The 10 Best Scenes From The First 10 Anita Blake Books
I’ve been obsessed with Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series since I was a teenager. What can I say? It’s my fandom. Wikipedia describes it this way: “The series is narrated in the first person by Anita Blake, who works in St. Louis, Missouri, as a professional zombie raiser, vampire executioner and supernatural consultant for the police. The early novels focus predominantly on crime-solving and action.” They also have a healthy dose of horror. Book ten signifies a shift into what essentially becomes paranormal erotica, but those first nine books are fast-paced, mystery-solving, ass-kicking fun.
I’ve read them all, the first ten specifically half a dozen times or more each. Part of why I keep going back to them is that each book has at least one remember-forever knock-you-on-your-ass original scene. Really, I just want to geek out over some of the finest. Since they’ve been out for many years, and most of my favorite scenes are the climaxes, this list will be chock-full of spoilers. So if you’re an existing fan wanting to relive the best moments or compare favorites, read on. If you’re thinking you might want to read the series yourself someday, continue at your own discretion.
1. 'Guilty Pleasures'
Book one introduces us to everything: the fact that vampires are legal citizens, Anita and the main characters, and some of the beasties that exist in this world. My favorite in this book are the wererats (like werewolves but rats). When Anita finds herself trapped in an evil vampire’s literal underground dungeon, things are bad. But things get so much worse when the tunnels turn out to be not an escape route, but the home of the wererats. Human-sized man-rats accompanied by an enormous mob of actual rats who do their bidding corner Anita, making for an original and incredibly vivid scene.
Anita is a necromancer who works as an animator, which in this world is a zombie-raiser who raises corpses for pay. (Need clarification on a will? Raise the deceased and ask them.) But when a very bad man tries to force Anita to perform human sacrifice to raise an especially old zombie, capturing her and forcing her to murder, Anita turns the blade at the last second, killing a bad guy instead of the intended victim. With the ensuing power – human sacrifice after all – Anita raises an entire cemetery of zombies and commands them to kill her captors. The description of the power rush and horde destroying the villain is truly chilling, and the choice haunts Anita for several books into the series.
Circus of the Damned is my second favorite of the series. Case in point: I struggled to choose between three different scenes for this one. Usually the climaxes are the most exciting parts, and this one is a doozie, but when I think back on the book, an earlier scene is the one that stands out most vividly. Jean-Claude, the main vampire and romantic lead in the series – owns an indoor circus, the titular business. They entertain humans and other gawkers with elaborate shows, including a night circus. When a giant cobra (and I mean giant – big enough to easily swallow a man whole, which it does) escapes its handler’s hypnotism, it wreaks havoc on the performers, liable to move on to the innocent spectators next. Anita, Jean-Claude, and his various vampire and werewolf employees all wade into the ring to stop the snake. I’ll never forget the moment I “saw” pretty-boy Jean-Claude rip the snake’s spine out with his bare hands. Vampires. Cool.
Another one where an early scene stuck with me best. Anita, a preternatural expert who often assists the local police task force, is called in to help identify a mysterious skin left on a rock in the center of a freezing river. Among unfriendly law enforcement competing with her own team, Anita navigates the precarious rocks leading to the object: a large, iridescent snake skin with a pearl embedded in the forehead. But when Anita reaches into the frigid water to unhook the skin for the divers to take to shore, something grabs her. The terrifying moment transforms when Anita dives in to save it from the jumpy cops’ trigger fingers. It turns out to be a man skinned alive, more specifically, a naga – an immortal creature who can’t die despite the horrendous torture committed against it.
Although other books win overall, this is probably the most chilling sequence of the series. A master vampire after Anita manages to capture her, locking her inside a daytime resting coffin with her. Anita breaks out of the coffin and tries to escape the building, but she’s guarded by the owner, a fey man. She ends up raising a vampire like a zombie – which isn’t supposed to be possible – and ordering it to grab the fairy to stop him from forcing her back into the coffin. He chases her into the sunlight, where the vampire (awake) bursts into flames, still holding on. They burn to ashes. When Anita comes back with the police to burn down the building before dusk, Anita can feel what the master vampire inside is feeling as she burns alive. Anita locks herself in cop car to keep from stopping the firemen from letting the building burn down while she feels like she’s trapped inside it. Oh, and did I mention the master vampire is mind-control pretending to be Anita’s long-dead mother, pleading to be saved? It’s truly an emotional scene, vividly captured.
