Nightlife by Rob Thurman
published by ROC Fantasy in March 2006
There are monsters among us. There always have been and there always will be. I’ve known that ever since I can remember, just like I’ve always known I was one…
… Well, half of one, anyway.
Welcome to the Big Apple. 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 – and that’s only the beginning. Of course, most humans are oblivious to the preternatural nightlife around them, 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. Why? Cal hasn’t wanted to stick around long enough to find out.
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… for 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…
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros Serie (Half Human, Half Monster, All Attitude) Book #1
Nath: So I really liked Nightlife and I’m so glad that Leslie reviewed it, making me pick it up :P But what about you Hilcia? Did you enjoy Nightlife or do you have regrets letting me talk you into it? :P
Hilcia: No regrets here, Nath. I really enjoyed Nightlife. I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to UF, having only read 3 series so far... but, I enjoyed and loved what I saw as a good change of pace in this one -- the brothers! We get the 1st POV, the smartass, sarcastic attitude from Cal, AND the "kickass" characteristics from Nik, all usually found in UF in one character... but boy, oh boy... that relationship between the two brothers really made the difference for me.
Nath: Me too!! I definitively believe it’s Cal and Niko’s sibling relationship that made this book so good! I just love their relationship! There’s so much love and loyalty in their bond despite their different personalities. It’s the little extra something that makes this book stand out from all the other urban fantasy novels out there.
Hilcia: Absolutely! Thurman took her time developing the relationship at the beginning of the book and it worked... you can really feel the love between those two. Nik's loyalty, protectiveness and love towards Cal -- his willingness to do anything to protect him -- and Cal just totally worships him in return. Cal KNOWS he's lucky, don't you think?
Nath: Definitively. There’s a ton of emotions between the two, not only love and loyalty, but also trust, faith and guilt… Their understanding of each other also allows so much to be unspoken, but they know and that’s the most important.
Of course, in order to convey so many feelings, it means that the brothers’ relationship was extremely well-written. I felt that the characters remained real and “manly.” What I mean is that Niko and Cal acted like any brothers out there – taking shots at each other, keeping their deepest feelings quiet, etc. They weren’t too maudlin, didn’t use weird vocabulary and/or act too effeminate ^_^; That despite being a woman, Ms Thurman portrayed them well which is always tricky when your main characters are from the opposite gender. That’s a rare feat in my opinion.
So we’ve talked about the relationship, but what about Cal and Niko as individuals? Cal is a pretty interesting character, very complex. He’s such a smartass, LOL. I think that without Niko, Cal could have turned “evil.” As it is, Niko’s love keeps him grounded… human.
Hilcia: I don't think Cal would have survived his childhood without Nik's love and protection. I don't know if he would have survived Sophia, his mother, or the rest without him. Nik has that "motherly" attitude towards him, but in a "brotherly" way... if you know what I mean. I agree, without Nik, Cal would not have had the moral grounding that makes him the man he has become. Nik is Cal's conscience, I think -- he keeps the Grendel away.
Being secured in Nik's love, Cal has developed that bratty brother attitude that I liked so much. I loved Cal's sarcastic, smartass "voice" -- even when he was feeling guilty, having doubts or just wanting the best for Nik, he was funny in a dark sort of way. I laughed out loud quite a few times.
Nath: I had quite a few laughs as well, especially his logic and conclusions sometimes :) He reminds me a little of Harry Dresden in the Dresden Files… especially when he’s being sarcastic. However, Cal is not as funny, but he sure has this bad boy aura around him. Still, he’s not a bad-ass either; he’s quite sensitive. He might not voice them, but Cal has feelings other than anger and coldness. It makes for an interesting narrator and I love his sarcasm. Although, did you notice that most 1st POV nowadays are all cynical and sarcastic? I guess plain, normal doesn't cut it anymore… or very rarely.
Hilcia: Yes, I agree on the sarcastic, 1st POV voice, nath. Cal supplies that part of the UF "formula" in this series -- and it does seem to be a formula -- although I must admit, I enjoyed it coming from him, lol!
Nath: No complaint from me and after all, it works :) It’s also a good contrast with Nik’s seriousness… Awww, Niko…. I I looooooved Niko!! He is just soooo awesome! LOL :)
Hilcia: Oh yesss! Nik was THE rock in the relationship, wasn't he? I loved that he is the human, yet he's the kickass hero of the piece. Yummy too! *g*
Nath: Yep, yep, definitively yummy. I think that he’s an awesome character and very impressive as well. I mean, it seems that he learned everything himself – how to fight, how to take care of Cal, etc. Can you imagine, being on the run from monsters, taking care of a kid and surviving? The character strength it shows? I mean wow. He’s also so self-sacrificing when it comes to Cal… You can’t help but fall for Niko and root for him. In a way, I find that his character overshadows Cal a little bit… what do you think?
Hilcia: Oh, I was definitely rooting for Nik! But I don't know about him necessarily overshadowing Cal. Cal sees his brother as a big hero and he worships him -- he's bigger than life in Cal's eyes -- and we're seeing Nik from Cal's POV. I thought Cal was definitely central to the story as a character. They both had important roles to play, and I thought Thurman did an excellent job of balancing those roles... I liked them both equally, if for different reasons.
Nath: What about the rest of the characters? I think Ms Thurman did a good job, introducing the readers to many quite unknown or less popular paranormal species. I seriously did not know what a puck was!! Well I know what a hockey puck is, but I don’t think that’s what Ms Thurman is referring to :P
Hilcia: I agree, Nath. I not only liked the other species that were introduced, but the way some other familiar ones seem different here (the werewolves)... and let me tell you, some of them are right down scary!
