Friday, May 10

Buddy Review: Slashback by Rob Thurman

Buddy reviewing the newest Cal Leandros book with Leslie and/or Hilcia has become a yearly tradition - one that I wouldn't want to break :) So here we go for 2013, our thoughts about the 8th book!

Slashback by Rob Thurman
published by New American Library (ROC) in March 2013

I stopped and let them circle me, first because it was intriguing and, second, because, honestly, what could they do? Only knives, but all armed, and that made them even more interesting. Interesting. Fun.


Taking on bloodthirsty supernatural monsters is how Caliban and Niko Leandros make a living. But years ago—before they became a force to be reckoned with—the brothers were almost victims of a very human serial killer.


Unfortunately for them, that particular depraved killer was working as apprentice to a creature far more malevolent—the legendary Spring-heeled Jack. He’s just hit town. He hasn’t forgotten what the Leandros brothers did to his murderous protégé. He hasn’t forgotten what they owe him.

And now they are going to pay… and pay… and pay...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros, Book #8

The Story: The blurb has it pretty accurately. There's a new serial killer in New York City - a supernatural one. While it's their job to investigate such case, Cal has no intention of taking this one for multiple reasons: a) they're not getting paid for it and b) they have to focus on Grimm. However, when it becomes apparent that this religious zealot has beef with the Leandros brothers, they don't have much choice than to step in. But this one won't be as easy as they realize as it brings up memories both would prefer remain undisturbed. And as usual, their good friend Robyn Goodfellow is there to give them a hand.

Nath: Wow ladies! Can’t believe that Slashback is already the 8th book in the Cal Leandros series! Whew, time flies! So what did you think of Slashback? Is it still refreshing or becoming too familiar? :)

Leslie: You ladies know this is one of my favorite series - I simply love how Thurman writes the male perspective. I liked Slashback but didn’t love. It felt like it moved slower than the usual pace of the series. And there didn’t seem to be as many fight scenes either. I love the fight scenes! I don’t think the series is at the point where it’s become too familiar. The characters are familiar but not stagnant or boring. I feel Thurman still has more to explore with the Leandros brothers.

The flashbacks. I’m not a big fan of flashbacks and generally try to avoid them. This time I was surprised at how well they worked for me. The plot allowed for a nearly seamless back and forth flow from present day to twelve years prior. I usually find the transitions jarring but not this time. I see the flashbacks as tools to develop the current storyline which they did here. But I also simply enjoyed reading about the young brothers and could see reading maybe a novella about young Cal and Niko - Leandros Brothers: The Early Years. lol

Alternating POV - so happy we get both Cal and Niko’s POV. Niko is such an integral part of Cal, he wouldn’t be Cal without Niko, so the story feels more complete when part is told in Niko’s voice.

Hilcia: I can't believe Slashback is the eighth book of this series and the three of us are still enjoying it. In this particular installment I love that Thurman went back to using both Niko and Cal as narrators again. That was refreshing, particularly Niko's strong and rather sweet voice. Yes, sweet, because his love for Cal comes through the pages and I loved young Niko’s voice.

Leslie, I feel the same way about flashbacks, and in this instance they also worked for me. The flow was excellent between timelines and Thurman tied up the two storylines beautifully. However, I disagree about the pacing. Slashback wasn’t a slow read for me at all! Even with the lack of the usual nonstop action, I read it in two sittings. Yet, this is not one of my favorite books of the series either.

I’m finding that although I still love the characters and there are a few surprises in this book, there is also a certain repetitiveness to the overall story arc. I had a distinct sense of deja vu while reading the story. What about you Nath, what do you think?

