Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Chimera

by Rob Thurman

Chimera is Rob Thurman’s latest release.  It’s her seventh book, though it was actually written just after her debut novel.  It’s so far a stand alone, and does not tie into the alternative universe that hosts the Cal Leandros books or the Trickster books.  Like her earlier books, however, it is an urban fantasy.

Chimera features the first person narration of Stefan Korsak, a first generation Russian-American working for the Russian mafia in Miami.  Stefan is not terribly interested in the mafia, he’s instead using the money and the connections to look for his younger brother Lukas, who has been missing for ten years.  And one of his leads just struck gold.  Stefan rushes off to the rescue, only to find that Lukas is terribly changed.  He’s been made over into a killer that’s been designed from his DNA on up.

If you’re familiar with Thurman’s work to date, you won’t find many surprises here.  Stefan, especially at the beginning of the book, sounds a lot like Cal without the severe self deprecating humor/self-hate.  And since Trixa in Trick of Light has the same general flavor, it feels like you already know Stefan when you pick up the book.  Which is a shame, because as the book progresses you realize that Stefan is a deeply different character underneath the surface snark.  However, Stefan undergoes an incredible amount of character growth during this book, which hasn’t been a feature with the other two characters mentioned above.

Also familiar is the overarching theme of brothers.  This book is about the relationship between Stefan and Lukas more than anything else.  Forget the great escape and the dash across country to find information and safety; this is all about Stefan and Lukas getting to know each other and coming to trust each other.  It’s about these two characters remembering and relearning what it is to be a brother, even what it is to care about another human being.

So those are the strong points of this book: deeply crafted and endearing characters that undergo deftly executed transformations.  The weak points: this book starts really slow.  The first sixty pages are Stefan setting the stage.  Except for a few minor blips of action to establish that yes, he’s in the mafia, nothing happens.  Second, a lot of the action in the entire book feels rather superfluous.  Yes, these points are important to help the brothers grow together, but there is a feeling of randomness to them rather than the feeling that they are driving towards something.  And, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that the main narrative character is so close in style and temperament to Thurman’s other two narrative characters.  Part of me really wants her to stretch herself but then, this is the book she wrote while she was shopping Nightlife to publishers.

Chimera is available in paperback and e-book editions.  I’d recommend it to fans of Thurman’s earlier work, or fans of the Dresden Files, Ann Aguirre, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia C. Briggs, or urban fantasy buffs in general.


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