books

Rob Thurman

Books

Cal Leandros: Nightlife (2006), Moonshine (2007), Madhouse (2008), Deathwish (2009), Road Kill (2010), Blackout (2011), Doubletake (2012), Slashback (2013), Downfall (2014)

Trixa: Trick of the Light (2009), The Grimrose Path (2010)

Korsak Brothers: Chimera (2010), Basilisk (2011)

Anthologies: Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (2008), Kicking It (2013)

 

 

Cal Leandros

 

Nightlife (2006)

This book starts the action right on page one:

It was the touch of a much warmer liquid on my fingers that let me know differently. It was blood. My blood. I tightened my hand over the one that held the knife handle. The blood covers both our hands, his and mine. He had actually done it... stabbed me.

Then we jump back in time to learn what lead to the events of the first two pages.

This was as interesting story. The main character, Cal, is young, flawed, and cynical but very likable anyway. His older brother, Niko, has sacrificed much to protect Cal, whether Cal wants the protection or not. Unfortunately, because it is creatures from the supernatural realm that are after Cal, he needs all the help he can get.

The relationship between my brain and my mouth tended to be casual at best.

Yeah. Been there.

I wheedled like a whiny twelve-year-old, as opposed to the whiny adult that I was.

Cal is all attitude, but with very good reason. But no matter that he is genetically half-monster, Niko keeps him human. Like I said, the love Niko and Cal have for each other–even when they’re sniping and grumbling and fighting–it gives each the ability to do things that are nearly impossible.

The supernatural characters are unlike those in other books and stories, which was both disconcerting and refreshing. I have come to expect supernatural being to be and behave in a certain way, and in this book they don't. Since nothing was as expected, nothing could easily be guessed.

I liked that.

I also liked the two brothers and their relationship. Siblings--especially when they spend a lot of time together, bicker, argue, and fight. Those happy, wonderful, peaceful relationships you see portrayed in certain kinds of books and movies? Bullshit. No one knows how to push your buttons like the people you grew up with, and when you're in close quarters for a long time those buttons get pushed. But as contentious as the relationship between siblings may be, when push comes to shove, your sibling is most likely going to be the one there for you--the one you can turn to no matter what. Most stories get the second part right, but not always the first.

So it makes me happy when someone gets that relationship right, and Rob Thurman does a pretty good job here. The brothers fight and bicker, but when it comes right down to it fight to the death before they let anyone else come between them.

“You should try literature that contains words of more than two syllables, little brother. You might just learn something.”

“‘Voluptuous’ has more than two syllables.” Turning the book right side up, I scanned the page. “So does ‘nymphomaniac,’” I added.

But the heart of it is in this passage:

“Niko!” I tossed the blade up with the unshakable faith that he would catch it. Absolute, utter faith, but that didn’t keep me from saying a silent prayer.

The storytelling in this book is very good. I was grabbed from the beginning, interested in Cal and Niko and what was happening to them. The pace moves quickly, and the story moved in unexpected ways, so if there were any obvious flaws in the story, I missed them as I tore through the story trying to find out what happened next.

This book was fun, interesting, and went off in unexpected directions. If you like supernatural fantasy, then you should enjoy this book.
Rating: 8/10

Published by ROC

Moonshine (2007)

Moonshine is the sequel to Nightlife. Now that Cal and Niko have defeated the monsters who were trying to possess Cal, they have moved onto the more mundane task of living their lives--something they were never given the luxury to do when they were on the run.

They're currently working as independent bodyguards and investigators. The skills they developed while they were on the run from the Auphie have trained them well for that line of work, and since Promise is now a partner in their business, they're able to settle into something that for them resembles a normal life. They have a home, they have a job, and they even have friends--luxuries luxury they never allowed themselves previously. But as with the previous book, what they have most of all is each other.

Just like Nightlife, Moonshine is a very good book. However, it took perusing the reviews on Amazon to make me realize that I liked best about Moonshine -- it's a supernatural fantasy with no boinking! Well, sex exists, and it's talked about and joked about, but there aren't any sex scenes.

Dear Ms Thurman--PLEASE don't be tempted to add boinking to any further books about Cal and Niko. These books are wonderful as is and don't need to be... enhanced.

So if there is no boinking, just what is so great about Moonshine? The characters, the dialog, and the writing. Rob Thurman pulls everything together to create a compelling story with sarcastic, realistic dialog. And although Cal is often overwrought, he does have good reason to be, and those around him do their best through humor (and with Niko often a good dope slap) to keep him from focusing upon his monster side.

But the heart of the story is the relationship between Cal and Niko. They are family, which means more to them than to most brothers. They still tend to display their affection for each other through sarcasm and well-placed elbows, but considering their life, one could hardly expect anything else.

I started into the depths of the carnical, not bothering to check to see if he was following. He was. It wasn’t something I had to see or hear to know. Niko watched my back. Always. The mountains would fall and the oceans dry to dust before that ever changed.

The dialog, as mentioned, is also marvelous. Cal is constantly and continually sarcastic, and feels the need to comment on everything.

“How do you know that Goodfellow even plays poker?”

I commented in disbelief, “You’re shitting me, right?”

“In retrospect, not the most astute question, I admit,” Niko sighed.

