Posted on April 4, 2008 by alanajoli
Cat Crawfield would love to kill her father. Literally. After raping her mother, he took off, leaving Cat as a reminder of the evening. Oh, and he’s a vampire, making Cat a weird sort of hybrid: living with but a vampire’s strength and speed. So as a way to get even, she starts hunting vamps, picking them up at clubs and staking them for all they’re worth. Every time she does it, there’s one less monster in the world. But then she meets Bones, a vampire far stronger than any she’s met before. When he threatens to kill her unless she studies under him, she challenges him to a duel of sorts–as the loser, she is forced to train with him, learning to be a better, more effective vampire hunter, ready to take on some of the big marks. In the process, she accidentally learns that vampires aren’t necessarily the monsters she believed them to be, and that despite her earlier experiences, sex might not be what she thought it was, either. But when her hunting puts her directly in the way of one of the most powerful and genuinely evil vamps in the area, falling in love with someone she thought of as an enemy can’t be the first thing on her mind–or she might not survive.
I hate to admit it, but I’d been avoiding reading this book after I bought it. The guilt that I experienced through this avoidance was not pleasant: I’m a regular reader of Frost’s blog and have enjoyed her writing there, so before I bought the novel, I was looking forward to reading it. When it arrived, I was in a decidedly anti-vampire mood, not wanting to deal with the gritty urban fantasy I expected it to be. So it languished on my shelf until I felt brave enough to pick it up. And boy, have I been kicking myself for putting it off. Halfway to the Grave is full of action and excitement (and a touch of horror–a good part of the plot involves slave trafficking, so it definitely doesn’t rate “fluffy bunnies”), but it is far sexier than it is scary. That is, for the first half. The relationship that builds between Bones and Cat is captivating, and the identity crisis that Cat goes through to reconcile her half-vampire nature is both deep and convincing. The process of the hunt: the attraction of the target through lust, the learning how not to blush in the face of dirty talk, and the luring of the mark away to somewhere he’ll be easier to dispatch–all of it is fascinating, almost more a heist set up than traditional vamire slayer fare. By the time the gritty urban fantasy bits kicked in (remember the white slavery?), I was so hooked on the characters that my excitement for the whole gritty-urban-fantasy-genre was rekindled in the process.
What’s more, Frost’s vampires are *interesting.* Neither abject monsters nor brooding and suffering victims of fate, these vampires are, essentially, humans with really long lives and super powers. While there’s plenty of traditional vampire lore lurking beneath the surface, all of that falls behind the characters being individuals rather than two-dimensional fillers. That depiction makes it possible for Frost to tackle the often tricky subject of prejudice–in the form of true bigotry–without it feeling like a message or lesson. It may not even have been her intent. Rarely, however, have I seen bigotry so well handled in sympathetic characters. Cat’s mother has justifiable reason to believe that all vampires are monsters, and while Cat comes to the understanding that this belief, which has guided so much of her life, is just wrong, she has to deal with knowing that her mother will never come around, and will never be able to acknowledge half of Cat’s existence. Despite that, Cat never stops loving her mother, which makes their relationship one of the most compelling parts of the story.
Frost’s second title in the “Night Huntress” series (featuring Cat and Bones once again) comes out at the end of April, and I guarantee I will not delay in reading it. Putting one of Frost’s novels in the depths of my to-be-read pile is not a mistake I will make twice.
Review by Alana Abbott
Look for more vampire fiction at DrivethruHorror.com.