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The Leandros Brothers are Back

Moonshine by Rob Thurman

Cal and Niko are back in New York after saving the world from the machinations of Cal’s unpleasant relatives. With the Auphe out of the picture, Cal’s biggest worries are having to work for his living and keeping his burgeoning love for cute, psychic George under wraps. He and Niko have started their own monster-ass-kicking business with occasional help from Robin Goodfellow and Promise Nottinger, Niko’s vampiric love interest. One of their first jobs is an undercover gig with the werewolf mafia, but what seems at first to be a straightforward assignment quickly goes downhill. When George is kidnapped they realize that they’re caught up in something far more sinister, and now Cal has to conquer his inner monster in order to rescue her. And if that isn’t enough to keep this dynamic duo on their toes, it seems like the Auphe might not be as extinct as they thought.

 

Cal and Niko are as snarky and bad-ass as ever in this sequel to Nightlife. They might bear scars from their previous ordeal, but they’re not letting a little emotional trauma get in their way. Fans of the first book will be glad to see the return of Robin Goodfellow and George, the psychic.

While I love the dynamic between the brothers, it was nice to see Cal operating on his own for a bit in this book. Niko wasn’t always there to sweep him out of trouble and as a result we got to see Cal step up and hold his own against the baddies. He even got to do some brother rescuing himself.

Cal still struggles with his nature, but there are some new angles that bring out the depth of Cal’s character. He knows he’s not a monster – that was covered in the first book – but now he has to overcome some scary Auphe-like rage and emerging abilities that remind him of a time best left forgotten. I’m really impressed with how Rob Thurman has created this character that is so easy to love without shying away from the darker, grittier aspects of his being half monster. I especially liked that Moonshine begins a discussion about Cal’s future with George and all the messy possibilities his dual-nature brings up. It definitely is something that would have been easy to glaze over, but Thurman doesn’t pull her punches.

I would have liked to see more development of Promise as a character. To me she felt a little flat. She’s introduced as a love interest for Niko in Nightlife but not a lot is said about their relationship or how it develops. This is all right at first because it rings true for the style of the book and Cal’s limited viewpoint. She has a much more substantial role in Moonshine, but our knowledge of her doesn’t really grow with that role. She was just there with very little explanation about her background or why she is with Niko at all. I feel like she could be really interesting if given a chance, but we don’t know enough about her to tell. Her interactions with Cal were very promising, and I’m hoping that her character continues to expand throughout the rest of the series.

I’m a big fan of this series. The characters have really stuck with me, and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow – and occasionally backslide. If you want to find other great books, check out my shelves on Goodreads.

I’ve realized I’m rather behind. Rob Thurman just came out with the seventh book, Doubletake. I’ve read the whole series, but as you can see, I’m still reviewing the second one. I’d really like to give a timely review of the newest book, but I’m kind of a completionist, and I feel weird jumping ahead. So what do you think? Should I go ahead and skip to the newest book, or should I plug away and do them all eventually?

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Dodging Monsters with the Leandros Brothers

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.

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