But he doesn't get all the good lines.

Holding out my arm, I said formally, “Is milady ready?”

Amused, Promise tucked a hand into the crook of my elbow. “How gallant you are, sir.”

“When you’re dressed like you charge five dollars an hour, you have to be,” Robin observed caustically.

"You don't actually believe in gypsy curses, do you?" I asked with a faint overlay of scorn.

Green eyes narrowed on me with impatience. "Of course not. I, an immortal creature, am only standing here with a vampire, a half Auphie, and a walking talking wolf. Why would I possible believe in something as ludicrous as a Gypsy curse?" He rubbed the heel of both hands over tired eyes and went on to snap, "And then there's that entire year I spent impotent thanks to one."

Also, as with Nightlife, I really like the cover of Moonshine. It does an excellent job matching the feel of the book.

Although this book sets up events for future stories, the story arc in Moonshine is complete. There is plenty of material for a sequel, but we aren't left dangling. The need for another book comes not from a cliffhanger ending or even threads that were started in this book and then dropped, but from the desired to spend a lot more time reading about Cal and Niko.

I'd say the only drawback to this book is that I wouldn't recommend reading it before Nightlife. The story itself should be fine, but you want to read these books in order, as events of the previous book are mentioned. Also, as a warning, there are several gruesome scenes in Moonshine. They didn't bother me, but then reading gruesome rarely does.

If you read Nightlife, then you will definitely want to pick up Moonshine. If you like supernatural fantasy, the you should go back and read Nightlife and then pick up Moonshine. Then we can all hope together that Rob Thurman writes a third book soon.
Rating: 9/10

Published by ROC

Madhouse (2008)

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Madhouse for months. I have loved the previous Cal Leandros books, and couldn’t wait to read more about Cal and Niko.

Although I enjoyed this book as much as the previous two, I was very unhappy with the last three paragraphs. In fact, I’d recommend reading the entire book (in one sitting even!) except for the last three paragraphs. Because she’s done my least favorite thing, and end with a cliffhanger.

I hate that.

Fortunately, the rest of the book was strong enough that I immensely liked the book DESPITE the ending.

Why do I like these books so well? Because there are so many things the author gets right. Cal is not a good person. He does good things, and he tries, but he has definite tendencies to be a jerk. And that actually makes me like him better, because it makes him more human. Plus, he’s totaly snarky, and that’s always fun.

The second thing that the books get right is that we constantly see Cal and Niko training–they’re good, but they’re good because they work constantly at it. Some heroes do everything perfectly, and you wonder how they manage the time to get as good as they are. With Cal and Niko we see that they train and practice constantly–almost everything they do is training and practice. And just as important, Cal talks about the prices of their weaponry, and we see the sacrifices they have made to make sure they have proper weapons.

As with the previous books, Cal makes mistakes and has to live with the consequences.

And, as always, the writing and dialog are my favorite parts.

“And once again, the folklore monkeys got it wrong. Caps stained with blood.” Robin gave a foamy snort into his drink. “Yes, how frightening. A capering evil wearing a hat. Maybe he wears suspenders and short pants as well. Will the terror never end?”

Robin clarifies this lack of capering and short pants. And it is perry gruesome.

…I stopped counting. When it came to mathematics, there were three numerical concepts I was intersted in: barely worth the time, doable, and strategic fucking retreat. I didn’t need a calculator to know we were looking at the later.

That’s Cal and his mathematics of survival.

“What now boss?” I said with a groan. “I haven’t impaled a customer in days.”

“No,” he agreed with a bunched jaw. “You did, however, serve a vodyanoi a margarita on ice.”

“So?” I shrugged, not seeing the problem.

“With salt,” he added.

“And?” I twirled my fingers in an impatient come-on-already gesture.

“And half his face melted onto the bar.” He bent slightly and put his head even with mine. “Salt tends to do that to them.”

So what happens in Madhouse? Cal and Niko and Promise are hired to look into a robbery at the museum, and discover that it wasn’t a break-in, but instead a break-out, and now something nasty and evil is wandering New York looking for victims.

We also get to see more of the supernatural world in New York, as Cal’s day job is tending bar at one of the establishments that caters to supernatural creatures. As to whether supernatural creatures really could live in NY without notice, I’ll leave it up to others to decide. It seems reasonable to me though.

If you like supernatural fantasy, then I highly recommend the Cal Leandros series. Although I would start with Nightlife and work your way forward. You could read Madhouse without having read the previous books, but as the characters build in successive book, I believe the series is stronger reading this books from the start.

Although this was a very good book, it loses points for the ending. So keep that in mind.
Rating: 7/10

Published by ROC

Deathwish (2009)

This book too me far longer than I expected to finish.

I started reading, and then decided it felt like the final book in the series, and that was followed by the thought, “this can’t end well,” (after all, consider the name of the book) so as much as I desperately wanted to know what happened, I also didn’t want to the story to end; I didn’t want to stop spending time with Cal and Niko.

At the end of Madhouse, in attempting to get themselves out of trouble, it seems as if Cal and Niko have only pissed the Auphie off. Now they have to deal with the consequences of that. And in addition, they pick up another case that turns ugly on them. All in all, things look extremely bleak for Cal and Niko.

And they don’t get better.

