So joining me today is Leslie from Leslie's Psyche and Hilcia from Impressions of a Reader... We all discovered the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman last year (can read the reviews here) and were looking forward for the newest installment. I'd like to thank them both for discussing this read, but also for their patience, as it took me a while to put the review together :D
*Warning: The are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!*
Roadkill by Rob Thurman
published by ROC (New American Library) in March 2010
It's time to lock, load, and hit the road...
Once, while half-human Cal Leandros and his brother Niko were working on a case, an ancient gypsy queen gave them a good old-fashioned backstabbing. Now, just as their P.I. business hits a slow patch, the old crone shows up with a job.
She wants them to find a stolen coffin that contains a blight that makes the Black Death seem like a fond memory. But the thief has already left town, so the Leandros brothers are going on the road. And if they're very, very lucky, there might even be a return trip...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros series, Book #5
The Story: The story is a bit more than what’s described in the back blurb. Aside from the case, there’s also the fact that the Kin – the werewolves’ mafia – found out about Cal and Delilah’s relationship and they’re really not thrilled about it. So it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Cal to embark on a road trip. Accompanying them is their good friend, Rob Goodfellow who has his own share of personal issues – he’s contemplating monogamy! However, before embarking in this adventure, they are in need of a powerful healer – how else are you going stop an evil who spreads disease? Luckily for them, old acquaintances show up to aid.
Nath: So ladies, your thoughts? :P For me, while it wasn't as good as Deathwish - which is definitively going to be difficult to beat - I thought Roadkill was still a very good book :)
Leslie: I liked it but... not as much as Deathwish, that's still my favorite.
Hilcia: Roadkill was actually a winner for me. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Deathwish for different reasons.
I thought there was an excellent balance in this book between the darkness and the light. Through Catcher, Thurman brought in a positive POV I thought really contrasted with the growing darkness in Cal's, and there’s definitely a lot of darkness in this book.
Leslie: Hils, the comment about Catcher being the light to Cal’s darkness is perfect. I did feel that Cal was darker this time around. He was still snarky and a smartass but it felt less lighthearted, darker with a touch of evil to it. Seriously, Cal was scary in this one.
Hilcia: He was definitely scary, Leslie! That darkness that we knew was there and that exploded in this book was one of the things I really liked about Roadkill. He gave me the chills and at the same time it was a thrill to see how he could become something else. The way it happened seemed so innocuous that it made it even more chilling when the change came over him. Deliciously dark and thrilling, lol!
Leslie: One of the scenes with Cal and Catcher that I loved, on page 265, where Catcher summed up Cal so well when he told him that he had a choice to be “NOT SO BAD”. Then Catcher went on to torment Cal with knock-knock jokes of wisdom and it made me love him that much more.
Nath: LOL, that was such a great scene. Somehow, it seems Catcher understands Cal, perhaps because he is closer to his wolf-side now. As for Cal's darkness, I think the reason it was even darker than in previous books is that the darkness came from within. In the past, Cal's toughness and "darkness" were necessary for him to deal with the circumstances and possible Auphe attacks. Cal often said that he was a monster, but I don't think he believed it till this book. Before, if Cal ever became evil, it'd be because the Auphe have turned him or something external had happened and Cal lost it (eg. Niko's death). However, this time, it really came from within Cal and that's why it was so scary.
In my opinion, the fact Cal’s Aupheness is surfacing is truly a good thing for the series. After the events of Deathwish, I was wondering what would happen. This adds another dimension to Cal’s character depth and moves the plot along.
Hilcia: I agree Nath. I loved the way Cal's character and Auphness were further developed and explored in Roadkill. It moves the overall storyarc and gives the series a direction, and that was certainly unexpected.
Leslie: I'm glad it came out in him. I think he needs to go dark, bad, mad... before he could deal with the fact that even though the Auphe are dead there's still the Auphe in him and it's not going away. It definitely helped the progress of the storyline, there have to be consequences to what he is. Something that evil can't be ignored.
Nath: It’ll definitively drive the series.
Another element that is helping the series greatly is the narration. In Roadkill, we get both Cal and Catcher’s POV. As Hils mentioned, it balanced the book but I think it also helped the pacing of the story. It seems Ms Thurman has found the winning strategy having at least 2 POVs. I know I’m glad there was another character’s POV. I really don’t think I could go back to a whole book with Cal ^_^;
Hilcia: LOL, me neither! I totally agree with you on Thurman’s usage of different POV's. This will not only make the books more interesting, but we as readers will get to know the other characters. I'll keep my fingers crossed for Robin's POV! That should be a fun book. Don't you think?
Nath: It’d be great and so fun!!
Leslie: Having experienced Niko's POV in Deathwish made the fact that we didn't get it this time even more pronounced than before Deathwish.
Hilcia: Niko's POV was not really missed in this installment in my opinion. His presence was very much there, but this book was centered on Cal and that was okay with me.
Leslie: Gasps – Niko’s POV not missed? How could you Hils?! *Total Niko fangirl here and not afraid to admit it*
Nath: LOL. Of course, I would have liked to have Niko’s POV, I really like his voice and I’d love to know what he thinks of Cal’s Aupheness surfacing. However, reading his thoughts in Deathwish made the book very special and a lot more powerful. As a result, I’m not sure I would want his narration in every book. It will definitively have more impact if readers get it only once in a while, so I think it was wise decision from Ms Thurman not to include Niko’s POV. Plus, I really enjoyed Catcher’s POV in Roadkill :)
Leslie: Regarding Catcher’s POV, I thought Thurman did a good job of giving it just the right feel of man/wolf POV. It was a balancing act which, in my opinion, worked well. He nearly broke my heart when he would wake up and repeat his name. The bond between Rafferty and Catcher was just as strong as that between Niko and Cal. Definitely liked their relationship.
Hilcia: I loved, loved the relationship between Rafferty and Catcher! My heart broke for Rafferty and for what he was going to lose. In the end I was happy for Catcher, I thought he was the only one who had come to terms with his destiny.
Nath: I was really excited when I discovered that Rafferty and Catcher were going to be in this novel, because I've always wondered what happened to them. I ended up loving their relationship! It was very reminiscent of Niko and Cal: the loyalty, the dependence and always being there for each other. Great stuff, Ms Thurman really excels at writing guy-guy relationship.
However, I cried my eyes off for Catcher at the end T_T It was really sad and I was expecting for them to find a cure :( After reading the end of the book, I was simply bummed out for the rest of the day. Sigh.
Leslie: Catcher - sigh. It was sad, I did cry but I wasn't really surprised that they didn't find a cure. I'm not sure if I was sadder for Rafferty than for Catcher. Rafferty had to give up the possibility of a "normal" Wolf life whereas Catcher had already done that. The bond they had was written so well, the teasing, the love, the loyalty - all there.
What did you think of the storyline with Suyolak and the Plague of the World?
Hilcia: I enjoyed this part of the book. It was ominous. Suyolak was a worthy adversary for our gang of misfits and no easy kill. But at the same time, although creepy as heck, it was not a super gory storyline.
Nath: I really like the storyline/intrigue/villain. It was different and the idea of these unlikely comrades going on a road trip chasing the baddie was very interesting. There was still plenty of action even though I felt the Rom was a touch more passive than the previous bad guys. Also, as Hils mentioned, it was not super violent or gory.... Personally, I prefer this to the Redcap man or even the Kin's story. Plus, I think it was the perfect kind of mystery/villain for all the storylines (Cal's Aupheness, Rafferty/Catcher's storyline, Cal-Delilah-Kin) that Ms Thurman had in-store for us. Otherwise, it would have been too much.
Leslie: He was certainly different in his style of fighting/playing with the Scooby gang. Infecting the people along the way, it's like he was practicing after being locked up for so long. Training for when he finally got out of the casket. The one thing that I didn't get about him was why it took him so long to get out of the casket and the truck. If he could infect people as the truck passed by and get into the gangs head while they're asleep and awake then why take so long to get free? Am I missing something?
Hilcia: I totally agree with Nath that this villain had the perfect balance for this book and I loved the outcome.
What I got from the book was that he couldn't get out of that casket until he was strong enough to do so. He was gathering his strength by sucking life from others as he went along. Once he was strong enough he got out. He was in there for centuries using his mojo slowly.
Leslie: Suyolak gathering his strength makes sense but he kept using it when he talked to them or "appeared" in the car with them. Playing with them, that I could see that. He had the power but wanted to string them along for a while and possibly test them. Villians like to play with their food. :P
Nath: Hmmm, you're right, Leslie. Why did Suyolak use his powers to appear and toy with the boys? I think he felt somewhat threatened by Rafferty and wanted to show how powerful he was. Villains like to gloat as well :) However, I think there were two more reasons why Suyolak bided his time: 1) he wanted to get to the Park for the showdown and 2) he was getting use to this “new” world.
What about the whole business between Cal and Delilah?
