Pros: Hilarious, poignant, thoughtful; filled with personality and heart-pounding action
Rating: 5 out of 5
A week or two ago I read ten books in a row without stopping to do a lot of reviewing because they were just too good—I couldn’t tear myself away from the pages. I called it my Spring recommended reading list, because how else could I justify giving such high marks to so many books in a row? Books by many of my favorite authors happened to come out all around the same time, and I was bowled over. I now also have four other books to review that I’ve read, but first… last night I finished Rob Thurman’s Deathwish. It was so incredibly good that it deserves to be listed as the unexpected book eleven in my Spring reading list, and so I’m going to review it before I move on to other things.
Deathwish is book four in the Leandros Brothers series, and I highly recommend starting with earlier books. This one stands alone surprisingly well given how much clearly came before, but you don’t want to find yourself in my position—howling in frustration at having discovered such an awesome series four books in. I immediately went and put the first three books on my Amazon wish list and marked them highest priority. There are many series I’d very much like to catch up with, since the review copies I’ve gotten have intrigued me—but I have so many review books to read that there are only a few series I’ve seriously planned to go catch up on, and this is definitely one of them. (In case you’re wondering, the others are Jean Johnson’s Sons of Destiny series; Fiona Patton’s Warriors of Estavia series; and Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb’s in Death series.)
Cal Leandros is half-human and half-Auphe. Unlike the modern conception of an Elf, the Auphe are strictly nightmare material. They’re insane, eternally hungry, and so badass that even vampires and werewolves fear them. Cal and his human brother Nik nearly wiped out the Auphe, but the things are like cockroaches—they just keep coming back, and this time, they’re determined to take Cal with them, after they torture and kill everyone he gives a damn about.
In the meantime, the only means Cal and Nik have of supporting themselves is by taking odd jobs from the supernatural community. In this case, one of Promise’s vampire friends, Seamus, believes he’s being followed. Seamus is more than he seems, however, and when he turns up dead—and Promise’s daughter comes on the scene trailing a world of her own trouble—events will truly get deadly.
Cal has more to deal with than any young man of twenty should have to face. He struggles with the Auphe side of his nature constantly. He knows his very presence puts anyone he cares about in danger. He loves his brother Nik even though the two of them are incredibly different, and he constantly fears what might happen to Nik because of him. To make matters worse, anyone who can tell or finds out that Cal is half-Auphe instantly distrusts him. It’s enough to make anyone bitter, and Cal’s pretty unstable to begin with.
Nik is on a far more even keel than his brother; he’s had to be. At the age of four their mother handed him baby Cal and told him it was his job to raise his brother. Ever since he realized that the Auphe were tracking Cal, however, he’s trained himself to kill. A vegetarian who meditates and rarely shows anger, he’s also incredibly deadly with any variety of swords and knives. He’ll need all that skill and more if he wants to keep Cal alive though murderous vampires, disgusting sea monsters, an immortal hunter, a vengeful mummy, a lecherous puck, and Auphe plans that are far, far worse than the torture they’ve already put Cal through.
The chapters are told from alternating viewpoints, Nik vs. Cal. It’s a wonderful contrast, because the characters have such vastly different views on events. They even have different brands of snark. The author does have just enough of a distinctive writing style that I occasionally had to remind myself of which brother was talking, but it was only a mild problem.
The panoply of characters surrounding the Leandros Brothers made the story truly come alive. Promise is an interesting vampire, someone who loves Nik yet occasionally has trouble relating to him. Robin, the lecherous puck, is a delightfully conflicted character. Everyone from the werewolf that occasionally shares Cal’s bed to the mummified cat that adopts Robin to the force-of-nature hunting Promise’s daughter turns out to be fascinating in his or her own right.
The humor—whether crass or dark, snarky or hilarious—is right on target, and eminently quotable:
“Okay. We’ll go.” I sighed and scratched my ass absently. “Should we take Robin?”
“I don’t know. What does the Magic 8 Ball that is your ass say?” he asked dryly.
We took Robin without any input from my ass, thanks for asking.
The action is fast-paced and fascinating, and the plot twists are delicious. I tend to roll my eyes when I find out there’s yet another series with vampires and werewolves in it, but this one definitely felt original and different. There’s so much more in it, from mummies to revenants, giant rats to Boggles, and the author makes them unusual and fun.
I’m definitely going to have to go back to the beginning and read the whole series!