The darkness is nearly all encompassing in Robin Wasserman’s latest, THE WAKING DARK. Oleander, Kansas is a very small town, considered quaint by its older residents (and some young ones), but for most of its younger set, it’s a place to escape once they come of age. Unfortunately, the time for escape is coming to an end, and it starts with the killing day. On the killing day, people that seemed sane snap and kill anyone that gets in there way, then themselves, except for one, a girl named Cass. Soon after, a tornado ravages Oleander and among the ruins, the town spirals further out of control, and when military forces move in, five teens will find the survival of Oleander on their shoulders, if they can survive the coming days. Juliet (Jule) Prevette is from the wrong side of the tracks, and part of a family that makes its living producing meth. Violence is nothing new to Jule, but it’s nothing compared to what’s in store. Jeremiah West is on the football team, popular and well liked, but he’s got a secret, and carries despair like a torch after witnessing his friend Nick’s death on the killing day. Daniel’s father is the town drunk and the only thing that really gives him joy is his younger half-brother Milo, and they’ll need each other more than ever when the town goes to hell, and boy does it.
I’ll admit, I had this for a bit and didn’t get to it until Chuck Wendig named it in his Stuff Wot I Liked in 2013 post. Boy, he wasn’t kiddin’. Wasserman’s small town vision is like something out of a Bosch painting and has been compared to Stephen King’s work. I have to agree on that one. In fact, it calls to mind Under the Dome, but with teens for the main characters and minus the aliens. That said, the comparisons are of the best kind, and this is uniquely Wasserman’s story. These teens are connected, but they’re not necessarily friends, and when the shite hits the fan, they have to trust each other, even if they never would have in their former lives. The adults in The Waking Dark behave very, very badly, and indeed, one of the scariest thing in a young person’s life is if the ones they are supposed to rely on the most become the enemy. Now, there is a reason behind this mess, and revealing what that is would be spoiling part of the fun, but Wasserman very slyly explores what it might be like to become completely morally untethered, and it is a nightmarish exploration. I grew quite fond of all the kids, but my favorite is Jule, who pretty much everyone would forgive if she went completely into the dark, but she doesn’t, and that makes her pretty special. Her family is right out of Deliverance, and the horrors of meth addiction are trumpeted loud and clear, as are her life of violence and neglect. Part survival horror, part psychological dissection of small town life, and part unflinching scare-fest, THE WAKING DARK is unmissable for mature teens and adults looking for scares that rise far above the usual fare.(less)
Stefan Bachmann started writing The Peculiar in 2010, when he was only 16. You’re probably asking yourself, how can a 16 year old have the maturity and wherewithal to write an accomplished fantasy, right? Well, this one did. Changeling Bartholomew Kettle lives with his mother and his sister Hettie on Old Crow Alley in the faery slums of New Bath, a Bath transformed many years ago by the Smiling War, in which faery alighted on England and the British army promptly shot them down, rounded up the remainder, and put them to work in the factories. Now keep in mind, upon their arrival, the fay unceremoniously slaughtered many troops brutally in the night, prompting swift retaliation. Either way, the fay, and their magic, were in England to stay, the door to their home closed for good. Or was it?
Changeling children are being murdered in New Bath, and Parliament member Arthur Jelliby, to his horror, overhears something that may have to do with the murders. Until then, his life has been orderly and structured and all he really wants to do is spend time with his lovely wife, Ophelia, and sleep in every now and then. For Mr. Jelliby, and for Bartholomew and Hettie, life is about to get much more exciting, and dangerous. Who is murdering the changeling children, and why? Mr. Jelliby and Bartholomew join forces to find out and it makes for an adventure not be missed.
