A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Narcissus in Chains’ chapter twenty


It was full dark when we pulled up in front of my house.

OK, this book takes place in the summer, so let’s say full dark is about ten at night. Anita woke up at ten. That means she had sex and talked for twelve hours. She hasn’t peed. She hasn’t eaten. She hasn’t drunk. She also didn’t take a shower, so she must absolutely stink.

I don’t ask for much, but a little realism would be nice.

The lights in her home are all on and her driveway is full of cars. We now finally get an explanation for her moving out to the some place in the middle of nowhere, four books after the fact.

I’d left Jean-Claude in a huff with a firm date to come back tomorrow night and get Damian out of hock.

Yup, keep on bleating about how you care soooooo much about Damian. You couldn’t even be bothered to help him now! It’s not like you had anything better to do with your time! Anita worries the effect sex with have on the marks and reminds us that Nathanvile is with her.

I realized with a shock that I didn’t really think of Nathaniel as a person. Not as a grown-up separate human being kind of person anyway. He was more of a burden than a person to me. Someone to be rescued, helped. He was a cause, a project, not a person.

I thought this was going to be some character development and a realisation for Anita that she only sees Nathaniel as something to hump but it was not to be. Say, for all this talk of how abused Nathanvile is and how hopeless he is and how he can’t look after himself… we never see it in the text. I don’t see any evidence of him being a ‘burden’ other than demanding Anita pay for all his bills. Show, don’t tell. Nathanvile is as much a ‘natural submissive’ as Ana Steele is.

Anita is horrified that she had sex with Nathanvile (YOU ALREADY DID) because ‘I still considered Nathaniel a child, an abused child’. Would you stop that? She says she won’t need to feed for a few hours and Nathanvile reveals that JC told him all about the ardeur. Hopefully he actually listened. Anita bewails that she just wants to be queen of the wereleopards and they talk about how they both only consider sex to be intercourse.

Human sexual activity, or human sexual practice or human sexual behavior, is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts from time to time, and for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity normally results in sexual arousal and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle.’

Does that say sex is limited to intercourse? Look, when an asexual knows more about sex than you do, you’ve got problems. Hell, teenage girls know more about sex than Anita Blake does! This is pathetic! How are your readership – who are adult women invested in the sexual and romantic story of your character – supposed to relate to a woman who behaves and thinks like a ten year old?

Anita vows to fight the ardeur. She’s worried she will hurt Nathanvile. Blah blah. I don’t care. They go to Anita’s house and the whole leopard pack have let themselves into Anita’s home because they’re fucking freeloaders with no sense of personal space. Cherry rubs her face against Anita’s hand because, yeah, that’s how humans and big cats interact. Zane and Cherry bodyrub Anita because after living life as a human and not spending any time as a leopard they want to abandon what they are and go and shit in the dirt like an animal and roll around in it.

No, I am never going to be okay with animalistic behaviours for shapeshifters. THEY’RE NOT ANIMALS. WHY WOULD YOU ACT LIKE ONE?

Zane makes hurr hurr sex comments and gropes Nathaniel in an attempt to work out who he’s slept with. Anita bleats about getting Gregory but that would involve giving two shits about the flimsy plot. Cherry then announces that any girlfriend of Nathanvile must be approved of by the pack because… reasons.

No one cared a damn who slept with whom – until now.

When your characters are questioning your stupid plot, then you know it’s a stupid plot.

Elizabeth comes up with ‘the ultimate hooker’s walk’ – sigh – and she’s all smug because she’s eeeeevvvvvillllll. She’s dressed in skimpy clothing which Anita frowns on, despite her own predilection towards skimpy clothing.

Caleb was wearing a pair of bell-bottom jeans, no shoes, no shirt. The jeans were cut low enough to show off his belly-button ring.

Um, then they’re not very low cut? I mean, the top of my jeans don’t cover my belly button and I don’t have low cut jeans. Unless Caleb’s belly button is in his pelvic area.

I was too young to remember wearing bell-bottoms personally, but I did remember my older cousins competing to see who could get the widest bell. Even as a child I’d thought the pants were ugly. Time had not changed my opinion.

I’m twenty two and I have worn plenty of bell bottoms in my life. That’s because they were reintroduced to the world as ‘boot cut jeans’ in the late eighties and have remained popular ever since.

And look – you can see her belly button! Because she’s a not got a weird belly button!

