this series, misled by the "Vampire Hunter" title which is more of a marketing ploy that an accurate description of our heroine.