I adored this fantastic, magical fantasy from start to breathtaking finish. Bartholomew considers himself ugly, and very much an outsider, made harder by the fact that he and little Hettie must be kept hidden away from those that would hurt them for being changelings. I fell in love with Barthy, but it was delicate Hettie that stole my heart with her pointed ears, big round eyes, and the branches of a young tree sprouting from her head in place of hair. Barthy is lonely and desperate for friendship and although he loves his mother and sister, he longs for a more exciting life, one where he is accepted for who he is. He gains a friend and ally in Mr. Jelliby, who discovers he has a capacity for bravery that he never knew existed. The author gives us a formidable villain in the diabolical Mr. Lickerish, and his wondrous and creepy version of Bath, with its faery denizens and their terrible beauty makes for an immersive and magical reading experience. When fate throws Barthy in the path of terrible evil, he more than rises to the occasion, especially when Hettie is put in mortal danger. It’s a race against time to save her, and indeed, save New Bath. The Peculiar is, put simply, a near perfect fantasy from a very gifted debut author.(less)
Oh Pendergast, why must you be so darn cranky? Well, it may be because his wife, Helen, who he thought he lost in a lion attack years ago(yes, a lion attack), is actually alive! That’s not what’s making him cranky however, although it is a huge shocker. When they finally try to reunite, she’s abducted, and Pendergast vows to get her back. His pursuit of Helen and her abductors will lead him into the Mexican desert, and a shocking confrontation.
Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Manhattan, targeting innocent people in their hotel rooms and murdering them in particularly gruesome fashion. Strangely, the killer seems to know his victims’ every move, things he couldn’t possibly predict. Vincent D’Agosta is on the case, and when he discovers the killer may have a connection to Pendergast, he’s floored and conflicted as to how to proceed. After all, Pendergast is one of his closest, and dearest friends, and if D’Agosta refuses to disclose details that are important to the investigation, it could mean his job. He’s finally at a good place with Laura Hayward, and he’d be devastated if anything threatened that well-earned peace.
At the same time, Corrie Swanson, Pendergast’s protégé is pursued by what she thinks are Nazi extremists, and she approaches Pendergast for help and sanctuary, but he’s in a bad place and can’t offer consolation, so she goes the only place that she might be safe: her father’s house. She hasn’t seen her father since she was little and he left, and stumbles upon some information about her father, concerning allegations of theft, that may not be true. She’s determined to get to the bottom of it and launches her own covert investigation.
If that’s not enough for you, Constance Green’s doctor , John Felder, wants to get to the bottom of Constance’s claim that she’s more than 100 years old, and heads to Connecticut to gain access to some papers that might shed light on the matter, but getting past an eccentric old woman and her creepy bodyguard might be more than he bargained for. The mystery of Helen’s past will lead Pendergast into the jungles of Brazil, to a tiny island where a diabolical experiment has been carried out for years, and is tied intimately to both Pendergast and Helen. What Pendergast finds is shocking, and he’ll do anything to put a stop to it. Much to D’Agosta’s chagrin, Pendergast doesn’t want his help, and he’s forced to worry about his friend, even as he investigates the murders in Manhattan.
So there you have it! In Two Graves, Preston & Child have no less than four pretty involved storylines going at once, and they manage to tie everything together effortlessly. Pendergast is one of my favorite literary creations, and I can forgive him if he acts like an insufferable jerk sometimes. The man has his reasons, and instead of telling people that he doesn’t want help because he cares about them and doesn’t want them hurt, he tends to just push them away, like he does here with Corrie and D’Agosta. Fans of the Pendergast series, in which Two Graves is the 12th, will find much to love here, and the authors’ talent for making the outlandish not only palatable, but believable, is on fine display. These books are pure fun and are chock full of meticulous research and just plain excellent writing. The devil is indeed in the details. I wouldn’t suggest starting with this book, if you’re new to the series however, since it completes Helen’s story arc and also wraps up some loose ends for Constance and Corrie. I’ve purposely left out some HUGE surprises which will certainly have bearing on the future of our favorite FBI agent, but if I told you, then it would completely ruin the fun! I zipped through this one, even though it weighs in at 480 pages, and it even kept me up late a few nights. Two Graves is a wonderful addition to a superb thriller series, and you’ll want to move right on to White Fire, the next book in the series!(less)
Agnes Magnúsdóttir has been convicted of taking part in the brutal murder of two men, Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson, along with Sigrídur (Sigga) Gudmundsdóttir and Fridrik Sigurdsson. Agnes is sent to northern Iceland to stay with a family until her execution can be carried out, and Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes’s time with this family, and is interspersed with her first person narrative of the events leading up to the crime in question. When she arrives at the farmhouse of Kornsá, she is met with wariness, especially from Lauga, one of two young sisters, and Margrét, their mother. Their father, Jón, is mostly indifferent to her presence, accepting that it’s his responsibility as a town official, but Lauga’s sister, Steina, is fascinated with Agnes and she recognizes her from an encounter from when the girls were much younger, in which Agnes showed them a small act of kindness. Steina just can’t believe that this quiet, melancholy woman could be guilty of the crimes that she has been convicted of. Agnes has requested that a young priest, Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jónsson, or Tóti, be her spiritual guardian until the time of her execution, and it isn’t forgiveness that she seeks, but something else entirely.
