Cal (short for Caliban, not Caleb) is only half-human -- and his non-human sire wants him for a mysterious purpose likely to leave Cal very much dead. His fully human half-brother Niko has devoted his life to protecting Cal, but their past catches up finally in New York, where the supernatural rub shoulders with the human with an alarming frequency. There are trolls, vampires, boggles, werewolves, and Grendels, which is what the brothers call elves... elves so dark and twisted they'd have Legolas run screaming for his mother. Oh, and there's also Robin Goodfellow, the original puck, cocky, smarmy and utterly adorable with his fastidious fashion sense, over-inflated ego and a sex drive in permanent overdrive.
First-time novelist Rob Thurman's style is similar to that of Simon R. Green's Nightside series but -- much like its lead characters -- Nightlife is edgier, slicker, at times obnoxious but always oodles of fun.
This is the best urban fantasy I have ever read. The story is told first person, by Cal, a teenager with more than the usual reasons for angst and snark. Cal and his brother Nic are standing together against a host of problems, but most specifically the Auphe, and it's the devotion of the two to each other that is solidly at the center of these books. As baddies go, the Auphe are pretty bad. There's gore, but it's surprisingly well written gore that never goes completely over the top, and there's language appropriate to the situations (meaning that while there's cussing, you can't really fault the characters for it. You'd cuss, too, if somebody was trying that hard to kill you!). This series has new twists on your usual monsters, and the werewolves especially make interesting characters. My only (minor) complaint so far is that Cal's body seems to be able to take abuse and keep going when it really should not, but I'm hoping this proves to be an aspect of his not-all-human heritage.
I enjoyed the story but at times it bogged down. The characters were interesting and likeable. New York City always makes a great setting and I enjoyed reading about the Boggle and Troll - their descriptions were detailed and had a good amount of "yuck" value!
Really impressive for a first novel. Gritty and dark, this is an intense begining. There's no romance, but the love and loyalty of brothers for one another. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
For a while it seemed like every time I turned around I was getting another recommendation to try this series. I finally broke down and ordered Nightlife and I'm glad I did. The closest comparison I can come up with for this book is to the Harry Dresden series. The world is completely different and so are the characters but there's something similar there. Maybe it's the humor. Cal and Harry both have a sarcastic, self-deprecating wit. They both have a quality that makes you root for them and enjoy the time you spend in their head.
I really liked the world the author created. I was really surprised at the creature the Grendels turned out to be. I can't remember another time that I've seen the race portrayed like that. It was interesting though. I felt bad for Niko and Cal being stuck with that kind of mom.
The book is written in first person so if you find Cal's humor irritating I'm afraid none of the book will work for you. At times his inner commentary was irritating, but overall I liked him as a narrator. One thing that I wasn't really expecting was his young age. At times I just wanted to shake him and tell him to grow up. His brother Niko was a little too perfect for me to enjoy. He was too everything. Not only did he sacrifice whatever life he wanted for his brother, he never had any moments of resentment or anger about it. He was also human but almost indestructible. He seemed better at everything than anyone else. It was kind of irritating.
Toward the end of the book the reader will experience a narrator change. It was really disorientating for me. I had to reread and figure out what happened. I didn't really enjoy reading from this narrator's viewpoint very much. I found him irritating and it seemed like his experience went on forever. I also was confused about one point. Cal remembers everything that happened to him at the end, but I'm curious if he retained all the other memories from Darkling too. If he did wouldn't that mean he remembers everything that happened to him during his missing two years?
I'm definitely interested in reading more of this series. Hopefully Cal grows up a bit. I'm curious to read more about Georgina and Robin and Promise. Did anyone else think that it was odd that no one remarked how different Promise's name was? I think that I'm most looking forward learning more about Robin. He's my favorite character so far.
Caliban Leandros considers himself part monster. Which is the basic truth. He is part human and part Auphe (elf). Not the whimsical elves that we instantly think of but the much darker, evil cousin. Cal's half younger brother Niko acts more like his big brother. Niko is human and has made it his life to protect Cal from the Auphe or Grendels as they call them. They make their home in New York City thinking the Auphe wouldn't follow them there since they stay to the more remote areas. Unfortunately they couldn't be more wrong. The Auphe want to open a gate into the past when they ruled the world and to do this they need Cal.
We meet many interesting characters. There is the Seer, Georgina who Cal has a crush on and Promise, a vampire who Niko is interested in. The ever humorous Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck, joins the group to save Cal after his body is possessed by a male banshee who is working with the Auphe.
Cal's character is a typical teenager. All he wants to do is eat and sleep and be normal, which he can't because of who he is. He hates that side of him and just wants to ignore it so that it will go away. He wants a place to call home and to quite running. Niko has taught himself everything he can on all the different demons and mythical creatures and also many different fighting techniques to help defend him and Cal. His devotion is unwavering and that devotion is what saves Cal.
I enjoyed this book and the build-up to the final fight is incredible and had me holding my breath! So glad that I picked this book up and took a chance on it. Fantastic read!
This book was too dark for me but an exciting and action-packed thriller for anyone who like to walk on the dangerous side in life! I really wish I could get into it because its a cool story... guess I'm just too sensitive =\
I absolutely loved this book. This is in the Urban Fantasy genre. It's allong the same lines as books like the Dresden Files by Butcher, the Nightside series by Green, or the Nocturne City novels by Kittredge. (all good books in good series.)
The characters are deep and completely human (even those who are not human). The story progresses at a comfortable pace. It's plot is not bogged down by people acting stupid or otherwise unbelievable.
I would appreciate a nod in the direction of the mythology that is being borrowed from in some places, but other than that minor quibble I have no problems at all with the book.
I've read the first two, I'll be reading the next as soon as I get my hands on it.
This was a great book. The relationship between the 2 brothers is wonderful - sincere, teasing, unconditional. The overall plot was well developed, the villains evil, and the emotion real. I will definitely be reading the next installment in the series!
Niko Leandros is loyal to and protective of his brother Cal, despite the fact that Cal is half monster. Ever since Cal was abducted by his father's side of the family, he and Niko have been on the run, working odd jobs and living in one seedy apartment after another. Just as Cal starts to enjoy life in New York City, the monster sightings begin, and Cal and Niko prepare to go on the run again. Unfortunately, Niko's car won't start, forcing them to confront monsters that live in mud, a stinky troll that lives under the Brooklyn bridge, and the scary side of Cal.
Nightlife is an impressive debut by Rob Thurman. The dialogue is sometimes cheesy as though the female Thurman is trying to hard to sound like a restless young man, but the story and characters are engaging. Thurman's take on monsters such as trolls and banshees is original and will spark your imagination. This is a series that I will definitely continue to follow.
Leora F. reviewed Nightlife (Cal and Niko Leandros, Bk 1) on
The writer is talented, but the main character was bogged down with self pity, it's pretty gorey, and they lost me when the hero was taken over by an evil something and started planning to kill his own friends and family. urk.
Urban fantasy with an action plot. What I read of it was beautifully written but it was way too dark for me. Books that end with the cast counting the survivors don't do it for me - but if you can handle that it would probably be a great read.
Cal and Niko Leandros
1. Nightlife (2006)
2. Moonshine (2007)
3. Madhouse (2008)
4. Deathwish (2009)
5. Roadkill (2010)
6. Blackout (2011)
The good: Very interesting and new plotline and concept. The two protagonists, Cal and Niko Leandros, are brothers fighting against monsters. The twist is that Niko is human, Cal is not (you learn this like 3 pages in so I'm not ruining anything here). The book has a nice variety of monsters, and good character development for each. The battles were well done, and the fight scenes written coherently enough that the reader can follow along without any issues. The book can be quite witty and gritty, and I would best describe it as a "ghetto fantasy" book, in the best possible way. It's as real, scary and dirty as a ghetto, but wholly fantastical in its own right.
The bad: The first 10 chapters, and the last 3. Dear God. It was almost excruciating getting through these particular 13 chapters. The first 10 are all world/character setup, but it's so dry and you can tell Rob Thurman is a novice at writing. In the beginning, every sentence had a comparison. Example: "his entrails hung out like party streamers." I get the fact that Thurman is trying to relate one thing to the other, but there is a point where the reader should be allowed to visualize the scene as they wish. I could NOT get into the story within the first 10 chapters, but the plot was interesting enough that I mushed on hoping it would get better. (It does) The last 3 chapters are just unnecessary, like Thurman wanted to keep writing... and writing... and writing... and it had absolutely nothing to do with enhancing the story in any way. He really should have just stopped.
The ugly: The relationship development between Cal and Niko. Again, Dear God. I almost gave up on this book a few times when it got into the relationship between Niko and Cal, because it was just so long, drawn out, and completely overdone. Niko is great and Cal revers him, they have an unbreakable bond, we get it. Thurman just keeps hammering this point... and hammering it... and hammering it... Seriously, entire pages dedicated to how great Cal thinks Niko is. It was so frustrating that I got pulled out of the story, and I was just reading the words on the page.
The worst: There are several different references to Cal's "little Cal." This was beyond unnecessary, wasn't funny, and just made me wonder why Thurman has such a fascination with that particular part of Cal.
This book has its ups and downs. I'm personally hoping that because this is just the first book, the "world builder," that the other books will be better. Someone else that I was speaking to classified this book as "average," and I would agree. There are far more interesting books to read (Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine, The Strain series by Guillermo Del Toro). Overall rating: 3 stars.