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C+ Reviews

REVIEW:  Downfall by Rob Thurman

REVIEW: Downfall by Rob Thurman

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Dear Ms. Thurman,

I’ve read your Cal Leandros books since they first started coming out. It’s been a ride. I can’t believe we’re already on book 9! It’s rare that I stick with a series this long. In many ways Downfall feels like the end of the series — it’s not (I think there are a couple more books slated to come), but if someone wanted to say goodbye to the series, this would be a good place.

(Note: This far into the series, I can’t talk about anything without spoilers so I apologize for that.)

Downfall splits the narrative between Cal and Robin. As we learned earlier in the series, Cal and his brother, Niko, have reincarnated throughout time and Robin has the (mis)fortune to know them in all their previous incarnation. I say misfortune because the boys have a thing about dying young and badly. Readers can probably guess where I’m going with this — the time to collect has come.

Cal’s half-Auphe side has finally won the battle within him. It’s starting to come out. Cal’s hair starts turning white. His eyes start turning red. His already shaky moral compass becomes shakier. To make matters worse, the Vigil is determined to assassinate him. His ex-girlfriend, Delilah, now controls all of the werewolves in NYC. And his brother, Grimm, isn’t done with him. Suffice it to say, the cards are stacked against him.

Now Robin, who recognizes the signs and knows that the brothers’ end is near, isn’t willing to let them die without a fight. He’s tried to save their past incarnations without much success but this time is going to be different. Why? Because he’s done with them trying to save themselves. They obviously suck at it (no kidding) so he’s going to have to do all the heavy lifting. So he does.

I think the reason why Downfall has a sense of finality around it is because it refers to a lot of things that have happened in the brothers’ pasts. Previous books, previous encounters, familiar faces reappear (George!), all of that. It’s not that things get tied together into a tidy bow because they don’t, but it seemed like things had come full circle. This isn’t a criticism, but it’s an observation. I can tell there are still options to explore in future books, but they almost seem anti-climactic after this one.

Robin’s always been once of my favorite characters, so I was glad to see him get more attention. I also liked the glimpse into his relationship with Ishiah. I laughed at the thought of this angel not knowing what to do about this puck who lusted after him, then “watching out for him” (yeah, okay, Ishiah, talk about self-delusion), and then when he fell/retired/whatever, ended up with said puck — who then proceeded to thoroughly corrupt him. It’s epic, and I love that. Even if Ishiah did a shitty thing to the boys when they were younger.

On the other hand, I normally associate this series with energy and over the top emotion (which I like) and, in my opinion, both were missing here. Downfall is more introspective than previous installments and for me, that made it easy to stop reading and put down. I obviously finished the book, but it had a different tone and I think that is partly what contributes to the “final book” feel.

One thing I keenly felt in Downfall is a lack of major female characters. I get it. The series is about the brothers and Robin, and the focus should be on them. But I felt like women were more prominent in previous books so the cameo from Delilah and her Lupa pack and a phone call from a certain psychic didn’t feel like enough.

I wouldn’t say I was let down by this book exactly, but I’m not sure I got the Cal Leandros experience I’ve come to expect. Maybe I need more time to process. I did love Robin in this book though. C+

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  Midnight Vengeance by Lisa Marie Rice

REVIEW: Midnight Vengeance by Lisa Marie Rice

Midnight Vengeance (Midnight #4) by Lisa Marie Rice

Dear Ms. Rice:

Midnight Vengeance is the fourth book in a series that was first published in 2004. I’ve always enjoyed the Midnight series and have re-read the first one (as well as recommending it to others). The best thing about Midnight Vengeance is that it picks up right where the last Midnight book left off and it is written in the same spirit and tone as the other Midnight series. That said, it brings nothing new to the table. While the beginning was strong, it wrapped up rather quickly leaving me feeling a tad shorted.

Lauren is on the run from her wealthy family. She’s inherited a fortune from her stepfather’s illegal organization. Her step brother wants to claim the fortune and so arranges to have her killed. (Ignoring, of course, laws of inheritance to some degree. If she has a will, the money would go to those in her will. A stepbrother might not even inherit if she died without a will.) She lives a low key life although has allowed her art to be displayed by one of her friends. During an art showing, Lauren feels that she is exposed and that the danger she left behind has just caught up with her.

Morton “Jacko” Jackman has been poleaxed from the moment he saw her, barely able to form to coherent sentences in her presence. The conceit of the LMR book is that the hero is so taken with the heroine that he devolves into a single cell organism capable of only one action–being close to the heroine. As a former Navy SEAL and current security services professional, he’s uniquely suited to protect Lauren.

Beyond the setup, there isn’t any emotional activity in the book and I’m not certain why they fall in love other than they do. There were many scenes devoted to the person who was pursuing Lauren and perhaps a few of those could have been focused on seeing why Lauren and Jacko belonged together as a couple beyond their physical imperative.

The story easily pulls off the sweetness of the big bad security guy falling for the talented, beautiful and fragile heroine. Jacko’s internal monologues were humorous and Lauren’s worry about her safety was understandable. There was very little dialogue, however, which maybe contributed to the lack of connection I felt between the two and the love scenes seemed truncated and less intense.

One weird element is that he has his motorcycle stashed in the back of his SUV for nearly the entirety of the book. I found that odd and I kept getting hung up on it. Like could a big hog really fit in the back of an SUV? Felicity, a geeky Star Wars quoting nerd girl, was a scene stealer and I look forward to her book.

I’m glad I read Jacko but for newcomers to LMR, I’d recommend Midnight Man to start with. C+

Best regards,

Jane

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