Tuesday, March 6

Review: Blackout by Rob Thurman

Today is the release date of Doubletake, the 7th book in the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman... so I thought it'd be the perfect day to put up this review :) A couple of years ago, I started reading this series and just fell in love with it... and I wasn't the only one. Leslie and Hilcia did too :) And it's become a tradition to review these books together :) Well last year, Leslie and I read Blackout... and buddy reviewed the books. However, that time, I kind of burned out on blogging... and the task of putting together the buddy review was daunting... So yes, this discussion has been in sitting in my inbox for almost a year ^_^; But I am back now!! And well better late than never, right? :) LOL, I promise the buddy review for Doubletake won't take as long! In the meantime, enjoy this review!

Blackout by Rob Thurman
published by ROC in March 2011
I was alone, and I was lost. I didn't know where I was; I didn't know who I was. it doesn't get more lost than that. Knowing what I knew and not knowing anything else at all, why would I want to be in the darkness where monsters hide?

Because killers hide there too...

Half-human Cal Leandros has always walked a bloody line between keeping his mortal soul free and clear (sort of) and unleashing the horror of his otherworldly heritage. The one thing that's always saved him is the memory of his brother, Niko, his friends, and those he loves. Until now.

Cal wakes up on a beach littered with the recently slaughtered remains of a variety of hideous creatures that were obviously looking for trouble. The fact that he is the one who did the slaughtering doesn't bother him. The fact that he feels like a natural-born killer doesn't either. What bothers Cal is that he doesn't remember Cal anymore... and he's not sure he cares.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros, Book #6

The Story: The blurb sums it well. Cal Leandros wakes up with no memory of who or what he is. All he knows is that monsters do exist. Niko and Robin are able to track him down and bring him back to New York City... However, Niko struggles with this new Cal. This person is not he's little brother... but it could have been. A Cal unaware of his Auphe's bloodline... so what should Niko do? Hope that Cal recovers or wish for Cal's burden to never return? In the meantime, they still have to deal with monsters.

Nath: What did you think of Blackout, Leslie?

Leslie: Wow. I'm not sure what I was expecting but Thurman certainly came through with another exceptional book. It did seem to take me longer to read, due to there being more of Cal's internal monologue.

Nath: I’m with you Leslie. I wasn't sure what to expect either, especially with the way Roadkill ended and Cal getting darker it seemed :( However, I'm pretty happy with the direction Ms Thurman took! It did feel like Blackout was a bit of a transition book, as in she stalled a little bit the overall storyline of the series, but I didn't mind. I just liked seeing the characters being together and how things have changed from the beginning :)

Leslie: This was certainly more character driven than what you might expect from a UF. I agree that Cal was getting darker. There was no doubt that he would have killed Delilah, if it needed, at the end of Roadkill and a small part of him might have enjoyed it. Blackout was like taking a step back, away from that darkness, and letting Cal see another side. So when he did get his memory back, he had something to compare how he really is to what he might have been. And he realized that he needs to be how he is in order to fight all the monsters. Kind of like that saying "It takes a thief to catch a thief". Well, it takes a monster, even half monster, to catch a monster. I do think that Cal's memory loss helped him to accept what he is.

Nath: I agree with you that Cal would have enjoyed it. There's such a fine line between being bad-ass and enjoying killing. It always seemed in the past that Cal had to kill because it was part of his job, he was protecting people or the people he killed were really evil... However, enjoying the killing would be crossing the line and go into evil/psycho. I did wonder what Ms Thurman would do and I got my answer in Blackout :)

And I think you're right about Cal accepting who he is. I thought he's come to terms with it in previous books, but this time, we really have confirmation. In the end, it all comes back to protect the person he cares most for - Niko... and if he needs to be "him" to protect Niko and for Niko to be happy, he will.

By the way, is it me or I didn’t really see the "different" Cal?

Leslie: I did see a different Cal at the beginning than what we are used to. He wasn't so quick with his snarky comments. He might think them but didn't always say them. The New Cal came with a filter where the Original Cal just said whatever was on his mind. New Cal didn't seem as pessimistic either. And can you imagine Old Cal wearing a gingham apron? LOL

The New Cal had a very black and white view of things. The monster killing for instance. He killed monsters, monsters are bad therefore he was good. Then Niko and Goodfellow (monster) show up and suddenly things begin to have shades of gray. I think so much of it was due to confusion - waking up the way he did, surrounded by giant spiders. Then to find out that monsters are real and he kills them. It was a lot to take in. But I did like getting this different perspective from Cal. He's like the Cal that might have been had normal ever been part of his world.

Nath: I don't know, those were all very small changes to me. As a whole, besides the monster part, I didn't feel like there was much difference. Perhaps it’s because I’m not an attentive reader enough. Although true, Old Cal would never have worn that apron. Black maybe, but not blue :P And there would have been a lot of complaining and comments as a result LOL.

