Published 2011 317 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Half-human Cal Leandros has always walked a bloody line between keeping his mortal soul free and clear (sort of) and unleashing the horror of his otherworldly heritage. The one thing that’s always saved him is the memory of his brother, Niko, his friends, and those he loves… until now.
Cal wakes up on a beach littered with the recently slaughtered remains of a variety of hideous creatures that were obviously looking for trouble. The fact that he was the one doing the slaughtering doesn’t bother him. The fact that he feels like a natural-born killer doesn’t either. What bothers him is that Cal doesn’t remember Cal anymore… and he’s not sure he cares.
Blackout is the sixth book in Rob Thurman’s popular Cal Leandros urban fantasy series. The books follow the adventures of Niko and Cal Leandros, a pair of brothers who fight supernatural beasties for fun and profit. If you are not familiar with this series I’d recommend starting with Nightlife and reading the books in order, rather than attempting to get to grips with Blackout first.
This time out the brothers face-off with Ammut an Egyptian goddess, who has been bolstering up her powers by sucking the life force out of New York’s supernatural community – leaving a trail of dead vampires and werewolves in her wake. However, it’s a while before readers know this much about the story since the opening pages feature Cal, stranded on a beach in South Carolina and surrounded by dead giant spiders, struggling to remember how he got there. Cal’s amnesia is then the entire basis for this story, leaving Ammut and her hellish giant spiders sidelined for most of the book.
I’ve hugely enjoyed Rob Thurman’s previous Cal Leandros books; this author writes some truly original urban fantasy and has given readers the chance to get to know some richly imagined characters. The relationship between human/Auphe hybrid Cal and Niko, his fully human brother, has been by turns both wildly humorous and touching but somehow Blackout feels tired and repetitive by comparison to earlier instalments.
The focus of Blackout is Cal’s memory-loss. Unable to remember that he’s half-Auphe Cal has a whole new outlook on life. He’s happy, a good guy and not a monster. While that is interesting, it’s not as exciting as solving supernatural mysteries and battling paranormal beasties. Most of the narrative is taken up with Cal’s endless introspection about his nature as he starts to remember parts of his past and this just gets tedious after a while – after all we’ve already covered this ground in previous books. How many ways are there of saying “Oh no, I am monster – and I think I like it.”? Let me tell you – not enough to keep this book interesting from start to finish.
Once Ammut the real villain of the Blackout is revealed you’d expect the story to pick up. Ammut is an ancient Egyptian goddess (and even if she’s not really a god but a long-lived supernatural being who managed to convince some superstitious tribes people to worship her) she’d been around a long time and you’d expect a better fight from her than she actually put up. There is little horror in the story unless you suffer from arachnophobia (in which case Ammut’s giant spiders are likely to be the stuff your nightmares are made out of) but otherwise Ammut is fairly tame.
Ultimately while Cal as a nice guy is fairly entertaining there is nothing new in Blackout and established series fans may feel like they are revisiting issues from previous instalments. Still, although the story lacks Rob Thurman’s usual spark of genius it is enjoyable enough to easily while away the hours of a lazy summer afternoon. And it’s got some great scenes involving undead pet cats… and let’s face it, there just aren’t many books that could make dead cats so funny.
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