Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership.

In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side ... and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

(Blurb from www.jeanienefrost.com)
The first I heard about this book was online buzz likening the characters to Buffy and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read such a book, since I loved both Spike and Buffy and didn't really feel the need to read a rip-off of the characters in a published novel. That's what tie-in books and fan fiction are for (and although I haven't the time or inclination to read either of those now I have done so in the past).

More recently I read several very glowing reviews of Halfway to the Grave on blogs I like and, more importantly, where I trust the opinions of the reviewers. None of them made a particular point about Buffy and Spike clones and I decided maybe this was a book I should try after all. Happily, the book is available as an ebook and so I went shopping, downloaded it and transferred it across to my PDA. Then I started reading.

Let's clear up the Spike and Buffy thing first. I feel that any similarities are superficial; Cat kills vampires and Bones is a blonde vampire with an English accent and an attitude. This may possibly be a deliberate nod to the TV show, but Frost is not writing about Buffy and Spike, she's writing about Cat and Bones.

Cat Crawford is half vampire; her mother was raped by a vampire and she was the result. Largely to please her mother, Cat has been hunting the undead since she was sixteen. Not suprisingly, she has a lot of issues when it comes to vampires. She is forced to face these when she tries taking on a Master vampire and instead finds herself pledged to train and hunt with him.

Slowly, Cat is forced to see that while some (maybe even most) vampires are evil, not all of them are. Ruthless and dangerous perhaps, but not actually evil. The developing partnership between Cat and Bones, filled with issues and setbacks progresses beautifully. Cat is caught between what she has been brought up to believe and what all her instincts are telling her about Bones. Add in the fact that she's desperate not to disappoint the mother she loves and there's a whole lot of conflict going on.

There were moments when I wished I could shake Cat and tell her to cut this guy a little slack, but that was more frustration because I knew he was the hero and able to be trusted that because I felt the author was going overboard with Cat's vampire issues. They were reasonable and well explained, but I felt so sorry for Bones, obviously hurt but Cat's frequent drawing back, than because I felt Cat was acting out of character.

Bones is a strong and appealing hero, but as I look back over the book, I find myself remembering Cat more. Of course, that fact this is written in the first person with Cat as the narrator may have something to do with that. I enjoyed their scenes together and their first love scene managed to be both sweet and hot which is a combination it can be difficult to pull off.

The plot grows more and more complex as the book progresses until, by the end, Cat finds herself in a situation it appears she will have no chance of escaping. The solution that turns up could be considered a little bit too pat, but it is certainly going to make the next book more interesting. For reader who want a happy ending for Cat and Bones, I trust Frost to give us one but be aware it isn't in this book. This is the first book in a series that is more urban fantasy than paranormal romance and it ends, not in a bad place, but with the main protagonists apart.

They'll be back together - and dealing with the fallout of Cat's self-sacrificing decision at the end of this novel - in the sequel, One Foot in the Grave, due out at the end of April. I'll be buying it.

Halfway to the Grave
Night Huntress, Book 1
8/10

1 comment:

frost-light said...

"Frost is not writing about Buffy and Spike, she's writing about Cat and Bones."

Kerry, I didn't even have to read the rest of your review, because once I got to this comment, I knew I loved you :).

Seriously, I'm glad you liked my book. Thanks for the great review!