Review of Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton
By: Lady Lu

I have been a fan of Laurell K. Hamilton for well over a decade now, and when I was presented the opportunity to write a book review for this magazine I couldn't think of a better time to maybe introduce some new readers to the Anita Blake series. Choosing one particular book out of the entire series however, proved far more difficult.

After much thought, and few re–reads, I settled on Narcissus in Chains. This book is an older one, released in 2001 and the 10th in the series. I will warn you now, if you haven't read it, stop now, go read, then resume this article, there will be spoilers. Also, if you haven't read it what the hell is wrong with you? Just kidding.

Within the first 10 pages, the usual catastrophe that follows Anita like lint, is laid out. The were–leopard or Pard that she inherited in the previous book, is in trouble. Nothing unusual there, the preternatural community, especially the ones connected to Anita have a way of doing that. This particular bit of trouble introduces us to a little S&M. Bondage between preternatural creatures can and is quite creative. There is a lot one can take before using the safe word, and unfortunately one of Anita's kitty–cats Nathaniel, doesn't have a safe word. So, as you can see, CATastrophe.

In short order the situation is laid out for you and you meet Narcissus, head of the were–hyena pack, and it is his club Narcissus in Chains that the trouble is brewing for the Pard. Now, Narcissus is just that, narcissistic, and likes to pretend he is Switzerland in conflicts between preternatural groups.

If you have read any of the series, you know Anita doesn't take any crap from anyone and she sure isn't going to from anyone now. She wants those she is responsible for set free, relatively unharmed and wants to keep the body count to a minimum. She is trying to convince herself she isn't a sociopath, which, in previous books, has begum to way heavy on her as she can kill without emotion, rationalizing each one. It's a hard sell.

Catastrophe aside, which don't get me wrong, makes the story just as compelling as all the rest, it is the Asher story line that held my attention the most. For the most part, Asher, who has known Jean–Claude, the Master Vampire of the City, for longer than St. Louis has been around, is a bit of a whiner. He is the most needy vampire I have ever come across. He desperately needs to be loved but will do whatever he can to sabotage it once he has it. From blaming the scars that dribble down his perfect face on one side, to the lack of quality time he gets to spend with any one chosen lover. He is clingy, destructive to any relationship and has this idea that he isn't wanted, only tolerated. Within this particular book, he finds his place, sort of. He helps save Damian, instructing Anita in what to do, and he plays a big part with Narcissus, an exchange of sorts, that feeds both Narcissus' needs and his own. He discovers things about himself and begins to becomes comfortable with himself. In the world of bondage there are tops and bottoms, and Asher has always been a bottom. In this book he gets the chance to be a top, and discovers he is not only very good at it, but enjoys it immensely. He finds a sense of usefulness when he helps save Damian, and a sense of belonging. Don't get me wrong, he is still a whiner, and that doesn't change in any books to come, he just becomes less so.

Narcissus in Chains is one of her longer books, but it is so full of action, Pack and Pard drama, dead bodies, done is such a delectable way and good nasty sex that it ranks as one of my favourites in the series.

Not only is Anita gaining animals to call, responsibilities, to said animals, vampire servants, sex partners, and magical abilities at an uncanny rate, she has a bit of a self discovery in this book. For 9 books she is convinced she is a sociopath, and fights that at every turn. In this book she realizes that even though she can kill without a second thought and go about her day, she has a heart. One that feels deeply, cares deeply about those she is responsible for and can have that heart broken just as easily, which to anyone who has read any of the books, knows, that THAT particular piece of insight sits more heavily with her than actually being a sociopath.

As a stand alone book it is quite easy to follow the relationships and story line. As one in a long series, it is integral in the progression of Anita and who she becomes, it is the start of the Asher story line, in my opinion, and draws definitive lines between the Lukio, the Pard and which side of the line Anita stands on. Her loyalty lies with those she cares for, those she is responsible for, be it wolf or cat. Vampire or human.

If you enjoy reading a book by an author who writes like people think, then you will enjoy the Anita Blake series. If a certain 'F–bomb' is required, if you're thinking it as you are reading a certain scene, sure as shit so is Anita.

Out of all the books in the Anita Blake series, I give Narcissus in Chains a solid 4 out of 5 stars. It would have been 5 if Asher hadn't ruined his "a–ha" moment by whining about it.