I have conflicting feelings for Frost’s latest installment of the Night Huntress series, Destined for an Early Grave. For the first two thirds of the book, I was irritated and annoyed at the plot and the characters, but I kept reading and hoping it would turn around – and it did. I read the last third of the book, completely absorbed, and when I finished I was ready to stand up and shout how much I loved it – the ending was that good.
Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones have spent the six years since they met fighting and killing rogue undead, battling master vampires and struggling to keep themselves and the people they love alive. Now that Cat has quit her job, Bone surprises her with a vacation in Paris. But Cat’s having nightmares and visions of a vampire name Gregor who’s more powerful than Bones and is a part of her past she can’t remember. Apparently Gregor believes Cat belongs to him – is his wife, not Bones’ - and he won't stop until he has her.
In this fourth book of the Night Huntress series, this time characters are not only tested by both outside sources, but they also face a lot of inner turmoil. Gregor wants Cat because he supposedly had her first - before she met Bones. So he’s after her. Also, the ghoul population has heard rumors that Cat wants to become a ghoul to combine her vampire strengths with ghoul durability to make herself one of the most powerful beings alive. So they’re after her. And then there are those doubts Cat still has when it comes to Bones – she thought she was past most of them, but in reality she’s not. And because of these issues she has, she is the one responsible for the possible destruction of her relationship with Bones.
My first problem with the book is the issue of Gregor and the main plotline. Frankly, the sudden appearance of Gregor in Cat’s dreams, his unusual vampire powers – nicknamed the Dreamsnatcher he can actually invade someone’s dreams, catch them, and pull them through the dream so when they wake up, they’re wherever he is – and his obsession with having Cat seemed too convenient and too unrealistic. I spent at least the first hundred pages frustrated because I just didn’t buy it.
One of my pet peeves in the urban fantasy genre is when the kick butt heroine becomes the object of desire for every male character – alive or undead. In addition to Bones, Tate, and Ian – who also wanted Cat for his own – now Gregor also has to have her. On the other hand at least her friendship with Vlad is based on their mutual ruthlessness and survival instincts as well as their desire to no longer feel completely alone. And it’s platonic. I was glad for that when Vlad reappeared in this book.
The other problem I had was with Cat and Bones’ relationship. After three books, they’re still having the same fundamental problems – the lack of trust, the miscommunication, the constant fighting. At some point, they need to learn from past mistakes. Cat shares her heart and body with Bones but won't allow him access into her mind and deepest thoughts. Bones of course then feels hurt even though he knows Cat has problems with letting others get too close to her. He asks her to put complete trust in him and doesn’t anticipate that she will feel like the situation they find themselves in is her fault – he doesn’t anticipate she’ll want to take care of it without letting anyone else get hurt, and then he gets upset with her and blames her for making him feel weak when she does just that. These two need to go through some marriage counseling after they finish with Gregor.
Cat’s character also has a few flaws. For one thing, I could see through a lot of the drama with Bones. When their relationships was falling apart and they were miscommunicating with each other, I found myself frustrated with Cat – why couldn’t she see through what was happening, and why didn’t she trust him? Also, she catches on to things too slowly. When the shocks and twists developed in this book, I caught on earlier than Cat just about every time, unlike in previous books where I felt we were both equally caught by surprise.
Despite it’s flaws, however, Destined For an Early Grave gives the reader more insight on the vampire culture Frost has created, and Cat and Bones’ friends and family are not only a wonderful support system, but also a great group of characters. They were able to hold my interest and keep me from wanting to slam the book shut when I was so irritated at Cat and Bones. I am, and have been from the first time we saw him, a total fan of Spade. At first I worried Vlad would be a bad rip off of the whole Dracula myth, but I like the way Frost really makes Vlad shine here. Menecheres is a voice of reason even though he is a manipulative bastard half the time. And Ian, though infuriating, he provides a little comic relief.
In the end, despite the things that bothered me, I felt Destined For An Early Grave was a very enjoyable and fun read. Snarky witty one-liners, suspense, action, and romance are all a part of this book, and once readers get past the first two-thirds of the book, those annoying details start to fall away. And I can’t really go into too detail of why without spoiling important plot details and shocking twists. Fans of the series will be happy with the ending. Though not as good as the first three, it’s worth reading, and I’m going to hope the next books in the series have better plotlines – similar to the first three.
And in the back of the book, Frost has included an excerpt of her next book, called First Drop of Crimson, set in the Night Huntress world but about Denise and Spade, and it sounds like it'll be amazing. (And yes, I've already pre-ordered it.)
Check out Jeaniene Frost's website.