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

Anita stares down at some random dude’s body, although I’m not sure where he is in the house. Is his body in the room past the doors of bleedy splinter death? The body lies inside a circle of salt and there’s an open spellbook next to the body.

Anita actually fucking refers to it as a ‘clue’.

Anita, you’re meant to be a serious investigator. Stop treating this like a fucking game.

The book was handwritten and I read enough to know that it was a book of shadows. It was the spell book, sort of, of a practising witch. One that followed an older or more orthodox tradition than the neo-pagan movement, Gardian or Alexandrian, maybe. Though again I couldn’t be sure. I’d had one semester in college on comparative witchcraft, though now I’m sure they called it comparative wiccan. Of the wiccan practitioners I knew personally, none of them practised anything this traditional.

  • A Book of Shadows – and yes, it should be capitalised – is not just a spell book. It can contain spells, but it is just as much a religious text as the Bible and should be accorded similar respect. After all, not all Wiccans practise magic.
  • Yeah, Wicca is not an ‘old’ tradition. Wicca – which ought to be capitalised as well, because it’s a proper noun – is a neopagan religion. It was devised during the twentieth century. While elements of worship derive from ancient practises, it’s pretty much one of the starting blocks of the neopagan movement.
  • Alexandrianism only began to use a Book of Shadows later, from roughly about the mid sixties onwards.
  • Do you mean ‘Gardnerian’? Because a Gardian is a French mounted cattle herdsman. Or two cities in Iran.
  • No, they wouldn’t call it ‘comparative wiccan’. For a start, it would be ‘comparative Wicca’ because ‘Wiccan’ is a term for a practitioner. You don’t take ‘comparative Jew’, do you? And the class would not be named after just one religious term. Wicca is not synonymous with witchcraft. There are witches who are not Wiccans. So if the class is about witchcraft, as a descriptor of many different neopagan and magical sets, then the title stands.
  • I can’t believe that Anita has any friends.

Anita looks around the room and manages to find an altar that everyone else missed. I have no idea whether witches/Wiccans/delete as appropriate use altars routinely, but I have read that they can be used, I’m just wondering how so many police officers managed to miss it. Anita tells Bradford/Bradley that the man heard his wife screaming in dire pain, ran to his altar, so he could… throw salt at the monster.

Which has NEVER been show to work in this universe.

Now, bearing in mind that Wicca in these books has nothing in common with Wicca in the real world, why couldn’t the dead guy have summoned up a fucking fireball or a demon?

Anita says they should get a real Wiccan to have a look.

“Wiccan, you mean witch.”

Sigh. Editor’s pen: “Wiccan? You mean witch.”


“Wiccan? Don’t you mean witch?”

“Yes, but most of them prefer the term wiccan.”

“Politically correct,” Bradley said.

I nodded. “Yeah.”

Witchcraft and Wicca ARE NOT SYNONYMOUS. And, oh yeah, isn’t political correctness awful. How dare people want respect and equal treatment? MADNESS I SAY.

Bradley/Bradford then whines about how Franklin won’t like that, but then immediately follows that by saying how he outranks Franklin anyway, so why did he even bother saying it? Other than to talk about how ‘snotty’ Franklin is. Gah.

Next up, Anita finds a fully loaded gun, which means that the dead dude’s spell worked. I’d say not, seeing as him and his wife are dead. Anita then thinks that if the spell worked – yeah, evisceration is generally a sign of success – then where objects in the room might be a clue to what kind of spell was cast, so they can then work out what type of creature is behind all the murders.

That is actually really good logic. Shame it’s ruined by the fact THAT THE SPELL CLEARLY DID NOT WORK, THE SPELLCASTER IS DEAD!

Bradford/Bradley then gets anxious because if ‘we fail, then the entire unit could be disbanded’. Yes, if they fail to solve this crime, the FBI is going to entirely give up on trying to solve all supernatural related crime. Oh, and he blackmailed Marks to let Anita on case. Now that is something that might lead the FBI to disband the unit. Corruption is not good.

