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Writing a bestselling series seems to be a sign of creative doom, because sooner or later the author starts writing for the sake of the series, not because it actually takes the story anywhere.

Sadly this is the case in the latest moribund volume of the Anita Blake series, "Danse Macabre." The entire plotless, meandering mess seems to have been written for two reasons: money, and to blow a big raspberry at Laurell K. Hamilton's readers. Given the only real plot development is a pregnancy scare, it doesn't seem worth it.

Anita has a new dilemma -- she might be pregnant, which isn't surprising for a woman who has spent the last few books being shagged left, right and every way to Sunday by every vamp, human and lycanthrope imaginable. What's more, many powerful vampires are arriving in St. Louis, including a vampiric ballet troupe in Jean-Claude's territory.

As if this weren't bad enough, the ardeur seems to be showing signs of seeking out new sex partners for her, and is affecting her lovers as well -- and her lycanthropic and vampiric edges are starting to affect those around her. Can Anita regain control of her increasingly unstable life?

Those desperately hoping that the plot will return in "Danse Macabre" can hang their heads and weep. There isn't a shred of actual plot in this book that isn't connected to the ardeur in some way -- no detecting, no zombies, no nothing. In fact, the biggest chill in this entire book is the pregnancy scare.

This isn't a plot in the sense that it really goes nowhere and nothing ever really comes of it; the book is left open-ended for the inevitable next volume. Even Hamilton doesn't seem to know what to do with the plot, since the writing is repetitive and often rather colourless.

And it's crammed with voyeuristic vamps, endless sexathons, and the suggestion that the ardeur might be binding Anita's lovers to her. As if the whole ardeur plot weren't nauseating enough, the Masters show up with more hot lovers so Anita can satisfy the strengthened ardeur. How very nice of them -- for Anita, not for the readers.

What's more, Hamilton has tossed out even the pretense of civility. The book starts with an appalling scene where, for daring to criticize Anita's hedonistic ways, Ronnie is dismissed as a bitter prude who is just jealous that Anita gets to bed all these hot guys. It would be a hilarious scene, if it weren't for the obvious razzie to her readers.

Anita herself remains an empty shell, who alternately fusses about whether she's a slut and hisses at anyone who says she is. The women are all nasty and catty, while the men uniformly adore her. The only exception is Richard, who really does seem like the only quasi-normal person in the whole book. Hamilton obviously expects us to scoff at his prudishness, but instead I found myself sympathizing with him.

"Danse Macabre" has a cool title, but not much between the pages. Between the nonexistant plot and porn subplots, it's hard to see why anyone would want this dance.
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on 10 May 2010
Oh dear. I actually skipped about 200 pages in the middle of this book to the scene where Anita (and all of her men) are in hospital awaiting the results of her pregnancy tests. It seems I missed the introduction of a few more characters for Anita to have sex with. That being said. I don't think I missed anything vital to the "story", unless I missed the actual story itself. I don't really recall there being one. In fact, I was so fed up with this book that I actually started reading another book to give me a break from it. (A book that came free with Cosmo magazine.) That's how desperate I was.
It's a shame as I really liked the concept of a vampire ballet troupe. So much potential to write something interesting. It does make you wonder how Hamilton managed to get the last few books past the publishers. I had to skim past the terrible, cringe inducing sex scenes. No more dialogue, Hamilton, I beg of you. If you must include it, just tell us what they are doing but no more talking between characters. I actually had a moment of paranoia on the tube in case somebody might have been reading over my shoulder. The only ardeur scene I bothered with was the bit with Asher but that is only because I like his character. I wish I hadn't, though, as Anita's character just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I just don't get the appeal of this heroine and the interest in her by the main characters just makes me think less of them too. She even managed to get Otto on her side. Shame, after reading this book, I would be glad if he'd finished her off back in Obsidian Butterfly, the last of hamilton's book to have a fairly decent(ish) plot.
I generally find that if a page features the words, ardeur or Richard (If only he'd been killed off back in Blue Moon), then it is a good idea to skip ahead as I have already read it before (in the previous four or five books).
I am only hoping that Charlaine Harris doesn't fall apart like this when she releases book 10 this year.
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on 13 April 2010
I just don't know what happened to these books! They started off as quite pacy thrillers with a plot and a vampire angle. Great! They've turned into pathetic pappy soft porn bordering on hard porn. One dimensional characters grimly copulate with Anita who barely sleeps in her attempts to sleep with every man on the planet. She started off as a sparky independent gal who ran her own life - she is now dependent on every man who crosses her path for sex to feed the ardeur (a sad plot device to force Anita into bonking like a loon at every opportunity). Please give this a miss - you won't be sorry.
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on 12 September 2006
I am a true diehard Anita fan but even I am having trouble justifying spending time and money on the series having just read this latest installment.