First off, the point of view switches from Cal to Niko every other chapter. I loved finally seeing Niko’s point of view. Additionally, not that you didn’t see it in earlier books, but in this book the love (yes, I said love) that Cal and Niko have for each other is almost tangible. In previous books we’ve seen why Cal adores Niko, but here we get to see Niko’s side, and suddenly we see not just why Cal loves Niko, but why Niko loves Cal so much. Not that ever use the word love, oh no. Trust. Faith. Brothers. Family. Those are the terms they used, but I’m a girl, so I can use the cootie laden love.

But don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a mushy kind of love, it’s the love two brothers have for each other after they’ve been to hell and back and saved each other time and again. It’s the love of two brothers who depend completely upon each other and trust each other implicitly.

And in Deathwish it’s all but a heartbreaking love. We see–from each–what they mean to each other and how devastating one death would be to the other.

Up until now, Nightlife had been my favorite book in the series. I loved the story it told, and more importantly how that story was told. But I think that’s now been replaced by Deathwish. She does an excellent job keeping Niko and Cal’s voices separate and distinct, and what we are given here is a look into their relationship and how much they mean to each other.

I realized I keep going back to love, but despite all the monsters and gore and death and destruction (and there is plenty of that) there is the underlying current of the relationship between Cal and Niko. Yeah, there were plot twists I never saw coming that all but knocked me over. And lots of monsters–did I mention the monsters? But what got to me Niko and Cal and what they meant to each other–even if they showed it as only two brothers can (those sappy shows where two siblings are best friends and do each others hair and are all sunshine and light? Give me a break. There’s none of that crap here. We’re talking about real brothers that fight and annoy and beat the crap out of each other.)

Here are some of Niko’s thoughts:

I kepy my eyes on my book as I tossed the dagger up into the air yet again and caught it blind. One: because it was good practice. You always know where your weapon is, whether you can see it or not. Always. Second: It annoyed Cal, as he couldn’t do it.

If I was a cold ideal, with every bit of compromise stripped away, then that was survival. If I were an abstract, that’s how it had to be. Never mind the things it made me wonder. As in, had Sophia won? As in, Outside honor, did I truly exist at all?

Then Cal punched me in the nose and, as a starburst of pain flared behind my eyes and I tasted blood, I decided that I did.

I think Niko’s memory of events in the first book once again goes to the heart of the relationship between the two.

There were no words.

I, who had read so many of them in my life, had no words for it. The blade slipping through the resistance of his flesh. The blood. On me, Cal’s blood, warm and flowing. Dripping from my hands to the floor. Red with a quick patter like rain. Images and sensations; I had those. So many. But no words. Words were defining, capturing. I didn’t want that moment defined. I only wanted it gone. Over a year later and I still just wanted it gone.

And of course, there is always Cal.

I ran a hand over the steering wheel, sighed, and got out of the car. Maybe a motorcycle. The great monster fighter cruising around on his hog… that wasn’t a cliche, no. Fine. I’d be a monster fighter who rose the bus. It didn’t get any more bad-ass than that.

Eyes still shut, Cal held up his forefinger and thumb as if his hand were a gun and pointed it at Robin, his aim unerring right between the eyes. “I’m a cranky asshole with a gun and superpowers, remember?”

I got up to check out the bathroom… “Shit!” I called out. Is there such a thing as a giant supernatural cockroach straight from the depths of hell?”

“No. Be a man and deal with it.”

I could’ve shot it. It was that big. I kicked it in the toilet and flushed. Three times. Then I returned to Cat Urine Central. “Okay. The world is safe for pissing again. Enjoy.”

One complaint. I love love loved the cover of the previous three books, especially Nightlife (though Moonshine is also fantastic). So why did they suddenly switch to a model that doesn’t look a thing like Cal? I mean really? Otherwise, the cover is great (the mood and details are very good) but the guy doesn’t look a thing like the Cal of the previous three books or the Cal described in the book.

But that’s really neither here nor there.

Anyway, to sum up, Deathwish is fantastic. I strongly urge you go get Nightlife and read forward from there.

As to whether anyone important dies and whether this is the end of the series? You’ll just have to read yourself to find out.
Rating: 9/10

Published by ROC

Road Kill (2010)

I love this series.

I’d specifically not wondered where baby revenants came from when we’d gotten out of the Jeep. And here I was finding out anyway. Ain’t that life? Life and pained eyeballs I suddenly didn’t want anymore.

Love it.

Yes, Cal is an asshole. But considering that he’s half monster, and reviled by almost the entire supernatural community, that’s understandable.

And he has redeeming qualities–namely that his brother Niko loves him, and Cal will do anything–absolutely anything–for Niko.

Here's bit a about the relationship between Niko and Cal:

“He is a monster,” she said sharply to Niko, “this thing you call a brother, but perhaps you are worse. You are his keeper. We keep our monster under lock and key and you let yours run free, free to kill and destroy as he sees fit. Everything he does, the responsibility is shared equally with you.”

“Of everything he does, I”m proud to claim half.” Niko rose to his feet.

Of course, just because Niko refuses to let anyone else insult Cal, that doesn’t stop him for giving Cal precisely what he deserves.

