Kidding aside, thanks Leslie for introducing me to this wonderful series and also for your patience.
For those who are curious, yes, a review for Moonshine and Madhouse will be up eventually. It's just that this review is ready, so I want to put it up :)
***LOTS of spoilers!! You have been warned!!***
Deathwish by Rob Thurman
published by ROC Fantasy in March 2009
How I felt the mental stirrings of a bloodthirsty heritage when I passed through the gray light wasn’t my favorite topic… The Auphe nature wasn’t mine. I wouldn’t let it be. And if I said that to myself over and over and sprinkled around enough frigging fairy dust, maybe it would be true.
Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, are barely getting by with their preternatural detective agency when the vampire Seamus hires them. He’s being followed, and he wants to know by whom. But the Leandros brothers have to do more than they had planned when Seamus turns up dead (or un-undead).
Worse still is the return of Cal’s nightmarish family, the Auphe. The last time Cal and Niko faced them, the Auphe were almost wiped out. Now they want revenge. Cal knows that before the Auphe get to him, they will try to destroy everything and everyone he holds dear. Because for the Auphe, Cal’s pain is a pleasure.
And they’re feeling good.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros series, book #4
The Story: The story is pretty much as described in the blurb. Deathwish picks up right where Madhouse left with Cal facing the Auphe. Cal and Niko quickly realize that the Auphe are toying with them. They don’t just want revenge from Cal for his betrayal… they need him because he is the last male Auphe… and to make him comply, they’ll kill and torture everyone whom Cal cares for – Niko, Promise, Robin, Georgina... Figuring safety is in number, Cal and company await the battle together, but at the same time, life still must go on and therefore accept a case referred by Promise. Of course, everything gets more complicated when Promise’s daughter, Cherish, shows up with a South American warlord on her tail…
Leslie: Deathwish is the fourth book in the series and while some series might slow down at this point, Cal, Niko and Co. are still going strong. I absolutely love this series! The character development and the progression of the relationships are never overshadowed by the continuing world building or the introduction of new characters. This time around Thurman has given the reader a real treat - Niko's POV!
Nath: Oh, I definitively agree with you, Leslie. I think that the Leandros brothers actually came back very strong with this book. I thought the storylines were very engaging and interesting… but I gotta agree with you, the best thing about Deathwish was getting Niko’s POV . It definitively makes this series better and stronger in my opinion, because getting Niko’s POV adds a lot to the storyline and the brothers' relationship.
Leslie: Yes, we get to hear what's been going on in his head. I knew, as I got to know Niko from the first three books, that he's a very complex, multi-layer character. Reading his POV just enforces that conclusion.
Nath: Nod nod. I think that Ms Thurman did a great job with the alternating narrator. There was a good balance, each getting a chapter one after the other – neither stealing the spotlight. And I have to say, it definitively made the brothers’ relationship more powerful. I mean, we knew that the brothers loved and trusted each other, but to really read and witness it… I teared up a lot reading this book :P
Leslie: Reading Niko's perspective and his feelings on everything that he and Cal went through, especially when they were kids, wasn't an easy read. I teared up too.
Nath: I liked Niko before, but after reading Deathwish? I love him even more. This book has reminded me at how young Niko is actually. To have gone through so much at such a young age... Sigh.
In my previous review with Hilcia, we said that Cal would never have made it without Niko... I never realized before reading this book that it was true as well for Niko; without Cal, Niko would never had the same purposes in life and he wouldn't be the man he is now.
Leslie: Niko is mine! Sorry, that just slipped out. :P
Without Cal, the need for Niko to be all badass ninja wouldn't exist. I don't see Niko becoming a couch potato but without Cal, I don't think Niko would have been so intense and driven in everything he does. He pushes Cal hard but pushes himself just as hard if not harder. Cal's funny when he thinks about physically retaliating against Niko and he goes through the scenario of "If I hit him here, he'll hit me there and then I'll hit him and he'll hit back..." He knows he'll usually end up the worse for it but sometimes he just goes for it anyway. I really love their relationship. Thurman writes the male/brother relationship very well.
