Anita Blake is a legal executioner, or vampire-killer, and can raise the dead as zombies, which is basically her day job. In addition, she is Part of not one, but two Triumvirates of Power, and has a number of different abilities which she has gained from having relationships with a number of vampires and wereanimals.
But today she is at a dance studio recital, supporting the son of her friend, Monica, a three-year old named Matthew. Monica has forgotten part of her son's costume, so Anita rushes it to her. But even though she loves Matthew, her reunion with him disturbs her. First of all, when she offers to kiss his cheek, he wants a "big boy kiss" or to be kissed on the lips, He says that all the big boys kiss Anita, and he's a big boy, so he deserves to be kissed that way, too.
And Monica snarks at Anita and her many men, some drawn to her because of her power, others because she, too has animals to call, the same as Vampire Master. Anita, who is already uncomfortable with the ever-growing number of men she has drawn to her bed, finds Monica's comments hurtful, but isn't about to have a shouting match with her when her son is so nearby.
Going back out to the auditorium, she reunites with her men- her lover Micah, a wereleopard who is Nimir-Raj to her Nimir-Rana, Jean-Claude, the master vampire, Asher, his friend and former lover, and Richard Zeeman, Anita's former fiancee, a werewolf who was too neurotic to stay with her. When she, Richard and Jean-Claude formed a triumvirate of power, each received something from the joining. In part, Anita received faster healing than a human and the Ardeur, a way of feeding off passion and sex. From her, Richard received her anger, and it was simply too much for him to deal with. Not long ago, Anita had realized what her anger was doing to Richard and took it from him, feeding on it- another of her recently developed powers. As a result, Richard has calmed down and no longer acts pissy and pouty over every little thing.
Now, as they watch the recital, a relative calm falls over the group, though there is still some dissention. Asher has been coming on to Micah, who doesn't want to be with Asher. Asher, who can usually take a hint, has been pushing and pushing, and Micah, quite frankly, is sick of it. But it isn't until Anita, Jean-Claude and the others get home that she discovers what is behind Asher's mood. It turns out that Asher is threatening to leave Jean-Claude and everyone behind and take a position in another vampire court- all because Jean-Claude will not make love with him, out of fear of incurring Anita's ire.
Anita is completely shocked to hear this- she has nothing against making love to Asher, even with Jean-Claude making love to Asher. But now Richard, who has always been too uptight to get into a bed to make love if there were any more men than him in it, decides to do the right thing and completely open up to Anita and Jean-Claude, and let all of them claim the power that having a triumvirate should make them. Asher wants to have Jean-Claude make love to him, but the offer of having Anita and Richard in the bed as well is simply too intriguing, and they all fall into bed with each other.
Partway into the "festivities", however, they are interrupted by Belle Morte and the Master of Beasts, who appear to them in a vision and attempt to attack them, in particular Anita, trying to turn her into a wereleopard. However, Anita senses something more than just Belle Morte and the Master of Beasts. In addition to the scent of Belle Morte, there is the scent of Jasmine, that of Marmee Noir. It seems that Marmee Noir, although her body was destroyed, her spirit lived on and moved into the members of the Vampire Council. She wants a new body to live in, though, and seems to have decided that Anita's body will do just fine.
Marmee Noir is forced back by Anita and those close to her, but the attempt sends ripples out through the whole of vampire society. Those close to Anita and Jean-Claude contact them- especially Augie of Las Vegas and his wife Bibiana, and the members of the Harlequin. According to them, there is only one way for Anita to survive- to be able to call, as her animal, every different color of tiger, from the black, red, blue, white and golden clans. Supposedly the Golden Tigers, the ones who ruled the others, are extinct, but the Harlequin has been protecting and raising some of the golden tigers, in the hope that a Master of Tigers would arise and need them.
Now, they all hope that Anita could be this fabled "Master of Tigers". But for Anita to find out, she will have to master and sleep with all the colors of Tigers, and deal with Haven, the one tiger who is master of the Tigers in the city. The problem with Haven is that he is single-minded, and rather a thug. He wants Anita on his own terms- he wants to be the one in charge, and he's rather angry and baffled that Anita won't play along. In most Weretiger pards, the strongest and most powerful male is the Alpha and gets all the women, whereas Anita goes after and picks men who most decidedly aren't Alphas, and seems perfectly happy with them.
Haven can't wrap his mind around it, and it's making him angry at Anita *and* her men, and when he decides to take his wrath out on Micah and Nathaniel, it's up to Anita to step up and defend them before he can kill them. But there is another problem as well- Marmee Noir is causing other vampires to rise from their graves and attack humans in a manner that seems most insane. When the Marshalls contact her and ask her to give her advice on the attack, Anita is happy to assist- even though she is staying with Jean-Claude until the threat of Marmee Noir has passed.
But Marmee Noir makes it clear that the attacks are how she is "punishing" Anita, and Anita has no choice but to try and become the Master of Tigers, the one thing that may be able to make her free from the control of Marmee Noir. But will she be able to do so before Marmee Noir strikes back against her in other, more subtle ways? And how can you destroy a vampire without a body, anyway? Is it even possible?
I love Laurell K. Hamilton's work, and this book was no exception. But this one had a different feel. Maybe because, except for the first scenes, which happen at the dance recital, the entire novel takes place in the catacombs under Guilty Pleasures. But despite the lack of outside scenes with the characters, a lot takes place in the book- but it just doesn't feel that way. Instead it comes across as sex, talking, death, orgy, more talking. For some reason the changes didn't feel very permanent. I didn't get any sense of closure to the novel at the end.
Now, Anita has some more problems to deal with, and the structure of the vampires in the new world is transforming to be a lot more like the one in the old world- whether this will remain the same after the threat of Marmee Noir is finished or vanquished remains to be seen. But I don't think that the structure of the vampires in the old world will be staying the same- the Council may exist, but we find out that the Council really only had one reason for being- to protect Marmee Noir and to protect others from her as well. And given the way she's been rolling the members of the council, well, it may be that by the time this is over, the Council in Europe will be no more.
I liked a lot of the new characters introduced in this novel, although we have seen too little of them to be sure what their eventual impact on the story will be. Are they just going to be secondary characters, or is Anita's Harem of Vampies and Weres already becoming too unwieldy? We see that it is causing friction with the confrontation with Asher. Could other conflicts like this turn up in the future? I don't know, but it could be in the cards. There are a lot of men in Anita's orbit right now.
I enjoyed this book, even if it's more of what I see as a character-heavy book than a story-heavy one. I mean, yes, stuff happens, but the storyline can be edited down to: Marmee Noir threatens Anita and those she loves, and Anita must try to become Master/Mistress of Tigers to have any chance of fighting her off. The rest is character conflicts coming home to roost. The confrontation with Asher, the confrontation with Haven, all hinge on Anita being who and what she is. Recommended.