I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Rafael by Laurell K. Hamilton
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Horror
Published by Berkley on February 9, 2021
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Also by this author: Lunatic Café, Bloody Bones, A Lick of Frost, Killing Dance, Dead Ice, Crimson Death, Serpentine, "Wounded", Fantastic Hope, Cerulean Sins, Sucker Punch
Twenty-eighth in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter paranormal fantasy, horror series and revolving around an incredibly conflicted tiny woman many fear to take on. The focus is on Anita proving herself to a mischief of rats! If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter books on my website.
This eARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Berkley Books for an honest review.
Whoaaa, get out the bandages! I’ve always liked the rats. It appears that’s because I’ve never met them on their own ground! Eek! These rats are scary and scared!! It definitely leads to a mish-mash of misunderstanding and surprises, for all the major characters. Nobody seems to know what they’re doing, and it reads that way.
Rafael was tedious in that they kept going on and on and on about the rats’ rules, but didn’t want to tell Anita what they were. They just kept dancing around.
Dang, these rats are insecure. They don’t want that energy surge when Anita feeds on Rafael. They want Rafael to be the head of the Furry Coalition. They do like the surge, but…oy… With all the palavering back and forth, it’s too funny what everyone is really worried about! And it does make sense that Anita is the real problem, lol.
It’s through that first person protagonist point-of-view from Anita’s perspective that we know how frightened she is and also how very resolute she is, as she confronts a group of conflicted shapeshifters. I do like how Hamilton pulled in the tricks and knowledge Anita has acquired in the past twenty-seven books!
Oh, well, Asher is back to being one of Jean-Claude’s lovers. Sigh. Although it does sound promising that Asher is taking medications for his issues. Still, Jean-Claude is the only one who has forgiven Asher for all his bad choices. And it’s Anita and Jean-Claude’s experiences with Asher that lead them to underestimate Narcissus! Life can be such a pain. It can also be good when working with someone who remembers aid they’ve received in the past.
It’s a darned good thing that Anita has made her own family, as her own is so judgmental. Omigod, omigod, Anita is thawing, the chip on her shoulder is splintering!!! She’s actually willing to break some of her own strict rules! Omigoooooddddd…the sky must be falling, lol.
Ooh, Micah and Nathaniel are going on a them-only date. Working through Micah’s issues. Speaking of issues, there’s the huge one of managing Anita’s poly group. All those emotions and needs that come up so awkwardly in Rafael.
Then we find out about Rafael’s needs! Wow, seems the rat king is attracted to sexy, crazy, truly unstable women. Although one of his crazy women taught him not to marry in haste! It’s been so bad that Rafael had to make a no-fighting rule. I do appreciate Hamilton including the therapy information that Rafael shares about his attraction-issues. It was so real! And so sad.
The sex issues are not Rafael’s only problems. He’s built his rodere into something strong, and he insists that the shifter who rules them, after him, is also a good king. A hope that seems hopeless.
Hoo-boy, Nathaniel points out that their triumvirate — Anita, Nathaniel, and Damian — don’t have any conflicts about it and therefore their power is stronger than that of the Jean-Claude-Anita-Richard triumvirate…because Richard has too many conflicts.
It’s also a lesson in how a shapeshifter pack that has never been conquered retains their power unlike other groups. It does help that they have their brujas. Hmm, sounds like some foreshadowing for future stories.
There are so many problems in this, not the least of which is Rafael losing his touch with his people. What’s weird is that while so much of it was tedious with all the confusion, it got so interesting towards the end that I was very disappointed that it ended already!
The wererats, as a whole, are terrified that once Anita makes Rafael her rat-to-call, that all the wererats will become slaves to the vampires. Hence the many challenges against him. With stronger and stronger rats coming against him.
Rafael is only one man. There are concerns that he’s getting weaker, that he needs the additional strength he would receive if he were Anita’s rat-to-call. But doing this could lead to war.
And yet, everything in the rodere is a fight!