Leslie: I’ve always liked her. I like her way of talking, getting right to the point and that she doesn’t hold Cal’s Aupheness against him. But by the end of Roadkill I liked her a little less. I get why she did what she did but it only confirmed what Cal knew, that Delilah's will always put herself and her interests first.
Nath: I’m with you Leslie. I’m a romantic at heart. I was secretly hoping that Delilah would be the one for Cal. It’s obvious Cal needs someone tough, someone who can stands by him and back him up. Sure, Delilah doesn’t have the best personality, but I thought she could change for Cal… and obviously, Cal wished the same. (He’s a romantic at heart as well LOL!) However, I liked Delilah less in Roadkill. It was really her obsession with All Wolf that turned me off :(
Hilcia: Delilah? I've never liked Delilah. I've always been suspicious of her motives. Yes, she accepts Cal's Auphness, but why? She's an egomaniac, self-centered and an opportunist. So how can someone like that be trusted? I was not surprised at how this turned out -- at how SHE turned out. I did however feel bad for Cal. He knew the type of female she was, but he was still hoping for something more from her, that's the reason he gave her a chance. I definitely felt for him.
Leslie: It's interesting what you said about Delilah, Hils. Do you think she has some nefarious plan to use Cal's Auphe abilities and that's why she hooked up with him? Because I felt that she's been clear that she looks out for herself first. Sometimes she acts like she has some affection for Cal but no way she would die for him or anything close to it. Like Rafferty and Catcher would die for each other, no doubt but I've never got that from Delilah, even for a member of her pack. Maybe it's that pack mentality and since Rafferty and Catcher weren't part of that cutthroat environment it gave them a different outlook on loyalty.
Hilcia: Leslie, I've always been suspicious of Delilah precisely because of her lack of loyalty to a pack. What werewolf doesn't have that? There's something lacking in her, something essential. I always thought that she had a use for Cal, whether it was for his abilities and the fact that he "owed" her for saving his life, I always thought she was using him for the moment -- until he stopped being useful to her. In this book we saw a clearer picture as to Delilah's plans, she wants to head her own pack. I've a feeling that was her plan all along... to use him as a weapon.
Leslie: So Cal willingly or not, helping Delilah become pack alpha. And the sex was just a side benefit and deep down he knew it and just went a long for the ride. Totally see that and Cal hoping, just a little bit that he was wrong about her.
Nath: Just wondering, are we sure that Delilah is Alpha now? Hils mentioned her lack of loyalty towards the pack. Actually, we have to be careful here because I've yet to see a "pack" in Ms Thurman's world... I don't believe we can equal Kin to pack, it’s really a lot more like mafia factions. As for loyalty to pack, personally, except for Rafferty and Catcher who seemed to be the exception, I haven't really seen it in any other werewolves characters introduced - Flay, Cerberus, etc. It seems to me there's a special bond about family ties - Rafferty/Catcher, Flay and his cub, even Flay and Delilah to a certain extent... but not pack.
Back to Delilah. I don't think that she had such an elaborate plan from the beginning (using Cal to become Alpha). Delilah has always been playing for Delilah and that's it. I don't even think she'd like to be a leader - I mean, she was going to kill Catcher so Rafferty would be the new Alpha, no? I do agree with Hils that she might have wanted to use Cal to get rid of some of her enemies - which she did in this book, but it feels like something natural for someone with Delilah’s background. Delilah’s character is more mafia than werewolf in my opinion.
Hilcia: Nath, good point on Thurman's meaning of "pack" in her world. But going back to Delilah my thoughts go to her ambition and her frustration in not being able to advance within the Kin due to the fact that she's not "pure" werewolf. It seems as if only the pure wolves can advance within the Kin. She looks perfect but she's not. In this book we see a Delilah who wants Rafferty, not as an alpha, but as someone she can use to gather others like her who can go back to what they believe is the right way -- all wolf. I DO do think she wants to be the alpha... there are enough of the not-so-perfect wolves that she can get her own gang going. She killed Cabal, so we'll see if she's allowed to keep the position. ;P
Nath: Actually, isn't it the opposite? As in Delilah is yearning towards the "pure" werewolf... the All Wolf?
Hilcia: Yes, definitely, Nath. However, I'm not sure she really understood exactly what that entailed. I'm not sure she understood that Catcher was going to lose himself totally to the wolf and that he would not be really cognizant any longer in the end. She thought he was perfect as he was, a wolf with his human memories and knowledge, and that's exactly what she thought they, the Wolves, needed -- at least that's what I understood.
