I’ve been a fan of Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series since before I knew that “Rob” was actually of the female persuasion (Yeah, I was a little shocked in an awesome sort of way). In the series, she takes well known myths and legends and turns them on their heads, painting them with a much darker, more terrifying brush. Each book in the series is full of these twisted fairy tales, as well as action, guns, sexual innuendo, and lots of foul language from the lead character, half-auphe Cal Leandros. The action movie aspect is one of the greatest appeals of the series, but Blackout does not fall into the usual niche dug out by the rest of the series. Thurman delves into foreign territory in this one, but manages to pull it off in the end.
Right out of the gate, things are different than the normal Cal Leandros book. Cal is alone and has lost his memory. It’s not until a few chapters in that two mainstays of the series, Niko and Robin, appear. As the story progresses, an apprehensive Cal learns about the relationships he’s made throughout his life, and learns a horrible truth that is barely hidden behind a veil of denial and ignorance: there be monsters here. Even more terrifying to Cal, he starts to realize that he is one of the worst monsters to ever walk the Earth.
Most of this realization has been visited in the previous parts of the series, but this time we get to see how someone who has no real understanding of “the truth” handles that kind of knowledge. Cal is still a trained killer and definitely an antisocial misanthrope, but without his memory he is missing another part of himself: the monster.
There’s talk of the story’s antagonist, an ancient evil making life hard on the supernatural community in New York by eating the hearts of the most powerful, but it’s not until the second half of the book that the creature makes its first appearance. This is mainly because the story isn’t about the conflict between the Leandros brothers and the thing out to kill them, as it is in the other books. This story is mainly about the conflict within Cal.
Thurman still throws in the usual amount of twists and turns, although they are rather transparent to anyone who has read the rest of the series. The twists are meant more for Cal than they are the reader. Cal’s reactions to the twists are what’s important to the story, not the twists themselves.
Style wise, this book is lacking a little than the rest of them. There are several times when I had to go back and reread certain passages to make sure I followed what was happening. One of the more annoying things was the inconsistent references to Niko. Cal calls him Leandros while he is without his memory, but there are several times when he slips and calls him “Niko.” This could be an attempt at a clever way of showing Cal’s memories returning, but it’s somewhat out of context and can be confusing.
Blackout is definitely not what you expect out of a Cal book, but it’s still worth the read. The struggle between Cal’s human and auphe halves has been present since book one and this seems to be the climax between the two. Cal has to decide what’s more important, being a good person or being a good brother. Although a different read, Blackout seems necessary in maturing Cal from his angst filled teenager personality. If you’re a fan of the series, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for the typical raucous adventure and monster death associated with the rest of the series, it’s there, but be warned, this is a much more introspective trip.
To check out the other books in the Cal Leandros series (complete with excerpts from each), check this out.