Friday, April 10, 2015

Home for the Holidays by Jeaniene Frost

Originally appeared in the print anthology The Bite Before Christmas.

'Tis the season to join Cat and Bones for some holiday cheer in this Night Huntress novella by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost.

They were looking forward to a normal holiday—at least as "normal" as it gets for vampires Cat and Bones and their otherworldly friends and family. But their yuletide plans are shattered when a mysterious stranger shows up and reveals long-buried secrets that threaten to take a bite out of their holiday cheer … and lives.

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Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be cursed holidays for Cat and Bones. I don't think they've managed to have a quiet, completely normal holiday season yet because their enemies always seem to pick that time to start crap. This time is no different, with the stuff starting to hit the fan even before all of their guests have arrived. What follows is a fun, action-packed story that's fully in the spirit of the earlier Night Huntress novels. Cat is shown at her butt-kicking best, and in a somewhat surprising and interesting turn of events, Ian gets to play the hero helping to pull his friends' fat out of the proverbial fire instead of being the irritating and self-serving jerk we're more used to with him.

The story itself is nicely original while still having some precedents within the series. We get to see most all of our favorite characters assembled together here, though only Cat, Ian, Fabian, and Denise really play much of an active role. Bones is involved in more of a supportive role for part of it since he's one of those needing rescued. Most of the concepts employed here have been introduced previously, whether in one of the novels or one of the earlier short stories or novellas, but with a few new twists that make it so you're not really sure what to expect or which way things are going to go. The rules we've learned before still apply, except that they don't entirely apply because the situation at hand is so unique and rare and some of the rules were broken to bring it about to begin with.

I was quite impressed with this story from start to finish by both the familiar elements and the new twists that were introduced. It's clear that Frost used this story to start grooming Ian for the leading man status that her fans have been asking for (and that she has recently confirmed he is going to get) because his characterization here grows by leaps and bounds from what we've been shown of him in the past. The selfish, hedonistic jerk that we've grown accustomed to isn't entirely gone, for he does still show us on several occassions that those qualities are and will remain an integral part of his personality. But he does demonstrate that he has other sides to his personality as well, including the one that is fiercely and unfailingly loyal to Bones and Spade. We have seen this in him before, but he proves in this story that he is deadly and viciously serious about being willing to put his own life on the line to defend or save theirs.

Fans of the Night Huntress series definitely won't want to miss this one. I wouldn't, however, recommend starting here if you haven't read any of the stories or novels before because you really need to know the various characters' histories to fully appreciate the full extent of the threat here. That, and there are quite a few spoilers for earlier books included as well. 5 solid stars to a very entertaining and inventive story.

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