I have to say that I agree with all the other reviewers who say that there is almost no plot to this book whatsoever. I also noticed that it is poorly edited so that in places I felt I had missed a part of a conversation or a scene and found myself skipping back over pages to see if I had accidentally missed something. But no, it's just badly put together.

It seems that Hamilton is more concerned with giving minutely detailed information about the appearance of her characters (so many new people are introduced in this book starting with the exact different shades and length of their hair right down to the shoes they are wearing) while little thought is put into actually making them do anything.

The sex is really getting ridiculous at this point. Anita has gone from being the uber-virgin of the earlier books to the sorts of orgies only seen in illegal hardcore porn in this latest installment. It has gotten to the point that rather than being titillating it's now just boring.

If you are new to the Anita Blake series I heartily recommend you read no further than book 9 (Obsidian Butterfly) as the earlier books are still by far some of the best vampire/supernatural fiction I have read (and I have read A LOT).

Will I buy the next book when it arrives? Probably. Will it be worth reading? I doubt it.
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on 13 October 2006
This is only worth it if you want to read fantasy that is based round many sex scenes, cut with monologues or overly contrived conversations that exist merely to persuade the main character to agree to sex in the first place.

This volume was an overlong vignette covering a day or so where Anita has a bust up with her friend, goes to her lover's 'lair' where the main part of the action occurs. Then in the last few chapters they go to a ballet and end up back at her lover's lair again.

Danse Macabre does not have a true beginning/middle/end setup, and as such cannot be considered as a standalone volume. You really do have to have read other Anita Blake volumes to get what's going on. Any character development achieved in this piece could have equally well been knit into a book that actually had a story.

The Anita Blake books that anyone will enjoy:

1. Guilty Pleasures (1993)

2. The Laughing Corpse (1994)

3. Circus of the Damned (1995)

4. The Lunatic Cafe (1996)

9. Obsidian Butterfly (2000)

That's right, there's only 5 out of 14 - the numbers refer to their position in the series. These books have more complex plots than any of the others and don't centre round sex, unlike Danse Macabre.
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on 4 August 2007
I finally got round to reading Danse Macabre. I should have left well alone. Laurell K. Hamilton is one of very few writers who write a competent story in this much abused genre, therefore the problem is not her writing. The goal posts in terms of the Anita Blake series have shifted to such an extent that I am finally giving up on it. We are still TOLD that Anita is a "Federal Marshall, known for raising the dead and being a vampire executioner", the premise on which I started reading the series. However, the last time that Anita had been involved in crime scenes, working with the police, combating all sort of creatures that go bump in the night (with or without the police or her gun-for-hire friend) was about three to four books ago. These days we are almost exclusively being regaled with stories about ardeur affecting, or not, hierarchal vampire politics. The sex that inevitably goes with the ardeur storyline is hot and varied enough to satisfy people who read the books for this input, but the related endlessly, circling debates about vampire politics have become tedious; though not as tedious as the incessant, also circling, philosophizing about either Richard's or Anita's (buckets full of) neuroses and how those impact on their triumvirate and--of course--vampire politics. By far the worst, however, is how two to three characters at a time continually have to explain developments to Anita; explicitly, using connecting-the-dots imagery, so that she ends up coming across as very dim-witted. In addition she's usually acting up, so much so that those same characters regularly tell her, in any given situation, "we're waiting for you to tell us what reaction won't piss you off" or some such thing. Being vulnerable is one thing, a spoiled brat something else altogether. And frankly, the kind of melodrama that you do NOT look for in your series-heroine, i.e. a strong woman who had taken head-on a male dominated environment to get her very dangerous job done. Anita has always been a difficult woman, but you never used to feel to slap her silly. With these last two books you get the feeling from more or less page 60 and it firmly stays with you until the very end. I am sorry to give up on Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, but books that invoke frustration and/or boredom need to be avoided at all costs.
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on 25 July 2006
As a fan I have spent the last few months waiting for this book. I wish I hadn't.

