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REVIEW: Slashback by Rob Thurman

Dear Ms. Thurman,

It’s rare that a long-running series can hold my attention. Very few authors have successfully have kept my engagement levels high over extended periods of time. (And one of them I freely admit is done so with no small amount of resentment — George R. R. Martin, I’m looking at you.) Usually my interest starts to flag around book 4. But your Cal Leandros books have kept my interest through the years, and I can’t believe we’re already on book 8!

slashback-thurmanSlashback picks up the next thematic arc set up in Blackout and then launched in Doubletake. Concerned by the threat presented by Grimm, Cal is grappling with the monster side of his hybrid heritage. He needs to become stronger and what easier way to reach that goal than to tap into your supernatural heritage? But when your monster side comes from the Auphe — an entire race of homicidal creatures — doing so can mean falling down a slippery slope of amorality. Cal’s spent most of his life denying that side and trying to be human, so does accepting his Auphe side mean becoming the very thing that’s fueled his nightmares?

This internal conflict is exacerbated by the arrival of a serial killer. In the supernatural underground of NYC, this is perhaps not so unusual in and of itself. A monster targeting humans for giggles? We’ve seen that before. The Leandros brothers have tackled such problems in the past. But what makes it strange is that the supernatural community wants no part of it and is in fact actively avoiding any and all possible involvement. Even stranger is that hardly any of them knows a thing about the perpetrator despite his long-standing infamy within their world.

Interwoven with the present-day serial killer plot are flashbacks from Cal and Niko’s youth. Not only do these scenes offer insight into Niko’s mentality (they’re from his POV), they delve into the relationship between the brothers while telling the story of their first encounter with a serial killer. The past and the present mirror each other until, of course, they collide.

Despite the jumping back and forth between the past and the present-day, the plot was pretty straightforward. I figured early on that the serial killer from the brothers’ past was related to their current problem. Why else make each other chapter a flashback? Despite that predictability, I enjoyed it. These books have always been more about the experience and the journey than inventive, unpredictable plotting. I love the brothers and the people who surround them, so getting a glimpse of their past was great. Even more so because we learn why Niko is the way he is about protecting Cal.

There were a couple big revelations in this novel. One of them was not very surprising if you stop to think about it, but it makes me curious about how this will be incorporated into future books. I just don’t see how you can introduce something as major as [spoiler] the existence of heaven and angels [/spoiler] without doing something with it. The events in Slashback only seem like the tip of the iceberg. Maybe I’m wrong.

The other revelation could be considered twee by some readers. It didn’t bother me at all and made me feel sorry for the brothers’ friend, Robin Goodfellow. He’s ancient and has lived for so long, but it’s been mostly solitary due to the nature of pucks. He has dear friends who come into his life but they’re invariably human, mortal and by virtue of their chosen life paths, die young.

I don’t read much urban fantasy these days but I still consider the Leandros books to be go-to reads. They’re entertaining and fun, and Cal’s sarcastic narrative voice never fails to make me laugh. Throw in a rare situation where we see the normally composed Niko crack under the pressure, and Slashback re-confirmed my fondness for this series. Bring on the next one. B

My regards,
Jia

P.S. – Are we ever going to see George again? I miss her!

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Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

12 Comments

  1. CD
    Mar 14, 2013 @ 08:30:57

    Like you, I can’t believe that this book was number 8 and that I’m still following it to the point of cyber-stalking Rob Thurman online. There are definite flaws – Cal’s rantings sound more like an overgrown teenager in a strop more often than not, which makes it difficult to take his “badassness” seriously. And that whole Robin thing really got my eyeballs rolling – did we really need that? However, it always comes back down to the relationship between the brothers and that’s what keeps me devouring these books like crack.

    PS. George – hmmnnn. Read the previous book in the series to find out.

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  2. Angela
    Mar 14, 2013 @ 08:54:49

    I’ve had a friend recommending this series to me for, well just about ever. I’ve got the first book sitting on my Kindle, but I just haven’t managed to get to it yet. Your review just pushed this over to the must-read-soon pile though.Something that holds you attentive through 8 books is definitely worth my time :)

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  3. Lada
    Mar 14, 2013 @ 14:55:50

    I enjoy urban fantasy (Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs) and have wondered about this Thurman series. They seem to be marketed as older YA and I’m wondering how accurate that is. I’m not a fan of YA though if the book is highly recommended I will certainly try it. You’ve certainly intrigued me since you are still enjoying the series at book 8!

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  4. Jia
    Mar 14, 2013 @ 15:48:18

    Oh, I wouldn’t consider these books older YA at all. I wouldn’t even consider them new adult.

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  5. D. B. Reynolds
    Mar 14, 2013 @ 16:54:22

    I’m with Jia, these books are definitely NOT YA. I’d have given this one an A-, though, and oddly I didn’t like the big reveal that Jia found intriguing and included as a hidden spoiler above. I’m hoping it DOESN’T make a reappearance. :) I did love the glimpse into the brothers’ past, and the chink in Niko’s armor. But mostly I love the unbreakable relationship between them, and the fact that Cal finally understands Niko’s sensible position on using his Aupheness.

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  6. Susan
    Mar 14, 2013 @ 21:53:01

    Oh, oh. I read this a couple of days ago–LOVE the series. I had to immediately re-read the first book after this, and may go thru the whole series again.

    I was also going to say something about George but decided not to since it might be a spoiler for a previous book. But I can say that it’s not likely that we’ll be seeing George again. :-(

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  7. Jia
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 06:18:17

    My memory must be failing me because I actually thought there was a chance that George would be coming back. (It’s so hard to talk about it without spoilers everywhere!)

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  8. Liz H.
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 12:25:03

    Like @Angela, I’ve had the first book in the series sitting in my TBR pile for a while, and this review has definitely pushed it up.

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  9. Susan
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 22:27:42

    @Jia: Well, this is UF so maybe George could come back, but I think it was addressed pretty definitively at the time. IIRC, she may not have been referred to by name but it was clear who she was. Sorry.

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  10. Darlynne
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 11:42:44

    Count me as one of the long-term readers of this series. I fall into their world every time a new book comes out, without hesitation, and can’t say that about more than a handful of writers. Great review.

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  11. Guest
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 13:38:39

    Love the series, love this installment.

    About George, if you read this Rob Thruman interview she explains a bit more
    http://kingsriverlife.com/03/03/rob-thurman-doubletake-interview/

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  12. Isobel Carr
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 10:02:42

    I couldn’t get through book one (which I bought after reading a rave review somewhere, maybe here). There was a whole lot of nothing happening (aside from detailed descriptions of their food and the younger brother’s bizarre interest in his older brother’s hair). I thought it was so bad I actually returned it to Amazon; something I’ve only ever done twice.

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