…I’m heaped with good karma for putting up with your incessant bitching and moaning. If you didn’t sleep, I wouldn’t escape it at all.” He placed his own bags beside mine and paid the cab driver. “Forget the usual hundreds of reincarnated lives one usually must pass through. It’s a wonder I didn’t become enlightened and reach nirvana before you hit puberty for my righteousness in the face of incomprehensible suffering.”

Cal was just getting used to settling into (for him) a somewhat normal life, that allowed him to live in one place and stop running and hiding from the Auphie, when the elderly head of the Sarzo gypsy clan (who all but caused the death of Niko earlier) comes to them with “a small job.”

Things get ugly almost immediately.

I’m not even sure I can coherently list why I love this series and this book.

Cal feels like a real–yet surly and cranky–person. But seeing as he has every reason to be cranky, it’s hard to hold it against him. And the relationship between Cal and Niko feels real. They fight. They bicker. They argue. But most importantly, they love each other. And (to get all sappy here for a moment) it’s an unconditional love, and it feels true and real.

“I’m a man? Yeah? Do I get a bar mitzvah?”

“The bris comes first. Do you want to borrow my tanto? I sharpened it this past weekend.”

And Cal may have powers, but he knows his limits–and is reminded of those limits not just by Nico, but by seemingly everyone.

I went to the passenger side and was greeted by fangs shown in a cheerful greeting, jack-o-lantern eyes, and a ruby collar with a gold ID tag around a hairless neck. I opened the door and Salome, who was sitting upright, reagal, and ready for her ride, didn’t move. I opened my jacket and showed her my gun. She opened her mouth and I watched her already-visible fangs slide farther out of her gray gums and double in size. I closed my jacket and got in the backseat with Robin.

How often does the hero get put in his place by a mummy cat? Not often enough I say.

A hairless paw, with perfectly normal-looking claws that obviously weren’t, came through the bars, followed by a dry-as-dust mrrrp. “There, there. Who’s a good kitty?” I said, taking a step back. I didn’t pull a gun, though. I thought that gave me balls of steel. In Salome’s eyes, steel would just make them easier to roll across the condo floor.

“Calm down,” Robin said dismissively. “She doesn’t kill humans.”

“How do you know for sure?” Niko asked pointedly.

“Because I spray her with a water bottle if she does. Very effective.”

And as a note, the Cal on the cover has gone back to matching the Cal inside the book. Not sure what happened with Deathwish, when there seemed to be an attempt to make Cal look hunky. But here were back to the surly and sullen Cal we know and love. Yay!

So yes, I loved Roadkill just like I’ve loved every previous book in this series. Could you start here without having read previous books in the series? Yes. Would you want to? No. You instead want to start at the beginning and work your way forward. It’s worth it. I promise.
Rating: 9/10

Published by ROC

Blackout (2011)

I. Love. Rob. Thurman.

There it is. I’m tempted to never ever learn anything about her personal life for fear she’ll one day go all Orson Scott Card on me, and if I lost these books the way I lost Ender’s Game, I believe I would be mortally crushed.

What is most fascinating about this book is that six books into this series you could read this book knowing absolutely nothing about the series and not miss a thing.

That said, fans of the series will love the way she takes this character we’ve spent six books learning about, and turns him into a stranger.

Cal wakes up on a beach surrounded by dead monsters knowing only he is a killer. His past is gone and he is a blank slate with nothing but a lot of weapons and a wallet full of money and fake IDs.

I was wearing a leather jacket, sodden and ruined. Something was weighing down the right pocket more heavily than the left. I put my hand in and closed it around something oval shaped. I was vaguely hoping it was a wayward clam that had climbed in while I was snoozing in the tide. That hope choked and fell, dead as the floating monsters. In the moonlight, I’d opened by fingers to see a grenade resting against my palm. There was a cheerful yellow smiley face on the side. The hand-painted, slightly sloppy circle smirked at me.

Have a nice day!

I looked up at the sky, the beaming boom, and said my first words, the first words I could remember anyway. Baby’s first new words in his brand-new life.

“What the fuck?”

He also has–as he quickly discovers, an innate ability to lie, as well as a tremendous survival instinct. He quickly finds food and shelter and tries to figure out who he is and what he is going to do with himself.

Although Cal has lost who he is, his attitude and sarcasm remain, which makes what could be painful and cloying an absolute joy, as always.

I was a gun person, but I kept around a sword or two just in case. I also had a flamethrower.

Of all the things I’d found out so far… I think I liked that about myself the most. Gotta love a flamethrower.

No matter what happens, the heart of the books remain the same: a love story between two brothers, with monsters and swords and lots and lots of guns.

If you think that sounds mushy and like something you don’t want to read, well, you’re wrong.

I love this series. I love the characters, I love the dialog–hell, I even love the covers–and I love how even six books into the series Cal and Niko continue to surprise me.
Rating: 10/10

Published by ROC

Doubletake (2012)

I believe I’ve made my love of Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series well known. I love the relationship between Niko and Cal, and how Niko keeps Cal human, despite everything. And how Cal remains human, because of Niko.

Cal has changed a lot over the course of the series. He’s overcome the Alphie, yet remains a monster in the eyes of most, and once again, that reputation comes back to cause trouble.

