Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: Roadkill by Rob Thurman

I will admit right off the bat that I have a love/hate relationship with Rob Thurman's books.  While I absolutely adore the story, characters, and writing, and I absolutely hate waiting for the next book in the series!  Yes, I am totally being serious, and no I don't think I am being unreasonable.  If Cal Leandros can be petulant about these things, then so can I.  Seriously, though, I have been very impatiently awaiting the arrival of Roadkill since I finished Deathwish, and I have to say it was well worth the wait.

For those who have been following the series from the beginning, and you know who you are, Roadkill picks up 6 months after the events chronicled in Deathwish.  Things have mostly returned to normal for Cal and Niko Leandros, and for the most part Cal is even happy (shocking gasp of indrawn breath).  Much like the Dude and the Taxi Driver in The Big Lebowski, though, Cal is about to have his happy place totally blasted out from under him.  Hired by sociopath-cum-granny witch  Abelia-Roo of the Sarzo Clan of the Rom (Romany Gypsies) from whom Niko and Cal learned the valuable lesson of asking lots of questions before one completes a bargain (see the novel Moonshine for details), the duo of monster-killers and paranormal investigators finds themselves hot on the trail of Suyolak, the Plague of the World.  Apparently, each Clan of the Rom has some sort of supernatural millstone tied around its neck, and Suyolak is the responsibility of the Sarzo (it is implied heavily that Cal is the Vayash Clan's similar responsibility).  Why?  Well, in addition to be the greatest Healer ever to walk the Earth, he is a sadistic sociopath with a desire to end all life in plague and death.  Fun guy, right?  Lay on top of this world altering crazy a series of nicely interconnected sub-plots about the nature of relationships, and Cal slowly changing as he abuses the gifts of his heritage, and you have for a great read.

Now, I have to admit that I am going to do some fan-boyish gushing right about now, so man up and get ready for it.  While I am sure that most people will argue this point, I think that while the Plague of the World conflict was important, I feel that the development of Robin & Ishiah's relationship, Rafferty & Catcher's relationship, Cal & Delilah's relationship, and Cal & Niko's relationship were of far more importance than the impending end of the world.  OK, so in order of sub-plot importance:

Cal & Delilah:  At the start of the story we discover that the Kin, Were-Mobsters of the Fuzzy Nostra, have found out about Delilah's 'bit on the side' and are not happy.  Delilah accompanies the gang on their roadtrip, but everyone seems to be of the opinion that she is just waiting for the opportunity to kill Cal to keep in the good graces of the Kin.  Cal, however, feels that people are always giving him chances and that not doing the same for Delilah would be hypocritical.  Interesting things develop all through the book.

Rafferty & Catcher: The healer who helped the gang back in Nightlife finally returns in a big way with his 'stuck in Wolf form' cousin.  We learn a lot about these two, and I think that Catcher is probably one of the best characters in the series so far.  A smart tree-hugging peacenik college student werewolf who is damaged during the process of healing and stuck in Wolf form, Catcher (named after the book his parents fell in love over) is fighting a losing battle to keep his human consciousness in his Wolf body, he still remains the most intriguing and insightful of the group.  Rafferty is trying to overcome his guilt and keep the last member of his family from going over the edge, but may push himself over first.

Robin & Ishiah: The puck is considering monogamy for the first time since Pompeii.  That's right, you heard me, MONOGAMY.  This subplot was likely meant to lighten the fairly heavy load carried by the story, but was pretty much just as dramatic as everything else.  Thankfully Rob Thurman is great at te witty turn of phrase and internal dialog or this would be a real downer of a book.  Robin is on the trip to determine if he really wants to go the monogamy route or if this thing with Ish is worth it.

Cal & Niko: The brothers Leandros do a lot of developing in this story themselves.  It has seemed over the course of the other books that the relationship here was pretty much static and set in stone, however the events of Deathwish have forced Niko to start allowing both himself and his brother to evolve their relationship into a more adult one, rather than just big smart brother and little student brother.

So with all this development go on, how do they have time to have an adventure?  Enter the subtle craft of Ms Thurman.  She weaves all these various threads together deftly into a wonderful tapestry.  The only thing that one can really complain about is that the message of the book appears to be: Anyone can become a monster with the right incentives and pressures.  Too bad this had not been read by George Lucas before he wrote the prequels so he could see the way these things are done properly!

Unless you absolutely hate modern fantasy, there is no way you can go wrong with this one.  Tight writing, great scene economy, wonderful character development, and a taut and suspenseful story make this the absolute best story of the series so far, and it will be difficult to top this masterpiece.

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