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Review: “Iron Night” by M.L. Brennan

Title: Iron Night
Author: M.L. Brennan
Series: Generation V #2
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: ROC, 2014

A few months ago I reviewed the first book in the new(ish) urban fantasy series Generation V. As you can probably surmise from the fact that I’m now reviewing the second entry (and have the third on preorder), I was a huge fan. And this second entry? It’s just as excellent as the first, if not more so.

Things are looking up for Fortitude Scott. He’s made an uneasy peace with his own budding vampirism as well as his family, and has even spent the summer training with his brother Chivalry every morning in between running “errands” for the family. And yes, that sounds suspiciously mafia-like for a reason. He’s traded his minimum wage job at the coffee shop for a slightly better paying (though no more pleasant) job as a waiter at an upscale restaurant, although the head chef loves nothing more than to force him to taste-test the newest meat-based menu items despite his professed vegetarianism. Suzume Hollis, his kitsune friend, is no less mischievous than before, but at least she hasn’t pulled anything too destructive lately. He’s even managed to find himself a decent roommate after a long stream of complete assholes. Unfortunately, this happy state of affairs cannot last, and one night Fort is yanked from a deep slumber by a noise just at the edge of consciousness. When he investigates, he discovers his roommate’s body, hands and genitalia missing and with suspiciously little blood present. For reasons that defy comprehension, someone has ritualistically tortured and killed him before dumping the body back in his own apartment. That someone is going to pay. Fort’s ensuing investigation takes him far deeper into the local otherworldly community than he’d ever hoped to go, from tangling with a skinwalker to learning the ins and outs of the elf community’s attempts to breed themselves back from extinction. These are dangerous forces he’s messing with, and it’s going to take everything he’s got to wrap this up without more friends dying along the way….

One of the things I appreciate about this series is the strides the author takes to distance herself from the conventions of what has become a popular but occasionally-derivative genre. She goes out of her way to showcase the more unusual members of the otherworldly community–the kitsune, for instance, which I’ve only ever heard of elsewhere in the midst of a deranged coworker’s attempt to get me hooked on one anime or another.* If she is going to use a more conventional creature, you’d better forget what you know. Vampires are generally monstrous, true, but most of the other stuff you know is wrong. Crucifixes are worthless. Garlic and sunlight are no issue when you’re young, but as you advance in age and you lose more and more of your humanity they can become deadly. Mirrors work just fine, and shapeshifting just simply isn’t in their repertoire. They’re not immortal, but they are incredibly long-lived, and sorry, but you can’t join them. They’re an entirely separate species, albeit one that looks very human. In fact, one of Fort’s granduncles sponsored the publication of Dracula in order to spread those false notions. The elves are far from the proud-but-good nature spirits that Tolkien wrote, instead being a ruthlessly violent race that nearly exterminated themselves before realizing their danger. Now there are only a handful of pure-blooded elves in the world, all male, along with a slew of half-breeds with more or less magical ability. Now, considering the depths of my disdain for Twilight and it’s changes to the vampire archetype, why do I approve of this? Quite simply, Ms. Brennan changes the details but remains true to the core of what vampires are–apex predators, monsters who (with rare exceptions) will kill you without batting an eyelash. Ms. Meyers just neutered them. There’s a difference. Fort gets more of a chance to shine this time, as he’s on his way to inheriting his full vampire abilities and is forced to rely less on Suzume to do the physical heavy lifting, but don’t worry, she’s still along for the ride in all of her scene-stealing glory. Bottom line: I really can’t wait for the next book to get here.

CONTENT: R-rated language, present but not gratuitous. Some fairly disturbing violence. Quite a bit of flirting and innuendo, along with some mildly-explicit sexual content. Some magic and ritual sacrifice, but it’s more rooted in the elves’ or kitsunes’ natural abilities than it is any occult connection.

*I have no problem with anime, per se, but I’ve yet to find one that catches my interest. And said coworker has forfeited all claims to good taste with some of the titles he’s described as “excellent.” Seriously, one of them was all about a father-son team who are cursed to become attractive coeds whenever something (I don’t remember what it was, I was too busy trying to decide whether to laugh or back away slowly) happens, which of course causes all sorts of comedic mix-ups and misunderstandings. Oh, those wacky Japanese animators…..

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Review: “Generation V” by M.L. Brennan

Title: Generation V
Author: M.L. Brennan
Series: Generation V #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: ROC, 2013

Once again I have the good folks at ARCycling to thank for a very fun book! I wish I would remember to note down the specific donator before I sign off….thank you to whoever donated this one! It was appreciated!

To date, my sole contact with the genre of “Urban Fantasy” has been The Dresden Files. Well, that and arguably Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel, but that doesn’t really count for these purposes. Plus, Libriomancer. I suppose a few stories from the Book Of Apex Volume IV might also fit the bill too….anyway, all that to say that I’ve not been thoroughly inducted into the myriad worlds the genre can contain. I should read some more, because I’ve been a huge fan of the little I’ve read.

Fortitude Scott is a lot like quite a few people in my generation. He graduated college with a film studies degree that does little but serve as wallpaper, and now he’s scraping by working a job he hates at a coffee shop. His girlfriend has all but dumped him, insisting on an “open relationship.” His family is bewildered by his desire for independence which borders on rudeness–he never calls unless his big brother Chivalry personally pays him a visit to ask him to come home. It’s understandable though, since his mother had his adoptive parents ripped to pieces in front of him when he was just a boy….Oh, did I mention that everyone in his family is a vampire? Fort himself is still mostly human, having not yet matured into his vampiric powers, but he’s in no hurry. Whereas his siblings were raised at home and are (to his way of thinking) frankly monstrous, Fort was allowed to be raised by a human family. You know, at least until he let slip one too many secrets about his monthly visits to his blood family, and his older sister was sent to kill them. You can see why he avoids them whenever possible. But now there’s a new player on the gameboard–a European vampire who makes Fort’s family seem like saints. Little girls are going missing, and Fort is the only one who seems to care. But even if he can convince Suzume, the kitsune bodyguard hired by his mother, to help him, Fort is going to be seriously outmatched…..

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is at all interested in the urban fantasy or vampire fiction genres. A solid plot is populated by a cast of incredibly interesting characters, and Suzume Hollis absolutely steals the show. Sexy and flirtatious, Suzume is the kitsune hired by Fort’s mother to protect him while the foreign vampire is in town. The kitsune are Japanese foxes that can shapeshift to look human, and have a reputation for being mischievous. Suzume is mischievous enough to unnerve even her family. Chivalry is also interesting, a callous vampire viewing most humans as simply food but with a soft spot for Fort that would undoubtedly make him lend a hand, if their mother hadn’t forbade his involvement. He’s completely devoted to his human wife, until death do them part….which it does with clockwork regularity every ten years or so, forcing him to find someone new. The human system isn’t designed for regular vampiric feeding, apparently. Fort is an interesting character in his own right, but his relative weakness leaves him somewhat of a passive operator for most of the book. He sets things in motion, and tries to help, but a lot of the heavy lifting falls to Suzume. That, combined with a very fascinating supporting cast, leaves the protagonist overshadowed. This has bugged a number of reviewers, and I can see their point, but I was fine with it. This was mostly setup for what is to come….and I can’t wait!

CONTENT: R-rated profanity, though not gratuitous. Strong violence, vampiric and otherwise. There’s a lot of flirting and suggestive teasing, mostly from Suzume just to get a reaction from Fort. The (most) villainous vampire is a pedophile who kidnaps little girls for obviously nefarious purposes. There’s no explicit depiction of his activities, but it’s disturbing nevertheless.

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