The Harlequin, the deadly and secret Wild Hunt of the Council, the ultimate police force and nightmare of the vampire world, has arrived in St. Louis. Ostensibly there to examine Malcolm after his refusal to Blood Oath his followers, they are casting their eyes on Jean-Claude
And they are not playing by the rules
The biggest, scariest enforces of vampire kind! Created to strike fear in even the most powerful Masters of the City! Scary! Powerful! A force that should make even Anita quake in her boots.
Because they’re not there. The book is called The Harlequin, everyone refers to them as the scariest things ever ever ever but… they don’t actually do a whole lot. The main thing they do do is mess with people’s emotions causing minor overreactions which are dealt with the minute everyone realises they’re having an overreaction
Do you know how tense and dramatic a scene if where people talk for several pages about various angsty issues and then spend some more pages deciding whether or not their issues were legitimate or not is? If you guessed “not even slightly” then you’d be right. Epic shows downs involving everyone sitting in a circle and wringing their hands rate somewhere between “watching paint dry” and “going through Aunt Mildred’s holiday photos” in terms of excitement.
Of course, this is also an Anita Blake book. So when the enemy attacks by making the characters extra dramatic, extra whiney, extra angsty or extra moody – HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO TELL?! This is their ground state of being! If it weren’t for Anita occasionally saying “I’m way too afraid” or “he’s acting too angry” I’d completely miss it. And did, repeatedly. It’s impossible to portray these characters as more emotionally uncontrolled than they already are.
Requiem is being pouty and moody… and this is news? Byron being catty and poking at people – yeah, that’s kind of his only defining character trait (because it’s a stereotype). Richard being surly, uncooperative and angry? Oh, must be Tuesday.
In fact, Richard losing his ever loving mind because of the Harlequin messing with him is the major “attack” of the Harlequin. But Richard perpetually loses his ever loving mind! He attacked Jean-Claude? Yeah, not the first time. He wants Anita all to himself? This is hardly news. He hates being a werewolf? Yup, we knew that as well. Exactly what did the Harlequin do to Richard that was discernibly different from how he has behaved from the last several books?
Or even in this book. Anita, using her woo-woo, slams the messing Harlequin across the room and they stop meddling with their emotions. And later they head to a huge show down – I’m talking a massive dramatic show-down with Jean-Claude, Anita & co on a stage opposite the big bad Harlequin also on the stage, watched by a huge audience. Faced by this Richard decides to… lose his ever loving mind.
I kid you not, for pages he sits there and wails about the Ardeur and how he can’t be part of it and waaaah his issues. The big bad vampires are RIGHT THERE watching him. Anita, Richard and Jean-Claude have a big argument while the bad guys, I don’t know, check their watches and tap their feet and wait to be noticed again, I guess. And this isn’t the first time Richard has lost his ever loving mind while the bad guys are in mid-attack – it happened when Musette visited in Cerulean Sins as well
Richard attacking Jean-Claude isn’t proof of the evil-bad-nasty Harlequin. It’s par the course with his characters.
So, this means we end up with a book in a series that is horrendously bogged down by characters having random emotional shitfits and then having to sit down and talk about it for 8 gazillion pages afterwards – and then add an enemy that causes random emotional shitfits that are pretty much indistinguishable from their standard shitfits.