Thursday, May 20, 2010
The laptop dropped onto the ground in front of me. Well shit. When I refused to drop my head and read the screen, teeth nipped me hard over the ribs. I hissed, glared at the wolf and read what was typed on the screen. He'd used the caps lock again, either to get his point across or because he didn't believe much in my reading skills. SUCKS TO BE ONE OF A KIND. He rested his chin on my shoulder, sneezed at the dust and waited. "Yeah," I commented after a long pause. "It does, Good Wolf or bad Auphe, it sucks to be the only one." Great. First Delilah, then him. They both had me pulling shit out of layaway early. This time he nipped my shoulder before retrieving from the dirt the ink pen he'd dropped to bite me. He typed: ALL AUPHE WERE BORN BAD. YOU ARE NOT ALL AUPHE. YOU HAVE A CHOICE. YOU CAN BE GOOD. He considered, then backspaced, deleting the GOOD and changing it to NOT SO BAD. At least he was honest, the fur ball. Then he punctuated the sentence. Joy. "I didn't know there was an emoticon for a dog humping another dog. Thanks for sharing." I took off the glasses and rubbed my eyes. There was more typing. I glanced at the screen. At least now that he was sure he had my attention, he'd stopped with the capitalization. Cal smart monster. Cal can read. Good for me. Knock knock. "You've got to be kidding me," I groaned. Knock knock, he persisted, growling around the pen. "Okay, just to shut you up: Who's there?" I gave in. Why not? At this point, it was almost ludicrous. An Auphe being counseled by a butt-sniffing pound reject. No one. The Auphe ate everyone in the house. "You son of a bitch," I growled. Knock knock. This time he didn't wait for the "Who's there?" Twenty cocker spaniels the Auphe is going to skin to make a pimp coat. Seriously, quit it or I will shoot your mangy ass." Knock knock. God, he was as relentless as Niko. "Last one," I warned. "Last one or your ass is grass." The threat didn't hold much weight when it was followed with "Who's there?" I went on, resigned. You, and what happens behind the door is up to you. ~Excerpt from Roadkill by Rob Thurman Urban fantasy is frequently an amalgam of certain ingredients using involving magic, werewolves and/vampires, an urban setting an a smart-mouthed protagonist. I'm usually drawn to most of the elements thrown into the mix, but I will often complain about the snarky one-liners thrown in when I review most paranormal fiction. But the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman is the one series that I think uses this element effectively-- and actually has me looking forward to seeing what the characters are going to say next. "Roadkill" is the fifth book in a series about Caliban and Niko Leandros. Technically Cal and Niko are half-brothers, but you wouldn't say that to Niko's face. Cal is the result of an unholy union between an Auphe and a Gypsy mother. The Auphe are the monstrous creatures that somehow became the basis for the elf myth-- even if the only thing the Auhpe have in common with elves are the pointy ears. Cal has spent most of his life running from the Auphe who had planned to use Cal to wipe humanity from the planet. After defeating, and hopefully destroying, the Auphe, Cal has finally found some peace in his life. Working for his brother as a kind of supernatural private investigator and spending time with a very attractive female werewolf have done great things for Cal's mood. Yet good times seem to be fleeting for Cal, and when he is attacked by a werewolf he realizes that the wolves may not be too happy that one of their kind is sleeping with a man who is half-Auphe--but relationship troubles turn out to be the least of Cal's worries. An ancient evil, known as the Plague of the World, has been stolen from his prison and an old Gypsy woman hires Cal and Niko to stop the man that created the Black Death before he has a second chance to unleash Hell on Earth. I'm going to come right out and say it-- I'm a huge fan of Rob Thurman. She's one of the few reliable authors when it comes to urban fantasy. Five books in and I like the fifth book as much as the first-- and every one in between are worthy of reading again. The relationships are the thing. Most of the books are told through Cal's perspective, though the last two books have seen a shift to include Niko, and even a werewolf's point of view. But Cal is who it is really all about. He is one of a kind-- and not in a good way. And if he has a smart-mouth, it's driven primarily out of the fear of what he may become if he loses his touch with his human side. The Auphe aren't known for their sense of humor. Cal's life line, in a very literal sense, has been his brother Niko. And there is no doubt that Cal will do anything to make his brother proud-- well, as long as he gets to complain about it first. But there is still always the danger that Cal's Auphe side will lose control and he'll do something that isn't just stupid, but potentially deadly. Niko's faith in him has not completely eased Cal's worries that he may, one day, harm his brother-- So it's a good thing Niko can kick Cal's butt ten times out of ten-- as Niko is only to happy to remind him. Much of "Roadkill" is told as a sort of road-trip story, just one that has a half-Auphe, two werewolves, a Puck and a human along for the ride. These are the times when Cal really lets the snark show, and it could be annoying if wasn't balanced against the personalities of the other characters. Fortunately, all of Thurman's characters are strong enough to hold their own opposite Cal. His brother Niko is a super-disciplined martial arts expert who never fails to remind Cal that Cheetos do not belong in a major food group and Robin Goodfellow (famously known as the puck from William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night's Dream) is on the trip to test a vow of monogamy and act as a general distraction. Thurman keeps up the action, but also throws in a few, slightly disturbing, interludes to keep the pace from being too fast. This dark fantasy isn't for the faint of heart, but it's as fun as it is grim. Thurman always adds intriguing mythology to her warped world and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with. "Roadkill," for my money, is as good as urban fantasy gets. Courtesy of Penguin Books I have one copy of "Roadkill" to offer for giveaway. Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once contest ends) and I will randomly pick a winner by Friday June 11th. No multiple entries please. All multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere. Good luck!