Friday, August 5, 2011

On Undeath: A Review of One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

A year ago I read Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, and I liked it fairly well. If I had to label it, I would say that it was a very traditional vampire/vampire slayer urban fantasy. There's nothing wrong with that. While I often complain that there are too many vampires in romance and fantasy these days, there are still vampire books that work for me. Happily, the Night Huntress books seem to be among them. The following review contains spoilers from book 1.

Despite the fact that its been a year and many books since Halfway to the Grave, I found One Foot in the Grave easy to pick up and get into. It takes place four years after the first book ends. Cat and her team of human helpers track a master vampire and Cat discovers that this vampire has connections to her former lover, Bones. Cat still loves Bones, but believes that they can never be together for a variety of reasons. Still, her loyalty to him presents a conflict because her job is essentially to wipe out as many vampires as possible.

The world building in these books is so simple, and I mean that in the best way possible. The vampires are presented in a way that's familiar to fans of urban fantasy--they're old and slick and slightly amoral, they have select powers as well as weaknesses, and there's a hierarchical system of government. That's it. Nobody has incomprehensible, complicated powers. They don't have wings. There are ghouls and ghosts, and a hint of a few other things. But no long list of creatures. No glossary or list of vocab words to learn. For me, this is quite refreshing.

Though she's lost most of the naivety she showed in the first book, Cat is still a highly conflicted character. Her duel nature and abilities make her lonely. She doesn't go through a dramatic development in this book, but rather makes a few adjustments to her worldview. Mainly this involves her deciding whether to attempt to manage a relationship with Bones, and how to manage her team of human hunters. I didn't mind the very linear and simplistic character arc, because I felt that the big development had already taken place in the first book.

I'm a fan of Bones. He's intriguing and sexy, and has a lot of interesting history to delve into. I was happy to see him front and center in this story. And oh my, the relationship between Cat and Bones gets STEAMY. I liked the secondary characters as well: Tate, Juan, etc. It made me smile to see Cat acting as their leader. The friendships were oddly heartwarming. I'm hoping to see each of them fleshed out more later in the series.

The plot doesn't flow very smoothly. At times it seems like a series of loosely related events, some of which connect and make sense in the end and some of which were pretty unnecessary. There's a subplot where Cat dates a human named Noah that pretty much goes nowhere. She doesn't feel much for him beyond not hating his company, and their interactions are weak and limited. He could have been removed from the story entirely without any real effect. I thought this was a wasted opportunity, since actively dating a human guy might have showed an entirely different "human" side of Cat. There were a few other half baked little subplots that I think may or may not be addressed in future books. The bottom line is, the story lacked somewhat when it comes to focus.

I think if your in the mood for a vampire story, the Night Huntress series is a pretty good bet. Interesting characters, lots of action, and plenty of romance. 3.5 stars.


  1. Interesting. I'm not a fan of vampire romance--- I dislike romance novels in general though I love a love story in a non-romance book.

    But I thought you described it very well and very specifically in a way that made me think that if a book in this series comes my way I'll give it a try.

    And since I'm on a vampire kick right now due to starting to write a vampire novel, I'm really glad I didn't miss out on this blog post.

  2. These book do have very strong romantic themes, but I stand by the urban fantasy label. From what I've heard about the rest of the series, the romance becomes less and less a part of the core plot. Definitely worth checking out if you like vampire books.


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