This Side of the Grave, Jeaniene Frost, Avon Books, 2/22/11
Danger waits on both sides of the grave.
Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they've triumphed over the latest battle, Cat's new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance...
With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumors abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous "ally"--the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war. ...to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.
So, to recap....no seriously? I cannot possibly recap all that has happened in the past 4 books, 2 spin offs and 1 anthology novella. What I can say is that Cat Crawfield continues to fascinate me. Once a half-vampire, she now ranks among the undead. Sadly, she still falls outside the norm even in her vampire status, what with her occasionally beating heart and her need to feed from other vamps. Oh, and that whole pesky temporarily taking on their abilities after feeding thing - that remains an issue. Frost does provide the reader with a true understanding though of what should seem a gift as actually being more than a young vampire can handle - there is a reason master vampires "grow" powers as they age and for our young Cat, the mind reading becomes maddening and they physical strengths wildly difficult to control.
Cat and Bones find themselves poised on the brink of a great Undead vs Undead war. Apollyon, master of the ghouls, convinces his legions that the ultimate goal of Cat is to become part Vamp, part Ghoul, all controlling and thus she must die. Assassins continually hunt her. Her solution, rejoin forces with her old secret government team. Sounds like an easy plan, right? Wrong.
Cat discovers to her dismay that her mother, forcefully turned in the last book, is now training with the team. The tables have turned and now mom is the vampire slayer, with her own narrow world view and discipline issues. Ironic, no? Tate leads the team and Frost gives brief glimpses of the old team's camaraderie but theirs is not integral to this particular tale. The sad news regarding Cat's uncle overwhelms much of this storyline (and it is tragic - total tissue alert!) The loving support that Bones provides Cat really solidifies how solid their relationship is now. The once ever present, often enjoyable yet irritating ups and downs of their relationship cease - theirs is a true marriage, even if it didn't initially start as one - but don't think for a second they have less than steamy encounters. (Bones, honey, I am here if you ever need me!)
Their political maneuvers and search for Apollyon lead them to New Orleans again, and to Marie Laveau. Naughty, manipulative Marie figures out Cat's secret to her power and exacts a plan to aide her in her fight against the current reigning king of ghouls. Ghosts, Revenants, and other spooky spirits are her tools of power and they scare me more than the vamps fireballs and mind controlled death blows. When Cat finally deciphers the lesson Marie gave, nothing can stop the Vamp army from ending Apollyon's reign of terror....until the next great leader rises to power.
I found this long awaited installment immensely enjoyable, and yet is seemed to lack some of it's previous book's intensity/conflict/resolution. The ending felt abrupt and not in a good cliff-hangery kind of way. The relationship between Cat and Bones felt very solid and yet still sexy, but the glimpses of Mencheres and Kira were a nice contrast and old Vlad becomes even more intriguing to me now. I certainly hope that his becomes the next Night Huntress World story spin off. (Loved Spade and Denise's story!) Frost writes well, her stories flow and her dialogue is smart and funny. She remains on my must-have, pre-order top author list with This Side of the Grave but I have to say, I want the next one....now!
I give This Side of the Grave 5 Chocolate Dipped Strawberries to be hand fed to me by Bones himself please....