"Roadkill," Rob Thurman

Pros: I always wonder how on earth Thurman’s going to pull Cal and Niko out of their latest, most insane problem, and she never disappoints
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Spoiler Note: Read this series in order, starting with Nightlife (then continuing with Moonshine, Madhouse, and Deathwish). You’ll want to get the whole story arc. Try not to read reviews of later books until you’ve read the earlier ones. Rob Thurman’s Roadkill, by the way, is book five of the series.

 

Half-human Cal and his brother, Niko, have been shunned by their Gypsy family thanks to Cal’s half-monstrous nature. On a previous occasion, when they had to deal with the Rom, an old lady screwed them over rather badly. Now, however, she wants their help. A coffin has been stolen from her clan—a coffin containing the clan’s burden, an ancient Rom with the power to cause, create, and spread any and every disease. There’s a reason he’s known as the Plague of the World. If the seals on his coffin are breached, he’ll make the Black Death look like a practice round.

Nik and Cal don’t trust the old lady, but they can’t just let something like that loose upon the world. So they round up the best healer they can find and head off on a road trip, following the van that’s taking the coffin cross-country. The seals have already started to crack, and pockets of disease spring up along the roadside. Can they get to the coffin before hell is unleashed on Earth? Can their own healer stand against their enemy’s power? And how do you fight someone who can strike you dead where you stand?


 

Where to begin? The old lady is spiteful, back-stabbing, and more than able to take care of herself—as she proves ably when she visits Cal and Niko in the bar Cal works at, the one where Niko’s pretty much the only human to have come and gone unharmed. She’s irritating as hell in the most deliciously nasty way. The idea of Cal, Niko, Robin, and a couple of others on a road trip is just plain hysterical, and has plenty of perils of its own. Delilah and Cal’s perilous relationship comes to a head in a colossal case of bad timing, but when has timing ever worked in our heroes’ favor anyway?

I almost feel like I’m repeating myself with Ms. Thurman’s books—she has a knack for getting into the heads of her narrators, resulting in some wonderfully quotable snarky lines. Her action scenes are tense and very well-paced. There’s usually at least one reveal during any Thurman book that leaves me shocked and surprised, and to be completely vain for a moment here, that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like with books.

In particular, I’d happily read every book she cared to put out in this series just to see what path Cal is ultimately taking as his human and Auphe natures war, and how his relationship with Niko will be put to the test yet again. Of course, that could make it sound as though these are stagnant issues replaying interminably within each book when they’re anything but—there’s real change in Cal’s nature and in how he and Niko cope with each other and themselves from book to book. That’s what’s so fascinating.

Thurman’s Leandros Brothers books are dark adventures that show us the best of heroism and the darkest of evil—not to mention a whole lot of delightful in-between.

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