Cal Leandros, Part I

I often use Amazon.com’s recommendation list to look for new books to read.  This doesn’t always come out well, as I’m sure you well know.  However, sometimes it pops up with some gems.  I found author Rob Thurman through the recommendations list on Amazon.com.

The first book of hers the list came up with was Deathwish. Unfortunately this was book 4 of a series that is 5 books total so far, so I was a little confused when I started reading it. Actually…I was a lot confused, and it put me off reading it for a while.  So did her writing style for this particular series.

Each chapter would start off with the name of a character (Cal, Nico, Promise etc).  That chapter would then be written from that character’s perspective.  Occasionally she will go over an event twice, once from Cal’s POV and once from Nico’s.  Generally speaking, if she went into details on some sort of action scene while under Cal’s POV, she would not rehash it in equal detail under Nico’s POV, which was good.

Deathwish kind of starts out in the middle of an action sequence that would have made a lot more sense to me if Amazon had bothered to inform me of the fact that this was book 4 of a series.  They do now list it as Deathwish (Cal Leandros, Book 4).  However, once I got over the fact that I was picking up in the middle of the series, it’s actually an enjoyable book.

The main character is, obviously now, Cal Leandros.  Cal being short for Caliban. Those of us who either had to read Shakespeare in high school or rather enjoy the Bard now that we have free time, will recognize the name from The Tempest as the sad and comic monster figure who was working for Propsero, though not because he wanted to. Cal may be a monster (being part Auphe) but he isn’t sad and is only occasionally comic.

He has an older brother by the name of Nico who basically took care of him from the moment he was born to present.  Nico knew what Cal was long before Cal ever did and he trained his brother from day one for the fact that one day, they were going to have one hell of a fight on their hands.

One of the more enjoyable characters of this arc is a puck named Robin Goodfellow. This character could, has and probably will again starred in pornos, written to Penthouse and authored the Kama Sutra.  And he is willing to expound upon it at length. Not that she ever gets truly graphic with it, but it is there.  The character of Robin Goodfellow is quite entertaining though and is definitely the main comic relief (just don’t say that to his face).

As you may have guessed, Rob Thurman isn’t afraid to break out the cussing, the violence or the sex.  There isn’t really an instance of overt sex in the book, but it is talked about ad nauseum by Goodfellow.  I don’t mind.  It makes it a little more realistic. If you’re getting into the situations that these two brothers get into on a regular basis, and you aren’t cussing a blue streak then, as Lewis Black says, “you have anger issues”.

At any rate, Deathwish was an enjoyable book and one that kept me guessing quite a bit.  I have a problem with being able to fairly accurately guess the outcome of things like books, TV shows and movies. It impresses my husband and sometimes my friends, but it also can make it hard to really get into a book.  When I think I figure it out, I start mentally going “please don’t let it turn out like I think it’ll turn out”. I didn’t really have that thought with this or the other two books of hers that I’ve read.

Eventually I might read the first three books of the Cal Leandros arc, but for now I have this one and Roadkill under my belt.  I grade this book as a B since I did have a tough time starting it and staying with it, but it was good overall. I would recommend starting at the beginning of the series because I would have if I’d known it was a series.

Back to My Beginnings

I am really into vampires.  No, they aren’t real. No, I don’t pretend to be one.  And again, they do not sparkle! But I very much like to read books where the main characters are vamps.  It all started for me with the movie Interview with the Vampire.  Yes, the movie.  Before that, I always thought of fantasy creatures such as vampires and werewolves were scary.  This is probably because my dad liked the original Dracula with Bela Lugosi and other classic horror movies and impressed upon me that vampires = scary.

The movie Interview with the Vampire changed that perspective for me. I wasn’t really scared of anything in that movie. I was, however, very intrigued.  Vampires weren’t entirely monstrous.  Indeed, the main character of the movie, Louis, tries very much to be human.  He attempts not to live off human blood for the longest time and he treats Claudia as a daughter.

I watched that movie twice in a row the day I rented it.  The rest of my family thought I was nuts. They didn’t like the movie and I couldn’t really explain my infatuation with it. But when I watched it the second time (with the lights off, to increase the ambiance), I noticed that it was based on a novel by author Anne Rice.

I think I was in junior high school at this time, and I was mostly into reading Star Trek book s (Yes, I am a Trekkie-I was born one) and Three Investigators novels (which I recommend for younger readers).  I was a little wary about starting Interview with the Vampire.  Oh. My. God.  It was an amazing book.

To this day, I still own the first copy of it I ever read.  This is an A+ book.  Anne Rice has a beautiful way with words. You can almost see and feel what the characters are seeing and feeling.  Lestat could have been an entirely unlikable character what with how much he thinks only of himself, but there are layers to him that you can’t help but fall in love with.