Hah! I looooved Goodfellow, the puck! I recognized him from mythology (Greek)... he's taken from one of the gods (Pan)... but really, I'm loving what Thurman did with this character. She made him into a sad/lonely/full of himself / horny as heck PAN! I really want to know more about him! Don't you?
Nath: I liked Goodfellow quite a lot as well :) I was curious about him, because I saw his name in Leslie’s review… I was a little bit confused at first because I didn’t know what a puck/pan was exactly and even after reading the description in Wikipedia, I’m not sure… but I quickly realized that I don’t care LOL :) He entertains me and that’s what matters :) I think Goodfellow brings something really good to the mix. He definitively livens things up :) Great contrast with Niko's seriousness and Cal's cynicism. At the same time, he's not just there for comedy relief. As you mentioned, he has a lot more depth than one could imagine.
Hilcia: Goodfellow... what a great sidekick! I'm afraid I fell hard for the goat boy, lol! And jeez... he fell for Nik. Hmmm.... who wouldn't? LOL! But yeah, I'm hoping for some development in his character in future. :)
What did you think of the female characters in the book?
Nath: I think it’s cute that Goodfellow fell for Niko and it explains well why Goodfellow stuck with them. At the same time, can’t help but feel a little sad for Goodfellow, because we all know that Niko will never reciprocate his feelings :(
As for female characters… Hmm, I’m reserving judgment for now :P So far, we have been introduced to only 2, Georgina and Promise, and neither played a big role, so it’s hard to pin them down. I have to admit though, Promise is not what I expected ^_^; I knew she was a vampire, but I did not know she had 5 old husbands and inherited great fortunes from each of them... it makes her sound so gold-digger and mercenary ^_^; As for Georgina, I think Cal has met his match :) I’m definitively looking forward to read more about them in the next books!
Hilcia: Yeah... the female characters were a bit of a puzzle in the book. It's seen from Cal's POV, so we know little at this point. But not developed here -- a bit of a mystery both of them.
That whole scene with Georgie's ghost or whatever that was, at the Diner was a bit strange... I was hoping for an explanation.
Nath: Yeah, it was never really explained. We know that Georgie is a psychic – a seer. My hypothesis is that she’s able to do astral projection, that would explain the scene and it wouldn’t be too far-fetched given she’s a psychic already.
All right, onto the plot! What did you think of it? I thought it took a lot of time before the “story” really started. Ms Thurman spent a lot of time building the brothers’ relationship. So while there was action, I think it was less than most UF novels…
Hilcia: I did find that the "narration" went on a bit long at times and the "dialogue" part of the story was short changed, especially on the second part of the story. I think it slowed things down a bit.
Nath: I think it was actually cool that when Cal got possessed by Darkling, readers continued to get Cal/Darkling POV. First, it’s so rare that the hero or anti-hero gets possessed and when it happens, s/he usually disappear swhile the other characters search of him/her. In Nightlife, it was the opposite; we stayed with Cal/Darkling, got to witness all of Darkling’s evilness, and we missed Niko and Goodfellow’s search for Cal. But yeah, there was a lack of dialogue in the second half since Cal/Darkling didn’t have anyone to talk to ^_^;
Hilcia: I liked the transition in "voices" between Cal and Darkling -- it was quite pronounced and I thought well done. I also must admit to loving the evilness of the character. He was one scary egomaniac! The length of his internal dialogues, hmmm... I thought were too long sometimes. I think I was expecting a bit more action at that point... although the action did come!
Nath: You definitively could tell the difference between Cal and Darkling. In a way, it was quite creepy, as if it was split personality. The overall plotline was quite interesting and clever as well. The most important I think is that it’s not random, it explains Cal’s existence - it usually takes forever before character’s purposes are explained LOL.
There were also some interesting twists that I didn't totally expect and I love the fact that Cal and Niko are self-trained and so strong. It’s quite impressive :)
Hilcia: Speaking of creepy, who scared you the most in this book?
Nath: That’s a good question… Quite frankly, I don't think the Auphe were scary at all and I don’t understand why Cal is so afraid of them. Okay, yes, I do know… in Cal’s case, it’s more psychological and for Niko, it’s more the fact that he’s afraid of losing Cal.
So I would say the troll or even Darkling! Glad by the way that he’s dead and there’s no chance he’ll come back LOL :P
Hilcia: I agree with you Nath. The Grendels/Auphe were not clearly drawn for me for some reason. They seemed really scary at the beginning and then became kind of meh later on. Frankly, Darkling and the troll scared me a lot more...
Nath: Well see, the thing about the Auphe... is that they seemed easy to dispose. I mean, how did such a fearful race dwindled down so much? Also, Niko seemed to be able to fight them quite easily (okay, granted, Niko is very highly trained)… But for example, in the showdown in the warehouse, you can see that guns are effective against them… unlike Abby and other races. So they are definitively not invincible. So the fear factor isn't there. The ick factor, perhaps, yes, but the fear factor? Nope.
Nath: So how would you grade Nightlife? I’m giving it a B+. I really enjoyed it. I think it’s a good first book and it stands out quite well… and I just love the characters! :)
Hilcia: Well, for me it was definitely a B+ read, Nath. I loved the characterization, the world building was good and the plot definitely kept my attention. I already purchased the next one *g*...
Nath: Psst, I just realized that the author has another new series starting on September 1st!! Trick of the Light. Sigh, another book to add to my TBB list! LOL :P