Today's review is Chimera by Rob Thurman and joining me is Leslie from Leslie's Psyche, she who initiated me to Ms Thurman's writing. We are both huge fans of the Cal Leandros series (check the Rob Thurman label!) and when we learned that Ms Thurman had a stand-alone release, it was definitively on our TBB list :)
*Warning: The are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!*
Chimera by Rob Thurman
published by New American Library in June 2010
Ten years ago, Stefan Korsak’s younger brother was kidnapped. No one knew who took Lukas, or why. He was simply gone. But not a day has passed that Stefan hasn’t thought about him. As a rising figure in the Russian Mafia, Stefan has finally found him.
But when he rescues Lukas, Stefan must confront a terrible truth – his brother is no longer his brother. He is a killer. Trained, brainwashed, and genetically transformed into a flesh-and-blood machine with only one purpose: assassination. Now those who created him will do anything to reclaim him.
As Stefan grows closer to his brother, he realizes that saving Lukas may be easier than surviving him...
The Story : The blurb sounds a lot more dramatic than the book really is ^_^; Ten years ago, Lukas was kidnapped while the boys were out riding and Stefan feels guilty, because he is the one who suggested they sneak out of the estate. For ten years, Stefan has never stopped looking, unlike his father, a Russian Mafia lord who is currently on the run.
Then, one day, Stefan’s contact has a lead. A young man fitting Lukas description is spotted with Lukas’ most distinguishing feature: different-colored eyes, blue and green. However, he seems to be held captive by some sort of group, agency. This doesn’t matter to Stefan as he’s determined to save Lukas no matter the cost.
While Stefan has dreamed many times of finding Lukas, he never imagined the “after” and nothing could prepare him for this. Lukas has no recollection of his past and insists to be called Michael. Plus, it turns out that he’s acquired some powers through genetic modifications and was being brainwashed in order to be used as an assassin. The evil scientist Jericho is not about to let go of one of his creations and thus, Stefan and Michael find themselves on the run…
Nath: So Leslie, what did you think of Chimera?
Leslie: What a road trip, Nath! It did take me some time to get into it. I think it had a lot to do with the lack of dialogue. There just didn't seem to be that much. More of Stefan's narration, which was interesting but not exactly riveting. But once Michael came into the story - that's when it really picked up for me and I didn't want to put it down. :)
Nath: It was great, wasn’t it? :P I agree with you that the beginning was a bit slow, although I don’t think it was due to the lack of dialogue. Instead, I think it’s because Ms Thurman had a lot of setting up to do. The readers need to know how Stefan lived, what he felt, how important finding Lukas has become in his life. They need to know Stefan in order to be fully engaged by the story and I don’t think this could have been done retrospectively. Once Michael came into the story, everything went so fast… So while not riveting, it was necessary. Plus, Stefan wasn’t too bad as a narrator :P He is not as “dark” as Cal so even if it was very heavy on the narration, Chimera was easier to read than the Cal Leandros series in my opinion.
Of course, the highlight of the book was definitively the dynamics between Stefan and Michael :) Ms Thurman sure knows how to write brothers relationship!
Leslie: I was determined not to compare the brothers in this story to Cal and Niko. It turns out it wasn't a problem. I didn't find myself thinking that either Stefan or Michael were like Cal and Niko. A few similarities but it was more stuff that you would find among any brothers.
Nath: I thought that comparisons between Stefan/Michael and Cal/Niko was inevitable, not only because of the brotherhood, but also because it’s the same author. However, the dynamic was completely different and you’re right, there were just a few similarities that you’d find among any brothers. In that aspect, I thought Ms Thurman did a great job because for Chimera to work, it needed to be different from the Cal Leandros series.
Leslie: I think the biggest difference between the two sets of brothers is that Cal and Niko have a history and Stefan and Michael are virtually strangers and spend the road trip getting to know each other. Stefan was out of his element when it came with how to deal with Michael but I thought he did a good job. And Michael, loved him! He had so much patience with Stefan. The way he slowly came to trust Stefan and Stefan came to trust Michael not to make a run for it. Thurman did a good job showing that trust develop. So many scenes that could have gone either way. And when you consider what Michael was capable of, I think he subconsciously knew that Stefan wasn’t going to hurt him.
Nath: Nod nod, definitively the biggest difference. It was great though because we discovered Stefan and Michael as they were getting to know each other :) I thought it was very admirable how Stefan tried to be a big brother, to guide Michael. It seems that Lukas was the bright light in Stefan's life when he was younger and now that he've found him again, he's trying to do his best to be better. It was also fun to see Michael discover the “real” world and I loved how "prissy" he was LOL.
Leslie: Stefan did a bunch of stuff that big brothers do. The snowball fight, shopping at the mall and oh, the sex talk. LOL "I want to take notes." And as Michael started to change he started acting like a little brother. I loved seeing him tease Stefan, calling him Babushka. Or when he’d make smart ass comments. Like asking how much a car cost if you actually bought one as opposed to stealing it. Or when he bought the coat and matching gloves for Stefan in a color he knew Stefan wouldn’t like. He was very easy to love. By the end they had that strong, brotherly bond that Cal and Niko have.
