Trick of the Light by Rob Thurman
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
Trick of the Light takes Rob Thurman's urban fantasy storytelling in a different direction. She is known for her male POV characters, but in this book, the lead is Trixa, a female. While I am a huge fan of Cal and Nik Leandros, it was nice to see a different set of characters, although there is a subtle tie-in to the Leandros series through a Robin Goodfellow cameo (sort-of).
This novel is set in Las Vegas, which is great, since I love Las Vegas. We used to go there for vacation when I lived in San Diego, and it is a town with a lot of energy, and I could easily believe they have a demon problem. After all, a city with that much gambling, desperation and rowdy entertainment going on would be a good place if you were looking to buy some souls on offer.
Trixa's character has a lot of layers. Rob Thurman excellently crafts this story and leaves clues that more than you think is going on. When things culminate, I had a sense of everything coming together, and little facts revealed in the narrative and things the characters did clicked with me. I was completely surprised about Griffin and Zeke, and that was kind of fun! Leo as well.
I hate to compare things, but it's inevitable. I think it's because I just adore Cal and Nik so much, this one wasn't quite as endearing to me. But I have to say this was a very good book. It has that tangible feel of Rob Thurman, a deep sort of mix of cynicism mixed with hope and integrity, and a powerful use of folklore and legends to build a story, that I enjoy so much about the Leandros series. And Trixa was a fun, distinctive character. She was easy to like, even when she was tough as nails and almost vicious about it, and I rooted for her. I liked her complexity, and the fact that she was very good at plotting out her course and dealing with bumps in the road. I liked her motherly/older sisterly feelings for Griffin and Deke. She was feminine but not in a stereotyped way. Sort of like what I would expect a kickbutt woman to be: rough and ready, but also with a soft side. More like a real woman and not the typical "urban fantasy" incarnation.
I will say here and now that I loved Griffin and Deke. No, they aren't Cal and Nik clones, but what you like about the Cal and Nik dynamic is here in this book, but going in a very different direction. Deke was an incredibly interesting character. A borderline sociopath with psychopathic tendencies that are hinged on a very black and white sense of morality. He has a childish innocence that makes you want to hug him, but that is mixed with a very alarming tendency towards violence that he exercises on the 'guilty.' Perhaps he is a bit like The Punisher mixed with Judge Dredd. Griffin is like his moral conscience, keeping him on track and tempering his tendency towards violence. They are close in a way that appealed to me. That too ties into the reveal and it takes the story in a distinctive direction. I don't know if I would have chosen that resolution, but it works for the story and I did wonder if things would end up that way.
Leo's character was very inscrutable and I didn't feel I got to know him very well. I guess for the purposes of the novel, it would have given too much away if I did. I hope to see more of him in the next book.
Las Vegas in this book isn't the one that instantly comes to mind. Trixa and her companions don't hang out on the Strip. Her bar is in downtown, which is called The Fremont Experience, and she spends a lot of time going to the areas (often rural) around Vegas. The scenery is so vivid that I did feel like I was along for the ride, which is important for me when I am reading a book. Since I don't get a chance to explore the outskirts of Vegas that much, usually spending my time on the main Strip, that was a nice way to explore Vegas as an armchair traveler.
As far as the storyline, it's quite dark, which is typical for Thurman. She mixes Judeo-Christian angel and demon lore with different folklore traditions to make an interesting combination. I normally don't think it works to stir too many different legends/myths together in a storyline, but it was well-done. I felt that the angels weren't very sympathetic or likable, which is a shame, since I love angels. The demons were what I would expect, but Thurman mixes in a lot of gray here. She makes you question the motives of both and wonder who's the pony to back. In the end, I understood what she was doing with this story, and it all came together satisfactorily.
I can't really give this five stars, because it didn't feel like a fiver for me, but it was close. It has a different feel that I enjoyed, and the characters are very complex and interesting. I think that some aspects weren't as clear as I wanted and I was left with some questions. There is this sense of a lack of resolution here that I suppose comes along with a potential series (and with characters of this sort). This is a dark story, which I do enjoy in a strange way. Although there something melancholy and morose here that stays with me that isn't quite satisfying. A sense that there is not one road to travel to the end destination. It comes with the territory when you mix up traditions this way.
Overall, a very good book. Another Rob Thurman to add to my keeper shelf. Looking forward to catching up with Trixa, Deke, Griffin, and Leo again.
4.25/5.0 stars for this book.
View all my reviews