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Circus of the Damned (1995)

by Laurell K. Hamilton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter (3)

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5,672871,545 (3.93)56
First time in trade paperback: the third novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series. In Circus of the Damned-now in trade paperback for the first time-a rogue master vampire hits town, and Anita gets caught in the middle of an undead turf war. Jean-Claude, the Master Vamp of the city, wants her for his own-but his enemies have other plans. And to make matters worse, Anita takes a hit to the heart when she meets a stunningly handsome junior high science teacher named Richard Zeeman. They're two humans caught in the crossfire-or so Anita thinks.… (more)

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Synopsis: Anita meets with Jeremy Ruebens and Karl Inger to find that Rubens has formed Humans First to eliminate vampires by any means necessary, and asks Anita to reveal the identity and resting place of the Master of the City. Although Anita considers whether turning Jean-Claude over to them would free her from the vampire marks he placed upon her, she ultimately refuses, at least in part because their plan is not good enough and would result in them getting killed. Rubens reacts badly, but Inger is more thoughtful, and Anita agrees to reconsider their proposal if they are able to develop a more promising plan.
Anita then receives a call from Dolph to assist in a crime scene investigation. Arriving at the scene, she determines that the victim, Carl Rupert, was killed by bites from multiple vampires. Anita informs Dolph that she believes that a single master vampire must be leading a pack of other vampires in order to coordinate the attack, and that because the victim died of bites from multiple different vampires, he will not rise as a vampire himself.
In order to learn whether any rogue master vampires are operating in the city, Anita requests a meeting with Jean-Claude, and is invited to meet him at the Circus of the Damned, a supernatural circus and Jean-Claude's daytime resting place. Stephen leads her into the circus, past an act where a snake charmer is charming a giant, apparently supernatural, cobra. Arriving at an inner chamber, Anita meets Jean-Claude, together with Yasmeen, a master vampire ally of Jean-Claude's, and two people reclining naked in bed, Richard Zeeman and Rashida.
Yasmeen confronts Anita, alternately challenging and attempting to seduce her. Jean-Claude explains that Anita's refusal to concede that she is his human servant is causing him political problems, and tells Anita that if she accepts her role, he will resolve the confrontation with Yasmeen. Of course, Anita refuses. Jealous of Yasmeen's attention to Anita, Yasmeen's human servant and lover, Marguerite, challenges Anita to a duel, which Anita wins. Angry over Anita's defeat of Marguerite, Yasmeen attacks Anita, but Anita continues to refuse to ask for Jean-Claude's aid. Anita is ultimately saved by her silver cross, which comes into contact with Yasmeen's bare skin and burns hot enough to burn both Anita and Yasmeen.
The confrontation is then cut short by a crisis in the arena outside. During the confrontation, the giant snake, apparently once worshiped as a god in ancient Egypt, killed the snake charmer and is now out of control.Jean-Claude, Yasmeen, Marguerite, Rashida, Stephen and Richard all rush down to fight the snake. At Jean-Claude's request, Anita assists, both by increasing Jean-Claude's powers with her presence and with her gun. With Anita's help, the snake is killed, although it nearly tears Rashida's arm off in the process.
Jean-Claude criticizes Richard for not doing all he could to fight the snake, then informs Anita that neither he or Yasmeen are the rogue master vampire responsible for the recent murder and that he does not know of any other master vampires who might be suspects. Jean-Claude admits that although he would normally know if any new master vampires had arrived in his territory, current events are sufficiently chaotic that he might not know in this case. Anita agrees to drive Richard home, together with Stephen, who is nearly unconscious from the strain of transforming to his wolf form and back to human. Anita is attracted to Richard, a handsome and kind junior high school teacher who is inexplicably mixed up with Jean-Claude, and after some initial resistance, agrees to go on a caving date with Richard the next Saturday.
After dropping off Stephen and Richard, Anita arrives at her home and finds Edward waiting for her. Edward has accepted another contract to kill the Master of St. Louis, and wants Anita to tell him the Master's identity and daytime resting place. Edward tells Anita that he had followed Anita to The Circus of the Damned and watched the fight against the giant snake. Based on that fight, Edward guesses that either Jean-Claude or Yasmeen is Master of the City. As with Rubens and Inger, Anita considers whether handing Jean-Claude to Edward would free her from her human servant status, but decides to delay, and successfully bluffs Edward into believing that the true Master of the City is someone else. Edward demands that she tell him the Master's identity and resting place soon or face the consequences.
That evening, Dolph calls and asks Anita to inspect another vampire murder. The victim, a woman, has also been killed by a vampire pack. As night falls, Anita and Dolph notice a change come over the woman's corpse, as she transforms from merely dead into something luminously beautiful. Anita realizes that if the rogue master vampire is powerful enough, its victims might rise after a single bite. If so, the victims, each of whom died while being bitten by an entire pack of vampires, would rise as an animalistic vampire. Anita becomes concerned that the hospital personnel might be unprepared for the previous victim to rise as a vampire and calls the hospital but gets no answer. She then calls Bert, who tells her that new hire Larry Kirkland is covering her animations for the night, and that Rupert had a "dying will" asking to be staked, and that because Anita was unavailable, John Burke has gone to the hospital to perform the staking. Anita and the police rush to the hospital to learn why no one is answering the phone. Anita and several police officers arrive at the hospital, and find the morgue wing deserted. Apparently, Rupert awakened in an animalistic state, killed the vampire counselor, tore open the steel morgue door and went on a rampage, killing nurses and guards as he found them.
