The latest two books I've finished-
Crystal Rain by Tobias H. Buckell
Living peacefully on Nanaganda, John deBrun is basically content with his life. He has a wife and teenage son, and makes a decent living from fishing the local waters. The only unsettling part is that he cannot remember anything before he washed up on the shore of his village, with one hand replaced by a metal hook. He has come to terms with his amnesia and is content with life until the Azteca invade from across the nearby mountain range and overrun his village. John escapes and as he struggles to find his wife and son, he finds out that he is the key to unlocking the secrets of the Ma Wi Jung, a technologically advanced artifact left behind by the old-fathers who colonized the planet long ago.
This was a pretty good read. There was a bit of adjustment to the dialect used by the mongoose men (a Caribbean based language variant). But once beyond that, the story moves along well, with plenty of action and twists. There is a fair amount of violence, as the Azteca, as their name implies, are modeled after the Aztec and Mayan races, and have preserved the human sacrifice aspect of those races.
Characters are interesting and well-drawn. Even John's son, Jerome, is pretty realistic as a young teenager, alternately stubborn and sullen, then emotional and involved. There are military men, politicians, interfering aliens looked on as "gods", bush fighter mercenaries, and more. All in all, I did like this one.
Nightlife by Rob Thurman
When I finished this one, and typed the ISBN into the book swap site I use, it came up as "Cal Leandros, Book 1". I have to admit that my gut reaction to that was: There are more??
The plot centers on Cal Leandros, who is half-human and half-elf, here called Auphe. These are not your typical elves. These guys revel in torture and grisly killing. Cal and his older brother, Niko, have been running from Cal's fathers' people for four years, and they end up in New York city. There are supernatural beings everywhere in the city- a boggle in Central Park, a rich vampire in a swank apartment, a troll under the Brooklyn Bridge, and werewolves everywhere. Most humans are completely unaware of all of them. Cal knows because of his non-human side. His father and his people have been waiting for Cal (whose birth was engineered for just this purpose) to mature, so they can use him and the demon they have hired to possess him, to open a gate to a past world before humanity became the overwhelming majority and pushed the supernatural beings nearly to extinction.
It wasn't the worst book I've read, but it certainly wasn't the best. The plot is an old one. Which is not to say it can't be done well. The ending was not what I expected, I will admit, and that was a nice surprise. Where it fails for me is the characters. The book is first person, told from Cal's perspective, and he is incessanlty whiny. "Poor me, look at me, I'm half a demon, my life sucks." Over and over. Even when the demon has control, he does nothing but complain. Granted, in a more murderous and evil manner, but still it's complaining. Niko is the stony, strong, silent type taken to the extreme. The sarcastic back and forth between the brothers is amusing at times, but a bit stilted and cliched at others. The redeeming character for me is Robin Goodfellow. Yep, the puck also lives in the Big Apple, as a used car salesman, no less. But he's clever and the stereotype car salesman fits him perfectly. And he turns out to be one of the good guys. There's a minor character of a Healer, who has cousin who is apparently a werewolf, but not. Well, he is a wolf, but neither Cal nor Robin can "smell" the supernatural about him. And that's the end of that story, which was a little disconcerting, unless that's the opening left for a future story. It left me feeling a bit left out.
The action is plenty, there is some violence, and lots of angst. This one didn't up my opinion of the urban fantasy genre much.