The Anita Blake books are (or have been) Vamp-kicking, paranormal investigations, raising the dead - you know interesting stuff that you can't put down and now its just all sex with random partners and boringly long chats where nothing gets resolved - in fact the series has turned into the Merry Gentry lot that I stopped reading because of this.

It starts with Anita thinking she's pregnant, she goes to the circus to meet the 'Pomme' candidates, a few people try to seduce her, she agrees to have sex with some guy she's just met, Anita uses her own power (very briefly) for once instead of the triumverate, the mother of darkness gets a couple of look ins, then its back to the sex, the ballet is interesting but its made into a bigger part of the book then needed. I must admit at points during this book I felt I had missed vital bits of information because I couldn't keep my mind on reading it - The sign of a very bad book

All in all an incredibly disappointing book from Ms Hamilton with the most interesting bit being when Anita almost kills herself. Save your money don't bother with this one.
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on 9 July 2006
This latest book in the Anita Blake series is the worst so far except possibly for the novella Micah.
One of the reasons I think the books have been deteriorating is the move of the focus away from the cases and the crime solving. In more recent books it has taken a back seat and in this book it is completely absent removing the most interesting part of the books.
Danse Macabre is basically supernatural porn, while an element of this in earlier books was fine an entire book full in place of a proper plot is a joke.
The bulk of the book deals with Anita's possible pregnancy and the growing demands of the ardeur which requires her to find more men to bring into her bed. I was constantly irritated by the fact that the male characters have been mostly relegated to being nothing more than adoring idiots, seemingly everyone has to fancy Anita. Anita's powers grow even more (surprise surprise!)At this rate by the next book she will be omnipotent!
I'll probably keep reading the series in the hope that it returns to it's former brilliance but it seems unlikely.
If you love and miss the earlier Anita Blake books then I recommend the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher to fill the void.
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on 10 August 2006
I was not looking forward to this latest novel after reading the last books she had written. I had enjoyed 'Obsidian Butterfly' only because Anita left all her men behind and she got got to be the tough Anita that we all loved without all the complications. After this book, forget it. She returns to the vampires and warewolves adds more men to her life and the plot seems to go out the window. 'Danse Macabre' was all about Anita's men and the angony that she might be pregnant. I found the book to be really boring the interesting bits about the Anita universe used to be her job and the cases she worked on but that was all pushed aside. I am sorry that Laurell K. Hamilton seems to think that plot doesn't matter and instead thinking that it would be fun to see how many people Anita can sleep with in the shortest time possible and still not have the readers think she's not a slut. I used to be a fan of Anita from the early books but now I can't go back to the ones I used to love because I feel like they are tainted. My advise to everyone is not to waste your money and if you are curious because you feel that just maybe the series still has life in it, then forget it. It doesn't.
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on 27 August 2010
Anita Blake #13, and by this time there isn't even a pretense at a plot. Long gone are the days when Anita had crimes to solve or even a zombie job to do (I had actually forgotten she was an animator) -- or in fact had anything at all to do other than whine about how hard her life is and find new men to have sex with.

The whole huge slab of this book takes place over a day or so, and covers Anita having a pregnancy scare, having sex, and meeting some visiting vamps for political machinations (and sex). I thought the Merry Gentry series might have provided sufficient outlet for Hamilton's sex & political intrigue obsession, but clearly not.

I don't dislike the sex or the intrigue per se, but with absolutely nothing else going on to break it up, it all gets increasingly tedious and repetitive.

Anita herself continues to complicate and generally mess things up -- if ever there was a character who needed to get over herself, it's Anita Blake. A huge number of the problems everyone else has to sort out or suffer through are created by Anita being obstinate and contrary for no good reason.

IMHO, this would be a better series if it had been written in 3rd person and we could follow other characters for a while. The inside of Anita's head gets incredibly claustrophobic.

I don't have an inherent dislike of the ardeur/multiple partners aspect, but it is running out of steam badly now. It's far better as a background subplot, an adjunct to an actual storyline. If it *has* to be the only story, I wish to God that Anita would stop gnashing her teeth over it and embrace it -- constantly bitching about it is getting very old.

Every time someone new gets added to the mix it dilutes the impact further -- I can't keep it straight in my head any more who she's had/having sex with and why. It would be better to focus on the existing relationships and *do* something with them, rather than just keep bringing in more and more interchangeable partners each time.

I assume the author is working through some monogamy issues and/or harem fantasies, which is fine, but the brakes need to go on now. The books started out as good, gritty paranormals then turned into trashy but fun guilty pleasures, but now they're becoming chores.
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