Nath: LOL, I'll let you have your claim. I don't see Niko turning into a couch potato either... but I wonder if he'd be as righteous and “honorable.” Before Deathwish, I never thought of how crucial Cal is to Niko’s being. There’s no denying that having to take care of Cal has shaped Niko’s life – he had to be strong and responsible. At the same time, he had someone to rely on and I guess, someone to keep him… hmmm… grounded. So I wonder how different Niko would be if Cal had never existed. I can’t believe he’d be a bad man, but perhaps he’d be bitterer.
And yes, Ms Thurman does a great job at writing their relationship. It feels real and that’s what makes this series stands out so much in my opinion. Actually, I think she simply has a knack writing relationships :) I have to say, one of the most interesting ones in this series is the love triangle between Delilah, Cal and Georgina. What do you think of Delilah, Leslie?
I like Delilah. I think she’s very different from the other female characters in other urban fantasy series. Yes, she’s kick-ass, but there’s a mercenary edge to her… I do think she fits Cal better... but at the same time, I can't help but wonder where her loyalties lie. I have to say, Ms Thurman completely took me by surprise by introducing Delilah and having Cal exploring their possible something.
Leslie: I think Delilah is exactly the type of umm, "woman" Cal needs. I like George but she and Cal just don't fit at this point. I think if Cal and George had been together it would have made his decision to let her go that much harder.
As for Delilah's loyalty - I think it ultimately lies with her and what's best for her. Right now her relationship with Cal doesn't conflict with that but if it did... not sure if Cal could count on her.
Nath: Hmmm, that’s what I was afraid of. So far, I like what I’m seeing between Cal and Delilah and I hope it deepens into something more, something stronger and deeper… However, the biggest problem so far is that I cannot see Delilah settling down with Cal. The woman is ambitious... Cal is lazy :P At this point, their bond is not strong enough and like you say, we’re not sure if Cal can trust her to be there :( I hope this isn’t foreshadowing some future problems in their relationship!.. I’d like to see more of Delilah’s character in the next book, some development - because so far, readers don’t actually know her…
In any case, I like Delilah better than George. George is definitively Cal’s first love; however, first love is not always the lasting one. It’s one that he’ll remember forever yes… but it’s just not the one meant to be. It was sad that Cal had to let her go, but at the same time, very mature. And I definitively support Cal in his decision. Like you say, they just don’t fit at this point.
Leslie: Agree that he needed to distance himself from her, for now at least. Also, George bugged me at times - she has this incredible ability and yet she seems so stingy with it when it really matters. Cal and Delilah are more of a friends with benefits where Cal and George have the potential for long term. But right now, George needs to keep her distance even if the Auphe are all gone. Delilah is good for Cal, but I don't see her as his lover for long. At this point he's fulfilling a need for her.
Nath: What Cal needs is someone he can trust, someone that will stand by him... but someone who can take care of herself as well. LOL, a female version of Niko!! No, just kidding :) I guess what Cal needs is a mix between Delilah and George.
I like that you brought up your annoyance with George. Once again, what is amazing with Ms Thurman is the way she shows the readers the two sides of a coin. We can see in Deathwish that Cal longs for George. Although he’s made the decision not to start a relationship with her and stay away, he still has feelings for her… and at times, he seems so miserable. At first, I had the tendency to think this was his own doing, that he brought it on himself – he’s the one who “called it off” after all… but at one point in Deathwish, Cal blames George because she doesn’t look… And then, I realized Cal was totally right. George has a huge part of responsibilities and you cannot pity her. Like you say, she has so much power and while I understand that foresight is not an easy gift and it doesn’t work just by wanting it to work… She has to at least try. Cal cannot be the only one to compromise, change his way to accommodate her. She has to work the relationship as well and so far, I haven’t seen that. It seems to me she’s just putting more pressure on him :(
Let’s move onto the other important relationship in Deathwish: Niko and Promise. I think that Deathwish was also a turning point for them with the appearance of Cherish – Promise’s daughter. I have to say, I liked Promise better in Moonshine and Madhouse... I feel like Cal - the revelations in Deathwish makes me a little bit wary of her. I understand her reasons for keeping the truth though... Cherish? Definitively not someone to brag about and it’s hard to live up to Niko’s standards, he seems so perfect.
