Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Sunday night, while I was watching The Munster's Scary Little Christmas with the kids, it got me thinking about how paranormal romance (and its cousin urban fantasy) is really just so many variations on just a few themes. Humans and creatures living together (uneasily or unknowing), secret groups of vampire or shapeshifter warrior/defenders, and the kickass vampire/demon/monster slayer. It's the particular author's voice and style that makes a book rise above the cliches. For example, I passed over Dark Lover several times, thinking I'd had enough vamp warriors. But once I read it, a fangirl was born. Similarly, Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost flew completely under my radar. I think I dismissed it as a Buffy/Anita Blake ripoff (although I hate those books, I do give LKH credit for being innovative). Then reviews by Bev and katiebabs had me wavering. Young vamp slayer with superpowers and a bleached blonde vampire with a British accent? Certainly sounds derivative. But the reviews were so enthusiastic I found myself wanting to give it a try. And they were right, it is definitely worth a try.

Flirting With The Grave...

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.

So here we have a young half vampire who lives to kill vamps, meeting up with a mysterious stranger who kills vampires. And who, indeed has bleached blonde hair and is of English extraction. He teaches her how to hone her fighting skills, about vampire society and generally shakes up her world. Cat finds herself increasingly attracted to Bones, who goes against all her assumptions about vampires. Okay, not terribly new or different, but well done here. Just plain fun to read.

I think the characterization is what made the book stand out. Sure, Cat is immature, sassy, hot-headed and other potentially annoying traits, but her loneliness and alienation always shine through. It's pretty sad. She has always been different, and has never known unconditional love. Her grandparents and neighbors disapprove of her illegitmacy and unusual strength, and her rather unhinged mother is just waiting for Cat to go psycho and start sucking blood. Her vampire hunting is a way to avenge her mother's rape and also to gain her mother's love and approval. Cat's behavior always seemed appropriate in the context of how she had been raised. And as she begins to show vulnerability and just blossom because of her relationship with Bones, it was very nice.

And Bones was just lovely. All tough and scary and mysterious, but also so sweet and loving and protective with Cat. He was a great hero. The development of their relationship began with him beating the crap out of her, but from there on out it was a lot of fun to read. The interesting characters and romance, combined with the fast moving plot, made this one a winner for me. I'm going to give it an A-, and I really look forward to the sequel, One Foot in the Grave, out April 29.


Mollie said...

Sounds pretty good might have to check it out!

Marg said...

I bought this book purely on impulse because I loved the cover! I have seen loads of really positive reviews which is great news for when I do finally read the book!

Lady of the Review said...

I loved, loved, loved this book. :) I actually was able to interview Ms. Frost on my review blog. She's a very sweet lady. :) Just click on my name. Should take you right to it.

Devon said...

Mollie, Marg--I hope you enjoy. I realize that I didn't mention that this is an ongoing series, ergo,the ending is open ended. No HEA.

Lady of the Review--Welcome! I enjoyed your interview with Janiene Frost.

KT Grant said...

Yippy! Beyond the Grave had me clapping because it was so good.
Now I will sell my soul for the next book that comes in April!
I seriously want to live in a cave with Bone and have great sex, internet and cable tv. :)

Carolyn Crane said...

I have been really attracted to this plot setup, but for some reason resisting the book. I don't know why. So maybe I'll jump on it now!