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Deathwish (Cal Leandros, Book 4) by Rob Thurman
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462626
Date: 03 March 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Caliban and Niko Leandros are back in their fourth adventure—and this time, it's one with the highest stakes of all, as the brothers are not the ones in the crosshairs.

It's their friends who are in danger.

More Rob Thurman:
Nightlife
Moonshine
Madhouse

In Deathwish, Cal and Nik are once again facing the horrors of Cal's inhuman kin, the demon-elf ancients known as the Auphe. Thinking they had eliminated every last one of the sadistic monsters, the brothers were unprepared when Cal found himself surrounded by Auphe—yet was not killed or even attacked. However, the mystery doesn't last long; the Auphe reveal to Cal that they will kill every last one of his friends, ending with his beloved brother Nik, before enacting a fate worse than death on Cal himself.

This danger is not the only one they face. Taking on a case for a friend of Nik's vampire girlfriend Promise, they work on finding out why vampire artist Seamus is being stalked. This assignment takes them into the path of the Vigil: humans who study and (when necessary) clean up after the supernatural… and an old, unwelcome acquaintance of theirs happens to be a member.

As if that weren't enough, Promise's wayward daughter Cherish enters their lives, pursued by a South American supernatural with an esoteric menagerie and a thirst for Cherish's blood. It's a complication they don't need, especially as this mystery only deepens and darkens with the passing of days.

Surrounded by hostile forces, it may be that Cal and Nik have reached the end of the line—assuming Cal doesn't surrender to his horrific Auphe nature first…

Author Rob Thurman takes her storytelling to a whole new level in Deathwish, with alternating chapters telling the story from Cal and Nik's points of view. Thurman's mastery of plot and character are on display, as she navigates the complexity of a double first person narrative with confidence and style. The voices of the two brothers are rich and distinct; Cal is terse and darkly humorous while Nik is deeper, giving access to his rich interior life and (more importantly) his motivations. Nik has largely been a cipher in the series to date, well-drawn but opaque; this novel gives readers a thorough understanding of who Nikos Leandros is and why he does what he does. Thurman's readers will be amply rewarded in this novel, especially for that look into Nik's psyche.

The supporting cast is largely the same as before, with the boastful, lustful and greedy puck Robin Goodfellow and Promise featured. While Robin is much as he always is, Nik's relationship with Promise is tested in a profound way; also, Cherish's arrival puts a terrible strain on the four comrades, who are not confident of their survival.

Characters such as psychic Georgina and mummy Wahanket make a reappearance as well, as the brothers turn to every resource they know to avoid what seems like certain death. In the end, though, it may all come down to Cal. Is he human or a monster? Thurman leaves very little doubt about how she answers that question, but it isn't as cut and dried as a reader might think.

Fans of street-level urban fantasy will enjoy this new novel by Thurman, who proves herself yet again in this crowded sub-genre.

Recommended.

EDITORIAL NOTE: SFRevu would like to note (with some blushing) that Rob (Robyn) Thurman is in fact a "she"--and we are amending our reviews to take this information into account. Our apologies to Ms. Thurman for the mistake!

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