Nath: LOL, it’s really no wonder us three get along so well when we have such similar tastes in books and writing styles!! So no surprise, I’m not a fan of flashbacks either, but in this case, they worked for me because they were really integral to the main storyline, actually complemented it. It wasn’t just random scenes, but a whole story in itself and that kept me reading. And of course, add the fact that it was told in Niko’s POV and that was a must-read. I have to say though, I particularly enjoyed these flashbacks because it gave us another look at Cal and Niko’s brotherhood. Yes, we’ve been told they were close since they were young, but here, we were shown :) By the way, I have to say Ms Thurman did such a great job at inserting some surprises in these flashbacks!! And as you both said, the flow between the present and the flashbacks was done flawlessly.

As for the pacing, I’m torn between you guys. On one hand, I know what Leslie means by the lack of fighting and as such, I feel the action wasn’t as good as previous books. However, like Hilcia, I don’t feel Slashback was a slow read. Trust me, I’ve slugged through the first couple of books of this series and I still remember how slow it was LOL. I think the problem here is as much as we enjoyed the flashbacks, they did overshadow the main storyline. Furthermore, because Ms Thurman had to compose with two storylines going on at the same time, she had less pages to develop Cal and Niko’s current case and therefore, had to cut back on the action ^_^; So for me, my issue with Slashback is that the intrigue/mystery part wasn’t as strong as I’d hope.

And you know, Hils, regarding your sense of deja vu... Well I think it was Cal’s monologue again, how he’s dealing with the human and monster sides in him. Can’t be the case because it wasn’t about the Auphe, which by the way, I didn’t mind LOL. Can’t be the flashbacks... so that leaves the characters and mainly Cal :P

Leslie: I’m not sure if it was expectations based on previous books but I did miss the action scenes. Those action scenes tended to break up Cal’s monologues, goodness but he loves to talk to himself! In Slashback, his monologues felt like they dragged on a little too long. I did get that repetitive feeling too. It was a case of too much time spent in Cal’s head. I usually like his dry, self-deprecating humor. Still like it but sometimes I just want him to be more serious and not leave all that responsibility to Niko. Hils, this one took me more than a few sittings to read. Which surprised me since I usually devour this series.

Agree with you Nath, the current case didn’t feel as developed. But the offset was getting to know the brothers in their early years. Even though we’ve known Niko has had a tremendous responsibility since a very early age, it was heartbreaking to see not only how much responsibility he shouldered but how much blame he took upon himself.

Hilcia: Leslie, wow... that’s what happened to me with previous books. That’s interesting. But you know what? I didn’t miss the action all that much, which surprises me. What kept my attention more than anything was the suspense of what was going to happen to Niko and Cal in the storyline set in the past. In this case, the suspense was more effective for me than the actual action.

But yes, Cal’s continuing monologue and struggle between the human and monster sides of himself have become repetitive, that’s definitely part of that sense of deja vu. At this point, I’m losing track of where exactly Cal is on the growth or decompensation scale as a human/monster. He takes one step forward and three back! Also, we already know how deeply Niko and Cal feel about each other, I don’t think it’s really necessary to make it all about “how they would kill or die for each other,” we know that. Can we move on? But, there was also a sense of familiarity about the mystery itself that I can’t put my finger on. I’m referring to the contemporary storyline here, the one set in the past felt fresh and I was very much into that section of the story.

Nath: Hmmm, seems like I can’t help you here, Hils. For me, the repetitiveness came from Cal’s monologues. As you said, he seems to take one step forward and three back, sigh. As you’ve also pointed out, I don’t think we need to be shown again how the brothers would kill for each other. That being said, one thing that I did enjoy in the bromance in Slashback was to see a more human and flawed side of Niko. How he thrived for a bit of normalcy and the fact he’s done some mistakes and does not want to talk about them. Niko always seems so perfect, so level-headed, but at the end of the day, he is human and flawed like everyone else. Ok, less than everyone else, but still LOL.

While Slashback didn’t have as much action as previous books, I thought it made up with some revelations. What did you think of them? Let’s take them one at a time and start with the boys finally finding out the truth about the peris. About time no?

Leslie: I loved getting to know more about the mythology of the peris and seeing their abilities in action. There’s just so much more of this world to explore, I hope we see more of the peris.

Hilcia: Sigh... I love the bromance too, Nath. I just believe that Slashback was a long, involved way to show how Niko finally comes to certain, truthful realizations about Cal’s nature, and Cal realizes what he may be capable of if he continues on a certain path. This was needed, yes, but I wish that Thurman had done so within the already established story arc, instead of going on a tangent by focusing on the peris.

As far as the introduction of angels go, I think that came out of left field at this point in the series! I mean, so far Thurman has introduced multiple mythologies and creatures, but with the angels she goes into the whole Judeo-Christian realm. I don’t really know how I feel about that. I do, however, hope we see more of the peris. I like them.

Leslie: You’re right Hils, it did come out of left field. Almost as if Thurman realized she should have given this background sooner since the peris have been involved in the series for a while now. As for the religious connection, I’m curious as to how far Thurman will take it. I do wonder if this means the peris will become even more prevalent in Cal and Niko’s personal life. Maybe a female peri as Cal’s love interest? Talk about good girl attracted to bad boy! Of course I'm still hoping Georgie comes back. lol

Nath: Actually, the revelation about the peris isn’t coming out of the left field as much as you two ladies think. Did you guys read Ms Thurman’s other series, the Trickster series? Because those two books are very much focused on angels and demons and I guess that’s where Ms Thurman did most of her world building for that aspect. So the knowledge that peris are actually angels have been out there for a while. For me, I was happy that it finally came all together :) I wonder if there is going to be some cross-over... That’d be interesting!

A female peri as Cal’s love interest would be interesting, Leslie. However, if I remember correctly, I have not seen any woman as angels or demons... Even the peris we have seen in the Cal Leandros series have all been male, so I wonder if there are any female peris. In any case, I’m still hoping for the black hair girl that Cal met in that market... was it last book or two books ago?! I’m hoping she is a Trickster :P Cal has already gone the good girl route with Georgie and he really needs someone that can handle herself. Dahlia is not the best example, but at least with her, Cal didn’t have to worry for her ^_^;

Hilcia: Les, I’m SO glad you mentioned Georgie! After reading that rather mysterious scene in the last book, I really thought there would be something, more of a hint about her in Slashback. You know that I’m not a fan of Georgie, but I was actually disappointed that that story arc was not continued in this book. Instead, we got more revelations about Robyn and his relationship with Niko and Cal? What did you ladies think about that?

Nath, it’s interesting that Thurman features peris in her Trickster series, however, I personally don’t follow that series. However, since this is the first time peris as angels are mentioned in the Leandros series, it came out of left field for me! It’s an interesting concept, but she’s going to have to further develop it, or give readers more details, in order to really make it work in this series.

And, lol, I don’t know what woman would put up with Cal!

Nath: Hils, I know what about you mean about the world building. I hope Ms Thurman will flesh it out more in the future for those who missed the Trickster series.

As for Georgie, I think the reason we did not see her at all is because she is so closely tied to the Auphe’s storyline. I’m sure she will be mentioned when Grimm surfaces back. As for the peris, perhaps she’ll incorporate more of the world building in the next book, now that Cal and Niko know. However, I’m not sure to what extent given that New York City is without angels and demons and thus, the peris don’t have much reason to get involved. Also, they are there in sufferance - if it wasn’t for Robyn, they’d have been given the boot, so I think they will continue to keep a low profile.

As for the revelation about Robyn and his relationship with Niko and Cal, I thought it was interesting! I find it’s so much fun and makes the bond between the three even stronger. However, as much as like the connection, that’s the revelation I thought came out of the left field. Although as Robyn said, he’s been dropping some heavy hints recently. Still, there’s a difference between Archilles being your ancestor and you, being a reincarnation of Archilles! Makes me wonder when Ms Thurman had decided on this twist because I’m sure it wasn’t from the beginning! Still, she did a good job at explaining why the Leandros brothers haven’t recognize Robyn and why Robyn jumped on the bandwagon so fast LOL.

