NIGHTLIFE (Cal Leandros #1)
by Rob Thurman
PUBLISHER: Berkley (UK) | Roc Fantasy (US)
RELEASE DATE: Nov 2011 (UK) | March 2006 (US)
FORMAT: Paperback, 339 pages
GENRE: Urban fantasy
There are monsters among us. There always have been and there always will be. I’ve known that since I can remember, just like I’ve always known I was one… Well, half of one, anyway. Welcome to the Big Apple. In New York, there’s a troll under the Brooklyn Bridge, a boggle in Central Park, and a beautiful vampire in a penthouse on the Upper East Side. Of course, most humans are oblivious to this, but Cal Leandros is only half-human. His father’s dark lineage is the stuff of nightmares-and he and his entire otherworldly race are after Cal. He and his half-brother Niko have managed to stay a step ahead for three years, but now Cal’s dad has found them again. And Cal is about to learn why they want him, why they’ve always wanted him: He is the key to unleashing their hell on earth. The fate of the human world will be decided in the fight of Cal’s life… (Goodreads)
NIGHTLIFE by Rob Thurman is as much a tale of family values as of demons and darkness, with the brotherly bond between the protagonists forming a basis for the plot. The novel contains a multitude of supernatural elements, from conventional vampires and werewolves to new creations of the boggle and Auphe. Fight scenes are scattered throughout the text, displaying a mastery of various weaponry.
The protagonist, Caliban Leandros, is the first of his kind, half-Auphe, half-human, and born to a mother who has no love for him. His very name of ‘Caliban’ demonstrates her dislike of him (named after the human-beast creature in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’), hence the shortening to ‘Cal’, with the ‘Auphe’ being a demonic elf-like creature, incapable of love. The Auphe are after Cal, having watched over him for years, finally taking him at the age of 14. They pulled him through a gate, only for him to emerge again two years older than when he left. Cal fought his way back to the human world, to his older brother Niko, for them both to go on the run in a bid to escape recapture.
This novel takes place after four years on the run, with the brothers trying to keep a low profile, obsessed with security, and keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity. The Auphe threat is difficult to describe, with the brothers referring to them as Grendels for the better part of the novel. Thurman describes them as having, ‘pale skin and paler hair a luminescent smear in the gloom. Every eye was fixed on me with a maniacal and almost coveting glee.’ They covet power, and apparently need Cal in order to get it, with their true aims being revealed at the end of the novel.
NIGHTLIFE is told from the first person perspective of Cal, who seemingly has a very sarcastic outlook on life, critiquing every event that occurs. These sarky comments are amusing at times and aggravating at others, I found myself wanting him to be more grown up and serious, wishing the novel was narrated by his brother Niko instead. However, the author does capture Cal’s inner turmoil of whether or not he is a monster, causing the reader to sympathise with him.
On the other hand, Cal’s brother Niko is completely different, a highly focused and intelligent individual with superb fighting skills. He is devoted to his younger brother, his main goal to keep Cal alive. However, there is seemingly nothing wrong with Niko, he is too perfect, his attractiveness gaining him female attention to top off his perfect combat skills and intellect.
However, as much as I liked the two main characters and the brotherly banter that passes between them, I felt that the plot lacked substance. For the first half of the novel I wasn’t sure if the plot was actually building up to anything significant, the author not giving away enough clues to keep me interested in the storyline. The characters were the only elements that kept me interested in reading on, with the car salesman, Robin, providing some brilliant comic moments with the brothers, boasting of his exploits with women (and men).
Overall, I found the book to be pretty average, and as a first book in a series I’m not sure if I want to read on. There were a few underdeveloped characters that are clearly going to be developed in later novels, but aside from those there is little indication of any continuing plot points. I wasn’t a fan of Thurman’s writing style, particularly with the narrative shift in the middle of the novel, as I didn’t enjoy the perspective change. As a debut novel this wasn’t a disaster, and I may think about giving the next book in the series a chance to see how her writing style develops.
I found this book to be very average, perhaps a reflection of being the author’s debut novel. Despite liking the relationship between the brothers, it felt like there was a lack of plot throughout the first half of the novel, with the novel taking a long time to progress.
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