I’m conflicted about this book. I still love Cal and Niko, but I’m not certain I like where the story is going. In retrospect, I can see the setup for part of this story several books back, but I am having trouble setting aside some of my disbelief.

I’m also unsure about different reactions of several of the characters–I’m not sure I saw the logic in why they behaved the way they did. I’ll have to think about that for a little while.

The other thing I realized while considering this book, is that I don’t see how this series can go on indefinitely. Cal cannot exist without Niko. But unlike Cal, Niko won’t be long lived.

So, I’ll read the next book–won’t be able to help myself–but I’m nervous as to where the story is going.
Rating: 7/10

Published by ROC

Slashback (2013)

Needless to say, I was eagerly waiting Slashback

So let’s get the bad out of the way first: it felt like this book hadn’t been copyedited. On multiple occasions I had to stop and reread in order to figure out what was actually being said, which threw me completely out of the story. I have never had that issue with any of her books before, so I don’t understand why it happened now.

Which is too bad, because otherwise this was another fabulous book.

The story is divided between Niko’s point of view in the past and Cal’s point of view in the future, and I really liked the switch up. Not only do we see a glimpse into their pasts, but we get to see how Niko became the man he is. I really liked that.

Cal, who is at this point eleven (making Niko fifteen) tells Niko their next door neighbor is a serial killer. He came to this conclusion because the house smells like dead things.

“How many serial killers are devout Christians?” I was really hoping to slide this one past him.

“The Spanish Inquisition?” he said promptly.

“I’d be impressed if I thought that was from your history class and not Monty Python reruns.”

The current story line finds Niko and Cal drawn into a problem they aren’t going to be paid for: there is a serial killer in NYC targeting humans–but the killer is paien.

As always, the heart of the story is the relationship between Niko and Cal.

I’d always known I was lucky when it came to brothers, but sometimes I forgot others didn’t have that. It had been the one thing in my life I’d not once had to question…”

MINOR SPOILER (rot 13)
Pbafvqrevat gur fbzrjung qbjajneq fcveny Pny unf orra ba, jvgu uvf Nhcuvr fvqr gnxvat zber naq zber pbageby, V jnf fb irel tynq gur Avxb svanyyl pbasebagrq Pny nobhg vg, naq gung Pny svanyyl fnj jung ur jnf qbvat.

V jbhyq qb nalguvat, fgbc nalbar jub gevrq gb uheg zl oebgure naq gung vapyhqrq zlfrys. V jnfa’g tbvat gb yrg vg trg gb gur cbvag jurer Avx unq gb qb vg sbe zr. V’q nyjnlf nfxrq uvz gb or ernql naq vg unq abg bapr orra snve gb chg gung jrvtug ba uvz. V jnf erfcbafvoyr. ab bar ryfr. Gung ur unq gb gryy zr jnf onq rabhtu. Ubj gung sryg sbe uvz, V pbhyqa’g vzntvar.

SVANYYL Pny gehyl fgnegf gb gnxr erfcbafvovyvgl sbe uvzfrys, naq gb npprcg uvzfrys.
END SPOILER

And of course, there’s Robin Goodfellow.

“Every trickster, pucks or others, has a law degree. It’s the perfect con.”

There is also a huge major giant mondo reveal at the very end of the story, that I particularly liked. There are major dropped hints of it, but it still surprised me. But mostly it relieved me, since I’ve worried for so long about how Cal and Niko would manage if the other was killed.

I also think that if you had not read a previous book in the series, you could start here without difficulty. The story stands well-enough alone (minus the references to Grimm) and the switch to Niko’s point of view gives plenty of back-story on the relationship between Cal and Niko. But of course I also think you should start at the beginning, because I love this series so very much.

Which is why I really wish I hadn’t come across so many editing issues, which will knock it back a point, and I hate to do that because I love this book, this series, and these characters.
Rating: 9/10

Published by ROC

My Amazon review

Downfall (2014)

downfallI fully admit that I have been avoiding reading this book.

As the series has gone it, it has become more and more clear that Niko and Cal won’t outlive each other. If one is killed, the other will fall soon after, most likely in a horribly violent and destructive way, for they cannot live without each other.

And this book—like the first—starts off at the near end, with the brothers facing a thousand monsters and ready to die.

I’m not ready for their deaths. I mean, I’ve known for quite a while now that can’t live without each other, and that with their lifestyles (not to mention Cal’s monstrous heritage taking over) neither is bound to live very long.

But I wasn’t ready to read it yet, so this book has sat waiting for me to pick it up. Despite the fact that I love these characters and these books so much I typically devour them in one sitting.

And then when I started reading it a couple weeks ago, I saw the book switched between Cal and Robin’s point-of-view and then I was certain it was going to have a horrible ending.

So, yes, this book switches between Cal’s point-of-view and Robin’s. Yes, most of the books are from Cal’s point-of-view, but this isn’t the first time Cal has shared the limelight, but this is the first time we’ve spent a lot of time with Robin Goodfellow, and it’s the first time we really get to see the world as Robin sees it, as he has watched the millennia crawl by, and come upon two souls—Cal and Niko—again and again.

There was no therapy for lives millions of years too long…

But we also get glimpses of what Niko and Cal were like in previous lives, and some of those were marvelous.

