A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter one

Okay, brand new book being started! ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ is not a tribute to Iron Butterfly, which I am quite saddened to hear. It is, in fact, considered by most fans to be the very best in the series, the absolute pinnacle of LKH’s writing. It is also her very first doorstopper, with sixty four chapters, with a properly labelled epilogue. This book is going to take… probably around four months to review, five months if I’m being especially slow. And I know that once LKH hits doorstopper territory, she is not going to stop. So this book is probably going to be indicative of the plot quality for the rest of the series. LKH already can’t maintain a cohesive plot through a short novel, I have no idea how she’s going to sustain it through nearly six hundred pages.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was that length (or near enough). And it had a deep and well-written plotline, that sustain many sublpot branches. I don’t think LKH is capable of that, quite frankly.

And so, on we go.

My cover is this.


The same bland cover that tells me nothing about the book, other than it contains butterflies, bodies, and the world’s angriest woman. Okay, it tells me more about the book than most covers.

I tried to get a copy with this cover.

Now, the UK covers initially had this sort of bad photoshop-with-model that I mocked over and over. This? I like this cover, strangely enough. It bigs up the crime/gothic noir side that the book is supposed to have. It looks cheap, but interesting.

Right, what plot are we promised?

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, has dealt with – and destroyed – a lot of monsters. But her old mentor, Edward – ruthless killer, bounty hunter, assassin – maybe worse than any of them.

Why are there SO MANY DASHES.

But Edward’s got problems. A malevolent and seemingly unstoppable force is mutilating and dismembering the citizens of New Mexico – and if he is to stop it he’ll need all of Anita’s firepower and cunning.

It may not be enough.

Boring, boring, bo-ring. It sounds like a summary of just about about every single Anita Blake book. Let me whip up a madlibs style book blurb:

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, has dealt with and destroyed a lot of monsters. But her old [someone close, NAME, what they are] might be worse than any of them.

But [NAME]’s got problems. A [supernatural problem] is [murder or crime of choice] the citizens of [American city], and if he is to stop it, he’ll need all of Anita’s firepower and cunning.

It may not be enough.

Laziest blurb ever. It does not tell me anything about the plot, other than it’s the exact same plot used in every Anita Blake book.

Right, chapter starting.

Anita is covered in chicken blood from raising bodies all night. What, she was actually doing her job? Colour me surprised. She’s also raised a record amount of seven corpses in one night. She’s complaining because it’s spring. Nothing ever pleases this woman. She is just a little red ball of hatred. She’s been raising the usual, civil war soldiers, wills that need signing, and a ‘son’s last confrontation with his abusive mother’.

I’d been neck deep in lawyers and therapists most of the night. If I heard, “How does that make you feel, Jonathan (or Cathy, or whoever)?” one more time tonight, I’d scream. I did not want to watch one more person “go with his or her feelings” ever.

God forbid anyone try and help their emotional health. No wonder Anita’s scared of therapy. She really needs some.

Anita then discusses how lawyers have to check that zombies have sound mind before they sign things, and how she’s never raised a zombie that hasn’t been of sound mind. This is interesting, so it’s roughly thrown out of the way because Edward is calling. The phone rings just as Anita gets to her front door, so she… breaks the door down with her shoulder to get to the phone before her answerphone picks it up.

I was running full out and skidded on my high heels, grabbing the receiver as I slid into the wall and nearly dropped the phone.

Komedy! This could all be prevented if Anita stopped living in the eighties, and bought a mobile phone. It’s Edward calling, and we are treated to a big paragraph of how Edward is cross with Anita because she murdered his friend, which would have been nice to see in the text when she actually did it. She then goes on to remind us all how he is a hitman and assassin who specialises in supernatural creatures.

He even occasionally did a human, but only if they had some sort of dangerous reputation. Other assassins, criminals, bad men, or women.

Um, why are male criminals distinguished by being ‘bad’, but there’s no qualifier for women? So Edward just goes around killing women. Because women are worthless and deserve to be killed, apparently.

She then describes Edward as a ‘sociopath’ but then says that they are friends. If he has an extreme personality disorder, Anita, then he can’t have friends. Don’t you even understand what ‘sociopath’ means?

Edward’s calling to ask if she can be his backup. Anita asks why does ‘Death’ need backup from her, and that silly nickname has me facepalming merrily. Edward’s legal alter ego, Ted Forrester the bounty hunter, needs her help in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There’s some talk about how it’s legal in six states for any old bounty hunter to shoot and murder shapeshifters for no other reason than ‘I just don’t like the fact that they exist’. Anita has no emotional reaction to this. It just exists, and she has no opinion on it.

Now that, that is sociopathic, not caring about the blatant murder of a people. (Although the term is no longer used as a medical term in the UK, as it was deemed that there was no distinction between sociopath and psychopath, but if LKH has to use it badly, I am going to correct her with the same terminology.)

