NOVEL 7: Up from the Grave
As the story opens, Cat is trying to force her Uncle Don to tell her exactly what the villainous Jason Madigan is up to. It's a difficult task because Don is dead—he's a ghost, actually—and he keeps fading away because he is ashamed to admit his own involvement in Madigan's horrific actions. The only thing that Don will say is that he is worried about Tate and the other members of Cat's former covert security team, who have been incommunicado for weeks. Don is extremely apprehensive about what has probably happened to them, but he won't tell Cat what's really going on. Soon, Cat and Bones are worried enough to take drastic measures in order to force Don to talk to them, first heading to Washington, D.C., for assistance from their friend Tyler, a medium who uses a Ouija board to communicate with the dead. When Tyler can't control Don either, our fearless couple reluctantly decides that the only thing to do is travel to New Orleans for some high-powered help from Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen (and new ghoul queen). Unfortunately, they realize that Marie will place a high price on her assistance.
Marie sets her blood-thirsty Remnants on Don, forcing him to admit that Madigan has been doing genetic experiments, trying to cross-breed vampires, ghouls, and humans in order to create a super soldier. If Madigan is successful in creating a true crossbreed, it will cause a major war between the vamps and ghouls, just like the one that occurred in a previous book back when it was still possible for Cat to hold both vampire and ghoul powers. Over time, as Madigan ran his experiments, he killed more than a thousand humans, vampires, and ghouls before he realized that Cat's half-breed cells were the only source of DNA compatible to both vampire and ghoul DNA. Of course, Cat is now a full vampire, but at this point her genetic make-up is so complex that Madigan is desperate to capture her for further experimentation.
Naturally, Cat, Bones, and Marie are shocked and dismayed by Don's revelations, and Marie commands Cat and Bones to take down Madigan within 60 days. Otherwise, she'll go to the Guardian Council, who would instigate a mass slaughter of everyone remotely connected with Madigan and his team, including innocents like Tate and the other team members.
The story follows Cat, Bones, and their allies as they attempt to locate Madigan's experimental facility. Once they find it, they have to figure out how to get inside—no small task in itself. As the team works together, each one uses his or her strengths to aid the group's efforts even though several of them have long-standing personal differences. In one scene, the group—oddly—takes a break from their time-sensitive search for Madigan to fly over to Romania for the wedding of Vlad Tepesh, an event that just popped into the plot for a few pages and was never mentioned again. I believe that Frost just wanted to be sure that the happy couple was included in this final installment.
As the plot continues to unwind, Cat and Bones learn that the destruction of Madigan's laboratories won't be the end of their problems. Another villain lurks in the shadows, one who will not be easy to defeat. On top of that, the legacy of Madigan's experimentation will have a life-changing effect on the lives of Cat, Bones, and Tate, one that I cannot describe here in any detail without unveiling a spoiler.
As is frequently the case in this series, one of the underlying themes is the power of love. As Cat muses at one point, "In my thirty years on this earth, I'd already seen and done more than many people would in a lifetime, but I wouldn't have made it this far if not for love. That had been the solid ground beneath my feet when everything else around me had crumpled, and despite the danger and uncertainty of what lay ahead, I knew it would again." (Chapter 11) Underscoring this theme, Frost has devised a plot that includes pivotal roles for all of the primary characters from the series, including Ian, Mencheres, Kira, Spade, Denise, Tate, and Fabian. Denise, in particular, is extremely important to the group's success. Throughout the story, the good guys and gals put aside their differences (if only temporarily) and work together toward their common goal, using their strengths to help each other in an all-for-one-one-for-all kind of way. Even Bones and Tate make peace for awhile.
Although the story begins slowly, it soon develops into a thriller, with a number of battle scenes—some large, some small, and some quite heart-breaking. The primary plot twist (i.e., Cat's true relationship to a brand new character) is predictable from the moment we meet that character. Several other supposedly suspenseful twists are mostly predictable as well. I am disappointed that Frost tacked a sentimental "sailing-off-into-the-sunset" ending (both literal and figurative) for the series, although I suppose it was inevitable. The events in this novel will have far-reaching effects on Cat and Bones, so this final novel is definitely a must-read for all readers of this series.
A nice bonus is the section at the end that includes back-cover blurbs and brief excerpts from the first six novels in the NH series. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Up from the Grave.
OVERVIEW OF NIGHT HUNTRESS SERIES
Although there are a number of graphic sex scenes and some coarse language scattered throughout the series, the emphasis is more on violent vampire action and less on sensuality. The sensuality level is highest in the early books when Cat and Frost are newly in love, although there's a love scene in This Side of the Grave in which hot candle wax and kinky fang usage make for a wild ride. Frost writes compelling plots and creates interesting characters. Each of her major characters has plenty of flaws, and that's part of what makes them so fascinating.
