Madhouse is the third book in the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman. I've really enjoyed this series, and so did Hilcia, my partner in crime... well in this case, my buddy reviewer :) For all those wondering if they should start this series, be aware that it is urban fantasy, so less romance. However, if you want something and enjoy brothers relationship, this is for you :)
***Warning: LOTS of spoilers ahead, read at your own risk!***
Madhouse by Rob Thurman
published by ROC Fantasy in March 2008
My brother has spent a lifetime – mine, at least-telling me that I was normal, that I wasn’t a monster. With his help, I’d finally realized that as long as I could remain who I was, I could survive what I was. It was only bad genes...
Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, aren’t exactly prospering with their preternatural detective agency. Who could have guessed that business would dry up in New York City, where vampires, trolls, and other creepy crawlies are all over the place?
But now there’s a new arrival in the Big Apple. A malevolent evil with ancient powers, dead set on making history with an orgy of blood and murder, is picking off humans like sheep. And for Cal and Niko, this is one paycheck they’re going to have to earn... if they live long enough to collect it.
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros, book #3
The Story: Basically, Cal and cie are hired to stop a serial killer who was dead and came back to life. At the same time, someone is after Robin’s life. Yes, that sums up the story, LOL :) Oh, and Cal has to make some choice in his love life.
Hilcia: Nath, the one thing that jumped out at me right away and must mention is that Cal and Niko have very little communication going on in Madhouse. At least in the first two books they seemed to communicate up to a certain point and then... just left everything else hanging. Just like guys!
Nath: Little communication? Well you’re right. However, I think that when you know each other so well, you don't need to say everything... and yeah, they’re guys! That's what we like about them no? If they said everything, that would no longer be manly :P So kudos to Ms Thurman :D
Hilcia: LOL, yes, the lack of verbal communication between the two is very manly. They do understand each other very well -- I do think that Cal was communicating more with Niko in Nightlife, but as the series has gone along, he seems to keep more from him. More of his real thoughts and feelings... and it comes back to bite him in the ass. I see him doing more and more.
Nath: Personally, I think Cal keeping things to himself is actually a sign of growth, maturity. There are things that he doesn't want to share with Niko and that is understandable. Niko has done so much, sacrificed so much for Cal... and I think that Cal doesn't want to burden Niko any more, especially since Niko now has a special someone in his life.
Hilcia: Yes, I agree that Cal's growing up -- but I also think that Cal thinking he's so much of a monster and Niko always trying to deny it has something to do with it.
Nath: Well Niko’s insistence does not help, but I also think it’s due to the circumstances. With all their fights against the Auphe, they’ve come into contact with them more in a few months than all their lives. Also, Cal is now developing his powers... Hard not to wonder about your nature.
At least, Niko’s denial does not stem from fear, but it is smothering Cal in my opinion... because Cal knows the truth. He might not be a monster, but he’s not human either - he's something in between. He must deal with it and I hope he comes to term with it.
Hilcia: Cal doesn't really share those parts of himself with Niko as much any more, I think that's what I'm noticing here. Cal trying to protect Niko in his own way.
Nik is very much the "mom" in this relationship, lol! He's also pretty black and white in how he sees things sometimes -- you know, a pretty straight arrow. Cal on the other hand is not at all, he can be pretty devious and doesn't mind fighting dirty if he has to... it makes him feel guilty I think, and like he's letting Nik down.
Nath: Nod nod, Hilcia. I think you summed it up well.
So now that we’ve analyzed the brothers, what about the plot? LOL :) It was nice to get a break from the Auphe... but at the same time, I thought Madhouse was the weakest of the series so far.
Hilca: I totally agree! I didn't like that the book ended in a cliffhanger. I didn’t see a need for that little bit at the end after all the action we got in the book with Redcap, I thought the book had enough story lines and action already. So, that was a bit of a waste, at least for this book.
Nath: The cliffhanger didn’t bother me too much since I had Deathwish already. Story-wise though, I thought that Madhouse was disappointing. I simply didn't care for either storylines - Redcap and Robin.
