Initially, I was going to post the review of Moonshine and Madhouse into one post, but I realized that it would be an extremely long post ^_^; So I've broken it down into two regular reviews. Stay tuned for Madhouse later this week! In the meantime, a hand of applause for Hilcia from Impressions... and Musings of a Bibliophile who read and reviewed this book with me! Woohoo!
***Warning: LOTS of spoilers ahead, read at your own risk!***
Moonshine by Rob Thurman
published by ROC Fantasy in March 2007
I was born a monster. Although truthfully, I was only half monster. My mother was human; my father was something... else. Half monster or whole, in the end it didn’t matter. I had my weaknesses, same as anyone else.
And I was facing one of them now.
After saving the world from his fiendish father’s side of the family, Cal Leandros and his stalwart half brother, Niko, have settled down with a new apartment and a new gig – bodyguard and detective work. And in New York City, where preternatural beings talk the streets just like normal folk, business is good.
Their latest case has them going undercover for the Kin, the werewolf Mafia. A low-level Kin boss thinks a rival is setting him for a fall, and wants proof. The place to start is the back room of Moonshine, a gambling club for nonhumans. Cal thinks it’s a simple in-and-out job. But Cal is very, very wrong.
Cal and Niko are being set up themselves - and the people behind it have bites much worse than their barks...
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros, book #2
The Story: Moonshine picks up right where Nightlife ends. Cal is still recuperating from his encounter with the Auphe and Darkling. After defeating the Auphe, the brothers feel free to stick around New York City and with Promise's help Niko and Cal decide to hire themselves out as detectives or bodyguards. But when their first paid gig comes along, it's a dangerous one.
Cal, Nik and Promise are hired by Cerberus, a low-level Kin boss from the werewolf Mafia, to find out if he is being set up by an opponent. Caleb, his accountant and go-between does the actual hiring and the boys are on their way. Things are not what they seem, and Nik and Cal find themselves set up by Caleb. In the meantime, Georgina is kidnapped and Cal's inner monster comes alive and he finds out more about his Auphe-self than he wants to know.
The reason behind the set up is clear once Georgina is kidnapped -- they are now being blackmailed into performing a theft for Caleb if they want Georgina returned alive -- things are getting complicated. Robin joins the brothers and Promise and through a series of twists and turns our friends find themselves going undercover, fighting werewolves, traveling from New York to Florida and meeting everything from Gypsies to ruthless werewolves. They'll do anything to save George, don't have much time and a more than a few surprises awaiting them at every turn.
Nath: What did you think of Moonshine, Hilcia? Did you enjoy it?
Hilcia: I really liked Moonshine. In a lot of ways I thought it was better than Nightlife. What I liked about Moonshine were all the twists and turns in the plot before the end. Plus, we got to know a lot more about Cal and Niko, the characters didn't stay stagnant, they grew. I also love that Cal is learning how to use some of his Auphe powers.
Nath: I agree with you. The plot was very great. There were lots of twists and surprises – not just at the end, but throughout the story, that made it interesting and unpredictable. One of the surprises for me was the revelation at the end about the power of the crown Cal and cie were supposed to find. It changed the whole story, the perspective. Poor Cal who felt so guilty and responsible for Georgina’s kidnapping and turns out there's a really high possibility that it was the opposite... that Cal was dragged in this fiasco because of Georgina’s power. I find it very clever how Ms Thurman wove the plot.
It was also very interesting to meet another puck :) Although I would have liked to get more information on him. I wonder if the Hob was related to Robin. Hmmm.
Hilcia: Yes, those twists had my head going around and around by the end, lol! Although I must tell you, through the whole book I kept wanting to know more about that puck and wondering when he was going to make another appearance. There were so many villains in this piece, I couldn't figure out where he fit in :)
Also, I remember Niko saying something sarcastic to Hob about "someone who mates with itself" or something like that, and Hob replying "nobody else is good enough" -- so I think that pucks have "kids" with themselves, lol! Probably just one too... remember Robin said he has no brothers. I can't wait to hear that part of the world building.
Nath: Riiight. Apparently, it seems like their reproduction could be a mitotic system @_@ LOL and I bet it’s a one-time shot involving dire circumstances... Otherwise, with their longevity, there’d be a lot more of them, no? Hmmm, if they can only have one kid, then the Hob and Robin cannot be related... Sigh, I would like to see Robin interact with other puck... or see another friendly puck.
As for the Hob, personally, I didn’t think he had such an important part in the story – so I was completely fooled.
Hilcia: By what Robin says, pucks are not so nice to know -- Robin seems to be an exception -- but I think at some point we'll meet more, at least I hope we do. It would be great to know more about them.
Nath: I do hope so! Although it’s hard to imagine a puck that is not sexually active LOL :)
Back to the plot…Although I found it clever and interesting, there were a few weaknesses. One bit I thought was perhaps unnecessary was Cal’s undercover job. It really didn’t last very long...
Hilcia: LOL on Cal going undercover -- their plans don't always seem to work too well, do they? Something or someone always seems to be scheming against them or they give themselves away.
Nath: Indeed... but then, most of their planning is all about “flying by the seat of their pants” LOL.
Another weak point of this book for me was the Kin – the werewolves mafia. There was very little information about it and I wondered how it worked... Is it only restricted to New York? I thought Ms Thurman could have expand a little bit.