Leslie: I’ve read the first book in the Trickster series but don’t remember it. As for there being female peris, it’s possible they are fewer in number and not as “out there” as the males - keeping a lower profile. IDK The black hair girl in the market I don’t think was random either. It was Doubletake when she made her first appearance. (I cheated and checked our buddy review for it) It’s only been one book so I think she’ll be back and hopefully we’ll find out more about her. But I do agree that whomever Cal pairs up with she will need to be strong and able to take care of herself. So yeah, I was also disappointed with no sightings of my Georgie girl. But who knows what she’ll be like when she comes back? She could be all bad-ass. Hey, don’t laugh, it’s possible! lol

Nath: Leslie, you eternal optimist. Not giving up on Georgie, LOL.

Hilcia: Les, I believe that Thurman is saving Georgie for Cal. She’s coming back... I know it. LOL

Leslie: Nope, not giving up on Georgie. I’m stubborn when it comes to her. lol

As for Robin and his relationship with the brothers, I do like knowing they have this long-lasting bond. Fate keeps putting them together because they were meant to be together. Did it come out of left field? I would say no if I had read these books closer together and would have hopefully picked up on the clues. But since my memory is pretty much shot, it did surprise me. But like Robyn said, they were always comparing Niko to Achilles.

I did feel sorry for Robyn, knowing the brothers will eventually die and he must wait and hope to see them again. Like Cal said, Robyn is lonely and those years he gets with the brothers must be that much more treasured with the knowledge they will be gone again. So glad Robyn now has Ishiah now too.

Hilcia: I agree with you Leslie! I also think the revelation about the relationship between Robyn, Niko and Cal makes absolute sense! This worked for me because I think that Thurman was quite clever in how she worked in the details featured in previous books and taken from the interactions among all three men. I particularly liked the surprise in the flashback part of the story. That was kind of fun and at the same time... sad. You know. . . I love Robyn. He is fun and crazy and lascivious, but underneath it all, I feel sad for him. I also hope he keeps Ishiah. :D

Nath: I’m with you two. It is sad that he keeps losing them. At the same time, he knows he’ll see them again. I guess at the end of the day, it’s just bittersweet. Although I gotta love how they met again in this life. The pervert comment LOL. Even at such a young age, Cal could recognize them :P And I think this time, Robyn won’t let go of Ishiah.

So, final verdict on Slashback?

Leslie: It’s a solid installment to the series with some interesting revelations that should keep the story arc moving. The thing is, I’m not sure what direction that arc will take. Is that good or bad? I feel like we should have some idea of where the series is going at this point. I still enjoyed the book but it took too long to finish so I’m going with a B-.

Hilcia: Ladies, I’m conflicted about Slashback. I enjoyed the dual narrative from Niko and Cal’s perspectives, the quick read, and additional depth gained by our main characters in the flashback section. However within the contemporary setting, due to Cal’s repetitive monologue and a sense of deja vu, the storyline suffered. Additionally, I believe that the overall series has stalled and needs to move forward, or as much as I love Cal and Niko, I’ll lose interest. So in the end for me this was no more than a C+ read.

Nath: Jeez, and they say I’m the tough grader! LOL. I’m going with a B. The intrigue was a bit weak and there was some repetition, but the revelations and the flashbacks definitively made up for it :)


Hilcia said...

Thank you ladies. As always, I had a great time looking deeper into the world inhabited by our favorite boys, Cal and Niko. Until next time!

Jan said...

I read the first couple of these books, but somehow lost track of them. I need to go back and track them down. Not that I don't already have a huge pile of books to read!

nath said...

Hilcia - LOL, can't wait till next time, Hils!

Jan - I like this series. I find the first few books were a bit slow to get through... But now, they're fun and quick :) Hope you enjoy them!