Leslie: Promise was in a difficult position with Cherish. She knows Niko's first priority is to Cal, not her and that he doesn't deal well with liars. I can't really blame her for not telling all about Cherish and hoping that she had changed her ways. I did like seeing more of Niko and Promise's relationship. It did make me like her more than I had in the past books. It's obvious she cares for him and he, for her.
Nath: I think that after the events in this book, Promise and Niko's relationship can only become more solid, especially with the ending we got. Promise definitively cares for Niko and it shows how important he is to her. I'm glad and proud that Promise saw Cherish for what she really was and was able to let go. Sometimes, some people are just not worth sacrificing for... no matter how much you love them.
Leslie: I don't see Promise going anywhere. The way Deathwish ended - yeah, they're solid.
And Robin! Can’t review a book and not mention Robin :) I can’t wait for the next book and see if Robin and Ish’s relationship has progressed! I like the fact that Niko reminded Robin of Ish. It's hard to believe that Robin would lovesick and pine for someone!
Leslie: Back story on Robin and Ish please! I think Robin had been pining for Ish - so sweet! I loved that Niko reminded Robin of Ish, made Robin seem less selfish, more vulnerable. Do you think this means Ish will become part of the team? Maybe those two could add some the romance to the series. LOL And Robin's new pet – LOL When he tells Niko and Cal about her getting loose and going after the Great Dane. :)
Nath: Definitively!! We want to know about Robin and Ish!! At the same time, I'm not sure I want Ish to become part of the team. On one hand, I do - he seems like a very interesting characters. At the same time though, wouldn't that be too much Robin and Ish always together? Obviously, they've known each other for veeeererrrrryyyy long!! My concern is whether they’re going to stay together… So for the moment, I'm fine with him being a peripheral character. I don't necessarily need him to become part of the team, but I'd like to see more interactions between him and Robin and him and Cal.
Leslie: I would like more Ish too but not get too involved in their monster hunting.
Nath: Having Ish and Salome definitively show another side of Robin, a different and deeper one. Both are also perfect for him – long lived :)
I also like the friendship between Robin and the brothers. I think they all need each other and seeing them “opening” to each other, it’s just priceless. There’s also a great camaraderie between Robin and Cal that is endearing and very funny LOL. Surprisingly, Robin also serves as a good confident for Cal.
Also, what did you think of the plot? I like the multiple storylines – their case, Cherish and the Auphe. I think that when the characters are involved personally in the storylines, the books are better. Anyway, I really liked the plots in this one. I was a bit disappointed with Madhouse, so I’m happy here.
Leslie: Do you think all the Auphe are dead? I don't. They have to come back somehow or it would make Cal's Auphe half irrelevant. There's some hiding somewhere. They'll be back...
Nath: I think that the Auphe are dead – I trust Cal’s internal GPS. Otherwise, why would they want him so badly to be a stud? :P Although once again, don’t you think it was a bit too easy for such a bad, evil breed?
Perhaps Ms Thurman will be able to bring them up again… perhaps other half-Auphe will show up, some that were able not be picked up by the Auphe radar… However, my feeling is Ms Thurman wants to direct her series away from the Auphe and perhaps focus more on their detective agency? Also, I’ll bet you my whole collection of books that eventually, sooner or later, the Vigil will become a problem. I’m also sure, the Vigil is more than what they look like. I mean, they got Cal a nuke bomb!! LOL So the boys will be busy…
Leslie: How could I forget the Vigil, the handy monster clean up crew? And the nuke? LOL That part threw me. I mean, they must have some serious government contacts. I can see the Vigil going after Cal. Definitely think we'll see more of them.
I do like the idea of another half-Auphe or two out there. Maybe not half human but some other type of mutation. The possibilities are endless. :) I just don't think they're completely gone.
Nath: You’re absolutely right. It could be half-Auphe and half-something else LOL.
By the way, what was your favorite scene in the book? I loved the one where Cal and Niko fall from the 16th floor of the hospital and then, Niko assures Cal they will be “together.” That part was really intense.
Leslie: Their devotion is so intense. Nik's from such an early age. The part where Nik talks of the first time he saw an Auphe, he was seven and Cal was three. There are times when Thurman's writing just punches me in the gut. Definitely intense.
