Anita Blake, Executioner, necromancer, human servant to a Master Vampire, lupa, acting-Alpha of a pack of werewolves, and leoparde-lionee to a pard of leopard lycanthropes, is changing...more so all the time. When Laurell Hamilton introduced her to us in "Guilty Pleasures," Book One of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, Anita was a 24 year-old dynamo - smart, attractive, feisty, super-independent - who raised the dead for a living. She was almost a normal 21st century career girl. Of course she staked rogue vampires as a sideline, but we all have our quirks. Anita's preternatural powers have been steadily increasing, and in "Burnt Offerings" the lines are really beginning to blur between her humanity and the supernatural. Always an uncompromising and tough lady, she's is developing a hardness, a detachment, that frightens even herself. In this novel she is ready to kill a werewolf who had betrayed the pack, even though murder is not necessary to punish the shapeshifter. She is indifferent about whether or not to pull the trigger. Killing means nothing to her, she realizes. Anita thinks, "I didn't want to kill anyone that coldly. Killing doesn't bother me, but it should mean something." Sergeant Rudolph Storr, the detective in charge of the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team, which Anita is a member of, tells her, "You just spend too much time with the damn monsters, Anita. You've played by their rules for so long, sometimes you forget what it's like to be normal."
Ms. Hamilton's plots are extraordinary, but the reason I am so addicted to the Anita Blake books is because of the characters. Anita is not the only one who has developed in a major three-dimensional way through seven novels. The other main characters: Vampire Master Jean-Claude; Werewolf Ulfric, Richard Zeeman; Larry Kirkland, vampire executioner trainee; Ronnie, Anita's best friend, and several minor personages have also grown, as have their relationships with Ms. Blake and each other. As exciting as the storylines are, I am constantly drawn back to the folks who people these novels. And the characters are what makes the series so unique and special.
"Burnt Offerings" has Sergeant Storr asking Anita for assistance with an outbreak of serious fires throughout St. Louis. Both Storr and Anita think the culprit may be a "firebug," a being who uses supernatural power to cause conflagrations. In the previous book, Anita, Richard, (her old boyfriend), and Jean-Claude, (her present lover), had formed a Triumvirate of power. In other words, when the three connect, they exude tremendous force and are able to do much more magic than any one or two can do alone. The three are still bound to each other, even though Richard is furious with Anita for dumping him, and jealous of Jean-Claude for obvious reasons.
Their Triumvirate has attracted the attention of the Vampire Council. This body of old and magically powerful vampires decide policy, and will condemn those who question their authority to a terrible undeath. They travel to St. Louis to investigate Jean-Claude, Richard and Anita, whom they view as a threat to their power. Some of these ancient beings have hidden agendas which make it almost impossible for our gang of three to survive the trials and tribulations before them. Anita is put in a position where she is forced to rescue not only friends, but enemies as well.
Ms. Blake's narrative is written with much flair and pizzazz, mixing fantasy with mystery, romance and dark humor. Her take on this derivative genre is a most unusual one. As I mentioned before, the characters and their relationships take precedence over the plot - which certainly doesn't suffer. The novel is chock-full of action, suspense and adventure, of the intelligent sort. Big pluses: introduced here are the Traveler, a Master Vampire who does not inhabit a body of his own, but moves from vampire to vampire, and Asher, someone from Jean Claude's past. The humor, dark as always, adds much to the novel....and there are plenty of laughs to counteract the violence. Overall, I cannot recommend this series enough. "Burnt Offerings" is the most complex novel yet.