Burial Rites is Hannah Kent’s first novel, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from the confident voice of Agnes to the gorgeous, meticulous descriptions of Icelandic farm life in the mid-1800s. It’s also based on a true story, which makes it all the more devastating, and indeed, many of the “official” documents that accompany the narrative have been adapted from original sources . I loved everything about this book, but my favorite parts were Agnes’s first person accounts of her time with Natan, and their relationship, which was passionate, fraught, and eventually, for Agnes, an obsession. Did Agnes’s obsession lead to murder? I’ll leave that for you to find out, but her guilt or innocence is not the point. Burial Rites is the portrait of a woman who has always been an outsider, an orphan from a young age, and the eventual acceptance of her as part of the family that takes her in, and comes to care for her, during the days leading up to her execution. This is a lovely and haunting novel, and one that will stay with you long after you read the final page.(less)
Cael McAvoy and his friends live in the Heartland, where corn grows in spades, but Heartland’s people can’t eat it. In fact, some would say the corn is alive. One thing is for sure, it fuels everything that the Empyreans need, in their kingdom in the clouds, while Heartland’s citizens survive on scraps, because the land can’t grow anything else. Cael is, however, captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, and they’re pretty darn good at what they do, even if the mayor’s son and his crew constantly try to sabotage them. Life is hard, but not terrible, until the love of his life, Gwennie, gets Obligated to someone else, someone he hates. Soon, however, Cael and his friends discover a patch of fresh veggies and fruit growing amidst the corn, and what it signifies could change the lives of the Heartlanders, but what to do? If Cael thought life was interesting before, it’s about to get downright scary, and it certainly doesn’t help that his sister has run away, leaving him with a father that he feels does nothing to help the family and a mother who is crippled by tumors.
Most of you know by now that I love anything that Chuck Wendig writes, and his first foray into YA is a winner, inside and out. I love the world of the Heartland, where corn will attack you if you linger too long in the fields and the Blight can strike anyone at any time, causing horrible mutations and, sometimes, insanity. If you’re already a fan of his work, you know how good Wendig is at imagery, and it’s on fine display here, in this post- apocalyptic world that echoes, in some ways, the Wild West, but with hoverboards and of course, killer corn. Perhaps among one of the creepiest elements of this book is the Lottery, which one family wins every year, awarding the winner a trip to the sky, to live in promised luxury. Yet, the reader gets the distinct impression that heading to the clouds may not be all it’s cracked up to be, but you won’t find out in this installment. Since Cael’s sister has hitched a ride into the sky, I’m sure we’ll find out more in the next book, but the wait will be excruciating, at least for this reader. If you like your dystopian heavy on the creepy, with plenty of rebellious and strong characters, you’re in for a real treat. This one will appeal to teens and adults alike, and it’s not to be missed!(less)
Chum opens with the wedding of Mary and Bickerman, as narrated by Mike. As he takes in the scene with its requisite drinking and carousing, you’ll get a taste early of the dark undercurrent that runs through Mike and his group of “friends”. I use the term loosely. Mike seems to be the least sociopathic of the bunch, and strangely, I don’t mean that in a bad way, and that may even be unfair to Mike. He’s actually quite sensitive and tends to come off like a wet blanket, but he’s loyal, and his observations were, for me, the glue that held this story together. His are not the only observations, however, we get perspective from just about everyone on the cast list. Not all of them, though. Tom and Mike are the main navigators in the treacherous waters of the year following the wedding, and about the very dark secret that holds them all together.
