I became a fan of Rob Thurman years ago when a friend sent me the first two Cal Leandros books, Nightlife and Moonshine, for Christmas. I immediately fell in love and have been anxiously awaiting her new books in this series like a greedy addict for the last several years. I will admit the third in the series was not quite as awesome as the first two, but the fourth, Deathwish, roared back with everything I loved about the first two, but then she made a fatal (I think) mistake. She killed her bad guys. All of them. This left her protagonists kind of hanging and with her latest, BLACKOUT, that loss is really felt.
The story starts out on the beach with Cal, not sure who he is, surrounded by dead monsters. After dragging himself off the beach and starting to live a normal life (albeit only four days worth) his brother, Niko, and close friend, Robin Goodfellow, track him down. Cal has no memory of them, and they carefully explain he was the victim of a Nepenthe spider bite sent out by the goddess Ammut. Over the next six days, Cal struggles to get his memory back, fighting “voices” that are giving him mixed messages about himself, until finally he breaks free and rediscovers who he is, just in time to save the day.
Blackout was one of my least favorites of the series for several reasons. The first one is it was a lot of inner dialog with Cal trying to figure out who or what monsters are. Am I a monster? Are they? Who is a monster? What makes a monster? Why is that one a monster and the other not a monster? By the fourth chapter that was getting a little old. The second, is that this one lacked the dark, almost sly humor that slid through the other books. The humor that develops when you have to either laugh or blow your brains out because of what you deal with every day.
The third is the biggest. The thing that has always been the core of the books was the relationship of Cal and Niko. With Cal’s memories gone, that relationship is gone, and while it is interesting to watch the relationship from what is almost an outsider point of view, that is not why I read these books. Even though we see that Nik is still Nik, Cal’s reaction is off and I missed the other relations in their life as well. The only moments when Cal was himself were the darker moments when the poison let go, and that was disappointing.
For those fans who read for the action and the monsters, there is plenty of that in Blackout. Although, there was a point where I wanted to smack both boys in the head for not realizing why the spiders were coming after them again and again. The action builds steadily to the final battle, with blood splattering, swords swinging and guns blazing.
Oddly, Blackout doesn’t end there, it moves on to an anti-climatic moment, that once again has us facing the books old question, is Cal a monster? It was just a “meh” ending. In fact, it was kind of the same ending we’ve had for the last few books. Overall, I was less than thrilled. I guess I wanted more of a story, more of Cal and Niko and less of a book-long angst fest that in the end didn’t move the characters forward, didn’t let them grow and really left me with nothing.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Roc | Pages: 352 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon