With the conclusion to the fabulous Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost coming in January, the girls and I took that as an excuse to re-read the entire Night Huntress series, with all the novellas and spin-offs (aka Night Prince and World books) in chronological order. Honestly, we really didn’t need an excuse, it is a great series after all, but why not celebrate this series by doing a read-along? So that’s what we’re doing and each week we’ll be posting a discussion of each novel.
Today is the day, the beginning of the end as we discuss the first novel, Halfway to the Grave.
Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother’s life. Then she’s captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership.
In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She’s amazed she doesn’t end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side … and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.
Getting to see Cat and Bones meet for the first time again was just as sweet as it has been the numerous times we’ve read it before. We’re also introduced to a few characters we’ll continue to see and a few that don’t stick around long. If you haven’t had a chance to read Halfway to the Grave yet, you can read the first 20% here, but honestly you should just go get it. *grin* For a list of all the Night Huntress novels in chronological order, as well as the discussion schedule, click here.
Modern day. Partially open world in that some humans are aware of vamp existence.
Ohio is considered a supernatural hotspot since it has a thinner membrane for separating the natural from the supernatural. This particular area’s like a homing beacon. Five cemeteries forming a pentagram – really what were they thinking?
Is a half-vampire, half-human hybrid who doesn’t know who her father is, just what he looks like (she greatly resembles him.
Drink of choice is a gin and tonic:
The first man who tried to kill me had ordered it for me. It was now my drink of choice. Who said I wasn’t sentimental? (pg4)
Cat first encounters Bones during one of her weekend hunts and was turned down when she first approached him.
Bad timing, luv. Have to wait until later. Be a good bird and fly away, I’ll find you.”
She’s a self-taught vamp hunter, trying to avenge her mother’s rape. She knows that her father is a vamp because her mother disclosed it when she was 16. Cat hates Bones upon that first encounter.
Cat has a strong sense of family, even though all she really wants is to move away, go to college and have a normal life.
When Bones offers Cat the chance to continue killing vampires, and to be trained as well, she doesn’t believe it and knows she doesn’t have much of a choice.
This was a dream. A very bad, bad dream, brought on by liver poisoning from too many gin and tonics. here it was, a deal with the devil. At what price my soul? … If I said no, I knew what would happen. Save the lgass, waitress, I’m drinking from the bottle! Happy hour, with my neck on tap. If I said yes, I’d be agreeing to a partnership with pure evil.
Bones teaches Cat the real trick to winning a fight. “There is only one way to fight, and that’s dirty. Take every cheap shot, every low blow, absolutely kick people when they’re down.”
Cat has always had a few abnormalities growing up, but as she begins training with Bones, she realizes they’re not abnormal to a vampire. Her abilities include:
- Being able to see well and the darkness doesn’t affect her.
- Faster than anyone she knows, humanly speaking.
- Can hear things from far away, but maybe not as far as a vampire.
- Stronger than the average person.
- Her eyes glow when she’s agitated or upset.
Cats first date with Bones was at a supernatural bar called Bite.
Cat first meets Bones’ best friend, Charles, when she finds him unexpectantly at the cave and mistakes him for one of Hennessey’s men.
“He had an English accent. I hadn’t noticed that before, being so wrapped up in my concern. I stopped banging his head, but kept it ground into the stony floor. / “I’m Crispin’s bloody best friend, not one of that scoundrel’s dingos!” he said indignantly. / “That answer I wasn’t expecting. He’d also called Bones by his real name, and I didn’t know if that was common or not.
After finding the bad guy, Cat’s existence is discovered by the Feds and she’s offered a deal she can’t turn down. However, she’s able to get a few conditions:
- She commands any teams that hunt vampires.
- they leave right away and they don’t come back. They forget about Bones.
- Cat is only contracted to work for Don for ten years full duty, then three missions a year for another three years.
- Cat and Justina are set up with a livelihood that includes a residence (in separate cities), income and death benefits.
- She refuses to go after vampires who do not kill humans, but are merely surviving. I’ll kill killers, not sippers.
“What’s yours, by the way? You never told me. If we’re going to be…working together, at least I should know what to call you. Unless you prefer answering to profanity, of course.