I've been thinking about all the different supernatural beings in this series. We have the Auphe, Puck, Weres, Vampires, Boggles, troll, Sawney Beane, Wahanket(mummy guy), mummy cat, chupacabra, revenants, angels, etc, do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed by all the different characters? Or do you think Thurman does a good job introducing the characters and their backgrounds?
Nath: I have to admit that when Ms Thurman introduces new supernatural beings, I'm always a little bit confused, because the ones she chooses are so rare in other urban fantasy/paranormal novels. However, I believe that she sticks to the popular beliefs where they are concerned and that's why she doesn't expand on them. She seems to only provide information when she makes them her own, to fit her world. I think it'd be better if she provides a little bit more information, but overall... with internet nowadays...
Leslie: That's funny you mention the net because I did look up Oshossi, never heard of him and I didn't know that Xolo was another name for the Mexican hairless breed. Thurman does use some rather obscure creatures but so far I've liked the variety.
Nath: The variety is nice, it makes the series stands out and that’s always a good thing I think.
Leslie: Also, what do think about the violence? All the books have had some very graphic scenes of blood, guts and body parts but none of them have ever left me disgusted or depressed. I think it's the normal, everyday smartass comments that are traded between the four, (Cal, Niko, Robin and now Promise) that off-sets the darker parts. I don't think I would like the books nearly as much without those comic, snarky moments.
Nath: For the violence, I think that Ms Thurman is keeping it at a respectable level. Actually, I think that some romantic suspense novels are even more gory than this series. So I don't really mind... and seriously, it is kind of expected no? The fighting in urban fantasy, hence the violence.
Leslie: Sometimes the violence for me can be a bit jarring. Cal and Rob will be making their usual wisecracks and then suddenly there's blood and guts and maiming. What I do like about the fight scenes is that I generally know where everyone is - that is I don't get very confused as far as who is fighting who/what. Sometimes during fight scenes I have to read through a couple of times to get the picture in my head but Thurman's writing works for me.
Nath: I think the trick is that Ms Thurman actually keeps the fighting scenes quite short – at least, when they face an enemy. That helps. Also, Ms Thurman does a great job balancing everything out. Like you, if there wasn't the snark, sarcasm and humor, I wouldn't be reading the series. If I want something depressing, I watch the news.
What do you think of the closed doors sex? Do you mind?
Leslie: I don't feel like the series is lacking because of it. It was nice to finally see more of Niko and Promise's relationship and more intimate moments but even those had more to do with their private conversations than the physical aspects.
Nath: I agree. I don't mind the sex behind closed doors. After all, this is urban fantasy. You know, it's all about putting things into perspectives.
Leslie: One thing that does surprise me with this series is how much I like the male(s) being the lead characters instead of a kick-ass heroine, which seems to be the trend in UF right now. The way Cal and Niko talk is so much like my brothers, except for the killing things. LOL It will be interesting to see how she writes a female lead in her new series. Are you planning to get Trick of the Light? It's out now. :)
Nath: I like the fact that the protagonists are males and I like that Ms Thurman has been able to keep it "manly" LOL :) There's always a risk when the authors and protagonists are not from the same gender. I think it's fun and refreshing that for once, the main characters I'm reading are males. Then again, I've been through eleven books of Dresden Files :P So perhaps I'm used to it.
Leslie: Still haven't read Dresden Files - I'm just not real anxious to read a male author. It's terrible but true. I need to get over that. :)
Nath: Definitively LOL :) As for the number of kick-ass heroines in urban fantasy right now, I attribute it more to the increase of female authors writing this genre. I definitively don't mind a kick-ass heroines, but after reading a couple of urban fantasy in a row, they all seem to blend together ^_^; Throwing in a couple of male protagonists is good for me :)
And I am going to give a try to Trick of Light for sure :) It's sitting on my nightstand...
So what grade are you giving to Deathwish?
Leslie: I'm going with a solid A. I think having Niko's POV made this the best book so far. I do hope we continue to get his POV. Maybe some of Robin's too, although, he tends to say what he's thinking - not much filter on that mouth. :)
Nath: I'm going with A as well :) I agree that having Niko POV just added something to this book and set it apart :) Deathwish is the best book of the series so far, with a strong plots and a lot of development, both for characters and relationships :)