THIS SIDE OF THE GRAVE
(Night Huntress #5)
There's never been a dull moment for Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones, and they're certainly not going to find such a moment in the near future. A large number of ghouls, led by one who calls himself Apollyon, believe Cat will use her new and unusual vampiric powers to launch a species war against them and are attempting to be proactive against such an event by slowly and methodically eliminating the vampires.
One by one vampires are going missing, and Cat and Bones find themselves having to call on Marie, the ghoul queen of New Orleans, for help even though she is incredibly powerful and always unpredictable.
Along with Vlad and Mencheres, as well as some questionable assistance from Marie, Cat and Bones attempt to hunt down any and all information they can about Apollyon's whereabouts and his plans for Cat, trying desperately to prevent a war that will not only possibly expose, but will also surely decimate both groups.
Jeaniene Frost is one of those authors who writes stories so engaging and entertaining the pages seem to flip of their own accord and we end up reading one hundred pages in the time it takes us to read fifty in another story. We find ourselves smiling, blushing, and snorting in amusement at certain characters' impressive one-liner retorts, relaxing fully and completely as we make ourselves comfortable and give ourselves over to a creative mastermind. This Side of the Grave is another fun-filled romp through the Night Huntress world, one where the laughs keep coming, the smoldering heat of Cat and Bones continues to singe the pages, and the relationships between the protagonists and those around them continue to grow until our emotional proximity to those whose lives unfold before us can get no closer. Ms. Frost's characters, for all their undead status, absolutely come to life through her effortless storytelling, engaging us, taunting us, and drawing us in to their world as though we've belonged there all along.
Cat and Bones are as enjoyable as ever, their journey from tentative allies to lovers to husband and wife one we don't mind returning to experience over and over again. Cat, previously one to act impulsively in an effort to protect Bones and those she loves, makes a valid effort in this tale to curb that instinct and work with Bones as opposed to acting on what she believes is his behalf. She is still her witty, amusing self, but now in her we see a new maturity and our already healthy respect increases a few more notches. Bones, always impossibly and gloriously charming, doesn't disappoint as his unabashed and unapologetic love and admiration for Cat is a powerful force that never fails to cause our hearts to flutter and our limbs to liquify as we simultaneously harbor an irrational jealousy toward Cat for her luck in men, and yet smile warmly in appreciation of an enviable and beautiful relationship.
Aside from a romantic pair that has held us captivated through four prior books and maintains their possession of our undivided attention yet again in this story, Ms. Frost has a true gift for creating secondary characters who manage to make an unforgettable impression with their presence. The banter between Vlad, Bones, Cat, and Mencheres (as well as an all too short exclamation from Ian) is a staple in these books, and one of the elements most anticipated whenever a Night Huntress spine is cracked. Each character is full bodied and spectacularly developed, their distinct personalities as unique as a genetic marker and their presence always resulting in a richer reading experience as we glory in their humor, sit up and take note when they are unexpectedly serious, and frantically highlight their unforgettable quotes so we can share them with everyone we know.
Though This Side of the Grave is not necessarily the most memorable or impressive of the series as the plot lulls a bit at times, the action does pick up at the end and we are left with an interesting new development. Jeaniene Frost writes a well-rounded story, one that mixes a bevy of elements together in a most delectable blend, and if you've yet to experience Cat, Bones, and crew, grow a pair (of fangs) and get to the bookstore for a taste.