Elizabeth and Caleb had S-E-X which Anita judges them for. Anita berates Elizabeth for not looking after Nathanvile but it would seem Elizabeth hates Nate because ‘he’s got standards now’. Why is she self shaming? Anita wants to know why Liz isn’t scared of her. Because the plot says so, I’m guessing. Anita knows she can’t punish Elizabeth because…. um. She just can’t. Anita then feels SAD for killing Elizabeth’s partner, Gabriel, who was an psychopathic rapist who enjoyed eating women alive.

Anita feels bad because Elizabeth loved Gabriel and a woman can only have her existence vindicated by a man. Again, we have only ever been told Liz and Gabriel were in a relationship. We never saw it, and it was only revealed after he was dead and… actually, I think this is the first time it’s come up. I knew Elizabeth had been one of Gabe’s leopards but it wasn’t really said that they had a close relationship.

More leopards appear. Merle has a woman with him. Anita immediately insults her appearance as the woman dares to not wear make up.

Merle was holding her hand, but not like they were a couple, more like a father holds a daughter’s hand – a comforting gesture.

LKH, why do you enjoy linking sex with imagery of children?

The woman, Gina, insults Anita for being too short.  Whatever. Vivian arrives. She’s like a ‘doll’.

She was simply one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen, and the casual shorts and striped tank top with sandals couldn’t hide that.

Unless she’s wearing those shorts as a bag over her heard, they wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference to her appearance.

She was African-American by way of Ireland, and her skin skin was that flawless pale cocoa shade that you only get with that particular mixture.

Of course, we couldn’t have a black character who isn’t in some way white! God forbid we have actual people of colour in this book! *beats Anita with my wrist stumps* And that’s for making Vivian into some wonderful exotic creature as well!

Vivian looks incomplete and ‘lost’ without Stephen by her side, as women are only worthwhile when they’re with men. Anita is SAD because she forgot Stephen and Gregory are brothers and Gregory is getting hurt. Anita’s only brain cell must get lonely. Anita asks how Vivian is, which Liz scoffs at because… caring for people is bad? Vivian then faints and Anita gives her shit for not being strong enough to help her.

Liz then demands to know who Nathanvile is having sex with. I don’t know why people care. Anita tries to get everyone to help Gregory, but no one seems to care about him. Liz laughs about how Nathanvile broke the rules they only just set up. Caleb smells Nathanvile’s crotch and smells semen, but no vajeen, so he didn’t have sex.

YES HE DID. LKH, HOW CAN YOU WRITE ‘EDGY’ AND ‘DARK’ EROTICA WHEN YOU THINK ONLY BORING OLD VANILLA SEX COUNTS AS SEX?

The leopards strip Nathanvile and remark that he’s done something. Anita then has to reveal she was the only who marked Nate, dun dun dun. The fact no one can tell whether she’s lying or not mean she’s a real alpha or something.

oh god why does anyone care? I’m fucking bulletpointing, I can’t deal with this.

  • Nate and Anita smell like each other.
  • Anita announces she might be a leopard now.
  • Liz can’t believe Anita marked someone. Even though Anita has done this before.
  • Liz says Micah is like Gabriel. Oh, yes he is. I can’t argue with that.
  • Micah appears wearing booty shorts. Ick.
  • Anita tries to say he looks feminine without implying Micah is in any way connected to icky womanness.
  • Micah wants to know why everyone is arguing. Um, how come he’s just taken control of things so easily? Oh, well I guess he raped his competition into submission, so I suppose he can do what he wants.
  • Anita has to strip to prove Nate and her did something. *rolls eyes*
  • Caleb tries to grope Anita.
  • ‘be afraid, Elizabeth, be very afraid’. ARGHHHH.
  • Elizabeth punches Anita in the face. I love Elizabeth.
  • Micah starts to referring Anita as his possession.
  • They’re soul mates you see.
  • *vomits*
  • Anita and Micah start to make out and he gets an instant erection.
  • Doiiiing.
  • ‘We are a mated pair, Anita. It’s legend among the leopards that you can find your perfect mate, and from the first moment you have sex you’re bound, more than marriage, more than law. We will always crave each other. Our souls will always call to each other. Our beasts will always hunt together.’
  • Do you want the pair to have a genuine romance or affection? Then fuck you, because love is destiny and magic and instant.
  • The readers follow this series for the relationships between Anita, JC, and Richard, not for insta-better-than-you.
  • Liz is appropriately bitchy. God i love her.
  • Anita won’t put her shirt on again. For reasons.
  • She then shoots Liz in the chest.
  • Because violence is the only solution to any problem.
  • She says she will kill Liz. Oh, Anita, you’re such an admirable person.
  • Everyone starts to worship Anita some more.
  • All hail Queen Anita.

