Book 28 in the Anita Blake series.
Rafael, king of the wererats, must fight to the death to defend his crown. He wants Anita Blake, one of his closest allies, with him as he faces an opponent unlike any he’s faced before. He will ask Anita to risk everything to be at his side.…
But some of the wererats fear that Rafael depends too much on Anita and her ties to the vampires. They believe that there is only room in America for one supernatural king, and Rafael will turn them into nothing more than food for the bloodsuckers.
Among his enemies, a new challenger has arisen who is younger, hungrier, and has dark secrets that could destroy both the wererats and the vampires. Rafael will go into the magical heart of his people to find the power and violence that he needs to save them all, or die trying.
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, which is something she doesn't really want to do. Narcissus is more drama than she wants to deal with, and of the other hyenas, Kane is still being a pain even if Asher has gone to therapy and got his act together with the help of some medication. Anita still hasn't forgiven Asher, but Jean-Claude is getting there.
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. Between Micah and Nathaniel the rat doesn't stand a chance, and for the first time ever Anita's eyes turn into leopard eyes for a moment. 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. Anita has to kill one of them in self-defense, although she does it by accident by ripping out the attacker's arm with her newly gained strength. Anita also learns that the power she gained from Obsidian Butterfly is somehow related to the power the rodere brujas wield, closely enough that they consider it the same power. This gives her a distinct advantage over the aggressive rats, who fear and respect their magic users. She also discovers that some rats have got addicted to ardeur even if they've never been fed on directly, only through Rafael.
To make things worse, Hector's master turns out to be none other than Padma, Master of Beasts, 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. Anita helps the rat brujas to send their power through Hector's connection to Padma, who has also gained a bit of what is left of the power of the Mother of All Darkness—but not nearly as much as Anita. The rat brujas somehow send a horde of not-quite-normal rats through the connection, and keep Padma from gaining control over them. The rats kill Padma, who thought he is safely out of reach in his cheap hotel room. 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. One of the not-quite-normal rats has kept an eye on Anita ever since her arrival, and now decides to join her—but definitely not as a pet.
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. 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 and we learn many things about his unsuccessful and at times abusive dating history, although he has to admit that in some ways Anita is very different from his exes. 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. Pierrette works well with Anita and helps to subdue Hector after Padma has shown his hand. All three of them also end up kissing just before the fight, as a successful ploy 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 it remains to be seen whether they'll actually get there.
Anita, Micah, and Nathaniel have been together for five years. Before the wedding, after the new politically correct terminology for various shapeshifter groups has been introduced.
- Helios, a werehyena assigned to keep Kane in check
- Danny, a wererat who objects to Pierrette's presence at the fighting pits
- Marisol, a wererat that is likely addicted to ardeur
- Tony, a wererat who tries to kill Anita
- Franco, a wererat guarding the door to the doctors' area
- Diego, a wererat nurse
- Pedro, a wererat bully who is being treated by Diego
- Rosa, one of the wererats who challenges Anita's right to sit with Rafael
- Anita's new, as of yet unnamed rat companion
- two younger, unnamed brujas who assist Neva
- Obsidian Butterfly
- The Mother of All Darkness
- Willie McCoy
- Bobby Lee
- Belle Morte
- Judith and Anita's parents
- Luca and Nestor, other potential successors for Rafael
- Victor, Hector's clan leader
- Kane still thinks power of love should be enough to turn Asher off from women.
- Anita has been written up by a fellow marshal for not using the new, politically correct terminology.
- 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.
- Wererats and werehyenas still have magic users, even if werewolves and wereleopards have lost even the knowledge that they should have any.
- This is the first time Anita interacts with a real-life version of any of her animals to call.
- The rodere sacrifice the dead from their fights to some ancient creature that lives in the river beneath the fighting pits.
- Anita's current opinions and plans concerning her marshal career are not mentioned.
|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 Skin • Blood Upon My Lips • The Girl who was Infatuated with Death • Those Who Seek Forgiveness • Selling Houses • Beauty • Dancing • Shutdown • A Girl, a Goat, and a Zombie • Wounded • Sweet Seduction|
|Comics||The First Death • Guilty Pleasures & Handbook • The Laughing Corpse • Circus of the Damned|