On their way to their cars, Anita and Larry are attacked by members of Humans First in an attempt to force Anita to reveal Jean-Claude's name and resting place. Anita and Larry escape, but hit a child while driving away. They check on the child, and find that it is actually a child vampire, older than Jean-Claude and very powerful. The child vampire attacks them, together with two powerful female vampires and Alejandro, the master of the group. Using their necklace crosses and Anita's cross charm bracelet, Anita and Larry fight off the vampires for a while, and even attempt to drive away a second time, but ultimately, Alejandro captures Larry and threatens to kill him unless Anita surrenders.
Alejandro also demands that Anita tell him the name and resting place of the Master of the City, but Anita refuses. Alejandro rolls Anita's mind and she passes out. When she wakes up, the vampires are gone, apparently driven off by an attack from the members of Humans Against Vampires, who came to Anita's aid under an "enemy of my enemy" principle. Larry drives Anita home and tells her that he wants to be both an animator and a vampire executioner. Anita reluctantly decides to be Larry's mentor, resolving that if she cannot persuade him to forego hunting monsters, she will at least do her best to teach him the skills needed to stay alive. At home, Anita finds Edward, who threatens to torture her if she does not reveal the name of the Master of St. Louis. Anita tells him that Alejandro is the Master, and goes to sleep.
The next morning, Karl Inger calls and tells Anita that he has a plan to kill the Master of the City, and Anita agrees to meet with him. Karl takes Anita to a rural home, where she meets Mr Oliver, a vampire so old that he is a member of the homo erectus species, and Melanie, a lamia under Mr Oliver's control. Mr Oliver explains that he wishes to become Master of the City, and demands that Anita reveal the master's identity and location.
The next morning, Anita arrives at home to find Melanie and three men waiting for her. They take her into a rural cave for what she believes is a meeting with Mister Oliver, then turn out the lights. Alejandro appears and demands that Anita become his human servant, but she attempts to escape. In the course of escaping, she kills the three men accompanying Melanie, as well as Melanie's mate, a man named Raju who Melanie has converted into a half-snake form. Before dying, Raju bites Anita, injecting her with venom. Anita ultimately swims through a submerged tunnel to a lake and escapes in time to be picked up by Edward, who had followed her to the cave.
Edward takes Anita home, where they meet Richard. Anita is dying of lamia venom, and cannot be treated because lamias are believed to be extinct, so there is no anti-venom available. Richard suggests that they infect Anita with lycanthropy to save her life, but Anita says that she would rather die than become a lycanthrope. Richard refuses to let Anita die, and brings her to Jean-Claude, who marks Anita with the third mark as his human servant, drinking blood from her wrist and rendering her immune to poison. Anita is outraged that Jean-Claude has given her another mark, and threatens to kill him, notwithstanding that the mark saved her life.
In order to free herself from Jean-Claude, Anita calls Mr Oliver and reveals Jean-Claude's name and location. Oliver promises to kill Jean-Claude that night, on Halloween. Shortly later, Dolph calls Anita and reveals the results of his investigation. A paralegal turned the names of the two murder victims over to the vampires, and, under questioning, reveals that there is a plot to force every vampire in St. Louis to begin a killing spree. Anita realizes that if Mr Oliver becomes Master of the City, he will be able to command every vampire in the city to begin a murder spree, and calls Jean-Claude to warn him. Jean-Claude is amazed that Anita is actually willing to kill him, but thanks her for the warning. Anita brings Edward to the Circus of the Damned and prepares for the battle.
Jean-Claude explains that he and Mr Oliver have agreed to a battle for control of the city. In front of a circus audience, their minions will fight physically, while Jean-Claude and Mr Oliver engage in a conflict of raw vampiric power.
Ultimately, Oliver wins the battle and restrains Jean-Claude. Oliver demands that Anita stake Jean-Claude, reasoning that if Jean-Claude's own supposed human servant kills him, he will be fully discredited. However, the combination of Anita's own power as a necromancer and the power received as Alejandro's human servant prevents either Oliver or Alejandro from controlling her directly. Richard, armed with a pistol, attempts to fight Oliver, but Oliver rips out his throat. Oliver attempts to intimidate Anita into killing Jean-Claude, but at the last minute, Anita carries out Alejandro's plan, staking Oliver instead, then decapitating him. At that point, Alejandro attempts to kill Jean-Claude and usurp both Jean-Claude's and Oliver's positions, but Anita tears his heart out of his chest, then strangles him as she herself also dies from the strain of her "master's" death.
Later, Anita comes to in the hospital and learns that Edward and paramedics revived her with CPR, that Jean-Claude is still alive, and that Richard also lived because, unknown to her, he was a werewolf, and a sufficiently powerful one to mask his identity. Richard explains that his pack leader had ordered him to attend Jean-Claude, but that he will no longer do so. Anita also learns that Alejandro's marking of her as his human servant and subsequent death has removed Jean-Claude's marks and that she is theoretically free of him. Anita decides to continue dating Richard, but isn't sure if she can adjust to his lycanthropy, or why she was so sad when she had thought that Jean-Claude would be killed. Meanwhile, Melanie the lamia has begun work for Jean-Claude, as one of the attractions at the Circus of the Damned.'

