Deathwish, by Rob Thurman (Roc, 2009)

The Leandros brothers — brooding, gunhappy Cal, and Niko, the consummate warrior — are once again up to their ears in trouble of the supernatural variety. It’s only been a matter of weeks since their last traumatic encounter with the Auphe, ancient mythical creatures, and all evidence suggests that the Auphe may have been dealt a setback but are still very much in the game. And as always, their main goal is to claim Cal, an Auphe half-blood on his father’s side, as one of their own, while killing everyone he cares about. So now the brothers and their allies, including Niko’s girlfriend, the vampire known as Promise, and the shameless puck known as Robin Goodfellow, are on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the Auphe while they work on a plan. But how do you stop some of the nastiest, most vicious, sadistic creatures ever to terrorize the human race? How do you fight teleporting nightmares that seem to know where you are at all times?

Just to make things worse, Promise’s long-lost daughter Cherish shows up, on the run herself after stealing a necklace from the wrong person. Ossoshi, a South American badass renowned as a hunter, and his small army of deadly mythical beasts, has followed her to New York, intent on teaching her a lesson she’ll never forget. Will Auphe and Ossoshi catch our heroes in the middle, or turn this mess into a three-way bloodbath? Finally, because the situation wasn’t complicated enough, a mysterious new organization has surfaced, one that seems to know far more than it should about the supernatural events occurring in New York, and the organization’s front man is just about the last person Cal and Niko expected to see alive. And to think this is pretty much business as usual for them. . . .

Deathwish is the fourth in this series about a pair of brothers who make the Winchester boys look like wimps, and everyone’s in fine form as usual. Cal alternates between brooding self-pity, and foolhardy, even suicidal selflessness where his “family” is concerned. Niko maintains a blend of Zen warrior calm and over-protectiveness. Robin . . . well, Robin never changes. He’s still the amoral, omnisexual, hedonistic immortal rogue that he’s always been, providing much-needed common sense and comic relief, and thoroughly stealing the scene whenever he gets a chance. Promise remains inscrutable, yet unusually sweet for a vampire as long-lived as she is, and the revelation of her own pre-existing family in this book adds another dimension to her character.

This series has always been a lot of fun, and Deathwish is no exception. The plot keeps moving right along, full of twists and surprises, and the author makes absolutely splendid use of mythology from around the world to populate the secret supernatural society of New York. Vampires, werewolves, chupacabras, mummies, rat-things, peris, and many more all have their parts to play, and Thurman has put her own spin on a number of them just to make them even more memorable. And yet, it doesn’t feel crowded, like some of these urban fantasies do when you toss in too many critters and beasties.

The good news is, we get plenty of Robin, a character who could easily headline his own book — though it might have to come with a plain brown wrapper as a cover. The bad news is, we get very little of Georgina, the red-haired psychic who played a larger role in earlier books. Perhaps it balances out, but I miss her all the same. Nevertheless, there’s not that much else I can complain about. Some might find Cal’s constant worry and self-loathing and battery of issues to be annoying . . . but then again, that’s actually a plot point, his attitude recognized and barely tolerated by those who put up with him, and even he acknowledges he has problems to sort through. This is a story about some rather broken people, and how they cope, and how they’ve built a family, both in blood and in spirit, and how that family comes together in a time of crisis. And in the face of all that, it’s easy to forgive them their flaws. Thurman has done a great job of creating these flawed yet likeable, broken yet redeemable characters, and I’ll continue to follow their adventures as long as they’re available.

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