Cal had invariably wanted the minimum skill to keep him alive, as he needed his other valuable time to drink, get in fights, chase women, sleep, and generally enjoy the hell out of life. I had to respect that if not out-and-out applaud it.

And Robin is amusing.

“Niko, first, it’s kind of you to not want to take advantage. If I were less manly, virile, and brimming with machismo, I’d go so far as to say it’s rather adorable that you think you could.”

But never fear, Cal, (despite everything) is still Cal.

That’s right, things were so damn dire that I was forced to convert to the metric system to indicate how fucking close my head came to exploding like a blood-filled cantaloupe.

Ah Cal.

Am I sorry I put off reading this? Fearing what would happen? No, not really. Because it was good to be able to read it all I one sitting, which I hadn’t had time for, previously.

Couple negatives—a couple times the editing seemed a little off—sentences took me several reads to parse, and I still wasn’t 100% certain what the sentence was trying to say. Which all struck me as extremely odd, as this felt very much like the final Cal & Niko book. But I was tearing through the book pretty quickly, so the issues could have been mind. I’m pretty sure a re-read would clarify.

And although some reviews I read complained about it, I absolutely adored Robin’s bits, and the trips down memory lane from his past and Cal & Niko’s other lives.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by ROC



Trixa

 

Trick of the Light (2009)

trick-of-the-lightI’ve loved Rob Thurman’s writing since I stumbled across Nightlife, the first book in the Cal Leandros series. So when I came across a new book–even though it wasn’t a Cal Leandros book–I snatched it right up.

Once I had the book I hesitated. What if it wasn’t as good as the Cal books? This is a switch from a male character to a female character, would it be as good? Would I like it as much? Would I expect too much of the story?

Then I decided it didn’t matter and dove right in.

Trixa owns a bar in Las Vegas, and kills demons in her spare time. She has also befriended two young men–Zeke and Griffith–who are professional demon killers. She’s searching for the Light of Life–and for revenge against the demon who slaughtered her brother.

Now, I have to admit that I guessed a portion of the big reveal relatively quickly. In fact, I thought it was pretty obvious. However, I didn’t come close to guessing everything, and I even guessed wrong regarding some things.

SPOILER (rot13)
V xarj fur jnf n gevpxfgre (gur “frevrf” gvgyr tnir gung njnl) naq nsgre n pbzzrag nobhg pnyyvat Mrxr “xvg” V qrpvqrq fur jnf n xvgfhar. Ure ynfg anzr nyfb gjvatrq zl enqne, ohg V pbhyqa’g sbe gur yvsr bs zr erzrzore jul.

V xarj Yrb/Yrbaber jrer gur fnzr orvat, ohg V gubhtug ur jnf Pblbgr. Rfcrpvnyyl jvgu uvf snfpvangvba jvgu srznyr nangbzl. Lrnu, Ybxv jnf zneevrq, ohg uvf snzbhf vasvqryvgl znqr uvz gur zbgure bs Fyrcvave, engure guna gur sngure bs ybgf bs tbqyvatf fhpu nf jnf pbzzba jvgu gur Terrx naq Ebzna cnagurba.
END SPOILER

But mostly, being wrong only made me love the story even more.

Of course, passages like the following made it even better.

“Please,” I said scornfully, “I’m hardly some leather-wearing monster killer with a cadre of hot men and demons waiting on my every sexual whim.” I paused, a glass held in midair. Leo started to speak and I held up a finger on my free hand. “Wait a minute. I’m still contemplating why I’m not that, and wondering how to change it.”

Believe it or not, it gets better from there. The term “pantaloons” even makes an appearance. But that slam at a good deal of the supernatural fantasy on the shelves would have made the book for me. Except, of course, it got better from there.

If you like urban/supernatural fantasy, enjoy excellent story telling, and appreciate a book that is not full of boinking, then I highly recommend checking out Trick of Light.
Rating: 10/10

Re-Read: Feb 2014

Now, apparently, I need to re-read Rob Thurman.

But as I relatively recently re-read the Cal & Niko series, I decided to go with the Trixa Iktomi series.

Trixa runs a bar in Sin City, but all she really wants is revenge for her brother’s murder.

Leo helps her with the bar and the hunt.

And then there are Zeke and Griffin. Orphans, and failed by the foster care system, they have been with Trixa for about ten years, and in that time they discovered their talents and came to work for Eden House, a group run by angels (not, as they insinuate, with direct input from God) that exists only to take out demons.

These four are searching for the Light of Life, so Trixa can use it for her revenge.

First things first, a lot of people didn’t care for this book, and I’m not quite sure I understand why. Yes, unreliable narrators can be difficult to relate to, but they’re also fun. And it was made quite clear from the start that she’s an unreliable narrator.

Griff and Zeke had wondered back when I’d hired them how Id been able to buy a bar at that age. I could’ve told them I inherited from my father or mother o great-uncle Joe, but I told them the truth.

Lying and cheating.

I wasn’t ashamed. Far from it. I deceived only those who deserved it, and you’d be amazed how many did. Then again, if you were smart and kept your eyes open, you might not be so surprised after all.

If that’s too subtle for you, then unreliable narrators probably aren’t for you anyway.

