Author’s note: Written August 23, 2016
This was my second read-through of this novel, done so for the purpose of refreshing my memory on the series in order to start reading the newer books that I never got to. Because now there are 9, and I have only read 4 (and a half) of them, I have a ways to go.
I read this first in high school and fell indelibly in love with the characters and the story, so I restarted this book with a very high opinion of it. Upon reexamination, I find that there are places where the prose gets a bit... unwieldy? Which is to say that sometimes Thurman's sentence structures don't flow quite right, and get too long, or seem to be missing a connecting word that might make them easier to understand. Especially in the first third of the book, there were multiple times where I had to stop and reread a sentence at least once or twice in order to actually determine what was meant, or the tone. I didn't find that it diminished the overall strength of the novel, though (for the most part).
Cal Leandros is only half human, and the other half is the ugliest of ugly monsters. His mom is an alcoholic fortune-telling "gypsy" (they're Romani; it's the term used in the book, although it is a slur, so I apologize for using it) who'd do anything for money (hence: Cal), but his older brother is the only real saving grace of the group. Niko—blond, strong, and wickedly intelligent—is Cal's savior, mentor, best friend, and companion, and the only reason this story doesn't go belly-up.
Cal and Niko are on the run from what they've dubbed Grendels, the nasty monsters responsible for Cal's non-human genetics. The boys have taken up residence in New York City, where non-human life is equally as common as anything else but goes unnoticed.
When shit hits the fan yet again, the two make plans to leave town and run, but leaving just isn't in the cards. They meet a very, very old creature by the name of Robin Goodfellow, a nasty troll named Abbagor, and then shit really hits the fan, and Cal is possessed by a real monster, whose tag-team plans involve the Unmaking of the World™.
Despite reading a bit like a "first novel" at times, the story is captivating and, at times, moving, although admittedly slow-moving at the start. Thurman does a good job of making the reader care about each of these characters and their fates. Furthermore, the entire duration of Cal's possession is written phenomenally well, because the perspective swap is flawless, and as the struggle for ownership of Cal's body begins to increase, the change in narrative/emotive display/etc. is so subtle and gradual that, unless you're good (or have already read it once and therefore know it's coming), it's very easy to miss.
The hiccups in sentence structure don't detract significantly enough from the story to mark it down from a 4-5 star rating, personally. Nightlife is definitely worth reading if you're a fan of urban fantasy lit, the interplay of brotherly relationships, and intense amounts of sass. Especially if you're looking for UF that isn't half sex scenes. I like my lit porn as much as the next human, but I also appreciate a strong UF novel that doesn't partake.