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Book Cover Gwen’s review of Skin Trade (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, Book 17) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Urban fantasy hardcover released by Berkley 2 Jun 09

Laurell K. Hamilton is one of those “love her” or “hate her” authors.  It’s seldom that someone sits on a fence with her writing.  Her storytelling has changed enough over the last ten years or so for people’s opinions to also change – those that once loved her may now hate her and vice versa.  I’m a little more middle of the road with her – sometimes I love her and sometimes I wanna throw the book at the wall… usually more than once. PLEASE NOTE! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! 

This time around, contrary to recent reviews, I found myself loving her.  Skin Trade is a very fun story to read.  Sure there are things I’d have different or story elements that skeeved me out (the series is part horror novel), but there’s no doubt that Skin Trade is a very good book.  At least, for those of us on that side of that love/hate coin.


Skin Trade opens with Anita contemplating the head of a fellow marshal/vampire executioner sent to her as a gift from a sociopathic vampire in Las Vegas.  Anita also spends a good amount of time in Skin Trade contemplating her life – she’s sick of killing, sick of having to feed the ardeur to no seeming purpose, sick of her life in general.  She’s sick of being feared by beings she respects (vampires) and sick of being pursued by beings she attracts (tigers).  She’s sick of it all and you get the impression she’s a whisper away from saying “fuck it all” and just walking away from everything.

Haven’t we all been there?  Makes you wonder what’s going to happen in the next book to pull her out of her ennui and depression.  ‘Cause you know something will.

By the end of the book, many of the past books’ loose ends are resolved.  For example, I understand now why Anita attracts weretigers.  I understand more about the ardeur and why it is what it is, how it works.  I also have a better understanding of the whole Marmee Noir and Belle Morte dynamic.  I agree that the “power of the mighty orgasm” is a bit over the top, but, hey, VAMPIRES, WERES, MAGIC – we’re not exactly talking normal, human story elements here. The Mighty O (sorry Oprah) is just another one of them.

There is not a lot of sex in Skin Trade.  In fact, the first sex scene is roughly 3/4th’s of the way into the book and is almost the only explicit scene.  Anita has one other “possessed” orgy, that isn’t described explicitly, where she boffs the teenager weretiger.  Is it oogie? Yes. Is it important to the storyline?  Who knows yet.  I have a feeling that the next book in the series will explain this.  I probably could have preferred Hamilton made him a little bit older, but perhaps the age of this character will come into play later – we have to trust Hamilton to make it make sense.  The rest of the minimal sex in the book is in the climactic (heh) scene and is creepy, but fits the story.

The story elements that I had less patience for are the endless speculating and criticism of Anita’s personal life by her fellow law enforcement officials.  It is like the only people who had any understanding of her and her life were the non-human characters.  And that may actually be Hamilton’s point – Anita is no longer human enough to fit in with her fellows. But I did get heartily sick of the continual doubt and suspicion leveled at Anita.  Her professional reputation deserves better than that.  I, for one, hope she walks away from the marshal’s service and focuses on what she needs to do to get her life under control and emotionally support herself and her family.

If you’re an Anita Blake series fan, you must read this book – so many things are explained and so much is set up for a bang-up next book.  If you have never read an Anita Blake book before, you don’t want to start with this one.  While it’s very good story telling, it is a very complicated story that doesn’t lend itself to a newbie.

faye.jpgGrade: B+

Read reviews of, and information about, this and other Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels by following the series’ tag.

When a vampire serial killer sends Anita Blake a grisly souvenir from Las Vegas, she has to warn Sin City’s local authorities what they’re dealing with. Only it’s worse than she thought. Ten officers and one executioner have been slain—paranormal style. Anita heads to Vegas, where’s she’s joined by three other federal marshals, including the ruthless Edward. It’s a good thing he always has her back, because when she gets close to the bodies, Anita senses “tiger” too strongly to ignore it. The weretigers are very powerful in Las Vegas, which means the odds of her rubbing someone important the wrong way just got a lot higher.
Read an excerpt.

Other books in the series:

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