Hilcia: The whole Kin situation kind of stayed in the air in Moonshine. We didn't get to know nearly as much about them as I thought we would. That part of the book was lacking in scope. They are supposed to be powerful, yet we only got to see Cerberus and his bunch. What happened to the other powerful Kin? Why didn't they make an appearance when all this was happening? They DID kill another Alpha, remember? Like you, I would also like to see and know more about the wolves.
Nath: Definitively more questions than answers. I wonder if it’s because even Ms Thurman is not sure about it, LOL. Maybe she hasn’t decided yet... Also, once again, didn’t the opposition seem a little weak? I mean, after all, Cal, Niko and Flay took down Cerberus – that was quite unexpected to me!
Anyway, it wasn’t just the plot that was great. The characters were too :D To me, the nice thing about second book is that most of the world building is already set and characters have been introduced which allows authors more time to develop the characters and explore the relationships. Niko and Cal were great in this book, but I have to admit: I love Robin! Together with Cal, they are simply hilarious!!
Hilcia: I loved Cal and Robin together, they are soooo funny, they made me laugh. But their relationship is developing beautifully too. In Moonshine, Cal tells Robin things he won't tell Niko.
Nath: It seems to me Robin is Cal’s real first friend. Rafferty and Catch could have been Cal’s friends, but they never had the opportunity to get close because of their personal story. Now that the Auphe threat is gone, Cal and Niko allow their circle to widen. That’s why I think that Cal can finally unload to someone. Seriously, their dynamic is just great. They annoy the crap out of each other, but at the same time... there’s love! LOL.
What did you think of Flay, Hils? I really liked him and couldn’t help but feel soooo bad for him :( It’s the way that people treated him, looking down at him so much. I understand there was no real friendship between him and the brothers, but thought the brothers were really harsh on him. So he wasn’t acting selflessly and wasn’t someone that the brothers felt could trust... but neither were they. In the end, Flay did his best to help them.
It was so sad when he came to Cal and Niko after killing Cerberus because he didn't have anywhere to go T_T I'm glad he stole the RV from Robin! LOL, that was actually quiet funny!!... and his son, awwww.
Hilcia: I did like Flay and I actually felt sorry for him. He was actually a pretty cunning and smart wolf after all. I agree with you about Flay -- Cal was waaaayyy to harsh on him. He was out of control by that time worrying about George, and Niko was harsh too. But looking at it from their POV, they had been betrayed already by different people and at that point didn't trust anyone, especially not Flay. I think they made up for it later. And YES, I was glad he took the RV for himself and his little cub, that was soooo cute. :)
Nath: I actually think that Cal and Niko don’t trust people due to the circumstances in their lives, not because they’ve been betrayed by many. That, I understand and I get that they've built walls around themselves. I also understand that they had no reasons to trust Flay and yes, Flay played both sides but he didn't have much choice :( Overall, I just liked Flay a lot and didn't like how he was treated. I think that too many underestimated him. He was way smarter than people gave him credit. Wonder if we're going to see him again.
Hilcia: I hope we see Flay again too! He became a "friend" in the end... kind of, didn't he? I agree with you about their live circumstances, Nath. I was referring to the betrayals they experienced earlier in Nightlife by Samuel and in this story by Caleb, their original client who basically set them up. With George kidnapped, the Auphe making an appearance out of the blue and their uncertainty as to what was really happening, I could see up to a certain point why they overreacted to Flay's appearance. At that point they didn't know who they could trust and he was their only source of information.
Other characters that I want to see more in the future are Promise and George. I really liked Promise in Moonshine! She was great with both Niko and Cal and she's a tough vamp too! I was surprised at Promise's change -- her physical appearance alone was surprising, don't you think? She even changed her hair and her wardrobe! I mean... in Nightlife she was all ladylike but by Moonshine she was wearing leather and had streaks in her hair. A drastic change don't you think?
Nath: Yes, but a good change. You know, I actually had my doubts after reading Nightlife because I was wondering how Promise would fit in with the boys. I was glad we got to see a different side of her... but then, I guess vampires have to be able to adapt right? Promise is definitively an interesting character and I like her a lot better in Moonshine. She definitively lost that fragile look and that makes her a better match for Niko.
Hilcia: What about George? She seems to represent purity to Cal. The beauty and purity he doesn't think he has or deserves in his life. She sees him differently, though -- doesn't think he's the monster but the man. I really wanted to hear what she had to say to him in the end, but he played the coward again, lol!
Nath: Nod nod, it makes a lot of sense. I have to say, I don’t like George much, but then, her character hasn’t been developed very much. What annoys me is that everyone seems to think that she’s such a fragile flower... but she’s stronger than she looks. She has to be since she’s such a strong psychic.
Hilcia: I actually liked George in Moonshine. She was good to Cal and he finally showed and verbalized some of the feelings that would later move him toward making a decision. I thought it was important for him to do that.
I’m just so glad I discovered this series. Great plot and characters and I’ve really enjoyed the book. Moonshine is a B+ for me. What about you, Hils?
Hilcia: Well Nath, I also enjoyed Moonshine quite a lot, it made me want to continue with this series. You know I gave Nightlife a B+, and even though I think this book is better than Nightlife in some ways, I still think the dialogue is sparse and it slowed down the pacing making it a slow read --I found that interesting with all that action going on. However, the story was great, the characters continued to grow and I really enjoyed their world, so Moonshine gets a B+ from me.