Chum is a huge departure from Jeff Somers’ other work (his UF series, The Ustari Cycle and the sf Avery Cates series), but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. I was pulled into this one immediately, and I think what got me is Somers’ honest excavation of friendship. Especially the friendships that we cultivate as adults. I don’t know if there’s actually a character in Chum that’s particularly likeable, although Mike comes close, but he’s seen as weak in turn by his girlfriend Denise and also by Tom. Ohh, Tom. Tom’s passages were actually some of my favorite, because he’s such a scoundrel that it’s almost shocking, and he says things in his narrative that most of us would probably have loved to say at some point in our lives, but were afraid to. He’s certainly a sociopath, and possibly more, but his passages are where the exquisite dark comedy in Chum comes out in force. I laughed out loud at times and was mildly ashamed of myself for doing so (but not for long.) Mike is a guilty pleasure, to be sure, and reminded me a bit of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (although, as far as I know, without the horrid killing spree). As un-charming as these hard-drinking, sometimes back-stabbing group of friends are, I saw a bit of myself in all of them, especially in their insecurities, and I’m betting you will too. The observations are swift, smart, often brutal, and sometimes blackly hilarious. Remember that dark secret I mentioned? You’ll begin to suspect what it is later in the story, but the author is subtle, and this book can’t be categorized as suspense or even as a mystery, although it has elements of both. Don’t let the term “character study” scare you away, because Chum is indeed spot on in that capacity, but reading as these friends’ lives unravel spectacularly, you can’t take your eyes off of it. Trust me on this one, it’s a must read, and it showcases the awesome versatility of a very, very talented author.(less)
When John Morgan and his wife, Anna, set off to a remote Alaskan village to teach, they know they’re in for adventure, and they do find it, but soon, what started off as something exciting turns to something terrifying when the little village is hit by the flu and people start dying at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, Anna is one of the casualties, and soon, desperate to survive, John sets out into the frozen expanse to hopefully find survivors, and a reason to go on. What he does find is a blind young woman who has miraculously survived on her own. She joins John and what follows is their fight to survive among sickness, death, and the people that have chosen a method of survival that is an abomination.
The Raven’s Gift’s narrative shifts between the present and John and Anna’s first days among the Yup’ik people. The wonder at these hardy people and their harsh living conditions shines through, even amidst their frustration at rather primitive surroundings, but they make do, and it’s a fascinating look into a very different way of life. Their devotion to each other is evident, but never cloying, and right before Anna dies, she extracts a promise from John. We do eventually find out what that promise is, and it’s one of the things that helps to raise this story above most survival/dystopian fare, although it’s certainly not the only thing. Reardon has a way with words, never overdoing the narrative but creating just enough atmosphere, in all the right places, that will set the little hairs on the back of your neck on end. There are some genuinely creepy passages in this novel, and they serve to create some very real tension during their journey. I can’t imagine having to survive in these conditions, and I swear while I was reading I wanted to wrap my blanket around me for warmth. As hard as things get for John and the girl, it’s their burgeoning relationship that adds warmth and poignancy, and you’ll want to keep an eye out for the survivalist that they meet along the way, whose acts of kindness are ultimately heartbreaking. The Raven’s Gift is a wonderful combination of survival/dystopian and yes, even love story that will satisfy readers looking for something that’s beautifully written (and yes, clichés be damned, uplifting) and just plain good. Oh, and it has one of the best endings that I’ve read in a long time. Put this one on your must read list.(less)
Roads are washed out, along with buildings, bridges, food and just about every other necessity needed to survive. Mississippi, along with the rest of the Gulf Coast, is a waterlogged mess and it’s been raining for so long that it’s hard for Cohen to remember life before the rain, but he does remember some things, like the beauty of his dead wife and how much he wanted the child that was growing inside her before they were killed during an evacuation. Cohen still makes what passes for a life inside the house they shared, along with a horse and dog, and his regular trips to see his friend Charlie (who has a knack for procurement) for supplies punctuates the lonely days and nights.
