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The Harlequin (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 15) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Cover Artist: Craig White
Review by Harriet Klausner
Berkley Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425217245
Date: 05 June 2007 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Webpage / Show Official Info /

Anita Blake's biggest battle begins when Malcolm Blake, the founder of The Church of Eternal Life appears at her office. Since he hates her and her vampire lover Jean-Claude, she is surprised to find him afraid and wanting her to relay a message to the Master of St. Louis. Something is off in his tone that even her powers can only sense but not understand. He refuses to divulge any details and when she tells Jean-Claude about his message and behavior, he closes down and tells her he is forbidden by vampire law to talk about it. It looks as if she will never know what vampires fear.

Also see Drew Bittner's review of The Harlequin in this issue.

When at the movies with one of her lovers, the were-jaguar Nathaniel, Anita finds in the ladies room a package addressed to her. Inside is a white mask in the shape of a face. Nathaniel denies having anything to do with the package, but when she tells Jean-Claude about it, she can tell he is terrified. He asks her to come over to his club where he will explain everything. While in the office with vampires and shapeshifters, emotions are amplified and fights threaten to break out.

Jean-Claude learns that this is happening when Anita touches him and her dark feelings evaporate. He explains that the Mother of All Vampires who is now waking up from her long slumber felt that vampires were too powerful. She created a special breed of vampires that would police the vampire race. They leave a mask when they stay awhile in a territory. A white mask means the vamps are being observed, a red mask means punishment and a black one means death. Although both Anita and Jean-Claude received white masks, The Harlequin acts like they received red ones. Their presence is a danger to the preternatural community and Anita and her allies must stop them before The Harlequin destroys everyone she cares about.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy this provocative and exciting urban fantasy that doesn't rely on sex to move the story line along. There is a major plot concerning The Harlequin as well as several subplots involving characters that the heroine cares about and loves. Anita is more at peace with herself than ever before as she accepts that she is part of the preternatural community and a white picket fence is not in her cards.

She learns to control the ardeur (the need to have sex to feel fulfilled) and recognizes that her lifestyle is nothing to be ashamed of and she is not promiscuous because she has several lovers. The characters are believable and easy to understand except for The Harlequin who is more of a caricature of villains than three dimensional vampires.

Characters from previous series not only make appearances but play intricate parts in the various plot lines. The Mother of All Darkness, the ultimate villain, makes a cameo appearance and that is enough to understand why all vampires are frightened of her and hope that instead of rising from her long sleep, she goes back to dreamland. Ms. Hamilton's ability to sustain the quality of her series and stay true to her characters is why this series always hit the best seller lists.

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