Catherine Crawfield kills vampires. Half vampire herself, she is trying (in a way) to pacify her mother, who was raped by a vampire and subsequently became pregnant with Cat. At the beginning of the book we join Cat on one of her hunts, which doesn't go as smoothly as she might have hoped. And instead of being the one doing the staking, Cat finds herself at the mercy of Bones the vampire. Deciding to work together instead of killing each other, they join forces and pursue Hennessey a vampire who definitely deserves killing. Their feelings for one another deepen, but Cat will eventually have to make a choice between her own happiness, and the safety of those she cares about.
I had been looking forward to this book for months and whilst I was slightly dismayed at reading the Dear Author review, as I have a high regard for their opinion. I also knew I had loved the excerpt I'd read on JF's site, fairly whipped through it, and was left wanting more. So I tried not to be too influenced.
I don't think Halfway to the Grave is helped by being labelled a paranormal romance - this is something I suspect is out of an author's hands. But I think maybe if the romance had been allowed to develop more slowly over the course of the series and the urban fantasy pushed harder the book overall would have been stronger. As it is I believe that Bones and Cat have deep feelings for one another, but on page 196 when they say I love you, it feels false to me...too soon. Also romance readers who prefer their endings to be tied up neatly need to be aware this is the beginning of a series.
My main problem was with the beginning of the book, and I just want to reiterate here that overall I loved the book and will definitely be following this series.
1 - Typos. I refuse to believe that Vicki Pettersson can't spell intrigue. (Check out her cover quote). There are also a couple of other typos in the text itself.
2 - Pet peeves. Vampires that don't breathe - but they're talking! And two uses of the word literally.
3 - Catherine's character doesn't really settle down for the first 15-20% of the story. And as she's a first person protagonist the story doesn't really settle down until then either. She's very much a contradiction, and I think some of this is down to inconsistency.
I find it very hard to believe that Cat at age 22 has never said 'fuck'. So on p5 my suspension of disbelief went out of the window. Also p12 the dirtiest name she can think to call Bones is 'bastard'. (LOL - at this point I was tempted to write the dirtiest name that immediately popped into my head and then thought I'd better not.) This woman has been to school, presumably been to the movies, she hangs out in bars trying to pick up vampires, but she's never said fuck and the dirtiest word she can think of is bastard. Now I realize her mother is over protective to say the least, as are her grandparents but this didn't quite gel for me.
I also find it hard to believe that at 22 she's never masturbated but she's had sex. And I think this is what they were getting at in the Dear Author review. The incongruity of her physical age when compared to her thought processes. The beginning of the story does have more of a young adult feel but with swearing and more sexual references than you get in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.
Cat's vampire killing rate felt a little off as well. She's been killing vampires since the age of 16. Her total kill amount she tells Bones is 16 vampires. In 6 years she's killed 16 vampires. But in the first few pages of the book she's killed 2, and she's going out every night, or at least on the weekends, trolling the bars looking for the unsuspecting undead.
One other thing I'll quickly mention is Bone's accent. I love him, I do. But if there's a swear word that begins with b, he'll use it - blimey, bleeding, blooming. He's a little bit cock-er-nee. I have Buffy in my head, lecturing vampires about their dress sense, and how they need to move with the times. That said, I did get used to his voice and I don't think JF should change it, tone it down a little maybe, sometimes it felt like he was channelling Spike.
I found the style at the beginning hard to get into - quite a lot of adverbs, and at one point Cat starts speaking in exclamation marks. Luckily once we get past p40 the plot takes off and you are sucked into Cat's world.
Overall though I loved it, the middle 75-80% was brilliant and had me racing through the pages to find out what happened next. The relationship between Bones and Catherine, their banter, their chemistry, the rapport between them, how they spark off one another - these are the things that makes this book come alive and raise it from being just another vampire book.
There are also nice little touches that flesh the world out - the vampire club, their visit to the cemetary, hiding out with a ghoul. Cat having to rethink her prejudices against the undead, working out how to deal with her mother - the woman could have started a cult she's got so much righteous venom.
And we're also given lots of little things that aren't resolved. Who is Cat's father? Will we be finding out more about Ian (Bone's sire)? What are the consequences of Cat's decision going to be?
The end goes a little Buffy Season 4, but I wasn't too bothered by that. What concerned me more here was Cat's seeming invincibility. Regular readers of the blog will know I have a problem with protagonists that can't be beaten. But hopefully this will be addressed in the next book, and we'll be seeing a more realistic and mature heroine. And more from Bones.
Book 2 One Foot in the Grave (May 2008)