Top critical review
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on July 14, 2004
Having begun with Guilty Pleasures and read with constant enjoyment up through the first hundred pages of "Narcissus in Chains", I feel tricked and cheated. I had hoped with the last book that Hamilton would steer the series back on course, and that hope was hideously thwarted. Both "Narcissus in Chains" and "Cerulean Sins" are colossal disappointments for anyone who read for mystery, crime drama--or anything, really, other than sex.
Almost all of the major relationships in these books have been destroyed or relegated to the back burner, and anyone who disagrees with Anita gets pages full of badmouthing. It's tiresome, tedious, poorly plotted, and not much more than an endless and emotionless sexathon. The edge Anita's tangled love life gave the books is gone. The promise of the TRI--the metaphysical and emotional entanglement between Anita, Richard the Ulfric, and the vampire, Jean-Claude--has been destroyed by Anita's unceasing selfishness and incredible demands.
I adored Richard, and Micah, Anita's "soulmate" as introduced in "Narcissus in Chains", is a one dimensional, contrived, gutless wonder, and an absolutely pitiful substitute for the vastly fulfilling Richard and Anita dynamic. He is much more of a Stepford Wife than any kind of believable partner, with only one endowment to recommend him. Fans that look to "Cerulean Sins" for resolution of Richard and Anita's dilemma will be sorely, and bitterly, disappointed. Richard gets little page space, and most of that is spent with Anita's internal wondering of "how long it would be before she hated him." Less time than it takes for the devoted to begin to hate you, Anita.
There are no good aspects of this book. The mystery is underhand, poorly developed, and is more an afterthought than any active device of the plot. It is resolved in a slipshod manner that is to me indicative of Hamilton's poor opinion of her readers. The plot devices are contrived, the vampire villainess less than believable. It is remarkable that a villainess can consume so much page space and still manage to accomplish so little.
Most importantly, as far as being relevatory of Anita's abrupt personality transplant, is the destruction of her relationships with all of the human, or humanish, characters in these books. It is only the characters that embrace Anita no matter what that win Anita's and the author's stamp of approval; Dolph, Ronnie, and Richard in particular have been treated abominably. Dolph was throughout the series a rock, and his breakdown is poorly planned and poorly executed. Anita speaks repeatedly of getting rid of Ronnie, her long-time "best girlfriend," apparently for the dastardly crime of daring to question Anita's lifestyle choices. The characters have been reduced, almost in toto, to poor caricatures of what they once were. It makes for bland and occasionally offensive reading.
With "Narcissus in Chains", I was looking for the book I had somehow missed between pages 100-101. With "Cerulean Sins", I'm looking for the other half of the book that was somehow swallowed up by meaningless automaton sex. The ardeur, which might have had interesting possibilities, is merely a device for Anita to sleep with almost all the main and secondary characters...and the ones Anita managed not to sleep with this time are assured of getting their turn in the next book. I am disgusted with the way the promise of the TRI has been sold out, and disgusted with the author for such sloppy writing. If she can't write two series well, don't try. The readers are getting shortchanged on both ends of the spectrum.
The only way I would consider continuing with this increasingly Anita-worshipping cult of a series is if Anita were to get over her fiance in college, Richard was restored to the man we fell in love with back in "Circus of the Damned", Micah were killed, and the ardeur was relegated to the background it deserved: another need, and not one that we need to hear every detail about fulfilling. I have no problem with sex and violence, but only when they serve the plot. Largely due to the sex, there is, in "Cerulean Sins", not much plot to speak of.