Laurell K. Hamilton, Cerulean Sins (Berkley, 2003)

To be clear right from the start, I should say that Iím relatively new to Laurell K. Hamiltonís ďAnitaverse,Ē as Iíve heard it called by fans. My first encounter with the incomparable vampire huntress was in Obsidian Butterfly, which utterly blew me away and immediately had me hot -- and I do mean hot -- to go out and buy the rest of the series and learn everything I could about Anita and all of her scary, sexy friends.

Shortly thereafter a pile of books for review arrived in my mailbox, and by the time I dug myself out enough to think about reading for such guilty pleasure, the fever had passed. Still, when I was given the opportunity to read Hamiltonís latest, Cerulean Sins, I was quite eager to get started.

Anita Blake is a busy, busy woman. In her professional life sheís a licensed vampire executioner, a Federal Marshall who consults on preternatural crimes, and -- since these activities donít pay as well as one might expect -- she makes a living raising the dead. As for her personal life, at the start of Cerulean Sins Anita has two actual lovers, an ex she canít quite get over, and another man she has sexual contact -- though not quite intercourse -- with every day. By the end of this eleventh installment in the series, Anita will acquire one additional full-time lover, and have a reluctant but unforgettable one-night-stand with another. With all these demands upon her, itís a wonder she gets any sleep at all.

Until reading Cerulean Sins I honestly never thought I could get bored with sex. With several years' experience reviewing romance novels, itís been a shamefully significant part of my reading life. This book is made up of sixty-two tiny chapters and -- I kid you not -- the first thirty-two are all Anita having sex interspersed with reasons for why Anita simply has to have more sex even though she really doesnít want to. There are enough orgasms in the first half of Cerulean Sins to make up for about six months worth of romance novel reading, particularly if you count the spontaneous orgasms she repeatedly experiences as a sort of flashback to her first sexual encounter with a certain vampire who shall remain nameless in favor of not giving too much of the plot away.

Although I canít resist poking fun, and although the sheer number of sexual encounters -- along with Anitaís feeble good-girl protests before each explicit episode -- did seem just this side of ridiculous to me, the book really does have quite a bit to offer readers who are already deeply involved in Anitaís singular life. In Cerulean Sins we meet a one-of-a-kind, super-scary villain who wields a great deal of power over most of Anitaís friends. In order to protect her loved ones, Anita will have to give just a bit more of herself than she ever thought she could, which will lead to a transformation of her character that followers of the series cannot afford to miss.

Every bit of this novel is well written, and Iím impressed by Hamiltonís ability to interweave a multitude of plot lines without confusing the reader. Thereís so much going on here that in the hands of another writer, Cerulean Sins might be twice as long. Hamilton manages to cram it all in to a reasonable number of pages; quite a feat when you figure in all that sex. Though Cerulean Sins can be easily understood by readers brand spanking new to the series, the focus of this book is vampire politics, Anitaís ever-changing morality, and the deepening of her relationships with Jean-Claude and Asher. Certainly fascinating to long-time fans of the series, this book will possess only limited appeal for newbies.

[Christine Doiron]

GMR has also reviewed Guilty Pleasures, Narcissus in Chains and Obsidian Butterfly from the Anita Blake series, and A Kiss of Shadows and A Caress of Twilight from Hamilton's Merry Gentry series.

Visit Laurell K. Hamilton's official Web site.