Anita Blake is first and foremost a necromancer who became a vampire hunter, whose adventures now find her a vessel for a number of animal shapes and becoming the future vampire queen of America. She’s been with Micah Callahan and Nathaniel Graison for five years now. Micah, a wereleopard and Nimir-Raj of the local pard as well as one of Anita’s live-in lovers, is the head of the Furry Coalition. Nathaniel, a wereleopard who works as a stripper, has come such a long way from his weak self at the beginning of the series. Damian is another Viking vampire and makes up the third of Anita’s own triumvirate (Narcissus in Chains, 10). Nicky is a werelion and Anita’s Bride (Flirt, 18). Her mother died in a car accident when Anita was 8.
While Rafael lives with The Dark Crown Clan in St Louis, he is the king of all wererats throughout the country and one of Anita’s lovers. Benito is his main bodyguard.
Claudia is a well-muscled female rat shapeshifter and the head of the security force protecting Jean-Claude and his people. She’s also got a lovely throaty tenor. Bobby Lee is another rat and also on vampire security. Fredo is a rat with an amazing skill with knives and teaches kali to Anita. He’s also the lore keeper for the rodere. Dr Lillian is a healer for the shapeshifters.
Some of the challenging wererats included Luca, the better thinker; Nestor is the best fighter but arrogant and homophobic; and, Hector, who is another good fighter but impatient, put up to it by his leader, Victor — Hector may also be Rafael’s son with Suelita his mother.
Rats who interact with Anita — for good, or for bad — include Danny, Marisol, Franco, Tony, Diego is a nurse rat who gets cut by the bullying Pedro, Rosa tries to overwhelm Anita, Carlos, and Abuela Flora. Neva is one of the rats’ three brujas. She recalls a long ago visit from a vampire she calls Madre de la Oscuridad.
The Vampires in…
…St Louis answer to Jean-Claude, Anita’s master vampire sweetie and the vampire king in North America, to whom she’s engaged. Asher is the vampire with whom Jean-Claude has long had a rocky relationship. Truth and Wicked, vampire brothers, are teaching an axe class.
The Harlequin, the ex-Harlequin, now work for Jean-Claude, calling Anita their dark queen. Pierette, a wereanimal, (Pierrot is her vampire master) is one of Anita’s lovers and her bowing and scraping is driving Anita nuts. Angel, Mephistopheles‘ twin sister, Fortune, and Echo are tiger shifters who are interested in Rafael.
In St Louis, Narcissus is the Oba, the alpha for the werehyenas and a hermaphrodite with female werehyena magic, is almost as crazy for Asher as Kane is. Helios, a werehyena, is ordered to be Kane’s battle buddy.
Kane is a hyena shifter in love with Asher and a prickly, snarly little jerk with major issues who really isn’t good enough to be a guard. Unfortunately, he’s also Asher’s animal-to-call (Affliction, 22).
Ricky was such a pain that he was fired. Richard Zeeman is the alpha, the Ulfric, for the Thronnos Rokke clan in St Louis and a reluctant part of Jean-Claude and Anita’s triumvirate of power.
The Furry Coalition is…
…a nickname for the Coalition for Better Understanding Between Human and Lycanthrope Communities. Micah is in charge with many calling Rafael his second-in-command. Micah has started to forge the many different animal groups under one leadership, into one voice for human politics.
Padma, Master of Beasts, had been a member of the Vampire Council who almost took over the rats in Burnt Offerings, 7. Gideon and Thomas had been his tiger-to-call and his human servant.
Even shapeshifters have to deal with political correctness, sigh. Yeah, so lycanthropy has been the generic term all shapeshifters used, but now the PC want it to apply only to werewolves with therianthropy applying to all forms. Kali is a combat-style martial art.
The Cover and Title
The background of the cover is white and gray, cracked and discolored as a concrete floor would be, it’s only enhancement a replica of the black crown tattoo from Rafael’s arm, bleeding. At the very top is an info blurb in black. Below that is the author’s name in red above the crown. The title is in a much thicker, Asian-style font, also red, and below the crown. Beneath the title is the series info in black with a testimonial below that.
The title is the focus of the story, Rafael, the Rat King.