Review: This was a bit confusing in places, but overall a really good read. Can't wait for the next installment. ( )
  DrLed | Nov 15, 2021 |
I really loved Laurell K. Hamilton's early Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series books but I did feel like she lost the thread a bit in the middle of the series. I am glad to say that it seems like she is focusing more on the story line and less on the sex of late which makes the books better in my opinion. I think Anita is a great character and Laurell K. Hamilton can write a great plot but her overly complicated sex scenes can somewhat take away from the book. ( )
  KateKat11 | Sep 24, 2021 |
Anita Blake caught between Jean Claude and challenger for ruler of the city-battle frees her from Jean Claude's power
  ritaer | Jun 12, 2021 |
I generally enjoyed this book, but it left me feeling like I was missing something. I'm unclear as to why the giant snake was used at the beginning of the book, other than to set up the idea of snakes that pervaded the rest of the book. And to introduce new characters. I'll listen to (probably not take time to read) more books in this series, but I'm not in love. ( )
  ssperson | Apr 3, 2021 |
I'm really enjoying this series with feisty heroins Anita Blake. Animator, necromancer, vampire executioner. It's an easy read and totally escapist. Perfect to take my mind off real-world issues. But the series does bring up some interesting issues in a world filled with undead, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures. Should vampire be granted the same rights as living humans? Is it okay to discriminate against lycanthropes?

So far, I want to keep reading the series. I like that each book can be read on it's own, but that characters and issues carry over. Like the Master of the City having a thing for Anita and how that seems to drive a lot of the plots. ( )
  jezebellydancer | Dec 25, 2020 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurell K. Hamiltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
White, CraigCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Ginger Buchanan, our editor, whose faith in Anita and patience with me has been most appreciated.
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There was dried chicken blood imbedded under my fingernails.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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First time in trade paperback: the third novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series. In Circus of the Damned-now in trade paperback for the first time-a rogue master vampire hits town, and Anita gets caught in the middle of an undead turf war. Jean-Claude, the Master Vamp of the city, wants her for his own-but his enemies have other plans. And to make matters worse, Anita takes a hit to the heart when she meets a stunningly handsome junior high science teacher named Richard Zeeman. They're two humans caught in the crossfire-or so Anita thinks.

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I'm Anita Blake, expert on creatures of the night. I've dined with shapeshifters, danced with werewolves, and been wooed--but not won--by Jean-Claude, the Master Vampire of the City.

And now a darkly dangerous vampire named Alejandro has hit town. He too wants me for his human servant. A war of the undead has begun. Over me.

I would be flattered. If my life weren't at stake.
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