Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost, Book 6 of the Night Huntress Series

Cat and Bones have finally settled many things in their lives. The ghoul uprising is over, Cat is settling into her new life as a vampire, the lines are secure and all is peaceful in life.

Of course, that can’t last. And they are approached by a friend of Fabian, their friendly ghostly ally, called Elisabeth. Elisabeth is an ancient ghost with a mission – to kill her murderer. Which she achieved soon after death

Unfortunately, her murderer became a ghost. And Elisabeth wants to kill him again. Especially since her murderer, Kramer, was an evil, misogynist witch hunter who not only tortured and killed women in life, but has continued to do so in death. As an extremely powerful ghost, Kramer can manifest on Hallowe’en and during that time he tortures, rapes and murders women with the help of an accomplice.

Cat and Bones most certainly are not going to stand for that. But exactly how can one kill a ghost? How can you even fight a ghost that you can’t touch –and is capable or throwing rocks, boards and cars at you with enough force to crack skulls and shatter limbs? And how do you keep the ghost’s victims alive against such a force?

This story is interesting because the great and vast powers Cat and Bones have acquired are so utterly useless against a spectral foe. It’s actually interesting to see the protagonists so helpless when they’re so powerful without a convoluted reason for it.

At the same time, the ghost can’t realistically kill a vampire, at least, not easily. It actually makes for an interesting and quite a novel book – more an active game of chess or cat and mouse rather than a full on physical confrontation as each are forced to deal with their own limitations in order to actually face the other.

Of course, this does have a trade off with frustration. Frustration while they are unable it fight, frustration that more can’t be done. Frustration that neither side seems to be getting anywhere. I’m not sure if this is a bad thing of the book –because I think we’re supposed to see the frustration of the situation. It’s frustrating but probably meant to be – there’s a horrendously evil force doing evil things right there that we’re powerless to stop.

While the enemy is a horrendous misogynist evil rapist and there is some appropriation of the witch trials in including him, at the same time it is done that expresses much of the misogyny of those trials and it is deeply satisfying to have Kramer smacked around on a regular basis and eventually thwarted by Cat, yes yes it is. However, I am noticing that as Cat has become a touch vampire, her injury level in these books has gone up considerably though what that injury actually means has gone down.

I found the little side storyline with Don frustrating. Having just found out he’s a ghost, I’d have expected them to spend some time with him – having just cried piteously at his death bed – but instead it’s kind of “hey he’s a ghost, oh you’re off spying? Sure, have fun!” and then everyone’s too busy to deal with him. Yes they have reason to be busy but… where’s the emotional connection?

For that matter the whole storyline with Madigan left me vaguely frustrated, but not because of how it was handled so much as there is something going on there, there’s a story and I don’t get to see it. I assume it will be continued in the next book. As it was, there was a plot there that seemed to constantly encroach on the main story and never get explored itself. Again, while that somewhat annoyed me, I think the theme was intentional. Cat and Bones were trying to get things done and instead they constantly had this guy interrupting them.

There was a gay man in this book, a first for the series as I recall. And I knew he was gay before he even made an appearance – they were looking for a medium and realised he had a day job as a florist. At which point I thought “male florist… oh, please no” but yes, of COURSE he was gay. It’s a union rule, florists, hairdressers and fashion designers must be gay.

He then proceeded to flirt with bones, Spade, Ian and every and all males who came within reach. From the very first moment he met them, heavy flirting began. It was like a greeting with him. Because you know, “hello” is so last year when you can go for heavy handed come ons, right? And he even preferred to be left alone with a hot vampire who may not defend him from a rampaging, murderous spectre than be “cockblocked” by having someone else there.

And just in case you forgot he was also black, he intermittently refers to cat as “white girl” or to her “white ass” just to remind us. Other than that he’s just snatched out of whatever life he was leaving (which he leaves behind for weeks without a second thought) to follow them around and provide the odd quip. It’s like having a pet

Y’know, it’d be nice to have some inclusion that didn’t make me roll my eyes, it really would.

This book has some interesting elements in that some of the things in it that annoyed me are probably intentional from a thematic viewpoint. So I don’t know whether to praise them for being effective or still be vaguely irritated by them.