We then move onto ‘Anita is so special everyone can see her pain instantly’ conga line.

“Like your eyes are a cup, and every horror you see is another drop added. Your eyes are full of things you’ve seen, the things you’ve done. Get out while there’s still some room for things that don’t bleed.”

Bradley/Bradford then warns her off suicide and getting involved with men like Otto Jefferies because…. DUN DUN DUN…. he’s a government spook.

wow bradleybradford

you’re such a good fbi agent

you can’t even work out that the distinctive psychotic german is the distinctive psychotic german wanted as a rapist and murderer

bradfordbradley then talks about how useful Anita would be the next time a prisoner dies in a interrogation


how many prisoners die when you interrogate them, bradfordbradley?

that really isn’t normal, dude.

that’s fucked up.

he tries to cover it up by saying ‘oh, one day people will ask you to do things you don’t want to do!’ but that can’t hide the fact that his mind instantly went to ‘WHEN PRISONERS DIE I WON’T GET IN TROUBLE ANYMORE!’

He then offers her a job with them, even though she is as thick as a post, is not qualified for an FBI job, and has no skills whatsoever to bring to that position.

She was turned down for being a ‘independent wild card’. Damnit, she’s a loose cannon. Then her file was passed onto some other government agency, and I just want to smack my head into things.

Blake, Anita Blake. It even sounded funny. Of course, the federal government has never been known for its sense of humour.

Well, they’re considering hiring you. That’s quite funny.


7 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter thirty four

  1. As much as I might take issue with Wicca, at least I’d bother making sure to get the terms right when writing about them. My god, Hamilton, would it kill you to do real research for once?

    “getting involved with men like Otto Jefferies because…. DUN DUN DUN…. he’s a government spook.”

    You know, that might actually be an interesting premise – a diagnosed psychopath working for the CIA (or other covert ops organization). I imagine it would mostly be wetwork, but it does have that “use the monster to fight other monsters” thing going for it. But not as Urban Fantasy, though – we already have the Nathaniel Cade books, thanks.

    “He then offers her a job with them”

    Uh, no. No. No no no. Why would you do that? She has no respect for rules or authority, and her skill set can’t be that unique. Find someone else more suited for the job.

    Maybe this group is supposed to be like Special Investigations in the Dresden Files – it’s supposed to be a punishment. Only it doesn’t quite work, because here the supernatural is known to exist.

    • LKH is a Wiccan herself, I believe. So, um, I’m not sure why it’s wrong.

      RPIT is stated to be a punishment division, but that makes no sense because the department should be as important as any other in this world. ARGH WORLDBUILDING WHAT IS THAT

      • “LKH is a Wiccan herself, I believe. So, um, I’m not sure why it’s wrong.”

        I’m thinking her conversion had little to do with the actual beliefs themselves.

        “RPIT is stated to be a punishment division, but that makes no sense because the department should be as important as any other in this world.”

        Again, it only works in the Dresden-verse because everyone thinks it’s a joke. That is clearly not the case here. Did LKH really not think this through?

        (Also, if you haven’t checked out the Nathaniel Cade books, you totally should. They’re awesome.)

      • Because being an outsider is cool, even if it doesn’t make sense.

        They sound interesting, I might check them out when I’ve got more monies

  2. I don’t know if she thinks herself Wiccan, but she’s definitely pagan, if this post is anything to go by: http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/2013/12/happy-return-of-the-sun-remember-godsgoddesses-love-us/
    ….reading it is a bit painful, actually. The Bennies make it better.

    The only reason I can imagine the FBI would disband the spook group is that off-screen, they’re constantly fucking up. And possibly political reasons: if they can’t prove an actual need for them to investigate supernatural crimes specifically, people might have been protesting of bias or racism (speciesm? Is that even a word?) or what have you. It’s the US, I guarantee someone was likely complaining.

      • LKH has obviously decided that Anita must always be the smartest person in the room. Unfortunately, that means giving everyone else the IQ of a brain-dead squirrel.

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