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REVIEW: Deathwish by Rob Thurman

Dear Ms. Thurman,

045146262901lzzzzzzzI’ve made no secret of the fact that I love your Cal Leandros series.   Its blend of fast-paced action, sarcastic humor, and supernatural mayhem should appeal to anyone who’s ever loved the Winchester brothers on Supernatural.   Except in these books, not only do we have the above but we also get a multicultural cast and female characters that don’t get killed after a few episodes.   (Come on now, we know it’s true.)   Last year’s Madhouse was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while this latest installment was satisfying, it’s not exactly what I signed up for.

Starting immediately after Madhouse, Deathwish opens with Cal fleeing from his homicidal relatives from hell, the Auphe.   For readers unfamiliar with the series, I’m not exaggerating.   The Auphe are really demonic elves from hell.   In fact, they’re elves, period.   One thing the series emphasizes is the fact that myth and legend get it wrong.   With the Auphe, they seriously got it wrong.

Cal and his brother, Niko, thought they’d wiped out the Auphe.   They were mistaken.   What’s worse, Cal notices something strange about the Auphe attacking them now: they’re all female.   It takes a while for Cal to work it out but I think any savvy reader will figure out early on what that means for our half-human, half-Auphe protagonist.

And if the Auphe weren’t enough to deal with, the Leandros brothers end up with more trouble when an old lover of Promise’s (Niko’s vampire girlfriend) hires them to figure out who’s been stalking him.   Even more inconvenient is when Promise’s long-estranged daughter, Cherish, shows up and asks for help.   An immortal hunter is out for her head because she stole something valuable from him.   And it’s the latter that may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, in more ways than one.

The first thing fans of the series will notice is that this book is no longer written solely from Cal’s POV.   It alternates in first-person narration between Cal and his brother, Niko.   As I’ve mentioned in the past, this can be tricky.   It can really shine when the narrators have distinct, contrasting voices.     Otherwise, they can blend together.   The brothers have different enough personalities that it’s easy enough to keep them separate, but I admit I vastly prefer Cal’s voice.   There’s a plot-related reason for why Niko’s POV was included but even so, his voice lacks Cal’s bite and world-weary cynicism.   Under most circumstances, Niko is calm, controlled and honorable, and truth be told, that doesn’t always result in the most interesting of perspectives to filter through in a novel.   I liked the insights into his characters but I’m not certain I needed them, if that makes sense.

The Cal Leandros novels also tend to have many things going on when it comes to storylines and intersecting plots.   It usually results in a frenzied, exciting pace.   But here, the pieces never quite came together for me.   The book jumps from one storyline to another, but I never experienced the nail-biting tension I’ve grown to expect.   I’m not sure if that’s because we saw from both brothers’ individual perspectives.     It’s possible the conflict was diluted because we switched back and forth between perspectives.   Other readers may have a different reaction and find it increased the suspense, however.

Something that struck me about this book is a lot of page time was spent on the brothers’ relationship and how they’d do anything for each other.   I’m not sure why the emphasis seemed stronger in this book than in previous ones.   The bond between the brothers is the foundation of the books   and they’ve shown time and time again that the brothers would do anything for each other.     This is a double-edged sword because while I liked the exploration of their relationship, I sometimes wished the plot would get on with it.

I admit I’m a little disappointed by how Robin’s eventual relationship played out.   I realize we couldn’t have gotten very much since we only see from the brothers’ perspectives.   On the other hand, I’m biased because the omnisexual puck is my favorite character.     I just would have liked more build-up to what ultimately happens, which seemed very sudden.   Then again, this is Robin we’re talking about so maybe it won’t be a lasting relationship.   I like to think that’s not the case given observations Cal has made, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion.

I’m also saddened by the continued state of the relationship between Cal and George.   Perhaps it’ll never resolve the way I wish it would because the book rightly brought up that George’s gift produces a frightening lack of compassion on an individual level.   So despite my wishes otherwise, I just don’t know if those two will ever be able to work it out.

Even though I hoped otherwise, Madhouse was a tough act to follow.   Like I said earlier, I appreciate the multicultural bent your series takes, from the ethnic backgrounds of the various characters to the various mythologies that get drawn upon, but I still wish the exploration of the brothers’ relationship had been more balanced with the external happenings.   (Best scene that serves as a PSA for wearing your seatbelt though!)   For now, I’ll think of this book as a bridge between where the series has been and where’s it going.   Considering what happens, I think that’s fair to say.   Now if only Rafferty and his cousin would return sometime.   I miss that cranky doctor.   B

My regards,

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

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]!


  1. Jennifer
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 08:27:25

    I think George is kind of “done” in the series after this book. I don’t know this for sure, it’s just my hunch. She won’t help them (though it’s nice to hear that the reason she says she can’t is more along the lines of, “I can’t change the future I see, yes, I tried to”), and as Cal points out, it’s her that’s keeping them apart rather than him. So, maybe it’s better if the boys move on at this point.