Nath: There were definitively some great moments. I liked how Stefan really tried to draw Michael out and tried to make Michael feel normal, despite the circumstances. I totally agree with you, by the end of the book, they were brothers and that was all that mattered. I thought Michael adapted very quickly, but it's hard not to with a big brother like Stefan :) I loved the teasing and it really went both ways :P
Leslie: What did you think of Stefan and his profession? I almost wish he had been tougher. Like when he was suppose to kill the embezzler but didn't. I wasn't surprised that he didn't but I'm wondering how it would have gone over had he killed. Do you think Thurman didn't have him kill to make him more likable? He's supposed to be the bodyguard for a mafia big shot but - he seems a little too soft for it. I'm thinking he was portrayed that way so he would be more believable as the good guy. I don't think I would have thought less of him had he killed the guy. Part of the job/lifestyle and survival in that world.
Nath: You know, that's really a tough call, Leslie. I think you're right, Ms Thurman pulled her punches so Stefan would be more likable. Personally, I like the fact that he didn't kill the embezzler. To me, it comes down to conscience. Stefan is tough, he can kill and he did for Michael's sake... and that’s exactly the point, for Michael's sake. I don't think he really wanted to be in the mafia to start with, so for him to kill for something he doesn't really have feelings for? If he really had a killer side to him, I'd expect him to be colder.
Leslie: You’re right about Stefan not wanting the mafia life. He did give college a try but his focus was on Lukas so much that I don’t think he cared too much about his profession. The mafia was like his fallback and it let him continue searching for Lukas.
Nath: I feel that for almost ten years, Stefan went through life in some sort of trances. Never really caring about anything, because he blamed himself for Lukas disappearance and as a result, felt he wasn't worth anything good... and thus, the mafia job. Plus, it provided him connections to look for Lukas. I think that was Stefan’s heart really in the mafia, he wouldn’t have gone to college or if he did, he wouldn’t have become a thug, but instead take his rightful place as a mafia prince. That would have been interesting as well; actually, that’s what I expected reading the blurb :P
Leslie: The mafia prince would have made more sense instead of Stefan being the muscle. I think if he had been more into the family business from the start he might have been higher up in the ranks. Maybe he knew that if/when he found Lukas he would have to break with the mafia and that’s easier to do when you don’t have anyone following your orders.
Nath: I don't think you have to work the ranks up if you have the brains and the birthright :P It did seem like it was always Stefan’s plans to get out as soon as he found Lukas. Although I don't know if it's easier to get out when you're insignificant... Well at least, for Stefan, it didn't really go according to plans ^_^;
What did you think of the lack of romance?
Leslie: I didn’t think there would be anything or if there was it would be minimal so I was glad the story focused on Stefan and Michael. I did wonder if Natalie might sudden show up, more to appease romance readers than anything else. Even without the romance there was a HEA. ;)
Nath: Same for me, I didn’t think there’d be any so I didn't mind the lack of romance. Better no romance at all than a poorly developed one :P I wished Natalie would come back or if there is a sequel, the boys find a special someone though...
Leslie: Did you see the twist with Dr. Bellucci coming? That took me by surprise. I knew Jericho would find them but not how.
Nath: No, I didn’t see that one coming. It was very tricky and a great twist. Ms Thurman kept up the suspense till the very end :)
Speaking of ending, what did you think of it? That was the biggest twist of all and yet, it makes so much sense.
Leslie: The ending - wow. Every time Michael would tell Stefan “sorry, I’m not Lukas” I wanted to skip to the end and find out the truth. LOL. The end fit with everything that went before it. I don’t want to spoil it but I will say I was completely into the book and didn’t want to stop reading. It was very suspenseful and there was a little part of me that wasn’t sure how it would all turn out. Thurman doesn’t always take the easy road and as things starting happening at the end, I wasn’t completely sure which way it would go.
Nath: Yeah. I think Ms Thurman did a great job and the ending really works and was much more powerful because of the twists. In the end, you see what really matters.
What grade would you give Chimera?
Leslie: Considering how dark this was, with all the things those kids went through, I found myself laughing quite a bit. As Michael came out of his shell, he proved to have a wicked sense of humor. There was a lot going on, sometimes a little too much, but I did like all the detours they guys took.
The grade – even with the slow start, once it picked up it didn’t stop. I’m going with a A-. It would have been an A if not for the slow start. But, then it did really pick up, so maybe an A because I loved everything once Michael was there. Okay, I can't decide... A, definitely an A. :)
Nath: It was dark, but it was well balanced. What brought the laughs were Michael coming out of his shell, discovering the world. I really liked how Stefan tried to do his best by Michael. Protecting him, letting him grow, trying to understand, etc. It was pretty amazing how Stefan behaved. He definitively loved his little brother and there was no resentment, just love at finding him.
Chimera is a A- for me. Not as dark as the Cal Leandros books, but just as good. The plot was tight, the writing was strong and the idea/setting very unusual. Plus, I loved Stefan and Michael :)
Leslie: So, hopes for a sequel? It certainly left off with the potential.
Nath: I'm a bit torn. For sure, it'd be fun to see a sequel... but at the same time, it'll have to be a really, really good story and that might be difficult. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I wouldn't say no to another stand-alone though :P