Interview with the Vampire was the first in a series of novels by Anne Rice revolving around an core group of vampires (Lestat, Louis, Armand et al) and humans (the ‘boy’ reporter Daniel and a secretive group called the Talamasca).  The Vampire Chronicles arc spans eons, from Ancient Egypt to present, and does it well.  I suppose it isn’t quite ‘urban’ fantasy in its entirety, but still well worth the read. To this day, one of my favorite authors is Anne Rice.

A Little Something from the Nightside

My brother got me into British author Simon R. Green around ten years ago with Green’s Hawk and Fisher story arc.  I love Simon R. Green. He is one of my favorite authors.  One of his newer story arcs is his Nightside novels, featuring the not-quite-human P.I. John Taylor.  The Nightside novels take place in modern day London, in the secret, dark and hidden heart of it called the Nightside where it is always 3 o’clock in the morning.

I was originally a little suspect of these books, I must confess.  I had previously read all the books of Green’s I could get my hands on, the Hawk and Fisher novels and the Deathstalker series, both of them very good.  However, neither of those arcs are set in modern times, so I was a little worried that Green’s  graphic and extraordinary imagination wouldn’t mix well with “the real world” of London, or anywhere else for that matter. Thinking back on it now, this was really my first introduction to anything that was both urban/contemporary/modern mixed with fantasy.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first novel, Something From the Nightside.  Green was the snarky, dry British writer that I’d enjoyed previously and he created such an amazing, if somewhat frightening and disturbing, place in the Nightside.  Anything can happen there, and often times does.  His lead character, John Taylor, is severely flawed and you can’t quite figure out if you love him or hate him.  But Taylor’s enough of an underdog that you just have to root for him.

Green’s novels aren’t for anyone who can’t stand graphic descriptions of blood, guts, gore and anything else he can come up with.  He is so wonderfully descriptive that you’re almost there with the characters, like it or not.  I love a writer who can make you feel like you’re there.  If I could meet any one of the writers in enjoy reading, I think it would be him.

His Nightside arc is currently 11 novels long, with a 12th to be released in 2011 (can’t wait!!!). I think originally it was supposed to be far less, but either her really loves this arc or his fans do. Or both. Either way, I’m not complaining.

The books:

  • Something from the Nightside: First book of the series and it does a good job of introducing the characters. John Taylor gets pulled back into the Nightside after years of trying to make it in real world London as a specatcularly failing P.I. I personally thought it wasn’t the best of the bunch, but it grabbed my interest enough to read the next one.  B-
  • Angels of Light and Darkness: Angels from Above and Below (yes, the caps are needed) come to the Nightside looking for an extremely powerful, but not quite holy, relic.  Taylor is highered to find it before they do. More Razor Eddie (one of my personal favorite characters) in this one. B+
  • Nightengale’s Lament: An interesting concept of a singer whose voice is powerful enough to sway people’s emotions…but something’s not quite right with her. Enter John Taylor and one of my other personal favorite characters, Dead Boy. Solid story, but not quite as good as later stories.  Doesn’t add much to John Taylor’s “mysterious past”, but a good break from the overall seriousness. B
  • Hex and the City: John Taylor is hired to look into the mysterious origins of the Nightside and, just possibly, his long lost and most definitely not human mother.  You’re just starting to get into the meat of Taylor’s mystery with this one.  A
  • Paths Not Taken: This one starts off delightfully light and off beat, with a plain and simple human from real London getting lost in the Nightside.  This little side bit is fun and snarky and gives you a little break from the seriousness of the rest of the book, in which Taylor travels back in time, still investigating the origins of the Nightside.  He is accompanied by Susie Shooter (otherwise known as Oh Christ, it’s her RUN!) and Tommy Oblivion, the existential detective.  A
  • Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth: *Spoiler Alert-sorta* End to the Lilith story.  I think that this story could have been cut short a bit and tacked on the end of Paths Not Taken.  I liked it, but I felt it took just a bit too long. B
  • Hell to Pay: This is the first novel after the Lilith War ended. I was really, really interested in how Green handled the fact that Taylor had relatively more freedom now that he changed his fate, and I was pleased to see it was done well.  Taylor is still Taylor, he doesn’t let his new found relative freedom get to his head. A
  • The Unnatural Inquirer: This one is just fun.  Sure it still has it’s moments of gore and violence, but you just can’t help but have fun with Taylor is teamed up with a Demon Girl Reporter who is, in fact, half Succubus. A+
  • Just Another Judgment Day: The Walking Man comes to the Nightside and all hell breaks loose. Again. B+
  • The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny: Walker, the man who passes for law and order in the Nightside, is dying and is looking for someone to take his place when he goes.  Enter John Taylor, who really doesn’t want the job. At all.  But not all is as it seems. It never is, with Walker.  A
  • A Walk on the Nightside: This is a compilation of the first three novels of the Nightside.  Since I gave them all a different score, I guess I can just put this in as a solid B.

I can’t wait for the next novel which is, supposedly, called A Hard Day’s Knight.  This can, of course, change as the release date comes closer, but it seems to fit with his pun-tastic titles.