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Circus of the Damned is third book in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series of horror/mystery/erotica novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. Circus of the Damned continues the adventures of Anita Blake. Anita simultaneously attempts to solve a series of murders by an unknown vampire pack, fend off the advances of her would be vampire master, Jean-Claude and deal with various people and creatures who wish her to reveal Jean-Claude's identity and location. As with its predecessors, Circus of the Damned blends elements of supernatural, hard boiled detective, and police procedural fiction.


Circus of the Damned takes place in October,[1] two months after The Laughing Corpse (August).

Other time-related information:


Author's website[]

“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…”

“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.”

“When a dangerous vampire named Alejandro hits town and claims Anita Blake, an expert on creatures of the night, for his human servant, a war of the undead breaks out and puts Blake’s life in jeopardy. “

Berkley (2002)[]

When a powerful centuries-old vampire hits Anita Blake’s town, a battle of the undead ensues.


Circus of the Damned takes place in October, two months after The Laughing Corpse and begins with Anita meeting Jeremy Ruebens and Karl Inger to discuss a potential job. Rubens explains that he 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 in Guilty Pleasures, 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. (Although Anita does not explicitly state this, there is a chance that this event was caused by Mr Oliver, who Anita later learns has power over snakes and seeks to replace the Master of the City). 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. (In Guilty Pleasures, Anita found clues that strongly suggested that Malcolm was the client who had hired Edward to kill Nikolaos, the Master at that time. However, in this case, Anita does not find any clues as to whether Humans Against Vampires, Mr Oliver, or someone else is responsible for the contract on Jean-Claude.)

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.

Edward leaves and Anita goes to sleep, but is visited by a dream of Jean-Claude. Later that day, Anita visits the gym to work out with Ronnie and learns that Carl Rupert, the murder victim, was a member of Humans Against Vampires. Ronnie also reminds Anita that their friend Catherine has scheduled a Halloween party for the day Anita had planned to go out with Richard. Ronnie teases Anita about having a date, and Anita calls Richard, who agrees to go with her to the Halloween party and take a rain check for the caving.

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. Anita and the police meet John Burke, who was in the hospital hunting Rupert, and continue the hunt together. Rupert surprises them and is able to kill one of the police officers before Anita disables him. After confirming that Rupert is dead, Anita leaves to make sure that Larry Kirkland is able to cover her scheduled animations for the night.

Anita catches up to Larry on his third animation of the night. Although Larry is powerful, he is young and inexperienced, and begins to lose control of the zombie. Anita steps in, feeding the zombie her blood and asserting control over it. After the zombie, Andrew Dougal, signs a will, his family leaves and Anita is forced to explain that he is dead and return him to his grave. She and Larry prepare to leave for her next appointment. Larry, a twenty-year old college senior hired at Animators, Inc. for a job co-op, does not accept that his overreaching put him in danger. Anita considers him to be very innocent and young, although he is only a few months younger than when she started at the same job site. She wishes she could keep him innocent and tries to talk him out of his new job, but he refuses.

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.

Anita evades the question and returns to St. Louis, where she learns from Ronnie that the two murder victims were both members of Humans Against Vampires and had dying wills requiring that they be staked after death. Both victims had the same lawyer, and Ronnie suspects that someone from the lawyer's office leaked their identity to the murderers. Anita gives the lead to Dolph, who agrees to investigate.

That evening, Anita and Larry are interrupted in their animation duties by Jean-Claude, who demands that they meet him at the Circus of the Damned. Without revealing to Larry that Jean-Claude is Master of the City, Anita meets with him and learns that she has somehow received the first mark as Alejandro's human servant as well as Jean-Claude's, something that Jean-Claude had believed impossible.

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. Edward, Anita, Rashida, Yasmeen, Marguerite, Richard and Stephen will fight for Jean-Claude, while Mr Oliver, Karl Inger, Alejandro, Melanie, and Alejandro's pack of vampires will fight for Mr Oliver.

Edward kills most or all of Alejandro's pack, while Alejandro kills Yasmeen. Marguerite, torn with grief, gouges out her eyes and is out of the fight. Alejandro marks Anita with the third and fourth mark, drinking Anita's blood and forcing her to drink his, making Anita fully his human servant. Through their link, Anita learns that Oliver believes that the legalization of vampires is threatening to society, and that Oliver plans to force the city's vampires into a killing spree in order to end America's experiment with vampire legalization.

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.


Circus of the Damned introduces the following characters.

Major Characters[]

  • Anita Blake - Anita continues her progression, as she initially is willing to kill Jean-Claude rather than be marked as his human servant, but ultimately continues to accept her role as a bridge between the worlds of humans and monsters in order to save the city. At the end of Circus of the Damned, Anita sees Jean-Claude as something more of a person and is willing to continue dating Richard, even though he is one of "the monster".
  • Jean-Claude - Hamilton reveals a little more of Jean-Claude's character in this novel. Jean-Claude's control over the city is apparently precarious, and, true to form, he attempts to use this very weakness to force Anita to surrender to him, showing his previously established manipulative, seductive, and somewhat ruthless nature. In addition, Jean-Claude proves himself quite brave in his vastly overmatched battle against Mr. Oliver, and quite deeply attached to Anita when he does not attempt to kill her in revenge for her almost killing him, nor does he surrender his romantic pursuit.
  • Richard Zeeman - A "nice guy" alternative to Jean-Claude's manipulative seduction, Richard's good looks and brown hair remind Anita of Phillip, the doomed stripper from Guilty Pleasures. Richard's good looks, charm, and emotional vulnerability contributed to the love/hate relationship Anita developed with him over the next several novels.
  • Mr Oliver - the most threatening opponent Anita had faced to date, and possibly the most threatening ever. By personifying her previous attitude that vampires were irredeemable monsters, Mr Oliver helped move Anita to some middle ground.
  • Alejandro - An ancient vampire who is the first vampire to share all four marks with her, and thus the first to make her his full human servant, though she is by no means servantile towards him. Because of his actions in this novel she is freed of Jean Claudes marks that she had gained in Guilty Pleasures.

Other Recurring Characters[]

Non Recurring Characters[]

Non-recurring characters include: Jeremy Rubens, the leader of Humans Against Vampires, Karl Inger, the human servant of Mr Oliver. The first vampire to make her their full human servant Alejandro, Rashida, Melanie, and Marguerite, a beautiful but unstable blue eyed blonde who is Yasmeen's human servant and lover. After Yasmeen was killed, Marguerite clawed her eyes out in grief.



Anita Blake Series

01. Guilty Pleasures • 02. The Laughing Corpse • 03. Circus of the Damned • 04. The Lunatic Cafe • 05. Bloody Bones • 06. The Killing Dance • 07. Burnt Offerings • 08. Blue Moon • 09. Obsidian Butterfly • 10. Narcissus in Chains • 11. Cerulean Sins • 12. Incubus Dreams • 13. Micah • 14. Danse Macabre • 15. The Harlequin • 16. Blood Noir • 17. Skin Trade • 18. Flirt • 19. Bullet • 20. Hit List • 21. Kiss the Dead • 22. Affliction • 23. Jason • 24. Dead Ice • 25. Crimson Death • 26. Serpentine • 27. Sucker Punch (novel) • 28. Rafael

Short Stories Magic Like Heat Across My SkinBlood Upon My LipsThe Girl who was Infatuated with DeathThose Who Seek ForgivenessSelling HousesBeautyDancingShutdownA Girl, a Goat, and a ZombieWoundedSweet Seduction
Comics The First DeathGuilty Pleasures & HandbookThe Laughing CorpseCircus of the Damned


  1. Circus of the Damned, chapter 02: "It was October and the grass was still green."
  2. Circus of the Damned, chapter 33: "How old are you?" ... "Twenty-four."
  3. Circus of the Damned, chapter 32: "How old were you (Anita) when you started working for me (Bert)?" "Twenty-one."
  4. Circus of the Damned, chapter 32: "When will you be twenty-one, Larry?" "March."