  2. Jory Strong
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 09:04:42

    I’m with you on Rafferty and his cousin but not on George. My desire to see Cal end up with her has taken a nose-dive since she was was first introduced. Enough already, as Jennifer M said, it’s better if he moves on.

  3. allison
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 10:11:18

    I missed Rafferty in this one, too. I’m with the above commentors – enough with George already. I appreciate her ability to focus on the big picture but Cal isn’t a big picture kind of guy, he’s all about the details.

    I really liked this book and thought it was the second best in the series.

    I appreciated Niko’s thought process. It led to these “quiet” moments that we hadn’t got in the previous books. I liked looking in to his brain. I think this is where the focus of the “I’ll do anything for my brother” bits came from – we’re getting to see that, yes, that’s exactly Niko’s thought pattern. He really is absolutely devoted to Cal. I liked the way that he was able to connect with Promise on this one. It made him seem less like a human-weapon and more human.

  4. Renee
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 11:36:18

    While I agree that including Niko’s pov slowed the action down a bit, I think it also served the larger arc of the series. For me, it set Cal and Niko as mirrors of each other, and gave me insight into both of them I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Usually, I’m focused on Cal and his struggle between his monster/human identities. With Deathwish, I found it fascinating, seeing how Niko has a similar struggle with his own need to embrace his dark side on occasion.

    A part of me still wants things with George to work out, but with this book it seemed like there was some writing on the wall about their relationship. Also, Delilah cracks me up. Her character is so unique. She’s so unapologetically not-human, that it’s a refreshing contrast to Cal’s angst.

  5. Kathy
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 13:41:07

    My copy is “In The Mail” … I’m looking foward to reading this installment in one of my favorite series.

  6. Mishel
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 11:02:57

    Really great review! I’ve heard good things about Rob Thurman and I’m excited about getting started with Nightlife!

  7. Justin2707
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 02:49:19

    Rob thurman is awsome. I loved death wish. It felt like it naturaly flowed with the preivious books and Cals view as per usual was awsome. I thought the Niko perspective was great, especialy near the end when he returns home, that scene had me liveing & and feeling it as I read like I was Niko and his thoughts and actions were mine. The way Cal and Niko’s relationship to each other as brothers and what it means to them is one of many aspects that has got me hooked on the series. Another would be the Cal Robin and Niko dymamic that is hilarious! To this day the leandros series are the only books to make actualy laugh out loud. I Cant wait for the next one.

  8. ladyofthetide
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 23:03:28

    I love these novels because I love the story of Cal and Niko. I’m an only child, and sibling stories have always fascinated me. I was actually glad to see lots of pages devoted to their relationship in Deathwish.

    Another home run, Rob!

  9. Claudette
    May 15, 2009 @ 12:50:41

    Well, I for one liked Deathwish. I really enjoyed getting Niko’s POV and wish that this had been the format for the other novels as well. I enjoy Cal’s sarcasim and quick witt but really enjoyed getting Niko’s take on things. I’m wondering whats going to happen with the Auphe next because I really don’t believe that a nuclear bomb, yeah, a nuclear bomb, can kill these THINGS. There’s also Cal and Niko’s new “friends” to worry about. I can’t believe they will let Cal go knowing that he is 1/2 Auphe. Wonder where this will be going? I really got a scare when Nik went to the apartment and “found” Cal. God I couldn’t believe it. Thought the series was over. What a releif to find that it was just the little “Dog” and his tricks along with Cherish. Glad she’s gone. She’s not loss. Also glad Nik and Promise are an item again. Promise is a good vamp to have at your back and she and Nik are a great coupld. As for George, well I don’t quite know what to think of her. Delilah will fill the bill for now but I don’t see anything permenant there. Just fun and games. All in all I really enjoyed Deathwish and can’t wait for the next one.

    Rob , you rock.

  10. erica
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 14:02:47

    I lovelovelove Delilah but I just can’t shake the whole George plotline… I wish there was some way to resolve that specific relationship. And I thought this was the last book in the Leandros series. Was I wrong?

  11. Jia
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 14:06:00

    @erica: It’s not. I think there are 3 more books.

  12. Jessica
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 15:42:40

    I just finished Deathwish today. I really enjoyed this entry in the series. It was great to see the story unfold from Niko’s perspective. I hope she does this again in later books. I’m not sure if Cal and Georgina will ever be able to work it out between them. I was tired of hearing about their angst at any rate. I like Delilah, still love Goodfellow and Promise is ok.

  13. Claudette
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 11:32:00

    Just finished Trickster and man what a twisted ending. Loved this book and hope Rob will have more of this “lady”, I guess. Not quite sure what she is. She does seem to know Goodfellow though. Mayby the same species. Whatever that is. All in all a good book with a super duper ending. Didn’t see that coming at all. Will be waiting for the next one. Wonder if she will be crossing over to Cal, Nik and Goodfellow? Now wouldn’t that be a great story???

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