Speaking of unforgettable, my scene of choice for aptly-named The Killing Dance is the climactic sex scene, long-awaited between Anita and Jean-Claude. Six books in, Anita’s (arguably prudish) resistance to the ultra-sexy vampire finally collapses in a glorious explosion of emotion. On the surface the scene doesn’t describe anything particularly enticing. It’s a detailed action sequence that takes place in Jean-Claude’s ridiculously luxurious bathroom, and the acts themselves are fairly expected, but it’s everything I want a sex scene to be: sexy – dreamy but still awkward and grounded in ways that make it feel realistic – revealing of the characters, powerful, emotional, dramatic, and plot- and character-altering. Nothing is the same after this pivotal love scene, and that’s how it should be. This is the moment that Anita admits to Jean-Claude and herself that she loves him, and it changes everything.
There’s a very, very close tie for favorites in this book that involves a vampire and butterflies, but in the end I have to go with the fire-destroyed building. When an arsonist sets fire to a halfway house for a local vampire church, Anita is called in to enter the basement to see if there are any survivors. The problem: putting out the fire flooded the building, and the basement is half underwater. The next problem: most of the vamps are new and can’t control their hunger yet, so if they’re awake down there they may be ravenous animals. Decked out in a SCBA Haz-Mat suit that greatly hinders her range of motion (weapon access), Anita goes down into the dangerous flooded building – ready to collapse at any moment – to see if there are any vampires alive down there. Unsurprisingly, there are, and they try to kill her. It’s an awesome action scene.
This is honestly not my favorite book of the series, but the climax is absolutely unforgettable to me. Out of town to get her ex out of jail (false charges), Anita ends up on the case of a brutal, animalistic supernatural murder. It turns out to be the work of an evil necromancer who actually summons a demon to do his bidding. Things culminate when Anita finds the necromancer on a hilltop about to sacrifice her ex’s mother to the demon. Anita, who’s been increasingly doubting her own goodness due to sleeping with a vampire and getting her hands dirty to save people, can’t use bullets to save people this time. Instead, she prays. I’m not much of one for religious storylines, but in LKH’s world, God/gods are a provable part of the magic system. (A cross burns against a vampire only if the wearer believes.) Praying, Anita crosses the protection circle laid by the necromancer, because she’s not evil and it can’t keep her out. The demon doesn’t want her; they want corrupt souls. Praying the whole time, Anita carries her would-be mother-in-law out of harm’s way. Anita realizes that all doubts about herself and God’s goodness were her own; God’s faith still shines on her when she needs it most. It’s a beautiful, powerful moment in the series.
Obsidian Butterfly is my number one for this series. It has many stellar scenes. My favorite: Anita’s chasing a monster through a hospital it's been terrorizing, and she corners it in the nursery, where it’s now murdering the infants. That moment of horror is exquisitely captured. The monster is using a still living baby to block Anita's shot. When she goes for a non-gun weapon, it throws the baby at her. She has a split second to choose between catching the baby or killing the monster. She catches the baby, and the monster slams her through the window while her arms are full. I hold my breath the entire scene every time.
What’s worse than a shapeshifting sociopath? A homicidal shapeshifting sociopath with multiple personalities who wants to capture you as his mate. That’s the bad guy Anita’s up against in Narcissus in Chains. It culminates in a room where the villain has suspended the bodies of all of his victims from the ceiling – some of them dead and some still alive. (Shapeshifters can take a lot of damage, so they survive torture longer than humans.) Of course, Anita doesn’t know that’s what’s in the room when she runs into it to escape him; it’s pitch black. She only discovers they’re there when she starts bumping into the bodies as she runs for her life. Some of them, she finds, respond, begging her to give in fast so he hurts her less. She ends up crawling across the bloody floor to go under their dangling feet, in the dark, with the crazy monster after her. It’s, well, memorable.
I know not everyone loves this series, and no books are perfect, but for me personally, the Anita Blake books – especially those first ten – are unforgettably enjoyable. With stand-out scenes like these in every single book, I know I'll carry them with me forever.
Any fellow Anita fans out there? What are your favorites?
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