But to get back to what you were saying, I thought Cal’s thinking process being black and white was very natural. Not knowing that you're a monster, well it does lend to "monsters being bad/evil" ^_^; And you're absolutely right, this would have been the Cal if he hadn't known that monsters existed. At the same time, given everything he went through in his life, if he had a choice, I think Cal would choose the Old Cal.

You know, what bothered me was everyone saying Cal is so "evil/bad." I've never gotten that feeling. I mean, given his circumstances, the way her grew up, I don't consider his badass-ness, his monster killing job as evil. Even killing bad humans... Of course, this is fiction. In real life, it'd be different...

Leslie: Everyone saying Cal is evil, you mean all the other supernatural beings? I think that comes from the Auphes' reputation and that they can either smell or sense the Auphe in him. I don't think Niko, Goodfellow or Promise think Cal is evil. I think Delilah was turned on by it - by what she perceived as Cal's potential for being bad since she looks down on humans.

Nath: Oh, I’m sure that Niko, Robin and Promise don’t think that Cal is evil, but all the other supernatural beings. Even Isiah, when Cal asked! I understand that the Auphe has a reputation, but it seemed to me some should know better. Yes, Cal is bad-ass... but evil or bad? It seems to me the way he’d rid the world of some threats, people should be grateful instead!

Leslie: I think with the Auphe always being a part of him, Cal will always have that potential for being evil. I think that's one of the things that drove Niko to do what he did in deceiving Cal.

Nath: Speaking of which, what did you think of the deception? Cal is such a lucky guy that no matter what the circumstances, Niko will always have Cal’s best interests in mind. The loyalty and dedication of Niko towards Cal makes him an amazing man. Because let’s face it, while Cal would have been happy, Niko would have been miserable and it would have ruined his whole life. You know how love always triumphs? Well this time, it was brotherhood and I was glad for it :)

Leslie: Niko was in so much pain in this one. Such a hard decision to make - keep the new Cal by deceiving his brother or let the old Cal come back with all that Auphe baggage? If there was ever any doubt, Blackout showed how Cal is the focal point of Niko's life and that everything and everyone else will always come in second in his eyes - even Promise. I think it killed Niko to be so dishonest but at the same time, he didn't feel like he had a choice. Very hard for our Zen loving Ninja to do.

Nath: Nod nod. I guess Niko is worried about a repeat from Nightshade... because I'm sure that if Cal ever cross the line of evilness, Niko will be there to stop him. It was a very hard decision for Niko and it seemed it added to his burden. Sigh.

Leslie: Turning the table around, what did you think of Cal's reaction to Niko? Calling him Leandros instead of Niko I'm guessing was a way to keep his distance until he felt he could trust Niko. I did like that Cal didn't go willingly with Niko and Robin. Especially considering how he felt about Robin - how many times did he try stabbing him with a fork? LOL Cal was funny, being so proud that he still had that fork up his sleeve after Niko took his knife so easily. :)

Nath: Seriously, my heart really broke for Niko in this book! Niko must have felt so sad and depressed and it must have killed him every time Cal called him Leandros. Because that’s the proof he had lost his younger brother... and still, Niko went ahead with the deception. Sigh. Then again, I think it wa's normal that Cal did not rust Niko and Robin so easily. It simply isn’t in his nature.

By the way, I loved, loved Robin in this book. Not only for the comedic moments LOL, but for his friendship with Cal and Niko. For being there for both brothers and for not choosing sides!

Leslie: Goodfellow - good grief! Between the "Sorry, I'm in a monogamous relationship, here's the suicide hotline number" to the dang feathers everywhere, LOL he added his unique perspective on the situation. I love how Goodfellow and Ishiah's relationship has developed. And Cal's embarrassment about it. LOL But what is with the feathers? Does Ishiah molt when he's in love or maybe it's something about being with Goodfellow? Yeah, it's probably a Goodfellow effect. *snort* You mention how Robin didn't take sides with Niko or Cal which I thought was another example of how far Robin's relationship with Niko and Cal has come. Early on, I would have said that Robin would side with Niko in just about anything but now, it's become a much more balanced relationship between Robin and the brothers.

Nath: Oh I'm so happy for Goodfellow and Ishiah as well. I think that those two deserve to be happy :) LOL, maybe he just like to have sex with his wings on... LOL. I am so looking forward to Robin's revenge on Cal. I think it's going to be epic LOL.