There was that sly curl to his lips again when he faced me. His feet were planted apart and his hips tilted slightly forward. Pale hair hugged his head in tight waves. Under teh pinholes of light around him, his skin positively glowed. My name is Bones.”
Blonde and British. Bones is centuries old, having been sired in Australia during a stint in English prisons there. Only 3 other people know his story until he reveals it to Cat.
He’s a for-hire vampire hunter, but when he meets Cat, his current hunt is a personal vendetta that spans several years. He’s hunting the mastermind behind a “meals to go” slave ring after losing a friend’s daughter to it.
Because last night I was looking for a bloke. When I spotted him, I saw the same lovely red-haired girl who’d been rubbing on me leaving with him. I followed, thinking I’d sneak up on him while he was occupied. Instead, I watched you plug a stake in his heart, and what a stake!”
Drink of choice – whiskey, neat.
When Bones first meets Cat, he doesn’t believe that she’s not working for someone or how she learned to kill vampires.
Are you telling me bloody caramel apples and books taught you how to kill vampires?
It’s not until he sees her eyes flare bright green that he realizes she’s telling the truth.
Look at your bloody eyes! / Bugger, you’re telling the truth. You have to be. You have a pulse, but only vampires have eyes that glow green. This is unbelievable.!”
Bones offers Cat the one thing she wants.
“I can give you what you want.
Doubtful. “What could you possibly know about what I want?”
“You want what every abandoned child wants. You want to find your father. But you don’t want a happy reunion, no, not you. You want to kill him.”
Bones’ full name is Crispin Phillip Arthur Russell III. He changed his name to Bones…
When my eyes opened for the first time as a vampire, al I saw about me were bones. I knew it was what I was then, for from bones I rose and Bones I became, all in that night.”
Bones has a crossbones tattoo on his left arm that he received from a marine who died in WW2.
“Crossbones. How appropriate.” The tattoo wasn’t filled in; the bones were just an outline. His pale flesh seemed to emphasize the black ink.
The cave Bones lived in used to be the winter residence of the Mingoes, a small tribe of the Iroquois nation. A friend, Tanacharisson, was a victim of the Indian Removal Act of 1831 and asked him to look after the his home when he went off on a suicide mission against Fort Meigs.
“There are bones of some of his ancestors back in the far part of it. He didn’t want the whites desecrating them.”
What won’t kill a vampire:
- Sunlight doesn’t do anything but give us a bad sunburn.
- Crosses don’t do much more than make us laugh before we eat you.
- Wood might give us splinters and piss us off, but won’t stop us from ripping your throat out.
- Guns don’t work on us either. There are two exceptions: 1 if the bloke is lucky enough to shoot our necks in two and our heads toopple off. Two if the gun has silver bullets and enough are fired into the heart to destroy it.
- Strangulation, drowning
- Poisonous gas, ingestible poisons, drugs
A vampire doesn’t need to breathe and will only do so once every hour or so as a preference. If a vampire begins breathing more often, than it’s a sign he’s getting tired.
The only good way to kill a vampire is to stake them through the heart with silver (and giving it a good twist is probably a good idea) and/or decapitation.
- Mind control. It’s in our fangs, a little bitty drop of hallucinogen that, when combined with our power, makes you susceptible to suggestions.
- Physical strength
A vampire can sire a child on a human only within the first week or two of his turning. The hearbeat stops right away, but everything else takes time.
Vampire social culture embraces the feudalism system. Each line is ranked by the strength of its head, or the Master, and every person the Master sires is under the Master’s rule.
Vampires are only allowed to leave their master’s line by winning a duel, being granted their freedom, or by being ransomed by another Master.
While it can be hard to survive under a Master as part of their line, being without one would be completely worse. Masterless vampires are open game and anything can be done to them without worry of being held responsible. A Masterless vampire can be “taken” by a Master, and thus receive all the benefits (and protection) of being part of a line.
The creationist tale behind the beginning of vampires is based on Cain and Abel, that when God marked Cain for killing his brother and cast him out. The mark transformed him into the undead and his punishment for spilling blood was to drink it for the rest of his life. Upon regretting killing his brother, Cain created his own people and culture, which became vampires. Ghouls share a similar mythos, with the slight change that Cain was a ghoul and not a vampire. We’re the offspring of the world’s first [murderer], unless you side with the notion that vampires and ghouls are a random evolutionary mutation.”
