Thursday, 12 July 2007
‘The Harlequin’ – Laurell K. Hamilton (Orbit Books)
When you were little and you fell off your bike for the first time, did you get straight back on? I hated my bike and had to be forcibly put back on the saddle and told to try again… This is how I felt when the next book on the ‘to read’ pile was Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘The Harlequin’. As you may already know, I’m currently trying to claim back the hours of my life that I wasted reading ‘Danse Macabre’ (always keep your receipts!) so the thought of reading the next instalment didn’t exactly fill me with joy. However; I’m made of sterner stuff than to let a mere book get the better of me and with this in mind I got on with the task at hand…
I was pleasantly surprised to find that unlike its predecessor, ‘Harlequin’ actually sets out with a story to tell. The head of the Vampire Church comes to Anita Blake for help; someone is killing humans and framing members of his congregation. It turns out that that the Harlequin (a vampire secret police) are using him to get at Anita and further their own designs on the city… Sounds good doesn’t it? I thought so until, that is, I read further. Hamilton then proceeds to lose the plot; quite literally in fact as the main plot is left to one side until the final couple of chapters. What we get in the meantime is the kind of padding that Hamilton appears to be only too well known for.
Anita is worried because she won’t tie up one of her boyfriends, during sex, and she’s afraid he will leave her. Another of her boyfriends is the jealous type and hates her other boyfriends. That’s ok though as the sex is pretty good but was it really worth the pages of angst that followed afterwards? Anita is still dealing with the ardeur, which means that despite the imminent danger of the Harlequin, every vampire and were-creature in St Louis still wants to get in bed with her first. If this wasn’t bad enough, the Harlequin are able play on the emotions of their victims, guess what that means to a were-creature that finds her slightly attractive… You get the picture by now and this is a real shame considering how well the story opens. I thought I was in for a horror/detective story, that’s what you get but you really have to dig through a morass of sexual tension and emotional angst to get to it.
I have to ask; if a book is 99% sex and 1% vampire can it really be called a ‘Vampire Book’? Certain scenes add nothing to the story and only appear to be there so that a certain target audience doesn’t have to feel embarrassed at getting their kicks in less subtle ways.
Fans will no doubt lap this up and anyone else who is in for the long haul will grit their teeth and hope that things actually start to happen in the next book. I for one will not be reading any more though, not until Anita Blake finally sorts her life out and the city gets itself an undead Agony Aunt…
I’m giving ‘The Harlequin’ an extra point for actually trying to tell a story but that’s about all it deserves.
Two out of Ten