Edward says that there have been murders. No, ‘tortures’. It’s quite serious.

“We’ve got ten missing. Twelve confirmed dead.”

Ten what missing? Twelve of what has died? Do you mean people? Why can’t you say that there are twelve people who have been murdered? Be specific.

“How long had they been dead?” I asked.

“Days, nearly two weeks for one family.”

“Jesus, why didn’t someone miss them sooner?”

“In the last ten years almost the entire population of Santa Fe has changed. We’ve got a huge influx of new people. Plus a lot of people have what amounts to vacation homes up here. The locals call the newcomers Californicators.”

Santa Fe has a population of just under 70,000. Ten missing and twelve dead in what is clearly a serialised and ritualistic manner would be noticed. If serial killers are noticed in St. Louis, which has a population of nearly three million, then they are going to be noticed in a town like Santa Fe. I’m also trying to ignore the unfortunate implications that the police are ignoring the missing and the murdered because of race. 48.7% of the population of Santa Fe are Hispanic. This reads like ‘the police don’t care if Hispanic people go missing, because they are itinerant and unimportant’. Do not imply that.

Anita and Edward talk about how she’ll be staying with Ted Forrester, and how it’s bad that she’s bothered about the potential deaths of children. They talk about how Edward is a sociopath and Anita isn’t, which is nonsense. They then mention how ‘mobile’ the population is, which is bad because no one knows their neighbours or their schedules like they ought to. Stop acting like Santa Fe is a city of millions. It’s not that bigger than my home town. I think twelve murders and ten people gone missing in similar ways would be noticed quicker.

They then joke about Anita’s intuition and how ‘tenderhearted’ she is, two things that make me laugh for being blatant lies. And then it’s all TEH SHOCKING because Edward has no idea what’s behind the attacks and he’s all shook up. Uh huh huh.

They arrange for Anita to fly into Albuquerque and Edward drops mad hints that he’s got a big secret to reveal. Maybe he’s actually some sort of tentacle monster. That would be interesting.


18 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter one

  1. This is a promising start. Anita doing her job, conflict introduced in the first chapter, the possibility of the conflict actually being the main plot of the book. Despite the problems, this chapter would encourage me to read on. How much do you want to bet that all this potential is wasted.

    Also, we get to meet Daddy Edward in this book. Joy. I wish you luck.

  2. I think I remember Obsidian Butterfly was also the start of the “strategically placed torso and/or random objects” cover art in the US: my hardcover has http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/c/cc/ObsidianButterflyUS2001.jpg/200px-ObsidianButterflyUS2001.jpg on it. Before that, they used to be actual artwork, that had something to do with the story. Like this one for Blue Moon, which I have: http://i43.tower.com/images/mm116205702/blue-moon-laurell-k-hamilton-paperback-cover-art.jpg (Funny story: when I searched “Blue Moon Laurell K Hamilton” I also got a random picture of Benedict as Khan. Google, she knows me well.)
    And I still say these covers were the best: http://cache0.bdcdn.net/assets/images/book/medium/9780/7553/9780755355372.jpg I thought they were the UK ones: maybe I’m wrong.

    • The red edged ones are the current UK covers – I’m buying old paperbacks on eBay – and I think they are really visually stunning. Really nice. Way too nice for LKH.

      LOL the Benedict picture is from this blog! If you look for Burnt Offerings, you see a lot of pictures of me. It’s a bit weird.

      • And here I thought Google could read my mind. Whew.

        Yeah, those red-edged ones are pretty snazzy. I like them far more than the others, and especially the new US editions. Gods, they’re crap. I admit, I’m slightly OCD on stuff like that, though: I hate it when a book series changes cover art and design when they’re not done with the series. Like this one: the original US covers actually made sense, and then Obsidian Butterfly just threw it all out the window. The Dresden Files changed covers too, though I actually don’t mind how the new ones look, I just hate that my old paperbacks don’t match. And I just found out the Peter Octavian series continued after book 2, with ridiculous faux-romantic covers, so I have one book with plain daggers as artwork, and then….sexy man covers. Aargh.

      • The American covers look awful. I was wiki’ing them, and they look like soft porn. I mean, the later ones ARE, but there should be subtlety about such things. The UK red-edged ones look interesting and vibrant. Honestly, the designer put a lot of work into them and should get an award.

  3. I never minded the American body covers simply because it advertised what was in the books much better (started reading them when NiC came out) much better than if they had continued the original US covers. Also, the tool porn covers would work for a different series. We didn’t get those until Blood Noir so the AB series was very much into really bad porn territory by then. Our covers have switched again as well as of Hit List; however, they haven’t gone and redone the old books to update to the newest covers.

    The recent covers for us: http://img1.imagesbn.com/p/9781101526286_p0_v2_s260x420.JPG

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