Review: “Nevermore,” Rob Thurman

Pros: Picks up beautifully toward the end
Cons: Meanders and wanders, and I’m fond of neither time travel nor cliffhangers
Rating: 3 out of 5

Nevermore is the tenth book in Rob Thurman’s Leandros series. Things by this point are extremely dependent on backstory, so don’t jump in with this novel. I found that Nevermore didn’t stand up to the previous volumes, but frankly one semi-dud in a series of ten is a great track record.

Backing up to the premise of this one: Cal has to go back in time eight years in order to prevent a catastrophe that would otherwise result in the deaths of many, ultimately including himself. He chose eight years because that’s how far back the Vigil sent an assassin whose goal is to kill that younger Cal. He’s desperate to find a way to change what’s going to happen. In the process, he gets caught up with his brother Niko from this time period, his younger self (to differentiate, the older Cal gets called Caliban), and Robin Goodfellow–who wasn’t supposed to join up with the brothers for another year yet.

 

First of all, I rarely enjoy time travel plots (aside from Dr. Who, of course). It’s nearly impossible to make them consistent. It’s nearly impossible to predict the consequences of actions. It also presents the danger of making incidents we were emotionally invested in meaningless, and it tends to leave you wondering why the time travel method couldn’t be used in better or other ways. It can make for an arbitrary-seeming plot, or act as a deus ex machina. In the case of Nevermore, I’m not altogether happy about how it’s used. For example, a highly venomous snake bites Cal, and suddenly Caliban has the scars from that bite. Okay, that’s fine, but he’s changing the past in SO many ways, large and small, and the snake bite proves that any consequences should immediately be reflected in Caliban. It makes no sense that this one scar is the only change we see. Many readers have their own personal pet peeves regarding the implementation of fictional time travel, so it’s a dicey plot to play with.

In a recent book (spoiler if you’re several books back yet), we found out that Cal and Niko have been reincarnating over and over throughout the millenia. They always find each other, and when one dies the other inevitably follows. Goodfellow has tracked them down life by life because they’re the closest thing he has to friends. Of course they don’t remember their past lives or Goodfellow. This time Caliban has access to many of those memories. He spends time with Robin discussing some of those lives–in the middle of chases where it would seem like they’d need to save their breath for, say, staying alive. It breaks the pacing of the novel, and since there was something more exciting going on, it seems markedly less interesting at the time. Saving those talks for a more reasonable time would have upped the interest level and the characters’ expected survivability. All of this also contributed to the fact that I wasn’t nearly as drawn in by the events of this book as I was by others. (End spoiler)

Nevermore suffers in comparison to previous novels in other ways. Normally Thurman’s Leandros novels are incredibly quotable, because she is (in general) a master of zingy dialogue and monologue. Unfortunately I didn’t see that here.

Some of the events are confusing, particularly when they get interrupted by Robin and Caliban’s reminiscences. Also, this book reminds me of the 80s telivision show staple: the episode that consists almost entirely of flashbacks with only the flimsiest of surrounding plot. (Those always made me think that either the production ran out of funds or the writers ran out of ideas.)

Now, all of this said, every writer has a flop now and then. Ten books into a complex series is not a bad track record at all. Toward the end the pace finally picked up and stayed there, pulling me into what was going on. While this book doesn’t live up to its predecessors, it’s still a lot better than many other authors’ work.

Unfortunately, Nevermore ended up on a cliffhanger, and those are a personal pet peeve of mine (but a staple of 80s TV shows, so I guess there’s consistency here). I will absolutely continue to follow the series; one not-incredible book out of ten is probably a fluke, and there is still some good material here.

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