Nightlife by Rob Thurman

This week, I finished reading Rob Thurman’s Nightlife, book one of the Cal Leandros series. It is one of many in the avalanche of urban fantasy novels in the last couple years. Being a big fan of Jim Butcher, I have been branching out to similar authors. What I found in Nightlife was interesting, but far from spectacular.

The book is mainly written from the point of view of Caliban (Cal) Leandros, who is a pretty un-endearing, forgettable individual. I think the author really enjoyed being able to write cuss words because “that’s what those teenagers say these days.” He is supposed to come across as a clever, witty, wiseass. Instead, he became a character in a book I set aside for over a month. Horribly, terribly, unoriginal. His brother, Niko, is a more appealing character, although he plays second fiddle throughout the book. Despite the Cal character being a flop, Thurman’s re-imagining of the faerie tale world is quite interesting. The Thurman “elf” (a mispronunciation of “Auphe”) is a wicked, nasty creature of pure evil. They make passable boogeymen, although their nastiness is never really demonstrated, just hinted around at. The Thurman “troll” is really intriguing, with the ability to absorb others into its massive tentacled form. Satyrs make an appearance, as do boggles. The vampires are barely explored, but the werewolves felt a bit “off”. Overall, the fantasy world itself is different and intriguing. I much prefer Kim Harrison’s fantasy world from the Hollows, but this is passable.

The plot is not bad, if not cliched. The big bad guys want to destroy humanity, and the good guys don’t want that. Typical, but pulled off in an acceptable manner. The biggest problem is the Cal character is lousy. There is no empathy for him, he’s not amusing, he acts like a twelve-year-old with a pistol, and he is uninspired. Everytime he goes into another one of his long tirades about life, I find myself going on a long sleep.

Overall, I think the book showed a lot of promise. I would be curious to see how the later books (this was Thurman’s first) develop the character. For a first novel, it is a good attempt and shows some creativity. I would like to see characters that hook me into the story. Honestly, by the end of the book, I didn’t care if Cal made it or not. In fact, at times I rooted for the bad guys, because it would finally end.

In the end, I put this particular work on the B-list of urban fantasy. It is an okay story with some very neat twists on myth and legend, but character development needs a lot of work. I’m willing to read one more and see if Thurman was able to fully come into his potential.

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