Ghosts, specter, phantom, etc are around, but most are unable to interact with the living. They are stuck in one moment, continuously replaying it over and over. Ghosts and vampires do not get along.
“They’re jealous, since we’re dead as they are, but we can do as we please while they’re forever stuck as a hazy apparition.”
Ghouls are flesh-eaters.
You know, like Night of the Living Dead, only they don’t walk so funny or look as hideous.
Hennessey is the master vampire behind the “meals to go” slave ring; he’s the one Bones has spent the last 11 years hunting.
Spade, aka Baron Charles Demortimer, is Bones best friend. They met during their Australian penal colony days and he chose the name Spade because
“It was how the overseer in South Wales used to address me. A spade is a shovel, and I was a digger. He never called anyone by their names, only their assigned tool. He didn’t feel the convicts were worthy of more.
“Sounds pretty demeaning. Why’d you keep it?”
Spade’s smile didn’t slip, but those striking features hardened. “So I’d never forget.”
Francesca was one of Hennessey’s people who wanted to switch sides. She’s also the first of Bones ex-lovers that Cat meets.
Rodney is a ghoul friend of Bones who helps them hide Cat and her mother after the government tries to move them out of Ohio.
Cat’s mother, Justina, was raped by a newly turned vampire and had Cat five months later. She still lives with her parents and believes that all vampires are soulless monsters.
“You’re doing the right thing. The only thing to save yourself from a future of evil.”
Ted is Bones’ clean-up guy. He’ll pick up any “abandoned” cars and take them to his chop shop. He’ll also bury/dispose of any bodies Bones ends up with.
Stephanie was the only person Cat spoke to during her first week back at College. She also found out that Stephanie was acquiring college-aged girls for Hennesey’s operation.
Timmie is Cat’s neighbor when she lives in the apartment near campus.
He’s a little geeky and seems as much of an outsider as Cat feels herself to be. He turned to go into his apartment, and something about his hunched shoulders and awkward demeanor reminded me of…me. That was how I felt on the inside most of the time. Unless I was killing someone.
Donald Williams, an FBI agent who heads a division that investigates the unnatural occurrences of homicides. He meets Cat after her “little meeting” with Hennessey and his partner and offers her a deal she can’t refuse.
Tate Bradley, a marine sergeant in the Special Forces, who has also been training to fight vampires.
Cat meets Bones on an outing to kill vamps. Bones is onto her, captures her as he thinks she works for the person he’s hunting. A deal is struck and Cat is taught by Bones to be better at vamp killing after he learns of her heritage. They find and go after Bones’ target–during the midst of this, Cat learns not all vamps are evil and even falls in love with Bones.
A new romance between Cat & Bones develops.
“That’s right, luv.” Softly, but with unyielding resonance. “If you run from me, I’ll chase you. And I’ll find you.” (Bones)
I’m not afraid of the grave; I was born half in it. (Cat)
“I will never stop loving you. No one can change that. No matter what happens later, I’ll still love you.” (Cat)
When I reviewed Halfway to the Grave for the first time, I said it was one of the best impulse buys I’ve ever made, and I still stand by that.
If you don’t hear the story in your head as you read, then it’s not a great book. Simply reading a book and just seeing the words doesn’t make a great experience. You have to be involved with the characters; you have to feel their pain, wallow in their emotions, you HAVE to be there in order to truly appreciate a book. I’ve read a few authors that I’ve been able to do this with (L. Hamilton, K. Harrison, K Armstrong) and it’s exciting that I’ve found a new one. (from review dated 12 November 2007)
I know the first time I read Halfway to the Grave, I kept envisioning Spike from Buffy whenever I heard Bones speak. He never looked like Spike, but it was definitely his voice. There’s very few books where just a thought or a line can send me scrambling to find my copy to re-read a certain scene, and even if I intend for a quick glance, I have yet to be able to put down any of the Night Huntress books once I’ve re-opened them.
If this is your first time reading Halfway to the Grave, what did you think? If you’ve read it before, what was it that made it an instant hit for you? What was your favorite scene/quote?
If you’re as hooked as we are, we’ll be discussing the second novel, One Foot in the Grave, next Monday!