by Rob Thurman
Deathwish is book four of the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman, and it marks the furthest I got into the series before setting it aside until this summer. I had thought, initially, that I hadn’t started Deathwish at all, but I found, to my surprise, that I had. At least the first hundred pages. That makes sense, considering the cliffhanger Madhouse ends on, but I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why I didn’t continue.
Deathwish stands out in three pretty unique ways:
The first, and my favorite way, is that it is split evenly between Cal-centric chapters and Niko-centric chapters. This is the first time Thurman has employed this technique and it constitutes a major change-up in the narrative. Finally, we get to hear what Niko’s inner voice sounds like, we get to see things through his perspective. This is something that readers have been wanting for a while now and it’s really nice to hear things from a slightly different perspective, but I have to admit that it was not as revelatory as one would think. As I’ve mentioned in my reviews of preceding books, Cal and Niko know each others motives so well, that we almost don’t need the split to understand what the other is thinking. Cal has already guessed what motivates Niko and will go on at length about it from every angle.
The narrative device may not accomplish anything substantial, but it’s still refreshing to get a change-up in the voice. While Niko still retains a sharp wit and a penchant for sarcasm he shares with his brother, his inner voice is definitely more refined over all. Now all I’m waiting for is a chapter employing Goodfellow’s inner voice. Now that should be interesting.
The second distinction is that Deathwish gives us our first hearty digression into Promise’s backstory. Having been around for a couple of centuries, Niko and Cal’s vamp cohort surely must have a lot of interesting history but until now, she has been mostly relegated to the sidelines. Now we finally get to meet some of Promise’s family, who are considerably less... ‘evolved’ than Promise herself. Understandably, the clash between Promise’s old and new definitions of family put quite a bit of strain on her relationship with Niko and the others. I know the events of Deathwish will continue to be referenced from here forward, and I hope to see more incidents from Promise’s storied past continue to make waves in the present. You don’t live as long and as mysteriously as Promise does and not have a few more secrets up your sleeve.
Certainly, Deathwish did much to improve my opinions on the complexity of Promise’s character. In Nightlife and the two books that followed, it was hard to think of her as more than simply an ideal girlfriend for Niko to be rewarded with; here, we learn she is much more inherently flawed than previously indicated.
The third thing that distinguishes Deathwish from the three that precede it is also the most important going forward, and that is the total destruction of the Auphe as a threat. I guess I was wrong when I predicted in Nightlife that they would be the chief antagonists for the entire series... sort of. While it’s true that Cal and Niko obliterated all the purebred Auphe that had been torturing them all their lives, it seems this is only the start of Cal’s acceptance of what he is. Deathwish manages to be even darker than the other books; Cal and Niko operate all over the ‘shades of gray’ spectrum, doing things that can be controversial for the hero of the story. And Cal seems to be embracing his Auphe-gifted abilities, including a dark, violent streak. I suspect this is actually the catalyst for Cal’s inner darkness to come out more, as he realizes he has more in common with his demon heritage than anyone would like to admit.
I have to say, I’m a little over all the excessive angst, but what would this series be without it? In any case, I’m impressed that Thurman ‘went there’ so early in the series. It takes guts to destroy a recurring supervillain like the Auphe, and I’m excited to enter ‘Phase Two’ of Cal and Niko’s lives and see what new antagonists emerge to challenge the brothers in new ways.
I’m taking a little break from Thurman to explore some other worlds this fall, but it won’t be as long of a break as it was last time. I have every intention of getting caught up with the series before the end of 2014. For now, Cal and Niko will just have to sit back and celebrate—as well as the Leandros brothers can allow themselves to celebrate anything—their victory over their enemy and the end of running.