But second, and more importantly, on the cover it says “A Trickster Novel” which, says to me, “the main character is a Trickster, and almost certainly an unreliable narrator. Have fun!”

With that in mind, I don’t see how the ending could be seen as a deus ex machina. It certainly didn’t for me, because I spent the first read trying to figure out which Trickster she was (I’d immediately crossed Anansi off the list– no way he’d ever be a female).

This book has one of my favorite bits of snark about another book character EVER.

“Please,” I said scornfully, “I’m hardly some leather wearing monster killer with a cadre of hot men and demons waiting on my every sexual whim.” I paused, a glass held in midair. Leo started to speak and I held up a finger on my free hand. “Wait a minute. I’m still contemplating why I’m not that and wondering how to change it.”

I love that passage so very much.

I loved the bits about Trixa’s hair. Never have I felt so much in common with a character as when she talks about her hair.

I closed my eyes as he dried my hair with a smaller towel and combed it out, careful with the tangles, and I had a ton. The price you paid for wildly curly hair. That and humidity is never your friend.

Which explains why she moved to Vegas. :)

But really, it’s a Trickster novel. If you expect the main character to deal with you straight up, you 1) have no understanding of tricksters and 2) are probably entirely too naive for your own good.

There were some parts to this book that bugged me a little. Zeke and Griff feel very much like Cal and Niko. Very much like Cal and Niko. In her defense, she writes specific types of male characters, so it’s to be expected.

Seriously though, I loved this book. I love Trixa, and I love who Leo turns out to be, and I love all the twists and turns the story takes.

But then I do have a fondness for Tricksters.
Rating: 9.5/10

Published by ROC 

The Grimrose Path (2010)

TheGrimrosePathI think I love Rob Thurman. Seriously. I’ve only read one book of hers I rated lower than an 8, and that one lost points for a cliff-hanger type ending. (Aside from the ending, it was an otherwise excellent book.)

The Grimrose Path is the second book in her Trickster series, staring Trixia, although it is set in the same world as the Cal Leandros series, and does have a small amount of crossover of minor characters. Trixia and Leo are still hiding their temporary human status, which is why the demon Eli appearing with a problem he wants her to solve is bad news. It’s even worse when his problem is that something is killing demons. Lots and lots of demons, and Eli wants Trixia to find out what’s going on.

Although not quite as good as the first book, Trick of Light, The Grimrose Path is still very very good. Plenty of twists and unexpected turns. Lots of good characters (I think her characters and dialog may be my favorite part of her writing) including a main character I love. And a story that I just plain enjoyed.

Now, I’m predisposed to like Trixia, because I am a huge fan of tricksters and trickster stories, but Trixia is something else. Despite her (temporary) humanity, she does what she wants despite the danger–or since she is a trickster, perhaps because of the danger.

If you like well-written supernatural fantasy, with the focus on the story and the mystery and the characters and not boinking, then you must check out Rob Thurman.
Rating: 8/10

Published by ROC.

Re-Read: March 2014

Trixa Iktomi is a trickster. She comes right out with it at the beginning of this story, so you know what you’re getting into. But she and her friend Leo (the reformed Bad Boy but now a trickster by calling, Loki) are mortal while Trixa rebuilds her powers after events in the previous book. And Trixa is discovering that being a human is far more difficult than being a trickster in the shape of a human: no shifting to instantly heal injuries, no super strength, and worst of all, you have to exercise to keep in shape. But she still loves her body.

No, I wasn’t beautiful. I chose this body. I made it. Why would I want to be beautiful? Fields of wildflowers were beautiful. Waterfalls were beautiful. Secluded beaches were beautiful. Size-zero vacant-eyed and vacant-stomached runway models were beautiful… at least that’s what society told us, but society had a vacant brain to match those vacant eyes. Not one of those things, vacant or otherwise, could put a pointed heel of a boot through a demon’s stomach and a bullet in his scaly forehead. I could. I was unique.

But being human does have it’s problems. (Especially if your diet is primarily diner food.)

Damn, there went another joint. My once-conditioned body seemed to be falling to pieces fast. The maintenance on a human body was unbelievable. If you slept wrong, you were crippled for the day How could a species manage to sleep wrong? A bad mattress to them was like an asteroid to the dinosaurs.

Leo has things easier, but that doesn’t make working with Trixa is easy.

“(W)ho are you going to pray to, Loki?” I snapped back. I was sorry, but I was getting less sorry all the time.

“Myself, and you’d better hope I’m not listening..” He slammed the door behind him.

I noticed something interesting when perusing the reviews. Trixa does not lack self-confidence–why would she? She’s a trickster. Self-confidence comes part and parcel with the ability to lie. And I, myself, enjoyed her self-confidence, but a LOT of reviewers found it irritating. “Self-aggrandizement” was a term that came up more than once. But here’s the thing, I didn’t think her self-confidence was any more over the top than many other characters in other stories.

Many of my favorite characters.

Male characters.

It’s funny how self-confidence is seen as a positive in males, but a negative in women. And I don’t mean ha-ha funny. I mean, “that’s bullshit” funny. I like Trixa’s self-confidence. I like having a female protagonist who spends no time worrying about her looks and how she is perceived by men.