To recap the plot so far: nothing has happened. Again.

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12 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Narcissus in Chains’ chapter twenty

  1. The idea that only PIV intercourse is real sex actually isn’t too uncommon in the US.

    It’s actually prevalent enough that there’s a term for it: “Technical virgin” meaning a girl who might give handjobs or blowjobs or even anal or basically anything that isn’t “sex” by Anita’s standards. Of course, I’m not sure these books were written when this was a well-known thing, and as an adult woman, Anita really isn’t the right demographic for believing that (it’s mainly a teen thing)

    • Oh, talking about ‘technical virginities’ takes me back to my high school days. I went to an all girl’s school, so it was a very common topic of discussion. But at least we acknowledged that other types of sex were, you know, sex! And we were in our teens! Anita is in her twenties.

  2. I insist that boot cut are not the same as bellbottoms and you can’t convince me otherwise. *strokes boot cut jeans possessively*

    Considering Laurell grew up in the South, I’m not actively surprised she thinks only vaginal intercourse is “sex.” The blow-up in the 90’s over President Clinton having oral sex with Lewinsky was, after all, capped by him saying “he did not have sex with that woman,” and in a lot of people’s minds, oral didn’t count. (Nor did cigars.) Even though she’s now a grown woman, she seems a lot like my mother: no matter what people might tell her, whatever she learned as a child/teenager still counts, even when it’s wrong.

    Also, I am full of joy today: my state just struck down the gay marriage ban everyone was stupid enough to vote into law years ago. *throws confetti*

    • *also throws confetti for that is wonderful news!*

      It all makes Anita sound far older than she is supposed to be to me.

      I wore corduroy bell bottoms at my first job. I thought I was so cool.

      • Am I the only one who read that line as a personal comment from LKH? First the body-shaming, now fashion commentary – the woman just can not separate herself from her character.

      • Anita and LKH are far, far too similar. It’s really amateurish – sort of like the stories I wrote as a child where me and my imaginary siblings were evacuees in WW2. I stopped writing like that when I was about twelve and started actively developing characters. If LKH really has a writer’s group, she should have stopped this habit years ago.

    • Yay. I’ve never understood gay marriage bans. Cant these bigots just mind their own business instead of fucking with people lives when it make no difference to their lives whether it is legal or not

  3. “I realized with a shock that I didn’t really think of Nathaniel as a person. Not as a grown-up separate human being kind of person anyway.”

    Dear god, she pretty much flat-out said she thinks of him as a child. LKH, please, please, *please* stop writing your self-insert Mary Sues having sex with characters that are constantly described as being child-like.

    At least this isn’t as bad as Merry Gentry – there, the character is *physically* child-like. *shudder*

    “She was African-American by way of Ireland, and her skin skin was that flawless pale cocoa shade that you only get with that particular mixture.”

    Ah, and yet another fine example of LKH’s “but not *too* foreign” crap. Does the woman just not notice this stuff? What am I saying, of course she doesn’t. This is the same woman who turns in her first-drafts with barely enough time to do copy-edits before the publication date, and didn’t realize what was wrong with chapter 11 of this book until people actually complained.

    Dear god, and there’s at least ten more books of this series. TEN MORE BOOKS.

    • ‘At least this isn’t as bad as Merry Gentry – there, the character is *physically* child-like. *shudder*’

      Well, that just about confirms it – I am not doing the Merry Gentry series. Anything involving children or child-like beings is top of my NOPE list.

      Ten more books and some short stories that I may or may not do. May not because I’d have to actually give LKH money for them and I am not willing to do that.

      • Well the character is a several hundred year old goblin, so definitely not a child. And technically the character isn’t really supposed to be childlike; just small, weak and in need of protection. When reading it definitely comes across as if the character is childlike, but I really have no idea what the hell LKH was thinking when she came up with him.

      • It really doesn’t help that LKH doesn’t stop at having him be the size of a 12-year-old, but also has him *dress* like a 12-year-old. And also apparently spends most his time either under Merry’s desk or in a dog kennel. The whole thing just wreaks so much of “NOPE” I don’t even know how LKH didn’t catch on.

        The woman needs serious help.

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