Hilcia: I agree with you, Nath. I thought that the plot in Madhouse was the weakest of the three books so far. The real villain of the piece in this book was Wanakeh, he's was the manipulator behind the scenes -- like Hob was behind the scenes in Moonshine. However, unlike Hob, Wanakeh was such a disappointment as a villain in the end. Plus, he disappears -- no resolution there at all.
The second villain of the piece, Redcap, was pretty darn horrific. He was not an easy one to beat by any means. A villain who kills for the enjoyment and has no real reasons behind it, one you can't manipulate for or cajole out of it. Tough. Plus he was powerful! But what was really the point?
Nath: Well, Wanakeh might be the real villain, but the guys are not even going after him. I guess getting Redcap was more important. To tell you the truth, I can’t even remember how they killed Redcap. I just didn’t care. What did you think of Robin’s story?
Hilcia: I enjoyed Robin's storyline up until the end and thought it was interesting. I've been curious about him and his past, so this was something I wanted to read about. But, the end just didn't live up to expectations - left me flat and disappointed -- at least the reasoning behind it. I thought he had at least razed the tribe through his wrath or something.
Nath: Somehow, I find the story just a tad ridiculous. I mean, what are the chances that they find Robin after all those years? Also, they must be ultra lucky because it was indeed Robin and not another puck they ran into!! The only thing that was interesting about this storyline is 1) Cal’s reaction to Robin’s near death and 2) Ish and Robin.
In the end, the characters dynamic is what kept me hooked to this book.
Hilcia: I love the dynamics that I see going on between Robin and Cal. Their developing relationship is great! I also loved the scene when Cal thought Robin was dead -- actually I loved both their reactions during and after that scene. :)
Also, the relationship between Ish and Robin is getting more interesting, I do hope they are developed and we're not left with a hint of what could be on this -- I would at least like to know what happened between them. :)
Nath: LOL, it was just hilarious :P Cal was so pissed when he realized that Robin wasn’t dead LOL. I think that the two have a great connection and it’s nice to read about their friendship... and it goes both ways, it’s not just Cal.
Robin and Ish are definitively an intriguing couple. I’m so curious about their past, especially after Cal realizes that Niko reminds Robin of Ish :) I want more information about Ish and hope he won’t stay a peripheral character.
Hilcia: You know, Nath, I actually think that Thurman has given Robin a bit more character development within the first 3 books than she has Niko. Robin has grown whereas Niko's character has not. His has been a static kind of presence, especially in this book. Yes, his and Cal's relationship is a great brotherly one that has been maintained throughout the series, but I see Cal and Robin growing as characters (and even Promise), but not Niko. It's a good thing the next book is through his POV, otherwise, I think I would have lost some interest in him. :(
Nath: I think that Ms Thurman chose the smart way to develop her characters. She focuses on one or two at a time, giving them more focus instead of doing them all at the same time. She definitively develops Niko more in Deathwish and Robin actually takes the backseat in that one. She mixes it up well and it keeps the series fresh in my opinion.
What do you think of Cal’s choice in his love life?
Hilcia: I don't know what to think about that yet. Interesting that Cal said that he really cares for Georges "but he doesn't like her sometimes." I thought that was an interesting line, didn't you?
Nath: It’s definitively telling. I feel like Cal and Georges’ love is like the one of a bad boy for a rich, unattainable girl. The girl wants the boy to give everything up to be with her, but the problem is that deep down she doesn’t understand him and the boy, he cannot shake his roots – not because they are bad, but because that’s what makes him, that’s who he is.
Hilcia: That’s a great take on those two, nath. I think Georgina might be a bit too perfect and self-righteous for our Cal -- at least at this point. Maybe she'll come down from her pedestal later. In Madhouse, she definitely got on my nerves. Not because of Cal, I don't blame her there. I understood why she didn't help Niko and Cal in Nighlife because her uncle was involved, but come on already! Cal and Niko risked their LIVES for her in Moonshine! They risked everything to save her... and she still won't help them? I mean, she's this great great oracle and she won't lift a finger to help those two souls... especially Cal, who she supposedly loves? She's on my nerves.
