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Reviews of books in a series, with a focus on urban fantasy.
Other genres include mystery, paranormal romance, and crime thrillers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 5) Jeaniene Frost


The Night Huntress Series used to be my favorite series. Now it's struggling to stay in the top five, in large part because it's been so long since we've had a Cat and Bones book. Jeaniene Frost focused on books in the Night Huntress World over the past year and a half, giving Spade and Mencheres their own HEA book. I did not care as much for the NHW books as I do the Cat and Bones books.

This Side of the Grave is the fifth Cat and Bones book, and I think Ms. Frost is feeling her way through a long running series at this point. I applaud her for not making Cat and Bones fight with each other - that was fine while they were working things out, but now they are married and that should be behind them. It was great to see them getting along, working together, communicating with each other, and trusting each other. We also saw a decent amount of the other couples who have formed, and it was nice to see them getting along with each other and working together, as well.

Here's the blurb:

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.

I figured parts of the plot out long before Cat did, which was a touch annoying. I wanted to shake her and get her to think. I knew how it was going to end at about the halfway point. Sure, there were details I didn't know, but I had the general idea of the ending.

I love that Cat got to spend so much time with Vlad. He fascinates me. Also, I like the idea of the Master Vampire powers coming to them when they are strong enough to wield them - and Cat has trouble handling them when she's gifted with them as a baby vamp. It's just one of many worldbuilding details that makes Jeaniene Frost such a great Urban Fantasy author.

As for the writing elements:
  • The plot was so-so, and I figured it out long before the main character.
  • Pacing had a few issues.
  • Prose and dialogue were superb.
  • Character development was once again excellent.
  • World-building continues to be creative and detailed with just enough of our reality thrown in to make you go hmmmm.
The Cat and Bones books have all recieved a 10 of 10 from me in the past, but This Side of the Grave is going to get a 9 of 10. I will keep the series at a 10 of 10.

  • Book Rating: This Side of the Grave: 9 of 10
  • Series Rating: 10 of 10
Funniest line comes from Bones to someone just learning about vampires and asking the basic questions -- "Ask me if I sparkle and I’ll kill you where you stand".

We were given a preview of the next book in this series, One Grave at a Time, and I think I'm going to like the premise of the next book. We only have to wait six months this time, as it's scheduled for release August 30th of this year, thank goodness.

Night Huntress Novels
1. Halfway to the Grave (2007)
2. One Foot in the Grave (April 2008)
3. At Grave's End (December 2008)
4. Destined for an Early Grave (July 2009)
5. This Side of the Grave (Feb 22, 2011)
6. One Grave at a Time (Aug 30, 2011

Night Huntress Universe 
1. First Drop of Crimson (Feb 2010)
2. Eternal Kiss of Darkness (July 27, 2010)


    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch


    The Thieves of Darkness isn't exactly in my genre, as it isn't Urban Fantasy in the usual sense -- there are no werewolves or vampires. However, there are myths and legends that are based on fact, so it's close enough.

    The story is kind of a cross between Angels and Demons and a few Indiana Jones movies - with things that go boom used in place of the whip. It's a very long book, and there are some pacing issues here and there, which made it seem even longer. With that said, it's also a very good story, with several intriguing characters.

    I realized a hundred or so pages into the book that there must be books that came before this one. I went and looked, and sure enough, I saw The Thieves of Heaven, and The Thieves of Faith. However, I believe that this book was enough of a stand alone book that I was fine without having read those previous books. It appears there will be a fourth book entitled The Thieves of Legend. It looks like that one will take place in China, and since I enjoy watching the way Richard Doetsch brings his locations to life, I may read that one just for the locations.

    Here is the blurb for The Thieves of Darkness:

    It starts with a Prison Break from Chiron Prison located on a plateau in the middle of an eastern desert.

    Michael St. Pierre faces off against an adversary like he has never faced before: Another thief but this one is as dark and ruthless and violent as history has ever known.

    Without revealing any of the plot, know that The Thieves of Darkness will carry you from arid deserts, to London's underworld, from the canals of Amsterdam to the ancient palaces of Istanbul, from Byram Hills, New York to the highest mountain reaches of India. It encompasses a true ancient map in Topkapi Palace, Corsairs, a place lost to the snows of the Himalayas all a piece of the puzzle in Michael's quest to save the woman he loves, a woman who also happens to be a thief.

    The story is a good one, with lots of twists and turns to the plot. It is a plot drive book, though the author I think tried to make it character driven here and there, and it didn't really work for me, I found myself skimming over those parts. It felt like he was trying to write romance a few times, and it fell a bit flat.

    The locations were almost elevated to being another character, and I did enjoy some of the descriptions and histories given of the locations. The problem is that at times there was so much time taken to describe the location that the action just stopped for entirely too long, creating pacing issues.

    The author also enjoys jumping back and forth in time - giving part of the story and then saying "three days earlier", and then giving that part of the story, catching up with himself for a short time, and then saying "36 hours earlier" and going back again. That mostly stopped once we got a decent ways into the book, thank goodness.

    As for the writing elements:
    • The plot was genius. I love the way he drew off of legends of places and people and religions. It worked for me. And the twists and turns came completely out of left field a few times.
    • As I've already said, pacing had some issues.
    • The prose was nicely done (if a bit too wordy in places), but the dialogue had some issues here and there, where a handful of times it threw me out of the story when it felt unnatural. It wasn't a major problem, as it flowed in most places... but it was enough of an issue to mention.
    • Character development was well done, giving us pretty much everyone's life story and an explanation of the events that lead them to be the person they are today.
    • I talk about the world-building in the Urban Fantasies I review, and I debated whether to include it in this review. In the end, I think world-building is an important part of the story, and I think the author did a good job with it. We learned the history of the various pieces to be stolen, and were reminded of the legends as most of us know them, and given a story of what happened to people who've tried this before. When we finally experience the legend for ourselves it both exceeded my expectations and disappointed my expectations, which I'm perfectly okay with. I think that real life legends come to life would probably do it that way - better in some ways and disappointing in some ways.

    I'm going to give The Thieves of Darkness a 9 of 10. The pacing issues were enough to give it a lower rating, but the plot was truly inspired and the book as a whole deserves a 9 in spite of the other issues here and there. Reading back over my review I realize I've talked a lot about the issues and not so much about the good stuff, so I'll remedy that here. I liked Michael and I liked KC, and I enjoyed watching them interact with each other - both when they are getting along and when they are not. I also enjoyed some of the lockpicking descriptions - how to break into an unbreakable lock, how to defeat super high-tech security, etc. Tossing an ex-cop into the mix helped us define those grey areas, the stuff that can't be defined as either good or bad because they are technically the "right thing to do" even though highly illegal and skimming the edges of morality.  In other words, I'm giving it a 9 in spite of the writing issues, because the story itself is just that good.
    • Book Rating: The Thieves of Darkness: 9 of 10
    The Thieves of Darkness is one of those books that you can easily see up on the big screen as you are reading it.  It would easily translate to a big budget movie with lots of explosions, gun fights, knife fights, lots of reasons for special effects, beautiful people, beautiful locations, and even a few sex scenes here and there.

    The books in this series are:
      1. The Thieves of Heaven
      2. The Thieves of Faith
      3. The Thieves of Darkness
      4. The Thieves of Legend (author's site with blurb)