Does that make me strange? So be it. I’m good with that.
Rating: 9/10


Korsak Brothers

 

Chimera (2010)

I love Rob Thurman. I really do. Which is why I pre-ordered this book without even having an idea what it was about.

Imagine my disappointment when I read the back cover, “From Rob Thurman, national bestselling author of the Cal Leandros novels, comes a sci-fi thriller that questions what makes us human, what makes us unique…” Sci-fi thriller? WAH! So I set the book on the shelf and continued on in my mystery kick.

But I kept picking it up and looking at it, I mean, this IS Rob Thurman, so how can it not be good. Which is why I stuck it in my bag and started reading it at lunch.

And you know what? It WAS good! Really good! I was quickly sucked in, and the second half of the book a read in one big gulp.

Stefan has spent ten years looking for his younger brother, who was snatched when they were children. Stefan blames himself for the loss, and puts all his money into trying to discover where his brother could have gone. The fact that Stefan works for the Russian mafia in the US just means that Stefan has more money and resources than your average guy.

Although this is touted as a sci-fi thriller, it is much like the Cal Leandros books in that the focus is upon familial relationships, especially the bond between brothers. And as with the Cal Leandros books, we see precisely what that bond and love can do–both good and bad.

If you have not yet read a Rob Thurman book, you can certainly pick this up and be pleased with the results. If you are a fan of the Cal Leandros books (as I am) despite the sci-fi setting, you should find much to love in this book.

Because really, she did many fabulous things with this story, and it is well-worth your time.
Rating: 9/10

Basilisk (2011)

I know it’s strange for me, but I’ve had Basilisk sitting around unread since last August. Strange, because I love Rob Thurman’s writing, and have loved every book of her’s I’ve read. But as much as I enjoyed Chimera, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about a sequel, so it sat unread until I grabbed it on the way to a doctor’s appointment.

Then I got sucked in and had to finish it.

Misha has spent the past three years learning to live outside The Institute where he was raised and lived until his brother Stefan rescued him. Now, instead of learning to kill, he is learning how to get along like a normal teenager, instead of the genetically altered killer he actually is. And it’s going pretty well, until they learn their father (a Russian mobster) had been found dead–murdered.

Was he murdered as a result of being a mobster? Or was he murdered by someone wanting to find Michael.

First and foremost, you CAN read this book without having read Chimera. It is set up that way. But you really should read Chimera.

And yes, I still love Rob Thurman’s writing.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Roc

 

Anthologies

 

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (2008) edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

Gift Wrap - Charlaine Harris
Haire of the Beast - Donna Andrews
Lucy, at Christmastime - Simon R. Green
Night Things Changed - Dana Cameron
Werewolf before Christmas - Kat Richardson
Fresh Meat - Alan Gordon
Il Est Ne - Carrie Vaughn
Perfect Gift - Dana Stabenow
Christmas Past - Keri Arthur
SA - J.A. Konrath
Star of David - Patricia Briggs
You'd Better Not Pyout - Nancy Pickard
Rogue Elements - Karen Chance
Milk and Cookies - Rob Thurman
Keeping Watch over his Flock - Toni L. P. Kelner

 

 

 

Kicking It (2013) edited by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price

Kicking-It

“Forked Tongues” by Rachel Caine
“Stolen Goods” by Shannon K. Butcher
“The Girl with No Name” by Chris Marie Green
“The Devil’s Left Boot” by Faith Hunter
“High Stakes” by Chloe Neill
“The Parlor” by Lucienne Diver
“Red Really Isn’t My Color” by Christina Henry
“Snakeskin” by Rob Thurman
“Ruby Red” by Kalayna Price

I’ll be blunt–I didn’t read all these stories. If a story didn’t hook me within the first couple pages, I moved onto the next story. The stories I did read, however, I typically enjoyed a lot.

...

“Snakeskin” by Rob Thurman is a Trixa Iktomi story, but you absolutely don’t have to know anything about the main character to enjoy the story–and Trixa: “I didn’t have bad hair days. I had unique-hair days.” I need to remember that one.

A woman comes to Trixa with a problem she thinks Trixa can solve–for a price, of course. And even knowing Trixa was a trickster, I was still surprised by the ending.

Lying is an art. Poorly done, of course, that’s a shame and annoying as hell. But brilliantly done, bless, you just have to stand back and applaud the artist.

I really liked this story. (9/10)

...

As I wrote this, I discovered what the problem is with some of the anthologies I’ve been reading recently: Authors don’t know how to write short stories. Anthologies like this make me understand why many people don’t like short stories and avoid anthologies. Which is too bad, because a well-written short story is a joy and a treasure.

But writing short stories is a skill, and one which many of these authors simply haven’t honed. Taking an existing world and writing a brief tale in which existing characters have an adventure is not writing a short story.

A short story involves giving the reader everything they need to fall into your world in a small package. If enjoying the story requires already being familiar with your world and your characters, you haven’t actually written a short story.

All of which is too bad, because, as I said, I love well-written short stories. And there were some well-written short stories here. There were just more stories that weren’t. So I can’t really recommend this anthology, I can just recommend that you look for stories that were good, to pop-up on-line as short story eBooks or perhaps, later, as part of different anthologies.
Rating: 2/10

 

 

Rob Thurman's website