Nath: Wait, why would Cal be the one to blame here? I mean, she’s the one who keeps asking him to give a chance in this relationship, but she won’t do the one thing that he asks. So she doesn’t want to look into the future to see how their relationship will turn out, fine. However, she could at least do something to reassure him... Buff up, take classes with Niko, pick up shooting – anything!
I’m glad that Cal decided to move on. He took an important and painful decision and it shows his growth. Okay, so perhaps the basis of his decision was wrong – being horny LOL :P But if their relationship can never work out, then he must gives himself an opportunity to find happiness.
Hilcia: Oh no! I don’t think that Cal is to blame, -- he made a decision for himself and that’s fine -- but I also understand why she’s upset about him sleeping with somebody else when she still had hopes for them. My issue with Georgie is that if these people "really" matter to her, then why won't she help? There's more than a hint of self-righteousness to her that should not come into play and doesn't make sense when the people you "supposedly" love are in danger.
Nath: Well apparently, with Georgie, it doesn’t work that way. I’m glad that Cal was man enough to go and face Georgie, try to do things right. When it comes to his feelings, Cal is very honest in my opinion.
What did you think of Delilah? I like her :)
Hilcia: Delilah? I have more questions than answers about her at this point. I don't buy that she likes Cal for some reason. What's the deal with her?
Nath: Hmmmm, I'm not sure if she has a hidden agenda when it comes to Cal. It’d be interesting to get her POV. However, I do think it’s possible that she’d be interested/attracted in Cal. After all, he’s more powerful than he looks like and they make an interesting couple...but I'm not sure it'd be a lasting one. However, they are cute together and somehow, they do fit well. Most important though, she's different from George and that's what Cal needs.
By the way, the scenes where Robin introduced ladies to Cal? Hilarious in a LMAO way !!
Hilcia: Those scenes were hysterical, Nath! LOL!
Cal's character is getting better and better, I think! In Moonshine, he was still trying to come to terms with some of his Auphness, lol! -- he fought for Niko and Georgie and finally figured out that being half Auphe can give him an edge. In Madhouse, we see Cal developing and trying to control that part of himself. Some growth, finally! Also, as a man Cal finally made some pretty important decisions -- the right ones for him, I think.
Nath: I agree with you. I like the fact that Cal is exploring his power and realizing what an asset they are.
You know, one thing that still annoys me in this book? The Kin still remains very vague, still no answer.
Hilcia: Perhaps we’re not meant to find out about the Kin, or it’s not really important at this point.
You know, I really liked Moonshine. I loved the characters we met there, the twists and turns in the plot and the ending were just right for that book. In Madhouse, it felt as if our guys were going around the City willy nilly without direction, and there were no real twists or turns to the plot. The gore just seemed to pile and pile -- it was almost like reading a horror book at times. To be truthful, sometimes I thought it was too much. I don't know how Cal and Niko slept after seeing all the gore they saw in those tunnels.
The characters stayed interesting and the new characters were a good addition. The ending, I thought was definite sequel bait and although I know it will be addressed on the next book, I thought for this book, Madhouse, it was not a necessary or useful device. Actually, I don't think the series needs sequel baiting, it's good enough without it. :)
Nath: I think you summed it up well, Hilcia. Simply put, the plot was weak... it was just an excuse for some action and acted as a filler while Ms Thurman was putting new characters and situations in place for her next idea.
Since the story was weak, I’m giving Madhouse B-. The writing was still good, the characters interesting. I still loved the humor and the brothers relationship. It was just the story... :(
Hilcia: You know Nath I love the characterization in this series and that’s what kept my interest throughout this particular book and I’ll be continuing with the series. However, the different plot lines were a disappointment all around and I thought the cliff hanger was definitely not necessary here. For me this was C+ read.