Maybe one of the highest compliments I can pay Rob Thurman is that when I began reading the Cal Leandros series, I could not tell Rob was a woman. A lot of times when women write novels with male main characters, or men write novels with female main characters, they miss it just enough to not ring true. Rob’s complex characters ring true consistently. Also this series has maintained its high quality throughout all six novels.
Blackout is Book #6 in the Cal Leandros series about two brothers living and hunting bad guys (monsters) in an alternative New York City. This series is chronological and each new one builds off of the past ones. Because of the way Blackout is written, however, you can easily read it without going back to Book #1 first. Of course once you read it I know you’re going to want to read the first five books.
Like alternative universes? Like monsters and fun creatures like werewolves, old gods and goddesses, aliens, demons, vampires, just to name a few? Read on!
A little background on Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko: Niko is 100% human and has spent his life protecting and taking care of Cal even before they were left on their own. Niko can kick some serious butt! Cal is only half human. He’s also half Alphe, an alien life form that wants to eliminate humans from earth and is a really nasty demon-type creature. That half alien edge means he has greater than human strength but he’s lazy, so Nicko can still take him down a notch when he gets cocky and reckless. Niko believes Cal’s slightly more compassionate human half can dominate if Cal will only believe it can and is given a chance. Cal sometimes agrees but, when any sign of his alien half emerges, he has a very hard time hanging onto that belief and starts to think of himself as the biggest monster of them all.
Together Cal and Nick own a security firm and have been protecting humans by hunting down the big bad uglies in New York, assisted by Niko’s girlfriend, a vampire named Promise, and Robin Goodfellow. Robin is a randy, insufferable, and supremely egotistical semi-immortal Puck/Pan-god who now owns a used car lot and is in a relationship with Cal’s dayjob boss, a muscle-bound bar-owning Peri (winged avenging angel-like creature) named Ish. Got all that? No worries.
Although the Leandros brothers live in Manhattan, when Blackout opens Cal has landed alone on a beach in South Carolina, with no idea of who he is or how he got there. He also doesn’t know he’s not 100% human. Everywhere he looks around him are humongous, dead, hairy spiders and parts of spiders. He realizes fairly quickly that he must have killed them ergo he must be a killer. I loved his South Carolina explorations and part of me hated to see those come to an end. I’m not going to comment further on them because it would spoil that part of the story.
“That was another thing I learned about the South. The tea came already sweet, the kind of sweet where they tossed a tea bag into a pitcher of sugar and there you go. They called it sweet tea – a nice innocent name for something I would’ve called a glass of diabetic death. But it was good and the food was great.”
Eventually Niko and Robin find Cal but of course he has no clue who they are. Cal’s amnesia causes him to not only believe he’s a human but to also forget who his enemies are, and either or both of those could have devastating consequences to not just him and his family/friends but to the entire world. His journey of re-discovery, and how if affects his perception of himself, makes for a really good read. I’m not going to spoil this part either by giving more away. Below is a fairly innocuous interchange that occurs when they arrive back in New York City.
“’What’s so exclusive about it?’ [Cal asked.]…’The privacy element,’[Nick replied]..’Promise has a deceased husband or two…We moved from our last place a few months ago when it became difficult to smuggle out the bodies and more difficult to explain why the ‘thieves’ that kept breaking into our apartment through the window did it by scaling four stories.’”
Blackout seems to have more of Cal’s internal dialogue than normal for this series but it’s needed because of his amnesia. There’s still a lot of adventure and action, which is made very interesting and often hilarious because of Cal’s now skewed bias against all monsters and semi-monsters. For example: Why has Robin developed a fork phobia? *snicker*
I laughed out loud a lot, which always causes weird looks when I’m reading in public because my laugh carries sonic boom style. I also had some heart-stopping moments and loved the twists in this one because I didn’t see them coming. And I got teary eyed in a few places. Yep, another very entertaining Leandros rollercoaster ride! Thank you Rob Thurman! This is a great summer read, so enjoy!
If you’ve read any of Rob Thurman’s novels, including Blackout, we’d love to get your comments on them or on her as a novelist. We’d also love to hear your comments about this review.
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