You think Robin would have sided with Niko over Cal in the beginning? I don't know. For some reasons, I always felt that there was a camaraderie between Cal and Robin that was very strong, perhaps from them being supernatural beings. In the very beginning, perhaps Robin would have sided with Niko - but that was because Niko reminded him of Ishiah. However, ever since Ishiah has been in the picture, that's been taken off the table. Instead, it seems to me Robin and Cal have a stronger bond - hanging out together, being stupid together LOL.

Leslie: I'm getting such a visual after reading your "sex with wings on" comment! Good thing Robin's apartment is big. Lots of room so they can spread out. LOL Oh, I can't wait for the revenge. With Robin, you know it will be something sexual. ;)

Nath: LOL, well don't you think so? I'm thinking it's like when you shake a tree, leaves fall... but in this case, it's feathers :D

Leslie: "When you shake a tree, leaves fall" with Ishiah the tree and Goodfellow doing the shaking. LOL You're killing me here with these visuals Nath! : )

I think in the beginning Robin would have sided with Niko because Niko isn't as rash as Cal in his actions. He thinks things through and weighs the actions with the consequences. Plus the Ishiah influence that you mentioned. But now, Robin has built up a trust with Cal, enough I think to trust Cal's instincts. In a way, Niko is the big brother/parent to both Robin and Cal when it comes to them getting into trouble and "being stupid" as you said. And we know they can be really stupid. Hello - who helped Cal loose his virginity? And didn't that turn out well.

Nath: I still feel that from the beginning, there was a complicity between Robin and Cal, an understanding. Something along the lines of supernatural beings sticking together... but also, they are simply closer in personality.

Another character I want to mention, Delilah.

Leslie: Delilah, talk about power trip! I know she always put herself first, then pack but I thought she at least cared a little about Cal. Now, she seems even colder, meaner than she did in Roadkill.

Nath: I'm actually glad Ms Thurman took the direction she did. At least, it's clear the line has been drawn and there is no going back for both of them :P And the part where Cal is all "I nailed that?!? I'm awesome!" Classic Cal LOL.

Leslie: I'm glad Delilah's out of the picture. Makes room for Georgie. :) You know I've always wanted Georgie and Cal together, or at least a chance to give it a try. I hope she comes back soon.

That whole "nailed it" comment was the pure, real Cal coming through. LOL

Nath: Ugh, not Georgie!! Unless she's changed a lot.

Leslie: Awe, where the Georgie love? hahaha I know you, and Hils too, are not thrilled with the thought of Georgie and Cal together. I do agree that she needs some maturing but that's what she's been doing while she's been gone right? She's going to come back and be smarter and more mature and her and Cal will fall head over heals in lurv. *snort*

So what did you think about the ending with the half-breeds? Most importantly - did you think the empty cage meant the occupant was dead like Cal thought or escaped? I just find it hard to believe that Cal's the only one left.

Nath: It’s not just a matter of maturity, Leslie. To be Cal’s love interested, II always felt that she needed to be strong, be able to take care of herself and be able to manage Cal’s darkness. That’s why I rooted for Delilah at first, because she could handle Cal. Georgie always seemed a bit too fragile to me. In any case, I guess we're going to find out soon if Cal has a new love interest or not :)

As for the other half-breeds... I’ve always been a bit more like Cal - I never thought of the possibility before. Although, as Niko said, it did make sense that they've tried more than once. Whether it is the end of them or not, well I was ready to accept that there was no more Auphe... so why not half-breeds? But realistically... I guess once again, we'll have to wait and see. If there is one left, then it seems that one perhaps can build portals and that'll be interesting. However, I hope it doesn’t become an habit of Ms Thurman to always bring up half-breeds as obstacles or challenges...

So, final grade?

Leslie: Okay, final grade - I'm going with A-. Really enjoyed this different look at Cal and the "what could have been" but I'm still missing Niko's POV.

Nath: It’s an A- as well for me. I really enjoyed Blackout and I think that emotionally and character-wise, this was really an awesome read. I missed Niko’s POV too and I think it would have made the book even more emotional... but at the same time, perhaps it would have been a bit too maudlin for an UF book? In any case, we’ll never know. Now, all I can do is look forward to Doubletake and wonder what Ms Thurman has in store for us!


Hilcia said...

Actually it's perfect timing for this review! It's a great way to catch up on all the details BEFORE reading the next book. *g*

I totally agree with you both on this book, it was a departure from the others in that it was character driven, but it was a wonderful, wonderful book and key to the series. I really enjoyed it! The fastest read in the whole series too, wasn't that a surprise?

Great, great buddy review ladies! It was worth waiting a year to read it. *g*

nath said...

Hilcia - I know LOL. I was planning to post it a few weeks ago but the TBR challenge came up and then, our buddy review for My Wicked Little Secrets... so I decided to keep it for closer to Doubletake release date LOL.

I feel it's because it just wasn't as dark and that was something welcomed :)

LOL, was it really? :)