On his way home, after one such trip to see Charlie, he encounters a teenage girl and boy by the side of the road who flag him down for a ride. Against his better judgment, he stops to pick them up. Their fumbling attempt to kill him is unsuccessful, but they do manage to steal his Jeep and many of his supplies. He finally makes it home to find it has been relieved of supplies as well, no doubt by the teenagers or others involved with them. He especially feels violated after he discovers that the room that was to be the baby’s has been invaded as well, and makes it his goal to track down the teens and retrieve what belongs to him.
Cohen sets about finding the teens with a single mindedness that is both terrifying and exhilarating, and it almost kills him. Eventually he finds the camp where Mariposa and Evan are, for lack of a better description, being kept, along with Evan’s younger brother, along with quite a few women, some pregnant, by a man, Aggie, who has designated himself their lord and master. If you’re getting a creepy feeling, it’s certainly warranted, because Aggie is one of the creepiest bad guys that I’ve read in a long time, and it’s a wormy, insidious kind of creepy. Aggie sooths his “people” with words of comfort and promises of shelter and food, but once he’s got ‘em, they become mere property. The locks are on the outside of the doors and Evan and little Briscoe are the only males. I’m sure you can get the gist of Aggie’s goals. Once Cohen gets into the mix, though, all bets are off, and Aggie may have met his match. And there’s a storm coming…
I’m willing to bet that once you crack open Rivers, you’ll want to finish it off in one sitting, if only to follow your dread all the way to the end without pause. You will root for Cohen, Mariposa, and Evan, and during their sometimes nightmarish trip through a south saturated in rain, filth, and despair, you can almost feel their constant discomfort and marvel at their strength in the face of such horrendous odds. Michael Farris Smith’s world is a post-apocalyptic landscape of a different kind where there are no supernatural monsters, but instead, plenty of monsters of the human kind. There is also still goodness and decency left, which, in spite of his very rough exterior, Cohen has in spades. His longing for his deceased wife is both beautiful and heartrending and in fact, the narrative is interspersed with vignettes about his time with Elisa, making his grief all the more poignant. Smith’s prose is fluid, much like the landscape, lyrical in its sparseness, and serves to lend a very effective air of impending dread that is unshakeable and palpable. Rivers is one of the best books I’ve read this year. On the surface it is a very effective, and sometimes terrifying, survival story, but for me, it’s a love story that inspired hope, even as it broke my heart. I can’t wait to see what Michael Farris Smith has in store for us next.(less)
There’s something intriguing yet downright terrifying about a group of people that can employ mind control just with the use of a few nonsense words, but that’s the basis of the superb Lexicon.
When the book opens, Wil Parke is being held down by two men and having a needle driven through his eye at an airport bathroom. He has no idea why, only that he needs to get away. The snippets of their conversation that he can grasp make no sense, and when he finally gets a chance to run, what he witnesses is mind numbing. Soon, he realizes that his life has taken on a whole new meaning, and his captor may actually be his protector.
We then jump back in time a bit to the life of 16 year old Emily Ruff, a runaway who is barely scraping by as a card hustler in San Francisco. She has a knack for persuasion, however, and this is what puts her on the radar of the “poets”, which is what this clandestine group of mind bending folks call themselves. They present an offer she really can’t refuse, since she doesn’t really have other attractive life choices at her fingertips, and so begins her journey. The author takes us through her schooling with the poets and she begins to show a talent that both intrigues and terrifies the establishment, especially the shadowy man that heads it up. He sees a tool in Emily, and possibly even a weapon.
Emily and Wil’s futures eventually entwine in the tiny town of Broken Hill, Australia, which has been completely devastated by a horrific incident that Emily may be involved in. Perhaps most importantly, Will is an “outlier”, who is immune to the powers of the poets, and it may be what saves his life, but what about Emily, and why has he been drawn into a battle that he wants nothing to do with?
