Danse Macabre

by Laurell K. Hamilton


Danse Macabre appears to take place a few weeks after the events of Incubus Dreams and almost immediately after the events of Micah, assuming that the series of serial killings that Anita's friend Ronnie refers to as occurring two weeks earlier are the killings Anita investigates in Incubus Dreams.

Unlike the previous thirteen novels, neither Anita's role as a Federal Marshal nor her job as a zombie animator plays any part in this novel. Instead, Anita must juggle a series of problems arising from her own increasing power, Jean-Claude's vampire politics, and her own personal life, complicated in this case by Anita's apparent pregnancy.

* First, Anita believes that she may be pregnant. This forces her to confront the difficult choice of whether to bring the child to term, as well as whether to inform the various potential fathers. (Richard, Nathaniel, Jean-Claude, Asher, and Damian).

** Richard and Nathaniel are the most likely candidates for fatherhood; Micah had a lycanthrope vasectomy (silver clamps on the vas deferens); vampires in this world are capable of fathering a child, either via sperm created prior to their death for the newly dead, or if their body temperature is kept elevated for a long enough period of time to create new sperm, but the likelihood goes down with age. A vampire over the age of 100 is not a likely candidate.

** Micah and Nathaniel are willing to rearrange their lives to take on the primary parenting responsibilities. By contrast, Richard proposes monogamous marriage and expects that Anita will stop being a vampire executioner and federal marshal.

** A child of Anita's would have a significant risk of birth defects. Previous books have mentioned "Vlad Syndrome", occurring in children of vampires, which in severe cases results in death of both the child and the mother. Anita is also at risk of "Mowgli Syndrome", which can occur when a shapeshifter has intercourse in animal (or part-animal) form. Not all details are discussed, but it is noted that the fetus can develop at the rate of the beast instead of human — which could put Anita past the legal abortion threshold in only a few weeks or months, depending on the animal.

* Second, Anita's increasing powers continue to lead to new problems. In particular, Anita is attempting to select a pomme de sang from a variety of candidates, leading to a series of conflicts between various persons who wish to join her harem of lovers. In addition, she discovers that her ardeur has been shaping both her own and her lovers' feelings and personalities, making Anita question whether her love for Micah and Nathaniel is real. Finally, Anita discovers that she may be a pan-were, and that in addition to being the dominant female of the local wolf and leopard pack, she may also become Regina, or Queen, of the local werelion pack, leading to a conflict between the lions eager to become her Rex, or lion king.

* Third, Anita is involved in a variety of conflicts relating to vampire politics, largely relating to Jean-Claude's decision to invite a vampire ballet and several master vampires to St. Louis.

** Augustine, the master of [[Chicago, Illinois]], attempts to force Anita to love him, and hopes to control the local were-lion pack by introducing a dominant were-lion of his choosing.

** Thea—who is not only the wife of the master of Cape Cod but a siren—wishes Anita to sleep with one or all of her three sons, in the hope that Anita can bring them into their power.

** Merlin, head of the vampire ballet, attempts to mentally dominate all of the master vampires and lycanthropes present at the performance, for reasons he will not reveal.

** Meng Die is becoming increasingly jealous of Anita's irresistibility to the men in their circle, to the point where she attempts to kill Requiem ** Both Belle Morte and The Mother of Darkness continue their attempts to dominate Anita.

Ultimately, Anita resolves most of these conflicts: * After reluctantly deciding to have the baby, Anita ultimately learns that she is not pregnant, and that her positive test result was caused by her unique body chemistry.

* Anita learns to accept that her love may be manufactured in part by the ardeur, particularly in the cases of Nathaniel and Micah, both of whom have had their personalities shaped by the ardeur to meet Anita's needs (and vice versa). She accepts that she possesses several metaphysical "beasts," and rejects Haven, a dominant were-lion that Augustine hoped to use to dominate the St. Louis pack.

* Anita is also able to navigate most of the challenges raised by vampire politics.

** Using the ardeur, Anita and Jean-Claude bind Augustine, increasing their own power. They also turn the tables on him by feeding not only on him, but on his entourage. (Although Anita now loves Augustine, she is sufficiently stubborn that this love does not gain him an advantage).

** Anita promises to sleep with Thea's oldest son to see if she can raise his powers through the ardeur.

** Anita defeats Merlin's attempt to dominate the assembled vampires and shape-shifters, and questions him for information about the Mother of Darkness.

** The combined threat of Anita, Jean-Claude, and all of their vampires is enough to make Meng Die agree not to kill anyone for the night.

** Anita is able to evade Belle Morte and the Mother of Darkness's attempts to control her, although she continues to fear them.

Unresolved plotlines

Due to the small amount of time lapsed in this novel (the events last only a day), Anita is unable to resolve any of the plotlines left open in Incubus Dreams, and leaves several questions unresolved in this book as well.

* Although the epilogue to Incubus Dreams stated that Anita intended to investigate the Stevie Brown murder soon, the narration does not reveal whether Anita has made progress in her investigation.

* Danse Macabre does not reveal whether Gregory and Stephen have learned anything about why their father has reappeared, a plotline that was mentioned, but not resolved, in Cerulean Sins and Incubus Dreams.

* Anita mentions that Jean-Claude has bound a few of Malcolm's vampires to his own service, but there is no apparent resolution of the threat presented by the remainder of his vampires, none of whom are blood oathed to anyone.

* Anita does not appear to have made any progress on her hunt for Vittorio and his vampires.

* Although The Mother of Darkness continues to make threats, it remains to be seen when she will actually awake, or what will become of Belle Morte's challenge for council leadership.

* Anita has now promised to sleep with Thea's son in an attempt to raise his powers as a siren.

* Although Anita has sent Haven back to Chicago, she nevertheless needs to select a lion to match with her inner lioness, and any lion of sufficient power to match her may threaten Joseph's hold on his pride.

* Although Anita suspects she is now a pan-were, she has not yet shifted form, and doesn't know if she will assume the form of a single animal, all the species with which she is infected, or none of them. In addition, blood tests show that Anita has an "unknown strain" of lycanthropy, which she has not yet identified. And there is a possibility that she got an additional one with the blood transfusion at the end of the book.