REVIEW: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Dear Ms. Frost:
The back of your book reads “If Buffy and Angel had a daughter, she’d be just like Cat Crawfield.” What wasn’t included was that Buffy’s daughter would then end up dating and falling in love with Spike, her mother’s boyfriend.
Cat Crawfield is a half vampire/half human woman. She was created violently when her mother went out on date with a vampire and was raped (this is actually not what I remember about the Buffy/Angel pairing but admittedly I have not watched many episodes). Spurred on by her mother’s hate, Cat hunts vampires. Because of her part vampire blood, she has a few special skills that enable her to have killed a good number of them by the time she turns 22.
Unfortunately, being a self trained vampire killer has its drawbacks and that is apparent when she runs into Bones, a master vampire, and he snuffs out right away that she isn’t the easy lay she pretends to be. He initially plans to kill her because he too is a vampire hunter. Instead, she convinces him that she’s not a danger to him and he proposes an alliance. He’ll let her live and in return she agrees to train to become a killing machine.
Cat is smart mouthed but not too smart mouthed and Bones has a wicked sense of humor.
“Are you telling me bloody caramel apples and books taught you how to kill vampries? Is that what you’re saying?” He started to pace in short, rapid lengths. “It’s a damn good thing most of the recent generations are nearly illiterate or we’d all be in serious trouble. Blimey.”
Their interaction was the best part of the book. The problem is I found Cat to be very youthful in her narratives. “I hope you choke on my blood, you jerk” and “Kill me already, you pathetic suck-neck!” are examples of her dialogue. It sounded very young adult, or at least the heroine sounded young. She could have easily passed for a teenager rather than a 22 year old. The youthful tone of the book combined with the explicit sex scenes had me squirming uncomfortably in my chair and not in a good way.
I will not be surprised if nearly every review of this book mentions the Buffy connection because it certainly seemed to be a strong influence on the story and the characters. The strongest similarity for me, wasn’t the heroine, but the hero. He was described as having “hair . . . nearly white under the intermittent lighting . . . his skin was unlined. . . . His cheekbones could have been chiseled from marble, and that flawless diamonds-and-cream skin gleamed from under his shirt collar.” He was also British and spoke with a British dialect: “blimey”, “bloody hell”, “luv”, “fancied.”
The good thing is that this book does not read like a debut novel. The prose is smooth and polished. There is good banter. The largest problem I had with the book beyond the mismatched tones was that it tried too hard to be urban fantasy romance. I.e., the relationship between Bones and Cat would have been more authentic if it were a mentor/mentee relationship rather than the sexual one that was written. The fight scenes, the training scenes and the suspense thread of the bad vampire cadre that Bones and Cat are chasing were all interesting. If this had been an urban fantasy without the romance between Bones and Cat, I would have liked it much more.
I never really understood what Bones saw in Cat other than this nice looking vampire killer. I never understood what Cat saw in Bones given that she supposedly spent all of her formative years believing that vampires were monsters. Thus, her easy capitulation into his bed and her near immediate attraction was completely unbelievable.
The ending of the book was also inconsistent when the government official thread that the back cover copy hints is included. It seemed to have nothing to do with the main plot/suspense storyline and appeared included only to interest readers in book 2, rather than addressing the many outstanding issues in this book, such as developing the character arc of Cat. While the cliffhanger ending to the relationship is not one that will be palatable to some romance readers, it was not the source for dissatisfaction for me. I would have been more interested in the future of the couple if I had really bought into their pairing. Unfortunately, I felt that Cat was too immature and had too many issues to really be able to love a master vampire. C
This book can be purchased in mass market and ebook format on October 30, 2007.