I had absolutely no expectations when I began reading Lexicon, but let me tell you, it took about 10 seconds for me to be completely hooked on this unusual and absorbing story. Emily is a strong willed, yet very vulnerable girl whose future falls into the hands of a group that doesn’t have her best interests at heart. She’s very powerful and it’s her struggle with her terrifying power and also with herself that makes her so tragic, and ultimately, so easy to identify with. Honestly, where Emily was concerned, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Firestarter, which is a good thing. Wil is a bit of a mystery to begin with, but as the narrative unfolds, you’ll figure things out, and if you weren’t already hopelessly hooked, just wait. You’ll need to pay attention, because when the author changes timelines, he expects you to use your context clues to figure out where you are in the course of the story, and if you are indeed paying attention, it’s not hard. I kind of liked this, because it really made me focus on the who and where and kept me in the moment. The scenes in the ruined Broken Hill are very, very creepy, and Emily’s time at the poet’s school will certainly bring to mind X-Men. Those are just comparison’s to give you a bit of an idea of what you’re getting into, though. Max Barry has certainly created something all his very own, and he’ll have his hooks in you in no time. Lexicon is a scary, intelligent, and poignant thriller that defies categorization and more than deserves a look from readers looking for something a bit different, a little beyond the norm, satirically sharp, and just damn good.(less)
Rose Baker is a typist for the New York City Police Department and she enjoys her job, even if transcribing the confessions of killers and thugs can seem a bit brutal at times. After all, it’s 1923, and for a girl that grew up in an orphanage, she’s doing pretty well. It doesn’t hurt that she’s very good at her job (she’s a graduate of the Astoria Stenographers College for Ladies thankyouverymuch.) She looks up to her Sergeant, perhaps seeking in him the father she never had and even tolerates the roguish flippancy of the Lieutenant Detective. All in all, the status quo is pretty set, and most importantly safe, for our Rose, until Odalie Lazare arrives:
“Odalie’s hair was not yet bobbed when she came in for an interview. If it had been, I doubt the Sergeant would have hired her, although I’m certain the Lieutenant Detective would not have minded. Even before Odalie bobbed her hair, I had my suspicions the Lieutenant Detective liked that variety of shocking hairstyle, and the kind of woman who dared to wear it.”
Obviously Odalie gets the job and becomes the new typist, and when Odalie leaves following her interview, she drops a beautiful brooch that Rose snaps up and hides away in her desk drawer, not yet knowing that Hurricane Odalie will turn her life upside down, but which marks the beginnning of what’s to come. Soon, Rose starts documenting Odalie’s movements, and some of these notes are included in the narrative. They become undeniably stalkerish, and although Rose acknowledges this, she’s always very quick with a justification. What is overwhelmingly obvious, however, is just how much Rose covets Odalie, with her beautiful clothes and easy way with men, but Rose herself is a bit of a prude (which she also readily admits), but her awe of Odalie is tangible, and even understandable. Odalie’s attentions are like a ray of sunlight, and Rose is helpless beneath them. And so it is that Rose and Odalie become bosom buddies, although it’s glaringly obvious from the beginning that Odalie is using Rose, although to what ends isn’t entirely clear at first. Rose’s name is very appropriate, I thought, since the narrative unfolds much like a rose unfolds to meet the sun, albeit one that’s about to be thoroughly eclipsed.
A world unlike anything Rose has ever known opens before her and soon she’s a puppet, with Odalie at the strings. Odalie lends Rose her beautiful clothes and takes her to speakeasies where sex and drink flow freely, and to parties hosted by the elite, where days are spent at the beach or playing croquet. Where exactly does Odalie get all her exquisite things? And if she is so well-heeled, why must she take a job as a typist? Odalie’s diamond hard façade soon begins to crumble, and with it Rose’s world, the world that she has so intimately entwined with Odalie’s.
