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

We are now at Edward’s house. Anita is surprised that it isn’t some fancy flat in LA because lord forbid she develop an intelligent thought at some point.

He was like Batman. He rode into town, saved your ass, then vanished, and you never really expected an invitation to see the Bat Cave. Now here I was standing in front of it. Cool.

Oh, you’re one of those people who thinks Batman is cool. Great.

The door is blue and Anita comments on how a lot of doors in the area are blue. I like to call this section ‘LKH did one bit of research and instead of interweaving it subtly in the text, she wants you to bow down and worship her for doing her fucking job’.

“They think witches can’t cross a door painted blue or green.”

I widened my eyes. “You believe that?”

“I doubt most of the people who paint their doors believe it anymore, but it’s become part of the local style. My guess is that most people who do it, don’t even remember the folklore behind it.”

LKH, why do you hate commas? What did they ever do to you?

“Like putting out a jack o’ lantern at Halloween to frighten the goblins away.”

Anita, stop patting yourself on the back for being ‘observant’ when you don’t know anything. A Jack-o’-lantern was not designed to scare away goblins or supernatural creatures; carved vegetables were used in the United Kingdom to evoke bog lights and will o’the wisps, while carved pumpkins originated in America in the beginning of the nineteenth century as a symbol of the harvest. A nineteenth century story said that a farmer called Jack used a carved pumpkin to trap the Devil, but carved pumpkins do not have a long or supernatural history.

And FYI, goblins are benevolent in most areas of Europe. So you don’t need to scare them away.

Edward warns Anita about insulting Olaf or calling him gay. He says that the two of them aren’t going to ‘play nice together’ so… he’s moving Anita into his home because? Then a man comes out of the house.

The man in the doorway didn’t look much like an Olaf, but then what did an Olaf look like?

I feel sorry for the editor of this bullshit.

The man has come out of the house dressed only in a white bedsheet because THAT’S HOW REAL PEOPLE GO ABOUT HURP DERP. No one goes outside in a sheet to meet strangers.

He was tanned a lovely even brown, though some of that was natural colour because he was American Indian, oh yes, he was.

Here’s a hint: if he has a natural skin colour, then it probably isn’t a tan.

Was it racist to say that his features were more white than Indian, or was it just true?

Here’s a hint: if you ever say anything that has to come with a prefix sentence of ‘was it racist?’, then what you’ve got to say is probably racist. Plus, hey look, another ‘ethnic but not too ethnic’ character.

Bernardo Spotted-Horse was asleep, so wrenched the sheet from the bottom of his bed and wandered outside, instead of putting on underpants and some trousers. This moment turns into pure Komedy as Anita and Bernardo shake hands, so he has to drop his sheet and flash her when doing so. Bernardo then bitches about how Anita is ‘modest’ because she’s uncomfortable with a man flashing her in public. Wow. I don’t think I’ve disliked a character so quickly. It, like, only took two paragraphs.

Anita asks if he wanted a ‘Whore of Babylon’ so he apologises while standing right up next to her and apparently stroking her neck. She wants to know why he thinks he has a fucking right to behave like this, which he justifies by saying ‘oh, you looked at me and clearly thought I was hot, so I decided to flash you and commit a sex crime, tru fax’.

“If you want to come to the door looking like a Playgirl centerfold, don’t blame me for staring. But don’t make more of it than it is. You’re nice eye candy, but the fact that you’re coming on this strong isn’t flattering to either of us. Either you’re a whore, or you think I am. The first I’m willing to believe. The second I know isn’t true.” I walked up to him now, invading his space, the blush gone, leaving me pale and angry. “So back off.”

OK I don’t like the use of the word ‘whore’, but on the face of it it’s good to see Anita actually fighting back against another rapey male.

But look at that word she uses in the second to last sentence.


Why did LKH have to reiterate Anita’s skin colour in this situation? When she is talking to a Native American?

Is it because it’s a character which ties into that stupid and offensive stereotype that Native Americans (and any men of colour) are highly sexualised people, who are almost animal like in their pursuit of white women? Hmm?

oh god and fuck it Bernardo talks more and it’s awful

“There are two kinds of women that hang around with men like Edward, like me, that know what we are. The first are whores, no matter how many guns they own; the second is strictly business. I call them Madonnas because they never sleep with anyone. They try to be one of the guys.” The smile played along his lips again. “Forgive me if I’m disappointed that you’re one of the guys. I’ve been here for two weeks, and I’m getting lonely.”

Firstly, you can just hire a prostitute Bernardo. I’m sure there are some in Santa Fe. Secondly, who talks like this? No one labels women as ‘Madonnas’. They call them ‘frigid’. It sounds like LKH read that people were rightly criticising her works for complaining a madonna/whore complex befitting a whole bevy of Catholic authors and decided to use it in her works. A sort of ‘I don’t use that trope but here’s a character who does!’. Only it doesn’t work, because people don’t really call women ‘Madonnas’, unless in an aesthetic or musical sense. It feels forced, and a really silly attempt to try and say ‘I understand tropes too!’.

