This article or section contains spoilers for 2021 novel Rafael.
Proceed with caution.
In human form, Rafael is a muscled, handsome man of Mexican descent, with dark brown skin, short black hair, and brown eyes. His voice is deep and soft, and despite his obvious ethnicity he is U.S. born and raised and lacks an accent. He is tall, at least 6', with a face marked by a touch of arrogance. He looks about thirty, though in actuality he is over fifty. In rat form, he appears as a tall humanoid rat, with jet black fur and black button eyes, and wears cut-off jeans for freedom of movement.
He has a brand in the form of a four pointed crown on his left arm, that is visible in both forms.
Rafael's parents were immigrants from Mexico, but he was himself born in the USA. Rafael married after he was turned, and has a child, but his wife couldn't deal with his lycanthropy and left him, breaking his heart. He is now divorced and visits his son twice a year on supervised visits, and later on even those visits fall away. The ex-wife and the son live out of state, and by the time of Rafael Rafael isn't sure he would even recognize his son anymore after not having seen him in such a long time. Rafael is attracted to 'sexy, crazy, unstable women' to the point that he has given up on dating altogether unless someone else chooses the woman for him. The ex-wife is very much included to this category, and taught him not to marry in haste.
History within series
In this book we learn that as the leader of the St. Louis wererats Rafael opposes Nikolaos's attempts to use the rats as her servants. For that reason Rafael has ordered his people to stay away from Nikolaos and her lair beneath the Circus of the Damned, and to resisted her call as much as possible. However, some in his ranks disobey, either through fear of Nikolaos or because they hope to see Rafael replaced.
After learning that some wererats have been instructed to terrorize a prisoner of Nikolaos in her dungeons, Rafael comes to the prisoner's aid, later claiming it was more to defy Nikolaos and stop his people disobeying him than out of concern for the prisoner, the animator Anita Blake. After making it clear to the dissenting wererats that he will kill any who disobeys his authority, Rafael talks to Anita, and advises her to do as Nikolaos wants in order to avoid being hurt; they connect somewhat when Anita points out that Rafael isn't following his own advice.
A few days later Rafael is contacted by Anita, who asks if he can lead her and Edward through the tunnels so they can make a covert entrance into the Circus, so that she can slay Nikolaos. Through Rafael makes it clear that because of Nikolaos' power over them, the rats cannot assist in the actual fight, he and some others agree to Anita's request. After Anita slays Nikolaos, Rafael and his people enter the Circus and provide medical assistance to Anita and Edward, and watch as Anita slays Zachary.
Rafael offers protection to Anita when Marcus does not.
Rafael demonstrates that he is strong enough to resist giving his rats to Padma, Master of Beasts, even when being tortured. Anita negotiates Rafael's release and he heals his injuries, even though he has been skinned alive.
Rafael takes Anita's side against the pack.
Wishing to strengthen the ties with Jean-Claude Rafael offers himself as a pomme de sang for Anita but is turned down. Regardless, he is an important ally to Anita and Jean-Claude, as well as the Coalition, and one of Anita's occasional lovers with whom she feeds her ardeur.
Rafael thinks he is becoming too old and weak to lead the wererats, because an opponent cheating in a fight for the leadership leaves him with a serious wound he can't heal. He comes to the Circus for safety, but doesn't alert anyone of what has happened in fear that the word of his weakness will spread. When Anita discovers him she manages to talk him into allowing Micah to check out the wound, and they realize the healer who checked Rafael out after the fight actually poisoned the wound with silver nitrate, which makes it impossible for any lycanthrope to heal, no matter how powerful. As Rafael is still alive, this is a proof of his strength rather his than weakness, and he finally consents to receiving medical treatment, but only after he gets the wheels rolling for dealing with the treacherous healer. In the meantime Anita and Micah both try to help Rafael heal by using their powers, but as he doesn't have any metaphysical ties to them, these attempts fail.
We learn that Anita has recently allowed Rafael to infect her with rat lycanthropy on purpose in his rat-man form, with promise that she will make him her rat to call if she tests positive for it. This confirmation has already been received before the events of the book, but they haven't had time to seal the deal, so Rafael forbids his rats from accompanying her to Ireland in order to prevent her from binding any of them to her in an emergency. Rafael himself is out of town with Micah on the Coalition business by the time the Ireland trip becomes a reality, and as such isn't available for either becoming her animal to call before she leaves nor for providing backup himself. It's possible that this whole arrangement was planned because of the events of Dead Ice, in order to give Rafael that missing metaphysical connection and to bind him more tightly to the power structure.
