Vampire hunter Anita Blake has always managed to overcome everything she faces. But this time there’s a monster that even she doesn’t know how to fight...
A remote Florida island is the perfect wedding destination for the upcoming nuptials of Anita’s fellow U.S. Marshal and best friend, Edward. For Anita, the vacation is a welcome break, as it’s the first trip she gets to take with just wereleopards Micah and Nathaniel. But it’s not all fun and games and bachelor parties…
In this tropical paradise, Micah discovers a horrific new form of lycanthropy, one that has afflicted a single family for generations. Believed to be the result of an ancient Greek curse, it turns human bodies into a mass of snakes.
When long-simmering resentment leads to a big blow-up within the wedding party, the last thing Anita needs is more drama. But it finds her anyway when women start disappearing from the hotel, and worse, her own friends and lovers are considered the prime suspects. There’s a strange power afoot that Anita has never confronted before, a force that’s rendering those around her helpless. Unable to face it on her own, Anita is willing to accept help from even the deadliest places. Help that she will most certainly regret—if she survives at all, that is…
About the Author
Laurell K. Hamilton is a full-time writer and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series and the Merry Gentry series. She lives in a suburb of St. Louis with her family.
Hometown:St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Birth:February 19, 1963
Place of Birth:Heber Springs, Arkansas
Education:B.A., Marion College
Read an Excerpt
I was standing in the air-conditioned hush of Forever Bridal in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but since all I could see was a rack of plastic-wrapped wedding dresses taller than my head, I could have been in any bridal shop in any part of the country. The dresses were ones that had needed tailoring to fit their brides. I stared at the different shades of white, from dazzling white like fresh snow in sunlight to a cream so dark it was almost a pale brown, or maybe taupe. I was always confused by taupe. Who wouldn't be confused by a color that couldn't decide if it was gray or tan? The dress they'd finally let me try on was black, because the pale teal that matched the maid of honor's dress had looked so bad on me that even Donna Parnell, the bride-to-be, had conceded that we could try the dress in black for me. Since I was the best man, or best person, on the groom's side of the aisle and the men were in black tuxes with teal ties and cummerbunds, putting me in black would make the wedding party look more balanced, or that's what the store manager had finally said.
I stood clutching the overly long black skirt in one hand, so I didn't trip, as I talked to Micah Callahan on my new smartphone, which was actually so smart I felt uncomfortable using it, as if the technology were silently judging my lack of tech savvy.
"So, your clients have finally given you permission to share more info with your police girlfriend?" I said.
I could feel/hear the smile in his voice as he said, "They're not clients, Anita. I don't take money for helping people who are desperate." Micah was the head of the Coalition for Better Understanding Between Human and Lycanthrope Communities, colloquially known as the Furry Coalition. They traveled the country, some internationally, to help keep the lycanthropes and the humans safe from each other. Sometimes it was just to give lectures to the local police to help them deal better with this very special minority in their cities; sometimes it was to settle disputes between different wereanimal groups before they became violent. The Coalition never went into another city without an invitation from someone among either the local lycanthropes, the police, or even medical professionals. One of the most frequent things the Coalition did was help victims of wereanimal attacks recover and come to terms with turning into their attackers come the next full moon. Micah had been a survivor of an attack, just like the people he tried to help. He'd been hunting with his uncle and cousin the year between college and high school when they were attacked by a wereleopard. He had been the only survivor, so he had serious street cred when he spoke to victims.
"You take donations," I said.
"If they can afford it, yes, and if it's a city government, we'll take a fee, but for individuals in need we waive fees, so they are not clients."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to step on an issue here."
"It's okay, Anita. I'm sorry-this . . . case is getting to me. When you see the pictures, you'll understand."
"Okay, if they aren't clients, what word do you want me to use in conversation?"
"Shapeshifters," he said.
I glanced around the store to see if there was anyone within earshot, but all I could see were wedding dresses on one side and another rack of dresses on the other, this time in a myriad of colors for other hapless bridesmaids. Turning just that much made my breasts slide out of the halter top of the dress, which had been designed for someone with a very different figure. I transferred my hand to clutch the top instead of the hem of the dress. As long as I didn't try to walk, the yards of extra fabric wouldn't trip me. My dignity was in more danger from the dress than my body was. Solution: I would stand still and do my best not to flash anyone. "I came out of the changing room because I could hear everything in the next stall. I've got as much privacy as I can find here, but there are certain words that make civilians perk up their ears and listen harder." I lowered my voice even more and said, "Shapeshifter would be one of those words."
"That's fair," he said, and sighed, not like he was happy. "You can use the word client for now, but I see myself more as their advocate. But that's beside the point. Use whatever vocabulary you think will keep this between us, Anita. They're finally letting me send you pictures, and those absolutely must be for your eyes only."
"I'm a U.S. Marshal, Micah. I know how to keep details to myself." I realized that it sounded a little crankier than I'd meant it to.
"Are you okay?" he asked, taking my crankiness for my feeling bad, and not taking it personally. There were so many reasons we were engaged to each other.
"Yeah. I mean, I can't believe that Donna decided at, like, the eleventh hour that I couldn't wear a tux like the rest of the men, but I'll live, once they figure out a way for the halter top not to make the wedding an accidental PG-thirteen."
He laughed, then said, "Ask Nathaniel to take pictures of the dress before they fix it."
"You can see my breasts without a dress next time we're in the same state," I said, but I was smiling, which is probably why he'd said it the way he had. Micah knew when I needed cheering up, or coaxing out of a cranky mood.
"We haven't been in the same state much lately," he said, and sounded sad again.
"You and I both travel for our jobs."
"I know, but I miss you."
I stood there in the ill-fitting dress with our shared boyfriend only yards away from me and was suddenly so lonely for the touch of Micah's arms around me that it was almost a physical pain. I could remember the last time we'd slept in the same bed, but I couldn't remember the last time we'd made love. It had been weeks. Had we gone a month, it was a first in the five years we'd been together. "I miss you, too. I want to do more than just sleep in the same bed in between business trips for our jobs."
"Nathaniel is staying in town with you, so I know you're getting sex."
I'd never heard Micah sound even a little bit jealous of Nathaniel before. "He's our shared boyfriend, shared fiancé, and you're planning to marry him legally, like I'm marrying Jean-Claude," I said.
"I know, and if we could marry more than one person at a time, the four of us would marry each other, though I admit the idea of me marrying any man but Nathaniel, even Jean-Claude, would be weird."
"And do you have another woman in mind that you'd like to add to the group?" I asked, making sure my tone of voice was teasing.
He laughed. "No. The other women in our poly group are lovely, but it's not about the sex; it's about the emotion and being a couple together. I'm a couple with you and Nathaniel, but not really with anyone else, not the way the two of you are with some of the others." His voice had already lost that edge of laughter and was back to sounding tired.
"What's wrong, Micah? Besides this case, I mean."
"I told you what's wrong, Anita. I'm feeling crowded. It's not marrying Nathaniel; I love him. I understand that if you marry anyone legally, it's got to be Jean-Claude. He's the king of all the vampires, and he's close to being the king of all the supernatural citizens in this country. He has to be the one that marries the princess."
"I'm not the princess in this story," I said.
"You're not the damsel in distress, but as far as everyone in the media is concerned, you are the princess to be married off to the prince, or king."
"Nathaniel is enjoying the idea of all the weddings more than I am."
"He's enjoying it more than I am, too, but I think what's throwing me is the two-groom wedding. I always pictured a white-dressed bride coming down the aisle toward me."
"Nathaniel would probably wear a white dress if you really wanted him to," I said.
Micah laughed. "I know he would, but I think I'd prefer him in a white tux with tails."
"He's so happy you accepted his proposal."
"I'm sorry I hesitated even for a little bit. I just had to work through my issues."
"Nathaniel is your first-ever boyfriend. I know you never thought you'd be marrying another man."
"I hope he doesn't think I've been ignoring him since I said yes. There have just been so many out-of-town issues that needed attention."
"You spend time with us when you can, just like I do. Nathaniel got to travel out of town with you to Florida the time before last."
"And you couldn't go because you had bad guys to catch," he said.
"When we all go down for Ted and Donna's wedding we'll have some time to enjoy ourselves, because I won't be crime-busting and you won't be saving other shapeshifters."
"Did Nathaniel tell you that the shapeshifters down here wouldn't let me bring him to the meetings, so he had to go sight-seeing by himself with only a bodyguard for company?"
"He mentioned it, but we'll have time to sight-see before and after the wedding. Besides, if Nathaniel hadn't got to sight-see, he would never have found the hotel where Donna and Ted are getting married. She's getting her beach destination wedding and he's getting to be somewhere we can all stay armed and our badges are still legal."
