Rob Thurman,
(Roc, 2006)

Cal has a lot working against him. His mother is a trailer-trash shrew, his father is a demonic elf and his brother, Niko, is better than him at pretty much everything. Occult forces are chasing him and, at one point, he is possessed by a dark, homicidal force of nature.

Still, I wish Cal would lose the attitude. Nightlife, Rob Thurman's first novel, is told from Cal's perspective and, man, he doesn't give us a break! After spending more than 300 pages in Cal's head, I feel like a need I little bit of sunshine, perhaps after a nice, brisk shower. He is sardonic to an unnecessary extreme, tossing mockery, self-loathing and various cliches around like he'd spent his youth reading too many old potboiler detective stories -- you know the type -- and thought people really talked that way.

It's a shame, because otherwise Nightlife is a damn fine book, an excellent first effort from this author. The novel is urban fantasy, almost horror, as Cal and Niko flee from and fight with the twisted black Auphes -- a twisted variation on elves, also called Grendels. Along the way, they encounter other supernatural beings, some of whom help them and others who, well, don't, including a troll, a boggle, some werewolves, a big dog who used to be human, a teenage psychic, a vampire, a mystical healer and the far-famed Robin "Puck" Goodfellow, who's now selling used cars in New York.

Cal is the Grendels' primary target, although he doesn't know why; he only knows that his half-breed nature and a two-year gap in his memory are part of some sinister plan to give Auphes greater power in the human world. Fortunately, he has Niko by his side -- and Niko is brilliant, steadfastly loyal to Cal and a heavily armed martial arts expert/ninja to boot.

Thurman keeps you guessing for a good, long while, revealing hints and shreds of the story with a wicked grin until the grim picture begins to form. He also leaves threads hanging, including potential love interests for both brothers and a lonely, ancient satyr, that indicate a sequel is on the way. I'll be watching for it. Meantime, kick back and enjoy the New York City Nightlife.

by Tom Knapp
14 January 2006

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