After a two book hiatus from Cat and Bones’ adventures, the Night Huntress universe returns to its roots with a first person narrative told from heroine Cat’s POV.
Chronologically, the book takes place after the two spin off stories, and having read them will fill in a lot of backstory that is assumed in This Side of the Grave. The story picks up with the ghoul uprising lead by Apollyon, a ghoul bent on killing Cat and attacking the vampire nation. Masterless vampires are being picked off by ghouls and our dynamic duo turn to the ghoul queen of New Orleans for some hints as to what is going on. Soon the pair are deep into the ghoul uprising, trying to predict where they will next strike.
I absolutely enjoyed this story! This Side of the Grave is hands-down the best book in the series so far. The book genuinely embraces its urban fantasy roots and gives readers a smart adventure, full of action, romance, and humor, not to mention sexy good guys and dangerous bad guys. The story is well executed, with Cat having to use both brains and brawn to stop her enemies. The fight scenes are kick-ass, but there are so many tender moments as well. I love how Cat struggles with her growing powers, but gets through it because she’s tough and determined.
Some of my biggest issues with the earlier stories have all been addressed in This Side of the Grave. Previously, the pair didn’t work together, letting jealousy, deception, and stubbornness get in the way of a healthy relationship. This time around, the pair is a team, sharing in the ups and downs, shouldering responsibilities, and genuinely loving one another. They are a tight-knit pair, considering the other and their relationship before decisions. They listen to one another and the book is so much better for it.
Additionally, I am happy that Cat finally deals with once-friend Tate and his inexcusable behaviors. This is something that should have happened 4 books ago! I enjoyed seeing Cat back with her old team, and some of the changes going on are downright fun! I hope we see more interaction with the secret government group in future books.
As I mentioned, there are also some poignant moments in This Side of the Grave. Not only has Cat matured in her romantic relationship, but she has to deal with some of her platonic relationships as well. No spoilers, but if you’ve been reading the series, you know that something is going on with someone close to Cat. This is handled with utmost care and attention, creating some of the most touching scenes in the series.
The narration by Tavia Gilbert just seems to be getting better and better. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating that Ms. Gilbert excels when it comes to the non-verbal sounds like sigh, breathlessness, etc. She injects the words with the emotions of the moment, capturing the feelings of Cat marvelously. Other than still being annoyed by Justine and Tate’s voices, I thoroughly enjoyed the narration.
Overall, This Side of the Grave is a wonderful story. My only complaint is that sometimes Cat’s inner monologues run a bit long; however, this hardly gives me pause. Cat has matured, making her adventures so much more enjoyable. Her humor and interactions with friends such as Vlad, Mencheres, and Ian are the icing on the cake. If you were like me, and unsure about continuing this series after the fourth title, I strongly encourage you to keep going. It’s worth it!