"I know it worked out," Micah said, "but I feel like I'm not getting any time with either of you lately."
"It does seem like either you're out of town or I am the last few months."
"It does, and it's moments like this when I think that I need to start cutting back on all of it."
"Why don't you? I mean, that would be great if you could, but you know I would never ask you to compromise your job."
"Because you would never compromise yours," he said, but not like he was exactly happy about it. It wasn't like Micah to be this unhappy about things, about us and our complicated personal lives, or our complicated professional lives. My chest felt tight, my stomach started to knot, and those negative voices in my head tried to be louder, saying, See, see? This is the moment that Micah stops being perfect and drops the other shoe right on our heads.
"I don't know what to say to that. I'm a marshal. It's who I am, not just what I am."
"I know that. I knew the kind of person you were when we met. I don't want you to change, Anita."
"Good. You had me scared for a minute there."
"I'm sending you the first picture; let me know when it comes through."
The change of topic back to the business he'd called about was so abrupt it caught me off guard, but I didn't protest. I was happy for a change of topic. My phone dinged to let me know the picture had arrived, but I had to take the phone away from my ear to look.
"Do you want me to put you on speaker while I look at the picture?"
"No, just look at it. I'll wait."
I did what he asked, going to his texts and seeing the image of a man I'd never met. He was bare to the waist, lean upper body, but not like he worked out-more like he was just young and naturally thin. He looked ordinary, except there was something wrong with his right arm. I thought at first it was a tattoo, then a tentacle, which would have been weird enough. I used my fingertips to expand the picture and found that the "tentacle" had a head where the hand should have been. It looked like the man's arm turned into a snake, complete with a triangular venomous head. I widened the image further. It was blurry now, but I could see the yellow eyes on the snake head, with slits for pupils, like it was some kind of viper.
I got back on the phone and said, "It's a camera trick, Micah. No one changes shape like this. You have weresnakes, you have beings like lamias and nagas that are part snake and part human, but the head wouldn't be at the end of an arm."
"It's not a trick."
"You saw it, in person?" I asked.
"I've never seen anything like that, ever."
"I'm trying to get their permission for you to show it to Edward. If anyone else might have seen something like this before, it would be him."
"Agreed. I could show him-"
"No, it would be a betrayal of their trust, Anita. Don't act like a cop on this one, okay?"
"I am a cop, but okay. There's no crime involved, right?"
"Right. I've sent you a second picture."
The phone dinged, and he said he'd hold again while I looked at it. It wasn't the same man; this one looked older, heavier, not in bad shape, just not with the slenderness of the first. It was his left arm this time, and it wasn't just one snake head. It looked like his arm had sprouted a bouquet of snakes, all the way up into his shoulder. It was very Medusa, but in movies there was something vaguely erotic as well as horrific about the Gorgon; here there was only the horror.
I took a deep breath or two before I got back on the phone with him. "Did you see this one in person, too?"
"Yes," he said, voice soft, and I realized his unhappiness wasn't just travel and being away from me.
"Is their form change tied to the full moon like most shapeshifters?"
"What do you mean at first?"
"This is a large extended family, Anita. Most of them all seem perfectly human at first, but some of them start to manifest this . . . change in early adulthood. The youngest male started to change at fifteen; the oldest was almost forty. If they make it to forty without this happening, they seem to be safe from it, but they can still pass it on to their children."
I said, "The only lycanthropy that I've ever seen run in families is the weretiger clans, but that's like regular lycanthropy, when they start to change in adolescence. It's a whole-body change, not piecemeal like this."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have bought and read every one of her books to date on the day they were released, and I loved them! I am sorry, but this is 450 pages of emotional angst that should be left at home. I understand that Anita has to grow and deal with her expanding emotions, but not for almost the whole book. I love the action Anita. I love how she interacts with all her guys. But every page and encounter was a therapy session with every person in the room. I was very disappointed. Not enough monster hunting. Too much group therapy. I had such huge expectations and was really excited, but now, not at all. I will still buy and read her, but am extremely disappointed in this book.
I have been an Anita Blake reader for many years now and this may be it for me. This was the worst story I have read from Hamilton. 350 pages of crap and about 100 at the end that u wished the whole book started out as. Very disappointed with the direction her stories are going over the recent years. Not sure if I will be a return reader.
There's about maybe 100-150 pages of interesting plot in this book. The rest is mainly about a lot of unreasonable whining and/or anger about lovers behaving like normal people and other lovers, moaning, and raging. *Omigods, we've been here at this beach hotel to which we were invited for a wedding for at least two whole hours and we haven't had sex yet! How could you go spend time with the upset bride and help her calm down, help the bride and groom resolve the problem, and THEN, even try to make sure the bride's children are taken care of. I don't care if you're serving as the best man. We're your sweeties and you should have been in bed with us.* I think, perhaps, the most outrageously funny line of dialog was a semi-whiny, *We used to have sex twice a day and now we only do it once a day.* Oh, and there were more ridiculous quarrels and arguments. Y'know, I've been a psychotherapist for 40 years, and I have seen monogamous couples, a variety of individuals, couples, triads, and quads practicing consensual non monogamy from swinging to open marriage to polyamory (from open poly to poly-fi), and I've almost never seen so much histrionic angst. Oh, and there is, of course, overly detailed sexual scenes. I sure wish Hamilton would read some of Laura Antoniou's books to catch a clue. Well, as I said earlier, there are 100-200 pages of good plot. Olaf shows up with some interesting character development. There is also some interesting developments for Edward, Bernard Spotted Horse, and Paul (Donna's son).
Laurel K Hamilton appears to be getting better at striking a balance between sex and story. This one actually had a plot. And a few decent sex scenes. Perhaps not as risque as she has been in the past. That is about all the positive I can say about this one. I really hate that 90% of her novels seem to be conversations rehashing past events, that drone on and on instead of letting the plot develop in a more natural way. And I miss so many of the characters. She has built such a giant, convoluted network of characters (mostly Anita's lovers) that she just seems to to forget about most of them. Where was Richard? Where was Jason? Damion? Cynric? Any of the wereleopards other than Micah and Nathaniel? Raphael? Asher? Narcissus? The list goes on and on. I keep reading these books because I'm so invested, but I think I'm done. She needs to just wrap up this series and give us some closure for the characters.
Poor story line. I mean most of the book is talking about how Nathaniel, Michea and Anita dont have enough sex. Then a monster gets thrown in, very weak story. The monster hunt seems like a hastily thrown together after thought. Had such potential for the story, but then dropped the ball on this one! Sad i spent the money.
Disappointed the first 1/2 to 3/4’s of the book is an X rated soap opera but the finish proves she can still do Anita Blake of old . Less porn more action is what people started reading the series for, it’s what I still hope for, but get disappointed a lot, not sure if I’ll buy any more. My wife stopped reading these stories quite awhile ago.
This novel was just all right. I like Anita and her life, but the "villain" and how they found him were both very contrived. Anita and the other 4 horsemen seem to just pull the bad guy out of thin air. They more or less pick out one of the villains relatives and basically torture her to find out where to find him and his victims. "Lucky" for them she knows the bad guy, and where he's taken his victims so that Anita, Edward, Bernardo, and Olaf can ride to the rescue and save the day. (And the poor victims) Other than that 85% of the book is Anita and the "adventures" of her life. I gave this book a 3 star rating mostly because of how contrived the bad guys are, and how they find them comes about.I do like reading about Anita and her life and adventures, but LKH needs to make the "action" part of the book a little more "real" Still a mostly good read it just requires the reader to suspend their sense of reality.
This was a near perfect blend of seriously disturbing monsters and romance. For the first time in many books the romance and poly politics did not drown out the plot. The editing was better and all around it was a cleaner story that demanded to be read in a single sitting. I was just about ready to give up on Anita Blake, but now I can't wait for the next.
I have been a fan for what seems like forever. I keep buying and reading her books in hopes that they will be like the books I loved and couldn’t get enough of. This book is the worst in her series yet. She doesn’t fight a monster until the last 20 pages. And then has the audacity to wrap everything up pretty and clean in the epilogue. No more, I will wait till they are free and still won’t read it. SAVE YOUR MONEY and MORE IMPORTANT YOUR TIME! So mad I want a refund and my time wasted back
I have been reading the Anita Blake series for a long time and have never been disappointed in them. Serpentine is a well written, intriguing book. It was so good I couldn't put it down and finished in in less then a day. I highly recommend this series.
Essentially Anita is taking a little entourage with her to Florida to attend Edward’s wedding to Donna. While there they discover a family that slowly turns into snakes and some women that have disappeared. The local police believe that one of Anita’s group is the killer so she steps up to solve this mystery. I loved this series when I first started reading it years ago. I couldn’t get enough but noticed that the further I got into the series the more the books become drama, sex, and a semi decent plot that just kept getting smaller and smaller the more books I read. So I quit reading after Incubus Dreams. But when I was approached to review Serpentine I couldn’t wait to see what I have missed. The murders and snake curse caught my attention and I was really curious to see where these would go. But there were a couple bumps to the plot that caused me to pause in the story. I will say that when the story finally got going it was fast and kept me turning pages. Sadly the book is filled with so much drama and porn that I was about to put the book down several times. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the first books in this series and know that there is going to be lots of sex. What got me is the feel that the plot was just the fluff parts to the next sex scene. I also hate the drama. There’s a reason that I don’t really like most romance books and that is it. If I wanted to watch daytime tv I would, I wouldn’t waste my reading time on it. Overall I was disappointed in this book. It seems the series has continued with the things that initially turned me away from it, which is sad since I really liked it when I first started reading it. I think that I am done with any new books with Anita Blake in them unless they can get back to a decent plot that the story is based on, not the drama and pointless over done sex scenes. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
The newest Anita Blake is excellent. I couldn't put it down. Not my favorite in the series, but up there.
I really liked this book. We got to see Anita doing her good kick butt stuff, with a good story and all the guys with Edward. I didn't care for the constant hurt feelings/fighting stuff, that gets old quick. This seemed more like the first books. I'm still saying NO BABY! That's just going to far for me. Also there are so many characters who are now part of her whole family/group whatever you want to call it that I'm getting totally confused as to who's who. All I know is she now has some type of control over them and has to screw everyone or there not happy. I honestly think it's time to kill off a bunch of her additional characters that show up here and there or in 1 or 2 books. Because if I had to please that many people I would just shoot them all myself. That's where the book gets old. I don't know who I'm reading about, and Anita spends more time with solving sex, and hurt feelings etc, that I'm surprised she has time for sex. This had a good story and that's what saved it.
I just couldn't start this novel when it came in. I knew if I did, it would leave me wanting more too soon. It's been 2 years since the last so I kept putting it off. Unlike other serial novels that come out yearly or even quicker, this is a 484 page book. Even with that, I found myself loosing track of time forgetting to do anything but read. She's that absorbing. Despite the 2 year work, it wasn't at all difficult to pick right up with all the people, skills and interpersonal nonsense and even the conflicts that make Marshall Blake of the Preternatural Division of the U.S. Marshalls, licensed Vampire Executioner and fiance to the Master Vampire of St. Louis, the de facto King of the North American Council of all things supernatural as well as the fiance to two other men, a WereLeopard and a WerePanther who heads the Coalition of Shape-shifting cultures with regular society. Not to mention she is known as War in the Horseman of Monterey Hunters. If that doesn't get you reading Laurell K. Hamilton then stick to Westerns.
I want her books to be a thousand pages long!
This book is another great book to have. Anita is facing another hunt but she is to be on vacation with Micah and Nathaniel for Ted's and Donna's wedding. When they got to the Key West it was trouble from the beginning. But that is part of being one of Anita Blake's books. Now is the time to buy it well worth it. Can't wait for the next one.
Such a balanced Anita book. You get to spend a lot alone time with the primary poly group, solve a crime, chill with the four horsemen all while dealing with pre wedding planning. Always left wanting more in a good way.
Always one of the best reads ever. Just wish Ms Hamilton could write as fast as I read. Read this book in less than a day. Laurell K. Hamilton is the best author ever
This book was just amazing with something around every corner. I loved every second of reading this book and all the ones Laurell K Hamilton has ever written.
A good addition to the series and much better written than some in recent past. The only problem is that the Anita universe has become too complex for these short reads. If the author plans too keep going with the series she needs either longer reads or give some of the characters she has developed in the past their own book(s).
Anita and company are back and back to the kick ass crew doing what they do best. The last couple of books I wasn’t a fan of - way too much relationship drama and I was starting to need to keep notes on who was who. This time around the story revolves around the main characters. While there is a lot of relationship drama and discussing, it was not too much and fit the story to a tee. I think it’s my favorite so far.
Like reading one of the older books! Much more of a plot than just sexy times! Great book! The book held my attention and never let go!
Anita's life is so complicated but she is making such strides to overcome her issues. I live these books.
Great story toeing