Leslie: I think Delilah wants to be All Wolf as in all human elements gone. I think she wants to live in the woods, forest etc with a pack. She refers to Kin packs but I took Kin to be a pack, just a specific type of pack - wolf mafia.
Nath: I'm agreeing with Leslie on this one. It was said in the Thurman world that there are two kinds of werewolves. The ones that are the perfect blend human/wolf and the ones that want to be as wolves as possible, forgoing the ability to walk straight/vocal chords, etc. Delilah might not know that it entails loosing human thinking, but I think that she still yearns to be all wolf... run as a wolf, etc. From my understanding, being All Wolf would mean not having a human side anymore, so they wouldn't were anymore, just wolf.
Leslie: In any case, I loved the way Cal dealt with Delilah at the end. You think she's done with him now? That could leave an opening for Georgina as I’m hoping she comes back in his life soon. Yeah, I'm not hiding that I'm hoping for a Georgina/Cal pairing. :)
Nath: Oh, I loved the ending between Cal and Delilah; it was a great showdown :) And they’re both done with each other, I can’t see what they’d have to say to each other after this... and it’s good for me, because it’s definitively opening the door for a female character – hopefully, the right one this time. However, whether it is Georgina, we’ll have to see. I hope not ^_^;
Hilcia: Georgie? Leslie... Nath and I are in agreement for this one. Not unless she has changed in some way. She was not right for Cal the way she was... but, if life has changed her (the way it has changed Cal), who knows? :D
What did you all think of Abelia-Roo? Cal sure didn't spare her feelings, lol!
Leslie: Abelia-Roo to me is like the Rom version of the werewolf All Wolf movement. The way she constantly put Cal down, calling him evil and then ranting at Niko for staying with Cal. Not sorry one bit for what happened to her.
Nath: Ugh, Abelia-Roo got what she sow. I’m glad Cal confronted and scared the life out of her. One thing I like about Abelia-Roo however is that she shows that “normal” human can stand their own in this paranormal world as well. LOL, love the scene where she said she'd have given Cal the ride of his life.
Leslie: Was it just me or did Robin seem more subdued? Could be the lack of nookie buffet and looming potential monogamy that was getting his panties in a twist? Also with Rafferty and Catcher along, page time had to be shared. I hope we get to see more of Rob and Ishiah in the next book. I'm very curious about the peris.
Hilcia: LOL, on Robin! Monogamy? I don't believe it... like you Leslie, I hope we get Robin and Ishiah's story at some point. :)
Leslie: Robin has the big M hanging over his head. Poor, poor puck. I think he'll try because of Ishiah but I don't think it will ever take.
Nath: LOL, I don't think monogamy is possible for Robin either, but I’m still hoping for it because I want to see more of Robin and Ishiah's relationship! I'm actually hoping for a cross-over in the Tricksters series... for some reasons, I think if we ever find out more about Ishiah and the peris, I’ll be through that series.
I was okay with Robin’s subdued attitude – I mean, he has a really big personal crisis to figure out :P He still provided the comedy relief in this book: Salome!! Gosh, I loved that mummified cat and I loved how Robin brought Salome with him whenever they were fighting paranormal creatures!! That was hilarious LOL.. and you know the part where Salome and Catcher fought? Priceless!
Hilcia: I LOVED Salome! It was a hoot seeing her have more kills than Cal and the rest of them, lol!
Leslie: Salome is one kick ass cat! She was really creepy when we first met her but she does grow on you. :) And if something scares her, you better run!
Nath: You think she can get scared? LOL.
Wow, look at our very long discussion :P But we still have one thing to discuss and probably the most difficult… the grade!
I’m going with A-. Roadkill was a good and intense read and I really liked the storyline. The overall plot is going forth as well and I can’t wait to see what happens next. This series is definitively getting better and better with each book.
Hilcia: I'm thinking that the overall storyarc and worldbuilding seem to be coming together and the plot in the last two books seem tighter, as characterization remains the strong point in the series. I think Thurman is hitting her stride. I loved the contrast between the darkness/light, positive/negative, pessimism/optimism that Thurman uses in this book. For me Roadkill was just as good a book as Deathwish and I’m going with an A.
Leslie: A-. I do think that the characters are still the strength of the series. The world building - good but she keeps introducing more creatures with every book, it's going to start getting crowded real soon. I'd rather she focus on just a few. Like this time around how we got more details on the wolves. I liked that. Maybe soon we'll get more on the peris.
Nath: It’s already too crowded, Leslie, but at least, she’s keeping it interesting :)