Beware. Spoilers!

Halfway to the Grave, the first book in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, was a blast to read. Ìt had a steamy vampire (on the lightweight side, smut-wise, but it featured plenty of romance), a pretty kick-ass heroine and some interesting family dynamics. I liked the pace of the novel, with lots of action and murdering the evil guys. The style was fun, really flippant and filled with sarcasm and absurdity, just the way I like it.

The perfect realities that underly fantasy

Firstly, one of the things I love about urban fantasy is how most of it (with a bit of stretching) is a bit of social critique. Books set in the South of the US often address discrimination. In that case, the misfits always win out by virtue of being more awesome. Those who hate others on principle either revise their opinions or get killed. In these type of books, set in the South, the typical “Americana” life is both revered and idealized (with lots of porch swings, lovely white-haired grandmas and sweet tea) and condemned (everyone is small-minded, without ambition, and ugly). That ugliness is equated with immorality is questionable, but an ever present trope in storytelling.

Cat, who is athletic and gorgeous, of course, is interesting in that she changes from bigoted vampire slayer to nuanced murderer over the course of the book. So score 1 for Cat. She also learns to stand up for herself, even locking her mother behind two doors and threatening her with a flesh-eating ghoul named Raoul. The rest of her bigoted family, her grandparents, have been slaughtered by vampires by that time. Score 2 for Cat, actually, who paints her body with their blood and then has sex with a vampire. Okay, this was a reference to Native American battle habits, and she went to avenge her grandparents afterwards, but it rang a bit false to me.

Bones, the patient vampire teacher who has had 200+ years to perfect his, eh, oral skills, and is therefore perfect, seemed Cat’s catalyst (sorry if that’s too on the nose). He falls in love with her immediately because she threatens to kill him. He doesn’t want to see her die and so he trains her and enters into a partnership with her. So far, so good. He has hardened her for battle. Then he has sex with her, and he does this with consent as an overarching (lol, sorry) theme. Sometimes I worry about these scenes in novels because I always find myself craving this type of asking about consent and to be honest it rarely happens. What if authors write these types of scenes because everyone can relate and is craving this? Are we so bad at sex and guarding our boundaries that we can only relax with men who have two hundred years of experience?

Cat had an unfortunate sexual encounter at sixteen (with Danny, the requisite bigot). It was awful for her, and she felt dropped like a brick afterwards, never trusting anyone again. Understandable. These rapey but not really rape-like encounters happen in real life a lot, and are then taken as normal, or seen as part of growing up, in my experience. In this book, the way Danny treated Cat is absolutely condemned. Bones thinks it’s worth killing him for. And I thought it was exaggerated at first but I found myself reading on and thinking about it and yeah, I agree with the sentiment. Not that I am advocating for murder, or conflate fantasy with reality, by the way 🙂 No, I think that we should think about what’s popular and what sells, and really think hard about the why of that. And I will take any love and life lessons I can from whatever I am reading since, well, that’s how I am wired. Always on the lookout for social critique in my fantasy readings…

Background time! Count the species in this book:

The vampires in this book are pretty much like humans. Making up 5% of the population, they drink blood, have fangs and are extremely strong. Bones literally throws a car at some (unsuspecting and actually pretty innocent) “men in black” FBI guys. Other than that they are, of course, immortal, immune to wood but killable by silver and decapitation. They are stronger at night but the sun doesn’t bother them. Oh, and they hve an added twist, their eyes glow green when horny or stressed. They live under a feudal system.

The ghosts in this book are weird! Vampires can see them, and they can go to bars and have fun. They can drink by going through someone’s throat. (Or pants. Apparently).

The humans in the book are pretty typical bigots or sell-outs. Sad.

Ghouls were new for me. They seemed functioning zombies, but other than their diet not any different from human. Can this be true?

Points of contention

  • Why all the rape? Seriously, tell me! Almost all girls in this book needed rescuing (including Cat, actually), and rape seemed a super prevalent theme.
  • This novel included a lot of slut-bashing, with make-up and high heels as immoral. Or did I get that wrong?
  • The Christianity in the book is really (almost annoyingly) prevalent in the beginning of the book and then, somehow disappears. Because Bones says it’s bullshit? I didn’t really understand why this was switched out so suddenly since Cat seemed really in to it in the beginning.
  • Some internal inconsistencies were pretty jarring, though minor. For instance, if Cat was fathered by a brand-new vampire, how could he have raped her mother without killing her? (Since new vamps go crazy with bloodlust, as is explained multiple times throughout the book).
  • What was up with neighbor Timmie? He was just an example of what Cat would be if she were human? I use “what” here with purpose, he was never fleshed out and seemed to be a toy for Cat to toss at the end. She really could be Timmie’s “Danny” I thought, with the way she kissed him and then called her boyfriend. (Who, by the way, treats Timmie like a threat. Lol).
  • And the “men in black” reference and the FBI who come to collect her at the end seemed fun to me, but almost like they came from another book. Other than a sort of dumb comment by Timmie there was no warning, right? (Sorry Timmie).

 

What did you think of the Cat and Bones dynamic? Did you enjoy the start to this series? Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Twitter!

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