Reviewed: July 29, 2009
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Night Huntress, Book 4
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 355 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle, Nook
Destined for an Early Grave, the much anticipated continuation of the Night Huntress series, is a chillingly fun and fast delight. I have to admit, I didn't so much read the book as devoured it (I think my Kindle is still begging for mercy). There were things in this book that positively thrilled me as far as character development and surprising plot twists I in no way saw coming, and I commend any author that can write several books in a series without allowing main characters to stagnate in their personal development. Cat and Bones, who have been two of my favorite lead characters since the beginning of the series - both for their strengths and their...weaknesses - are back and dealing with some big stuff that manages to put a very sharp and silver-filled point on the struggles of two very strong, prideful, and stubborn people (regardless of the status of their pulse) in a long term relationship. Perhaps most of those struggles are unique to Cat and Bones because of what they are and what they aren't, yet Frost manages to make them resonate in this reader's heart as realistic and, ultimately, unavoidable. I loved it.
In fact, I loved much about this book. I expected a fantastic, kick-undead-ass, thrilling read with lots of action, a bit of angst, and a race to the finish just to see who is left standing when the dust finally settles - and I got exactly that.
That being said, not all is well in this particular graveyard. Destined for an Early Grave feels (to me) best categorized as a transitional book for the series. Jarringly so, actually, to its slight detriment. Keep in mind, I flat out loved the first three books - solid five stars from me for each - and there was little doubt at the end of the third book, At Grave's End, that the time had come for a new direction for the Red Reaper and the love of her life, so I was expecting transition, but in this case the transition just wasn't all that smooth.
The first three books showed a gradual and realistic growth of character in Cat, from little more than repressed, prejudiced, and ignorant Vamp hater to savvy and strong military-esque commander in love with a vampire. She was a character who still had lingering issues, though, and those issues were significant stumbling blocks to any long term happiness. Very juicy tidbits for future development, to be sure.
Unfortunately, through one of the worst (IMHO) plot contrivances in a book I've read in recent memory, I wasn't so much drawn along with Cat on her continuing development as I was slammed into it with all the subtlety and most of the discomfort of stake in the chest. This is strictly a personal preference but I think it's a bit insulting to my intelligence to read (with no foreshadowing in the first three books) that a character whose progress I've been following for six years of her life has suddenly realized that there's a full month of her life she doesn't remember and a big bad vamp who played a suspiciously active role in that month. Also that she doesn't remember. And this sudden forgotten memory is the cause of all manner of angst and misery (and the driving force of the main plot).
Ugh. I really, really disliked that plot point. For a lot of reasons, actually, not the least being that given how it was developed, I find it ridiculous unlikely (in that "are you kidding me??" sort of way) in light of what we've been told about Cat's early years, her mother's unwavering and vitriolic prejudice, and her now deceased grandparents' uber-stark influences, that that would ever have happened (not to mention how the heck could it have happened). From strictly a reader's perspective, I think it's just a shamefully easy way to make your characters do what you want (or need) them to do, be, behave, whatever. Admittedly, this is personal taste, but I don't like when an author rewrites a character's past to suit story direction to begin with - and unfortunately in this case, I don't even think it was done well. I would've been much more understanding had their been some foreshadowing in previous novels...a tool that the author is obviously not unfamiliar with, as we've seen previously.
That being said, once I accepted that one distasteful aspect of the book ("willing" suspension of disbelief was more like "forced"), the rest was pure pleasure . The dialogue is witty, sarcastic, and wonderful. The action sequences tightly woven and nail-biting. The development and direction of the characters, at the end, gave me a roller coaster ride of wild emotions that run the gamut. And I always respect an author who leaves you guessing in each book as to who is going to survive, because with Frost, you just never know. Perhaps there was a bit of predictability in certain parts relating to Cat and Bones' relationship, but I'm actually really forgiving of that because I find the relationship itself to have really made some significant and surprising steps towards maturing that I appreciate.
I really liked the book, and would absolutely recommend it to all of those people who read for the sake of enjoyment and don't mind so much some plot points that may raise an eyebrow...or a ghoul or two, and like some other reviewers have mentioned, I'm also excited to see the Night Huntress world expand with Denise and Spade's upcoming story, First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World, Book 1), which we'll be seeing in early 2010, if I remember correctly.
I'll be right there with my finger on the "Download Now" button as soon as it's available!
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