Nightlife by Rob Thurman
The world is full of monsters. Cal Leandros knows that intimately, seeing as he is half Grendel himself, and his less-than-human father has been chasing him for years. Cal has no idea what his dear old dad wants from him, but he sure as hell isn’t sticking around to find out. He and his half-brother Niko are determined to stay free and one step ahead of all the nasties that are hunting them, even if it means running for the rest of their lives.
Now it seems like they haven’t been running fast enough because the enemy is on their doorstep, ready to make Cal into an unwilling tool in their bloody world-domination. With Cal’s own dual-nature making things difficult and all his monstrous relatives arrayed against them, the fate of the world seems bleak. Niko may be one bad-ass big brother, but these odds might make even him pause, and hesitation at this point would be deadly for everyone.
This book was so much fun to read with its snarky main character and his monster-butt-kicking older brother. Breathtaking fight scenes are liberally interspersed with snappy dialogue and even snappier internal monologue.
Kudos to Rob Thurman, who is a woman by the way, for coming out with such an authentically male voice in a genre filled with female protagonists. Nightlife is not a paranormal romance, not anywhere close. It is a dark, action-packed, urban fantasy. But the jewel that shines through this darkness is the narrator. Compelling just isn’t a big enough word for Cal’s gritty voice and the attitude that drips from every one of his lines. He’s the kind of character that doesn’t just leap off the page, he rummages through your fridge and settles himself on your couch with his feet on the coffee table.
Cal by himself is great, but Cal’s interaction with Niko, and eventually with Robin Goodfellow, just brings the characterization in this book to a whole new level. Robin, who is the original, lusty Puck from Shakespearean legend, provides a comical foil to the two brothers, and the dynamic between them had me laughing frequently. In contrast, the very real, very intense relationship between Cal and Niko made their love and their pain bittersweet and tangible.
While the characters were the ones to really carry this book- heck, they hefted it over their shoulders and ran with it- the plot was nothing to scoff at either. Hilarious and heart-wrenching in turns, it kept me reading long past my bedtime. And it shines consistently through multiple readings. The second time around, I knew what was going to happen, I knew where the twists were, and I still found myself holding my breath.
One of those twists was even more poignant for the extra scrutiny. It isn’t unusual in fantasy to see possessions or brainwashings, but generally the reader gets to sit outside with the loved ones of the affected, watching the results with omnipotent anguish. Without giving anything away, I think I can safely say that it was a unique and chilling experience being inside Cal’s head for the last half of this book.
Some confusing sentence structure and tricky paragraphing did have me re-reading sections for clarity. My only other complaint about this book was that it wasn’t long enough, and I was left wanting more. And lucky for me there is more. Nightlife is followed by Moonshine and it doesn’t look like the Leandros brothers are calling it quits anytime soon.