Saturday, April 6, 2013

Obsidian Butterfly, Laurell K. Hamilton

Prepare yourself, this is going to be a long one. This book takes place in New Mexico: Edward's home. Something is skinning or dismembering people. Anita owes Edward a favor for killing Harley when an assassin was after her. This is the favor. There's a lot going on in this one, which is why this is a long write up.

I had really mixed feelings - especially in the beginning. Edward was a little too emotionless. I kept thinking, "God, I don't remember him being that bad." Soon you realize that it's just because he's clinging to his "monster," because of his family and we start to see emotion, maybe even love, certainly devotion leak out. It starts to pick up after that. Edward is engaged (no. really), to a widow with a 5 year old girl and a teen boy (14 I think). Anita predictably, and understandable, is PISSED.

I should also discuss here my earlier predictions about Edward becoming another romantic possibility for Anita. That was thoroughly shut down by Hamilton with Edward's new family. And I'm 100% fine with it. Edward addresses what I was feeling and seeing between the 2 of them when he discusses soul mates. Edward explains how in Greek mythology, there was no male and female until the souls split. He says Anita is the other half of him – his soul mate.

This little speech comes back to bite Anita in the ass in the form of Olaf, Edward's back up and a truly scary bastard who would rape, torture, and kill Anita as soon as look at her. Not to mention Edward thought Olaf might be the "something" committing the crimes. Buy the end, Olaf thinks Anita is his soul mate (obviously, he got this brilliant idea from Edward) because she took out a vamp's heart. Talk about scary. When Edward finds out, he tells her to kill Olaf if he ever comes around her again. However, it gives an interesting future story line.

This was the first book that I started getting frustrated w/ Anita. Perhaps it's because there was such a long time between the first 5 books and the rest, but I don't think so. I enjoy character development, and Anita has been resisting it for a while. At least in one direction. She has no problem evolving toward violence. She's kind of...stalled out otherwise.

She's still having some existential crisis about the boys. Now, in my review of Blue Moon, I said "The most surprising event, and pleasantly so, is the end. Anita instead chooses to walk away. Separate herself from the boys for a while. Now, I know I've been pushing the polyamorous thing, and I still am, but I've been hoping for this break for a while. I think it's necessary..." So, it's 6 months later and she's still stuck. She's been working with the witch, Marianne, attached to the werewolf pack that helped her rescue Richard. She's cut herself of physically and metaphysically/psychically from the boys. Here's where I get the character development bug: She has yet to develop in the softer emotion - love and trust. I guess she's working on this through her were-leopards, but we don't get to see it.

You see evidence of her trust issues when a witch saves her life from the big bad in the hospital. The woman saves her and tries to help Anita understand what happened and what she needs to do to help herself, and Anita can't do it. She just can't open up enough to discuss how her issues with the boys might have contributed to her death (yeah, she kicks it in this one. 4 times. I don't say she's bad ass for nothing). I mean, yes the witch is sort of a stranger, but she hasn't really taken Marianne's advice either, and Anita "trusts" her. I want to see Anita progress in power, and even in strength, but I really want to see her progress in trust. I want to see her start to heal what broke in her when she was a child and lost her mother -- and her father, you find out in this book, though he was alive. She learned early on the people you were supposed count on, leave you to fend for yourself. And she's never admitted it to anyone close enough to help show her differently. Maybe she doesn't really see it. I think she does - she's just too blunt with herself not to see it. She can't trust Richard not to let her down (as he did during Blue Moon) by clinging to morals and letting her pay the price. She can't trust Jean-Claude not to let her down because he always has 200 motives.

But she never tries to tell anyone this. Part of me gets that it's just not her - she's not a "talk it out" type. But the other part just wants to see her break down - to have everything come pouring out. In front of the boys would be good. She's always trying to keep people from seeing her cry - to keep them from seeing her vulnerable. I feel like it needs to stop for her to move forward.

I'm also a little disappointed she hasn't really thought about the fact that the boys may decide she's more effort than she's worth. While I don't think that's true, I think it's something her character should consider. I mean, she HAS been gone for 6 freakin' months! We don't even know if she even told them what she was doing, or if she just...stopped talking. And let's be honest, anyone who's ever had that happen to them knows it sucks.

But let me turn to series as a whole. These books are great feminist books. Not because Anita is a smart, strong female lead, but because Anita faces sexism and misogyny in every book. It's so small, it's hardly there, but that's what makes it powerful. It's not small as in dismissed or unimportant way - it just...IS. It just exists. Which is how it is in real life. Women face discrimination in a thousand little ways every day. And not the "don't open the door for me," kind. The looks Anita gets every time she walks onto a crime scene. The assumption that every man thinks he can have her. The idea that she's not a threat. All of it. Even when it works to her advantage, it's still sexism/misogyny. It stands out in this book more than any other.

Beyond that, race is highlighted here. It's not ignored in the other book - there is a constant social commentary about the treatment of werewolves and vampires. Even Anita discriminates at first, until she starts getting to know them; until she starts to know them as, well...People. In this book it's even more pronounced when the cop in charge of investigation tries to push out a detective because he's not white. Or when he hates Anita because she's a "which" (which, she's not, but that's besides the point. He thinks she's devil spawn), or because he sees something that's not pure white in her. It's really both.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I was feeling frustrated with Anita's refusal to open herself up. I enjoyed seeing a "softer" side of Edward (don't worry he still has a pretty high body count). The case was excellent and we met some of Edwards associates: one terrifying (Olaf), one interesting (Bernardo)

Yet, somehow, I was left feeling...unsatisfied.

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