I do not think this is a good plan, given the MOAD is kind of Godzilla level power and both Anita and Richard have a tendancy to mouth off and dig the pit deeper. It works out well, but only because Richard apparently got replaced by a pod person.
(...out of curiosity, how would that work? Pod person replacing someone psychically tied to someone else? My vote is the psychic ties would just vanish but what if they didn't? How would that work?)
Anyhoo...Nate and Micah are out because the MOAD controls cats and Richard is in because Anita, JC and Richard all share dream space. Okay.
The MOAD is pissed because the Harlequin came to St. Louis SPECIFICALLY TO FUCK WITH ANITA. They know that Jean Claude hasn't closed the marks yet, and they're gonna snatch Anita away from him because they want to.
WHY THE FUCK HAS JEAN CLAUDE NOT SEALED THE DEAL YET? His power base is fucking hinged on Anita and Richard on this point. He loses them, he loses everything. Anita has expressed a strong interest in getting that fourth mark so she can stop having to deal with this bullshit, Richard will do whatever the other two want because he's kind of mind-fucked ATM. There is literally no reason not to seal the marks. It's been at least ten fucking books. This is a plot device that is older than sin. It is WAY out of character for everyone involved to leave it unresolved.
Anyway, the MOAD tells Anita that she won't let the Harlequin take her. Meanwhile Richard summons his wolf and Anita summons hers to keep the MOAD from taking Anita over, and we get a copypasta of Anita's inner wolf description from the last book. The MOAD tells Anita that she came to take Anita tonight, and has decided not to. Jean Claude can keep her for now, but nobody else can, and here's a random parting gift. The chapter ends with Anita and Richard lip-locked in the dream.
Okay. Next chapter.
Lemme guess. Anita's wolf is going to rise to the surface and she's going to have to fuck every single animal she's got in her inner menagerie to stay human. How close am I?
Well, first Anita's cross set the bed on fire. Apparently Anita's faith isn't strong enough to keep the MOAD out of her head, but it is strong enough to commit arson. And this time Anita's just going to be weak, and not fight her inner zoo. Good. No repeats.
Claudia comes in the room because apparently Anita was screaming. Claudia deserves a fucking raise.
And then the newest member of Anita's inner zoo does rear its ugly head and rise to the surface. It's a tiger. The MOAD gave Anita the tiger strain of therianthropy from where-the-fuck-ever in a dream. Because that's totally do-able and not world-breaking at all. The MOAD had better never contract AIDS, because there's no such thing as dream condoms.
Anita summons up her inner zoo anyway, because having the entire crew active at once will keep her body from choosing just one of them. I guess it's a little like infecting yourself with cowpox to keep yourself from getting smallpox, except, you know, it's not like that at all.
Micah figures out that Anita's got an inner tiger now and tells them to call the nearest were-tiger anybody knows about. She's several miles away and Anita is betting that Known Tiger can get to the Circus before the inner zoo rips her apart. This is actually cool and dramatic, and if I were writing this I'd throw in a Random Serial Murder call from Zerbowski so Anita has to work a crime scene while trying to keep her inner zoo happy.
That...is not what happens. Because, you know, LKH is allergic to drama. And plot. And good writing.
INSTEAD we get this shit. Apparently Jean Claude figured out that the MOAD could spread therianthropy through dreams, even though that never fucking happened before EVER and that she'd probably give Anita tiger-strain, because Anita already has leopard and lion and there aren't any other really badass cats to give her. So he went out and recruited another weretiger, stuck her in Rafael's wererat group and told everybody they had to pretend that she was a rat, even though I'm pretty sure a bunch of FUCKING PREY ANIMALS would figure out really damn fast that they've got a tiger in their den.
...and her name is Soledad. Because anything attached to the were-rats has to be hispanic.
Anita also tells them to get a local Lion, so they send for a dude named Travis. Anita snuggles Richard and Nathanial in the meantime. Then the tiger randomly fades away and the lion starts trying to make Anita shapeshift. There is a lot of thrashing and screaming and then Travis shows up, Anita bites him, and he explodes into goo and werelion. And of course Travis is to weak to handle it, not like manly Haven, and he collapses.
One down, three to go.
The wolf goes next and...really, Laurel? REALLY? Richard, who is the ulfric for the werewolves, who KNOWS how to handle an unwanted, out-of-control shifter situation, shoves Anita's wolf back down instead of taking it into him. Which sounds like a much, MUCH better situation because it doesn't involve shoving your issues off on somebody else the way she just did with Travis, and it's also a good example of Richard mantaining his personal boundaries while still helping out the woman who raped him. And Anita complains because it hurt and she didn't get any pleasure out of her de-wolfening.
Anita Blake is a horrible person.
Two left. Leopard shows up, Anita gives it to Micah, who half shifts, and of course we get more power-ranking fuckery.
Once I’d thought you had to be powerful to do the half-human form. But I’d been spending too much time around really powerful wereanimals. Now, I thought that only the weak couldn’t do it.
Anita, stop being an elitist. It looks real ugly on you.
And of course Micah and Richard snark at each other. And it's stupid, penny-ante shit they BOTH should be mature enough to get over, given the circumstances.
“Did you do that to make a point?” Richard’s voice, angry. Micah looked up at him and spoke in that gravelly purr that he had in this shape. “What point would that be?” “That I caused her more pain making her swallow her beast than you did by taking it.” “I took her beast because I’m not powerful enough to make her swallow it, and because being forced to swallow it can hurt, a lot.” “So I cause her more pain, and you come off the hero.”
Boys, you're both pretty. Otherwise Anita wouldn't fuck you. Knock it off.
They keep it up for a few pages, and Micah shows off how much better he is at shape-shifting than Richard by turning back into a human. Then Soledad shows up.
Soledad came to stand over us. She wasn’t as tall as some of the guards, well under six feet, but from flat on the floor, she looked tall enough. She was slender but curvy, with hair cut boy short and dyed a shade of yellow that didn’t occur in nature. With the hair you’d expect more makeup, but she usually did lipstick and just enough liner to accent her brown eyes. She stared down at me with that look she usually had, like she thought something was funny and would laugh any minute. I’d realized a few days ago that it was her version of a blank face.First up: She's blond. We're probably going to have yet another better-than-thou-blondie contest.
Second: WHEN THE FUCK DID YOU MEET THIS CHARACTER? She hasn't been here AT ALL, you didn't know that she was a tiger, you can discern what somebody is and is not just from smelling, you're intimately familiar with rats so I'd assume you'd notice when one of your guardians doesn't have the same warm fuzzy smell as the others. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT HER FACIAL TICS ARE LIKE?
The tiger shows up. Soledad takes a second to say something pretentious to Anita:
She leaned over to take my hand, saying, “In this world I would rather live two days like a tiger than a hundred years like a sheep.”
I cannot convey how out-of-the-fucking-blue this is. The conversation is basically "Do your job, lady, and help her" and then we get RANDOM PHILOSOPHICAL STATEMENT before she rushes to save Anita's humanity.
The tiger races forward, and we finally get to the end of the chapter.
Well, we haven't hit Anita's heteroflexible stage, so the next chapter ought to be rather short.