One Foot in the Grave (2008) won an honorable mention P.E.A.R.L. Award (2008) in the best overall paranormal romance. category Destined for an Early Grave won an honorable mention P.E.A.R.L. Award (2009) in the urban fantasy category. If you enjoy romantic urban fantasy, check out this series, but be sure to start at the very beginning so that you can watch the relationships develop.
OVERVIEW OF NIGHT HUNTRESS WORLD SERIES (NHW)
NOVEL 1: Halfway to the Grave
Love blossoms between them, but, of course, their love life does not run smoothly, especially when her vampire-hating mother finds out about their relationship. After a major scandal that involves killing the villainous Ohio governor, Cat and Bones are separated for several years when Cat is forced to become a preternatural agent for the U.S. government.
NOVEL 2: One Foot in the Grave
By the time we get to the second book, Cat has turned into a tough Anita Blake clone, going into battle with multiple silver knives and swords strapped to her arms and legs. Now estranged from Bones, Cat is working for the government, killing rogue vamps.
Verbal sparring among the characters adds humor to the stories. For much of the book, Cat and Bones are apart, but they finally get back together—as you always knew they would.
NOVEL 3: At Grave's End
Book 3 finds Cat and Bones hunting down rogue vampires for the FBI. Cat's co-worker, Tate, is still infatuated with Cat and that causes all kinds of problems because he'll go to any length to win her over.
The plot revolves around two powerful vampires: one from Cat's past (Max) and one of Bones' scorned lovers (Petra) who wants to kill both Cat and Bones. There's a tragic twist about 3/4 of the way into the book.
NOVEL 4: Destined for an Early Grave
In this adventure, Cat and Bones try to take some time off in Paris, but Cat begins to have terrifying visions of a powerful vampire named Gregor who claims that she belongs to him.
NOVEL 5: This Side of the Grave
The first scene takes place in the same cave in which Cat and Bones first began their relationship seven years ago. This time, however, they've just stopped off for a little love play before they head off for a Columbus, Ohio, shopping mall to meet up with a ghoul with a major problem.
This adventure involves Apollyon, the evil ghoul leader who wants to kill Cat and crush the vampire world in the process. He is spreading the false rumor that Cat plans to become a hybrid vampire-ghoul so that she can take over the supernatural world. Cat and Bones travel to New Orleans to make a deal with Marie Laveau, who leads her own army of ghouls, but that backfires when Marie moves ahead with her own plans for Cat and Bones.
Mencheres and Vlad show up to help out, and there is the usual bloody battle at the end of the book. Once again, tragedy hits Cat's family, and she must find a way to deal with her emotions. This story is more heavily plot oriented than some of the previous books. Since Cat and Bones are a settled-down married couple by now, we don't have any angsty scenes in which one or the other bemoans the problems in their relationship. Cat seems to have grown a lot emotionally and she is beginning to handle her powers in a more assertive and responsible manner, but she is having some trouble learning to fly.
BOOK 6: One Grave at a Time
As the story opens, Cat and Bones are enjoying a rare moment of peace, which (of course) does not last very long. First, Cat has to deal with the fact that her Uncle Don's ghost won't go off into the light—or wherever he's supposed to go. Then, she gets called on the carpet by Jason Madigan, the new boss at the compound, who seems to be easing Tate out of his newly achieved position as Don's replacement. Finally, a ghost who was burned as a witch entreats Cat and Bones to help her kill the ghost of her murderer, a dangerous, misogynistic ghost who has the power to become corporeal every Halloween, at which time he burns three more women—right after he rapes them.
The plot follows Cat and Bones and their friends as they figure out how to trap the murderous ghost while keeping out of Madigan's clutches. Several scenes take place back at Cat and Bones's Ohio cave. Supporting cast members are Tyler (medium), Fabian (ghost), Spade (Bones's BFF from their human days), Denise (Spade's demon-enhanced lover), and Ian (irksome ancient Master Vampire). Madigan is obviously Cat's new nemesis, and I expect him to play a big part in the plots of the next few books. He's a real jerk—a desk jockey from Washington with ulterior motives that he's doing his best to hide. And he doesn't like vampires at all—especially Cat.
This is a great book, with a fast-paced, action-filled story line and a villain (really two villains) whom you'll love to hate. The sensuality level is about the same as the previous book, with one really wild and crazy love scene that takes place high in the air over the cornfields of Iowa. I guarantee that you've never ready anything quite like it!