Sucker Punch by Laurell K Hamilton — Book Review
First off, can we talk about this cover? If this is a new art direction for the Anita Blake series I am all about it. The tools were ok, but a little too heavy on the horror side, and the original covers sometimes made me hesitant to read the books in public places (side note: don’t be). This one finally seems to strike the right gothic-paranormal-horror vibe.
Second, if you haven’t read any Anita Blake yet, I do not recommend you start with this, book 27 in the series. Go back and start at the beginning if you like the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, the Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff or the Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance.
Now to the content. I felt like Sucker Punch was a throwback novel in so many ways. It starts immediately with Anita on a case. There is no chapters-long introduction to each and every character, their status as human/vampire/shifter- ehhem, I mean therianthrope- and their relationship backstory to Anita. As a reader of past books, I might need a little refresher but not a full re-introduction to every person in Anita’s life (and you know there are a lot of them at this point). Twenty-six books of backstory is too much to try and catch readers up to. So. It was great not to have that.
The police work is the main plot and drives the story. Sucker Punch opens with Anita by herself, arriving in Michigan after being called as a backup for another marshal. Yes, by herself on a plane. You know she loved that. But even deeper into the book, the cast of characters remains limited. Did that bother me? Not at all. It was a welcome change from some of the previous books, even though it meant not getting to see some of my favorite characters appear in this one. And for those of you who read Serpentine, don’t worry. That Sherlockian plot continues (*cackles evilly*).
I also got a chuckle out of the vocabulary struggles from some of our favorite preternatural branch marshals. It is no longer politically correct to say lycanthropy, because that implies wolf, and indicates a bias against all other shifter groups. The lesson here is to use inclusive language, which is something everyone should work towards, but I admit I found it funny to see this lesson applied to were-animals.
With the limited cast of characters, the amount of relationship drama is low, if you go by how many people that drama involves. It is deep, but not tedious. The relationship talk is sprinkled throughout the book, during car rides and over meals, instead of being one continuous scene that takes many chapters. I thought it was a more natural and more engaging way to read it. I stayed interested in the personal developments instead of being bored and wanting to throw things at the characters having these conversations. I thought Anita’s introspection was well done in this book. It fit with her character development arc and also the evolution of the story. Compared to previous books, Sucker Punch has less shooting and less sex, and reminded me more of the early books when Anita primarily raised zombies for a living. It also highlights certain threads that will clearly be brought up in future novels: the wedding, children, Anita’s job as a marshal, and her relationship with other marshals.
Overall I really enjoyed Sucker Punch. I think fans of the older Anita Blake will find it a refreshing palate cleanser and I am curious where the story will go next. A solid entry into a great series. 4 stars.