Saturday, 5 December 2015

Review: Nevermore

My heart kind of breaks when I think about Nevermore being the second to last book in the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman (this seems to be the rumour but I won't admit anything to myself until I know for sure). I'm in love with it, have drawn so much inspiration from the characters and the world, but I also believe that if you're going to draw to a close, you might as well go out with a bang. And... a cliffhanger. But we'll get to that later. What you need to know right now is that this is another excellent edition to a truly gritty series. Seriously, if you think the angst between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne is intense, give this series a try. They have nothing on Cal at any age. Keep in mind, that he's half of theirs. Your favourite characters are back and better than ever, the dialogue as sharp and biting as I've come to expect, and a threat that will give me chills if not nightmares.

A bigger cover photo, because I LOVE this cover! Dark, gritty, badass, unintentionally sexy...
People die. Everyone knows that. I knew it intimately as everyone in my life died thanks to my one seemingly harmless mistake. I'd brought down Heaven, lifted up Hell, and set the world on fire, all due to one slip of the memory. I forgot the pizzas...

Caliban is a dead man. The Vigil, a group devoted to concealing the paranormal from humanity, has decided Cal has stepped out of the shadows once too often, and death is the only sentence. They plan to send a supernatural assassin into the past to take down the younger, less lethal Cal.

But things change when The Vigil makes one last attempt on Caliban's life in the present—and end up destroying everyone and everything he cares about.

Now, Cal has to save himself, warn those closest to him, and kill every Vigil bastard who stole his world. But if he fails, he and everyone in his life will be history…

Given the premise of the blurb, i.e.: everyone I've invested time and affection in dies, I was a little shocked to find it happening at the beginning of the prologue. It's not a spoiler when it's in the prologue, okay?! Maybe I was anticipating a little more build up, something to make me remember why I loved these characters so much before they were destroyed before Cal's eyes. Since that doesn't happen, the beginning starts off with an emotionally detached feeling, and that is by no means a bad thing when you consider the type of person Cal is. The opening chapter has Cal landing in the past via a magical device and facing off with a murdering druggie. It's his opening to release the pain and tension he has from finding out he lost his brother and his best friend, the two people in his life that made him a better person. Without them, Cal is dangerous and out of control, and would have been considered legitimately suicidal if he weren't on a mission to stop a paranormal killer bent on assassinating his past self.

Now, I'll be blunt. I hate time traveling stories. Maybe it's because I'm a writer and every time I come across one, my questions are "What if" and "How does this affect". While Thurman takes this into consideration, she's also true to her characters. The Cal Leandros I know and love would kick his younger self's ass to make certain that the people he loves– the people he will need to mature and improve– stay alive. It isn't long before Cal meets his younger self, as well as a younger Niko, and explains the situation without giving away anything that will affect the course of their lives.

Until Robin shows up. And if you know anything about him, you know why that's unneeded (and always welcome) trouble.

I'm going to try to stay away from them as much as I can, but there are spoilers beyond this point. If I'm being totally honest, I found the pacing of the story slower than I'm used to in a Cal Leandros novel. Did it take away my enjoyment? No, of course not. But there were times when I felt like the dialogue drifted from the action. Then again, this was a time-traveling adventure, and, as we recently learned, Cal has lived many lives. Memories of his current life with Niko and reincarnations resurface and fuddle with his mind, not to mention the drama brought on by references to Tumulus.

All of this while Cal remembers what a jerk he used to be. Sorry to say it, but it's true. I'd almost forgotten how lethal younger Cal was, how he desperately needed to grow up and learn to let others into his life in order to move past the darkness of his, well, past. The conversations with older and younger Cal were as intense and barbed as you might imagine, and the last one they had was honestly one of my favourite scenes.

While Robin and Niko grew substantially, it was older Cal, the one I'm most familiar with, who seemed to be the most grown. It wasn't even that he did a lot of visible developing within the book. It was seeing that growth from outside eyes. The difference between the younger and older versions of himself, and that I think truly set the story apart.

Since I've completed the book, I can say without hesitation that I wish the villain was more prominent. The description of him and his powers was amazing. I'm up on my mythology, so the villain wasn't who I was expecting, but when I found out who it was... holy sh*t. Cal and the new company are going to have their work cut out for them.

Which leads me to... the cliffhanger. I wasn't expecting it, needed to re-read it to understand it, then remember that this is a MAJOR villain, and I have no idea how Cal and the others think they'll be able to stop him. I don't necessarily mind cliffhangers near the end of a series (no matter how much I bitch and moan about it), so I'm willing to let this one slide, though it does make me wish there had been a little more action in the middle rather than an epic confrontation at the end.

While this wasn't my favourite in the Cal Leandros series (Moonshine and Deathwish still have that top ranking), I can say that it was one of the darkest and most unexpected. Thurman's writing style is trademark and strong, her ability to make even a momentary confrontation memorable and exciting right until the end (yes, I'm referring to that very, very special guest at Robin's party, and the vivid description of what he wanted to give to Cal). I will recommend it to all dark urban fantasy lovers to the moon and back, and I can't wait to find out how the next book wraps the cliffhanger up. Worth the wait.


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