- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 11 hours and 18 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
- Audible.com Release Date: March 31, 2010
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B003F238J0
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Halfway to the Grave: Night Huntress, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Either way, I love the Night Huntress novels and actually think they're one of the few urban fantasy series I've red which didn't fumble the ball before the end. Are they the best fiction I've read? No. They're not quite as enjoyable to me as the Dresden Files nor do they have the ridiculously over-the-top humor of the Queen Betsy books. Despite this, I'm going to say it's an entertaining sexy series everyone should check out.
What's the premise? Catherine "Cat" Crawfield is the world's only living dhampir and Crispin "Bones" Russell is a 200-year-old Cockney British vampire who is a professional assassin of the undead. After Cat tries to kill Bones, he semi-forcibly recruits her to be his assistant in hunting the worst of their kind. There's a romance which is a central feature of the books but it doesn't sacrifice the plot either.
Part of what makes the romance interesting to is the leads have great chemistry. Bones is a lewd, crude, and sarcastic vampire who makes none of the usual pretensions to suavery so many others do. Cat, by contrast, is capable of being sweet or ruthless as events demand. A lot of paranormal fiction leads lack well-rounded three-dimensional personalities but Cat has multiple sides that all get shown off.
I particularly liked the pair's first meeting and the general absurdity of it all. Catherine tries to seduce Bones in order to get him alone so she can stake him while the latter believes (erroneously) she's a honey trap sent by one of his enemies. They play off of each other well even as Catherine, who thinks all vampires are evil at this point, keeps waiting for him to act horrifically while he's incredulous a nineteen-year-old girl with no combat training has killed almost a dozen vampires before trying it against him.
I like the set up for both their future relationships both personal and professional. It's one of the few romances in paranormal fiction which doesn't require one partner to be utterly dominate to the other. The pair are playful, they fight, and butt heads with neither side overwhelming the other. Speaking as a married man, it's one of the few books which gets the dynamic right in my opinion. At least the kind of relationships I'm familiar with.
Part of what I liked about this book is they really get into the nitty gritty of what TV tropes.org calls "Van Helsing Hate Crimes." Vampires are dangerous predators but thinking creatures, meaning it's a coin toss whether they're evil or not. Cat has been trained her entire life to hate vampires by her mother so it's interesting to watch her long-held prejudices deconstructed before her eyes.
Hate being something designed to make people feel better about themselves by giving them someone to blame is a concept I can get behind and helps elevate the book beyond pure entertainment. Some people dislike using vampires as metaphors for minorities and I get that but I don't mind it as long as people remember to point out the undead are dangerous in ways RL groups aren't.
The supporting cast is very strong with Catherine's traumatized not-actually-that-old mother being one of the highlights. I also liked meeting Spade and the other eccentric vampires created by Ms. Frost. It's rare I think a vampire's history is as interesting as his present but it's very much the case here. I'd enjoy a Bones prequel novel a great deal if Jeaniene Frost ever decides to show events from our jovial undead love interest's perspective.
Hennesey, the villain, is basically just a human trafficker and while this is a strange subject for a urban fantasy novel to deal with, I think it works. Finding out just how high the corruption and greed goes in Ohio of all places is another treat which I give Jeaniene Frost credit for. In this world, vampires are really just minor-league players compared to the human evils around us. I'm also impressed by just how many well-developed minions she manages to create for our vampiric crime lord.
Halfway to the Grave isn't perfect. Bones' British-isms come off as more ridiculous than authentic, Cat comes off as a little too painfully naive, and there's places the book drags a bit but I still enjoyed it immensely. I recommend it for people who want an old-fashioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style adventure, complete with its very own Angel or Spike. Well, maybe Buffy the Vampire Slayer for adults as the books do contain sex scenes.
Why then, you may ask, did I get this book? Mostly because Vlad kept referencing how he had already been to such-and-such a place, which either Cat or Bones owned. And I wanted to get more action with Vlad, even if Leila isn't in the picture as of yet. I started reading this book, Halfway to the Grave, and I truly didn't like the beginning. I thought it lacked something interesting, although that might have something to do with the fact that this is the first book Ms. Frost wrote. It leans more heavily on world-building than the Dark Prince quadrilogy, although that too has some background information to work through.
Anyway, I stuck with this book, figuring that I'd slog through however many books I'd have to just to find some action with Vlad included. But funny thing, that. A little over halfway through this book and the action started picking up. As did my interest in the characters and the plot. I began to get invested in Cat's search for the missing girls, her search for her mother after she gets kidnapped, and her love affair with Bones, which her mom would never accept. And then the book ended on such a cliffhanger and I immediately knew I had to get the next book just to find out what will happen, irrespective of whether Vlad or Leila have any role in the plot whatsoever.
As a side note, I liked reading all the deleted/heavily edited scenes. They helped me understand where Cat and Bones were coming from and helped clarify a plot point made when the cops came to Cat's apartment door 3/4 of the way into the actual story. Until I read the backstory, I was confused on that point.
So, this book stands on its own and I can't wait to see what's next for our intrepid heroes!
Even though I ultimately loved this book, I still thought the beginning was a bit... eh. I did some quick searching and it looks like this was actually Jeaniene Frost's first book. Which figures since the beginning certainly read like it, but she quickly found her stride and sucked me right in. When things really started to pick up, it felt like I was watching an action movie. I know I say that often, but I feel like it's a sign of excellent writing when the book just comes "alive".
Honestly, the only issue I had with this book was Bones' overuse of the word "blimey". The first few times, I thought it was cute, but after a while I kept thinking he needed a new word. ASAP. Other than that, I really enjoyed watching Cat come out of her shell... I also wanted to slap the crap out of her mom (smh). She got on my nerves FAST.
But enough of that. Cat and Bones... AMAZEBALLS!!! I need some time to come to terms with the ending, but believe it when I say book 2 will be on my literary menu in the near future.