Monday, March 16, 2015

This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Danger waits on both sides of the grave.

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they've triumphed over the latest battle, Cat's new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance . . .

With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumors abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous "ally"—the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war . . . to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.

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After the high energy and edge-of-your-seat suspense in the previous novels of this series, this one came as a bit of a disappointment to me. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, or I didn't think it was good, for I did and I do, but it just didn't seem to be quite up to the level I'd come to expect. Overall this one seems to be more about character building and refining some of the relationships more than it is about fighting the bad guy(s). Worthwhile and entertaining reading to be sure, just don't expect to be wow'd as much as with the previous books in the series.

Cat and Bones' relationship has finally truly solidified, and they're more committed to one another than ever, though there are still a few kinks to be worked out. But then any good relationship is always a work in progress, so it really comes as no surprise that they still have their ups and downs. The only difference is that now they're working from a mutual understanding that they're a team and that they will stand by one another no matter what temporary disagreements arise. After all of the serious problems they've been through in the past, it was heartening to see their relationship mature to the level where the surface ripples don't disturb the foundation.

As for what I didn't like in this one? Well, I mostly felt that it was lacking some of the energy that the previous books have had. The main conflict with Apollyon lacked the tension and sense of immediate doom and danger that the conflicts in previous novels did, and I never felt like any of the main characters were truly in peril the way I have in the past. It was almost as though that conflict was thrown in mainly to give them someone to fight now and then since readers of the series would expect there to be fighting and not because Frost really wanted to cover that aspect of their lives overmuch this time.

Which sort of leads into the things I did like about this, namely the character development and the way in which various relationships were refined and some old and/or long-standing differences resolved (while a few new ones are introduced perhaps). There are some truly touching scenes between Cat and Don, and whatever your opinion of him has been up to now you will probably find yourself getting a bit teary-eyed as that situation reaches its conclusion. We also see Cat finally tying off some loose ends and reaching new understandings with both Tate and Mencheres.

Overall, this is still a book I'd recommend for those that are following the series. I wouldn't recommend starting here if you haven't read any of the others, for while enough background is provided to give you a basic understanding of what's going on, there will be a lot that won't really make as much sense or have anywhere near as much impact if you don't have a more detailed knowledge of the background stories for each character. 4 stars to an enjoyable book that is simply not one of the better ones so far in the series in my opinion.

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