Anita Blake is about to face the challenge of her life. Into her world—a world already overflowing with power—have come creatures so feared that powerful, centuries-old vampires refuse to mention their names. It is forbidden to speak of The Harlequin unless you've been contacted. And to be contacted by The Harlequin is to be under sentence of death.
Long-time rivals for Anita’s affections, Jean-Claude, Master Vampire of the City, and Richard, alpha-werewolf, will need to become allies. Shapeshifters Nathaniel and Micah will have to step up their support. And then there’s Edward. In this situation, Anita knows that she needs to call the one man who has always been there for her…
The events of The Harlequin take place one month after the events of Danse Macabre.
The Harlequin shows Anita and Jean-Claude coping with a threat from Vampire Council enforcers. Desperate, Anita calls Edward for assistance. Edward arrives the same day, bringing Olaf and Peter (now 16), whom we last saw in Obsidian Butterfly.
The Harlequin exist to police and punish vampire leaders who violate various Council rules, such as Malcolm's resistance to the blood oath. The group was formed by the Mother of All Darkness, modeled in style on the commedia dell'arte and by action on the wild hunt. Depending on how they contact you, they might be intent on merely observing, tormenting, or even killing you—and one purpose might lead to another. The group is composed of very old and powerful vampires who are capable of not just manipulating the behaviors and emotions of humans or younger vampires and lycanthropes, but of powerful beings such as Jean-Claude, Anita, and Richard as well.
Under the Harlequin's influence, Richard and Jean-Claude nearly kill each other, and Anita must also be repeatedly resuscitated. Anita keeps them alive by feeding on Rafael (and through him, all the wererats in the city), and on Belle Morte, and later, on all the swanmanes in the United States via the swan king, Donovan Reece. Anita's second triumvirate also comes through, with Nathaniel and Damian "eating for five" so as to provide healing energy to Anita—and the others through her.
However, the Harlequin appear not to be following their own rules, so by vampire law Jean Claude's people can strike back. Edward doesn't actually kill any Harlequin, but Anita does through a psychic link that she accidentally creates while trying to remove a sort of vampire spell that one of the Harlequin has put on her in to keep track of her and Jean Claude's movements. They subsequently end up killing the human servant of that vampire after Anita has fed on Donovan and the swanmanes. They recover in time to face off against the remaining Harlequin members in Malcolm's Church of Eternal Life. They not only succeed, but determine that the Harlequin members were planning to take over Jean-Claude's territory and not operating on official Council orders.
Anita almost allows the Mother of Darkness to become a full flesh being by allowing her anger to fester.
Anita also leaves her former allies, the werelions, to potential death. At a point where Anita and many of her other allies are injured, sex is demanded from the werelion Rex Joseph so that Anita could gain the power to heal. The Rex refuses because he is married and values being faithful to his wife. In a scene reminiscent of The Godfather series, Anita decides that this is a betrayal of their alliance and decides to abandon Joseph.
The Harlequin takes place in early December, within a month of Danse Macabre.
- Early December. The Harlequin, chapter 41: "It was December, but it wasn't that kind of cold." The Harlequin, chapter 42: "In the December cold it was a bleak little space..." The Harlequin, chapter 03: Christmas is "weeks away," placing the events in early December.
- Time since previous novels:
- The month following Danse Macabre (November). The Harlequin, chapter 10: "I had a serious pregnancy scare last month."
- Six months since Narcissus in Chains (June). The Harlequin, chapter 05: Nathaniel on his relationship with Anita: "Honestly, I didn’t think we’d still be together this long. Seven months is the longest relationship I’ve ever had." The Harlequin, chapter 41: "Micah’s been living with me for seven months." Note that it's actually about six months, not seven.
Other time-related information:
- Nathaniel is 20 years old, and his birthday is in the spring. The Harlequin, chapter 02: Jean-Claude says, "Perhaps, but you are his first real girlfriend, and he is twenty." Chapter 03: "At twenty, twenty-one in the spring, he was growing into the broad shoulders, filling out in the way that most men do at a slightly earlier age."
- In chapter 6 of The Harlequin Anita notes: "Last week Clay had been helping guard my body. No pun intended. There'd been a metaphysical accident, [...]", which could be taken to mean that the events of Danse Macabre were only a week away. This could work if Danse Macabre was set during the last week of November and The Harlequin was set on the first week of December. However, it's not irrefutably clear from either novel that the events in Danse Macabre were, in fact, the last time Clay guarded Anita, nor is it specifically mentioned how long before the guarding the mentioned metaphysical accident happened. Clay may or may not have continued to serve in that role for weeks after the events of Danse Macabre despite his misgivings.
There is a notable inconsistency with the timeline related to Obsidian Butterfly. While The Harlequin should be only seven months after Obsidian Butterfly, it's stated to be a year a half later. This timeline inconsistency began in Micah. See the Inconsistencies section on the Timeline article for more details.
Although the time since the events of Obsidian Butterfly is notably inconsistent, the time since Narcissus in Chains, which takes place the month after Obsidian Butterfly, is more accurately represented. Nathaniel and Anita both say it's been seven months since the events of Narcissus in Chains (June) when the they and Micah started living together, but it's been closer to six months.
Recurring characters include:
Non-recurring characters include:
|Anita Blake Series|
|Novels||Guilty Pleasures • The Laughing Corpse • Circus of the Damned • The Lunatic Cafe • Bloody Bones • The Killing Dance • Burnt Offerings • Blue Moon • Obsidian Butterfly • Narcissus in Chains • Cerulean Sins • Incubus Dreams • Micah • Danse Macabre • The Harlequin • Blood Noir • Skin Trade • Flirt • Bullet • Hit List • Kiss the Dead • Affliction • Jason • Dead Ice • Crimson Death • Serpentine|
|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|
|Comics||The First Death • Guilty Pleasures & Handbook • The Laughing Corpse • Circus of the Damned|