This isn’t a novel as much as a short story strung together with a novella and padded with a buttload of recap and filler. (For those of you that missed Susanne and me in chemistry 101 at Occidental College, a ‘buttload’ generally means ‘enough to spill over the sides of whatever containment device you may be using,’ resulting in a mad rush to the neutralizer. Sodium bicarbonate was our friend).
At any rate, the lowdown is that the first section is taken up with a worldwide puck reunion, providing the opportunity for Robin the puck to make about a hundred sexual innuendos about the size of his parts and who he’s used them with, and Cal to voice his adolescent disgust at sexual intimacy another hundred times. As a self-contained character highlight, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the book in plot or focus. In a great–or even good–book, a character might get a chance to do a solo jam, but it should be integrated with the rest of the music. Here it’s not. Moreover, the sexual jokes are repetitive and, ultimately, not funny after the first eyeroll. Terminal boredom.
At the same time, Niko’s father appears on the doorstep, providing an opportunity for Cal to tell us all about his philosophy of brotherly love, just in case we missed it in the first six books. In fact, Cal will tell what brotherly affection means about every other page. I’m not kidding, people. It’s ‘tell don’t show’ to the nth degree. It also gives a chance to recap their upbringing and (again) complain about their mother’s lack of motherly instincts and emotional attachment. It is unbelievably repetitious, borderline misogynist, and used as a crutch for antagonism between Cal and Niko’s father. It’s extremism gives me pause, because Cal’s arguments consist of 1) you left Niko with a monster–our mother, and 2) you left Niko with a monster–me. Boring and worthless plot-wise, because 1) their mom is dead since book one, and 2) Cal’s supposed to have made ‘peace’ with the degree of his monstrosity.
Once the pucks clear out of New York, the focus shifts to the main plot, specifically, some sort of supernatural hunting the brothers, using a mechanical device as a stalking horse. As far as plots go, it’s a rehash of the earlier books with the Auphe–bad monster, people as food, world domination, yada yada. Cal’s “mental defect” of being unable to build more than one transportation gate every three days is the deux ex machina that gives an out from untenable situations but limits Cal’s power so that he can be up against a tougher antagonist.
I was also irritated by the portentous but vague reappearance of old character in the antagonist’s thoughts, a character that hasn’t been seen for a number of books, abandoned as a plot line. To bring back a character, hint that something awful happened but then refuse to elaborate on what/why is a cheap attempt to develop tension and emotional engagement. I wonder if Thurman feels she has to engage us through harm to a likeable character because it’s so challenging to empathize with our three main men, Niko, Cal and Robin?
Ultimately, Thurman seems to have run out of ideas on how to make her plots interesting. The last two books had jump-started my interest in the series, and this one reminded me of everything I don’t like–Cal’s endless snark (trope:first person smartass), the repetitive writing, the general oinkism from using tropey-trope characters (the hero, the modern anti-hero, the sexual deviant) For me, this has become again a library-only series to read if/when I get around to it.