Madhouse by Rob Thurman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Yet again, I'm blown away with the third Cal Leandros book. To me, these books are powerful. They have so much intensity as far as human emotions and struggles. Not a book that could bore me, by any means.
As anyone who has followed my reviews on this series probably has surmised, I adore Nik, who is Cal's older brother. But I find I am falling more and more in love with Cal. He is really turning into a remarkable man. He's lethal as a warrior. He's smart and resourceful. And he has a wounded heart that calls to me as a reader. I think Rob Thurman does such a great job of writing Cal. He feels real to me. Like the young man that he is. Cal's struggles in life are enough to break your heart. He is half-monster, literally. His mother slept with an Auphe for money, and he's the result. His kin are monsters from a person's darkest nightmares. And there are the ever-present fears that they will return to destroy Cal and everything he loves. As such, he has had to push away the one woman he loves, George. I felt very bad for Cal. He didn't want to hurt George, and having to cut her out of his life, hurt him and her very much. But he knew that he wasn't good for her. What he did, definitely caused her to cut ties with him.
Cal sees himself as a monster. He's afraid to look in the mirror because of what happened in Nightlife. He despises the monster inside of him. But truly, he is no monster. He's sarcastic to a T, irreverent, but very, very honorable. He's one of the most compelling narrators I've had the pleasure to read. Like I said, Cal's catching up to my Nik love, and fast. I think there's enough room in my heart to adore them to the same level, so that's okay. In fact, I'm looking forward to it.
I am ambivalent about Cal's advent into a sexual life. I can see why he did what he did, but I feel sad that he could not have his first time with someone he loved, and cared for it. I feel a little more at peace about his relationship with Delilah, a very sexy but deadly female werewolf who calls him "Pretty Boy." She saves his life by performing a very intimate task for him. I knew that wind was going to blow in her direction at that point. There is a connection there with her. They both live on the dark side, they are both warriors. And they are both broken in some way. I came to like Delilah, and part of me didn't feel bad when Cal slept with her. Yet, I feel regret for what could have been with George. I wonder if things will work out for them to be together again. But now, I agree with Cal that it's too dangerous for her to be near him. Hopefully they will find a way back to each other.
Nik and Cal's relationship: The heart of this book. It's changing, as Cal gets older, more self-sufficient. As Delilah says, Nik will always be the alpha, but he's showing Cal the regard of a highly-trained and capable warrior, a man worthy of respect. I like that Nik is giving Cal the room he needs, but he still pushes and cares for Nik in the fashion of mother and father combined. I think Nik must be very proud of him. As one of my friends said, any women who comes into their lives will have to understand that that bond between them is intrinsic to their being. It's what I love about this series.
The action is unrelenting, as usual. Nik and Cal are warriors in the true sense. You know they are going to take down their enemies, hard. I love that about this book. There are aspects that Ms. Thurman reveals in her writing that help to contribute the iconic nature of their characters. Nik is the samurai. His honor is impeachable. He lives by his code, and he does not stray from it. Every day and every moment is designed to be used to make himself and his brother into better warriors so that they can survive and help those in need. His body is a weapon. I like the way Thurman describes Nik with just enough words to show who and what he is. I want to smile on the scenes that define him as a person. His love for Cal breaks my heart. He'd die for him. Simple as that. That's how you should love your family, in my opinion. Cal loves Nik just as much. They are very different, but their core essence is the same. That love, that determination to survive and prevail against all odds. And to help those in need of help.
This book is dark with ugly violence and evil creatures. But there is a light in the powerful bond between the brothers, and the friends they have made. Not many, but quality is much better than quantity. That brings me to Robin. Who knew Robin would become such a pivotal character? I love the guy. He's one of those very morally flexible, but at the same time, deeply likeable characters. He's predictable in his ability to keep surprising me as a reader. I love his scenes. I really do. I can't imagine a Cal Leandros book without him, now.
I love the mythology and the world-building of series. How Thurman has made New York into a fantastic place full of creatures straight out of the darkest fairy tales and legends. A valkyrie curator at the Metropolitan Museum, a Japanese healing spirit who teaches pre-med students at the university. A mummy who lurks in the bowels of the museum. And a very scary, very crazy redcap who lives for the kill of any 'travelers' he can get ahold of. But Thurman doesn't just take things from folklore,chapter and verse. She gives it her own spin. Like the angels, which are called 'peris' in this book. They tend to have an unearthly beauty and a bad temper to match, and are always shedding feathers. In fact, Cal's boss is one. He runs a bar called "The Ninth Circle," where many of the fantastic creatures go to wet their whistle, and to have a rousing barfight or two. Man, I wish I could live in a city like this. It'd be dangerous, but heck, it'd be so fun.
I like that the villains in this series are not 'paper tigers.' Going up against them always holds risks for the brothers and their allies. They have the scars, inside and out, to show for their batttles. Of course, they will prevail. But at a cost.
This book ends on a cliffhanger that is like a double whammy. There are some serious loose ends that are dangling. Sign me up for all the books Rob Thurman want to write about the Leandros brothers. I am always up for more Cal and Nik. Bring them on!
View all my reviews >>