There is yet another challenge upon Rafael's position, something that has become ever more frequent (the last fight was only two weeks earlier) as the rats across the country fear that if he becomes Anita's animal to call Jean-Claude will turn them all into sex-slaves. They also resent that Rafael allows Anita to draw power from all of them through ardeur. Unfortunately, this time the challenger, Hector, is the son of one of Rafael's ex-girlfriends, Suelita. She claims (probably without foundation) that Hector is Rafael's son, and as Rafael has already been eyeing Hector as a potential successor thanks to his abilities, these things make Rafael hesitant to want to win the fight, which will be to the death.
Rafael invites Anita to watch the fight and tries to convince her to seduce Hector if he were to win, but this unwelcome plan soon turns moot. When Anita finally raises ardeur with Rafael for a final power boost before the fight, she learns that Hector is already the animal to call to a powerful enough master vampire that he has managed to hide his presence from Jean-Claude. This makes Hector not only a threat to Rafael, but to Anita and Jean-Claude and their entire power base as well, which finally convinces Narcissus to allow Anita to make Rafael as her rat to call without making Narcissus her hyena to call at the same time.
After Anita does make Rafael her rat to call, it turns out that he has unexpectedly strong draw on her inner rat, as well as unexpected amount of power and control over their connection. He assumes this to be due to his power as the king over all the rodere within the country. Her rat tries to overwhelm her, and for a moment he cares more about the power than Anita's pain, until Micah pulls her leopard forward in turn to keep the rat in check. Rafael apologizes, but Anita trusts him a bit less. Her trust in his judgement is violated even further when she goes to rodere's fighting pits to witness the fight, and the other rats challenge her like they might do to one of their own who is trying to climb in power, rather than a visiting leader of another animal group as Rafael expected.
To make things worse, Hector's master turns out to be none other than Padma, and the fight against Rafael turns even more brutal by the fact that Padma somehow keeps Rafael from healing. The fight is agreed to be single blade and claws, but when Padma starts healing Hector and levitates him out of the way of a killing blow, that breaks the rats' concept of what is and is not allowed within a fight. This in turn allows Anita and others to join the fight and to apply first aid on Rafael while Hector is subdued and his master is destroyed. Hector doesn't survive the death of his master, and as Rafael didn't break any of the rules he retains his throne. Both his legs got thoroughly shredded below the knees in the fight, but once Padma is dead Rafael starts to heal again.
There is also a subplot about Anita fearing that she doesn't have enough time and attention to dedicate to Rafael, as has been the case with many of her lovers, so she has asked whether any of her female lovers would be interested in sharing Rafael's bed as well (he is too straight for the male lovers being an option, although there would have been interest for that too). She doesn't have time to bring it up with Rafael, however, before Pierrette makes the offer to join the two of them in the showers. Rafael is initially extremely wary of the idea, having bad experiences from such attempts with his various crazy exes, and we learn many things about his unsuccessful and at times abusive dating history. However, he admits that his relationship with Anita is the most stable one he's ever had, and that she's far more pragmatic than what he's used to. His objections mostly center around his fear of what Anita might do in retaliation even if it was her idea, rather than any reluctance to consider Pierrette as a potential lover on her own. As a powerful and skilled wereleopard Pierrette is also chosen to accompany Anita to the fighting pits to keep Rafael and all the other rats from pulling Anita's inner rat from out of control, and all three of them end up kissing in order to distract Padma and Hector. By the end of the fight Rafael has reconsidered his stance and is willing to take Anita and Pierrette up on the offer of a threesome, but he needs to heal a lot more before that could become an option, and Anita isn't really in the mood either. It remains to be seen whether they'll actually get there.
We also learn that Rafael has introduced the idea of online voting for gathering the opinions of the various rats across the country, in order to not neglect the opinions of those who live too far to present their thoughts in person. The votes aren't always favorable to him.
Powers & Abilities
As a wererat, Rafael possesses enhanced senses, able to see in dim lighting clearly, hear noises far off, and, even in his human form, able to smell normal humans' emotional states. In wererat form he possesses enhanced strength to an unspecified degree, enhanced endurance, and accelerated healing, though he is still vulnerable to silver weapons. He is also extremely agile and limber, able to compress and twist his body to fit through spaces much smaller then his large frame suggests.