Edward finds this all hilarious because Anita was all embarrassed. He then cautions her to be wary of Olaf. Why? Because he’s a convicted rapist who likes bragging of his crimes. Great. That’s three sex criminals all living in one big house together, with another one moving in. Is this the set up for a really, really sick reality show?

Anita then says she’ll kill Olaf if she has to, which brings up the Harley issue from Burnt Offerings that went nowhere and still goes nowhere. She’ll stay in the house only if she has permission, which begs the question of exactly why she can’t stay in a hotel in the city.

“Oh, she’s going to fit in just fine,” Bernardo said, and there was something in his voice that made me look at his face. His handsome face had thinned to a blackness, an emptiness that left his dark brown eyes like two burned holes in his face. It was as if he’d dropped his mask and let me see inside because I’d proven myself monster enough to handle it. Maybe I had. But I knew one thing: Olaf or Bernardo, either one, better not walk in their sleep.

Then don’t sleep there.

Plus, that stuff about ‘thinned to a blackness’? It’s boring bullshit. I don’t care.

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

  1. Oh, Olaf gets even better, trust me. Anita is the sterling example of his “perfect victim,” and while he reached some pretty epic heights of fuckery in this book, it gets even worse a few down the line when he comes back.

  2. I hate all of them. Although I have to say that I hate Olaf slightly less, because I’m not told to like him.

    Also, we were told a whole lot about how therianthropes wander round naked. So why isn’t her first thought that he either is a therianthrope or has spent a lot of time around them? Because LKH knows he isn’t so Anita does as well, or because that could turn sex crimes into character development?

    • Bernardo says that he sleeps naked, and just put a sheet on, but still. If I wake up from sleeping in my birthday suit, I put on my pyjamas to wander around. It’s… normal.

      And yeah, Anita knows everything LKH knows. It’s a serious problem.

  3. “Was it racist to say that his features were more white than Indian, or was it just true?”

    When you consider how much time Anita will later spend emphasizing how handsome Bernardo is, and her general attitude towards POC, this comes off to me as “oh, well now we know why she thinks he’s good-looking, he looks more white to her” I personally also think that Rafael and Lisandro, the only other men of color she’s banged, probably also have more white features, which is very possible given that most of the modern population of Mexicans are a mix of Native and European heritage, and thus, gasp, can have a range of skin tones and features (which, ironically, Anita/LKH herself seems to forget) But yeah, I reckon that’s why they’re the ‘lucky’ pair who got boned despite their oh noes ~ethnic~ status…and even still, it was rape on her part in the case of Lisandro (which I’m sure had *nothing* do to with how he had said earlier he didn’t *want* to bone her anyway…) and a political move with Rafael that he had to *beg* her for in order to get protection for his rats.

    On Bernardo and Olaf: LKH forgets which one is supposed to have the virgin/whore complex later. We’re introduced with Bernardo having it in this book, and I think Olaf is just never shown to care about the sex life of his victims, but then in Skin Trade and Hit List it gets switched around—Bernardo doesn’t really pass judgement that way at all besides noting that Anita was the “virgin queen” when he met her and now has a ton of boyfriends (but he doesn’t seem to be looking down on her, just noting the change) whereas Olaf very much is emphasized as seeing women as “whores” and Anita as different from them.

    • She could have suggested Bernardo’s heritage much more subtly eg. describing his features as looking anglo saxon, making it more between the lines than straight out saying AM I RACIST FOR SAYING HE LOOKS WHITE. Which is the worst way to do it.

      Oh, of course she forgets. Honestly, I feel like setting up an Anita Blake wiki at this point, I think I know a lot more than she does.

      • There is a wiki that I use for reference a lot, but it’s very incomplete

        I also think they get stuff wrong sometimes too (I can’t remember any specific things off the top of my head) but that’s understandable given how she treats her own canon. I’ve been myself tempted to become a contributor; I definitely would for yours if you set up your own.

      • That’s the one I use as well, but it only has 301 pages which seems… off.

        Maybe we should do a post on Lashouts, and we can all start adding to that one? As long as we can keep it nonbiased – if people want to enjoy the books, I’ve no problem with that, as long as they don’t hold it up as great literature.

  4. Yeah, that was why I ultimately decided not to contribute to the other wiki, because while I wanted to help, I also wasn’t sure about how writing things like “Anita rapes such and so” in the plot summaries would be welcomed, even if that’s honestly how I see what happened. I think I could definitely do things like, say, analysis of powers or seldom-mentioned supernatural creatures just fine though.

  5. Great, more casual racism and sexual harassment. Am I wrong to picture Bellatrix Lestrange as Anita Blake? Maybe it’s just me. And thanks for this blog. It makes my day.

  6. “It sounds like LKH read that people were rightly criticising her works for complaining a madonna/whore complex befitting a whole bevy of Catholic authors and decided to use it in her works. A sort of ‘I don’t use that trope but here’s a character who does!’. […] It feels forced, and a really silly attempt to try and say ‘I understand tropes too!’.”

    Except that LKH clearly doesn’t understand tropes. Because the whole “Madonna/virgin” thing, while being defined as non-sexual, is still a strongly feminine archetype – hence the term “Madonna”. The actual Madonna (not the singer) is still a woman. Anita is just essentially a guy with over-sized tits and a vajayja.

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