I read The Other Typist in one sitting, drawn in immediately by Rose’s fascinating, almost haughty narrative. The time period in which it is set is very important to Rose’s story, and if you like novels that take place in the 20’s, you’ll certainly enjoy this one. You’ll quickly realize that Rose’s story may be questionable, but that said, never has an unreliable narrator been so intriguing. There’s a sense of impending doom that follows the reader to inevitable disaster, but boy, did I enjoy getting there. The Other Typist is an absorbing story of obsession, betrayal, murder, and even friendship, and don’t be quick to write off Odalie as a simple villainess, just like you shouldn’t merely mistake Rose for a humble typist. The devil is certainly in the details in this deliciously thrilling and suspenseful novel.(less)
When we first meet Lucinda “Lucy” Carter, it’s the late1800’s and she’s making her escape from a Texas brothel with more than a few dollars of the madam’s stash in tow and an invitation to teach in Middle Bayou, Louisiana. She’s got more to do in Middle Bayou than just teach, though. In fact, a man is supposed to meet her there and he’s got buried treasure on his mind, and plans to use Lucinda to get it. Meanwhile, young Nate Cannon, a Texas cop, is hunting for a killer of women, men, and children by the name of McGill, and on the way, he meets up with two other lawmen, Dr. Tom and Deerling. Deerling is a rather ruthless sort and is unapologetic about methods that Nate may not agree with. Dr. Tom has a personal stake in capturing McGill, but I’ll let you discover what that is on your own. Needless to say, chasing the cunning McGill isn’t easy and is fraught with danger, some of which has nothing to do with their fugitive. Nate finds himself growing attached to these two cops that have been partners for the better part of 20 years, and although he longs to be back home with his wife and young daughter, his experiences with these men, and what he learns from them, is transformational.
The narrative is divided between Nate’s journey and Lucinda’s, and I fell in love with them both, but for different reasons. On the outside, Lucinda exudes confidence and is even somewhat of a prodigy in math, but on the inside, she is so damaged and so broken that your heart will go out to her. Yes, she’s in league with some not so nice people. Yes, she uses others in order to survive, sometimes with terrible consequences. But, she is so complex, and at times so vulnerable, and I desperately wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel for her. As The Outcast moves toward its conclusion, I began to feel a sense of inevitability, and also a very palpable sense of dread. I knew that things were going to be explosive, and in the end, they were, but the author threw some curveballs in there that I didn’t expect. The journey is the key here, and what a journey! Nate is so goodhearted, with a very strong sense of justice, and he finds himself challenged at nearly every turn, especially by the irascible Deerling, but it’s his relationship with Dr. Tom that’s the big draw here. From the dusty hills of Texas to the very wild and steamy Gulf Coast, The Outcasts is unforgettable, and if you have a love for Westerns, you’re especially in for a treat, although this will appeal to thriller fans and for readers that are just looking for a damn good story. I couldn’t put this one down, and it’s left me scrambling to get my hands on everything Kathleen Kent has written.(less)
Doloriel, aka Bobby Dollar, is an angel, in an earthbound body. He’s also an advocate, which means that when someone dies, he is a soul’s last line of defense in the decision of a lifetime, well, at least the afterlife. Will a soul go to Heaven or Hell? Ultimately, it’s up to the big guns to decide, but Bobby Dollar does his best to make sure the deserving get to spend the afterlife in the beautiful fields of Heaven. When he shows up at a job, only to find out that the deceased’s soul is missing, he has no idea what to think, but you can bet the Opposition (Hell’s minions) probably have their grubby little claws in whatever IS going on. Frankly, all Bobby wants to do is hang out at The Compasses with his fellow angels and his best friend Sam, enjoying good conversation and of course, plenty of drinks, but obviously, that’s not in the cards for Bobby Dollar. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that someone has it out for him, and it doesn’t help that Sam has a new trainee that is so wet behind the ears it’s almost unbelievable. Luckily, when the you-know-what hits the fan, and it will, Bobby Dollar has a knack for taking care of himself, but he also has a talent for attracting trouble, and trouble is a mild word for what’s coming his way.
Angels and demons. Tired stuff, right? Not so fast. Tad Williams is a pro (and then some), and in The Dirty Streets of Heaven, he’s given us much more than the usual fare, and much more than the usual UF offering. The first thing I noticed about this is the wordbuilding is phenomenal. Seriously, it’s fantastic. The author brings the California coast alive, and has turned it into a virtual playground for his angels, demons, and various other oddities that populate the novel. You also won’t find a ton of infodumping here. We’re given lots of information, but it’s sprinkled in with the narrative and broken into fascinating, juicy bite size pieces. This novel doesn’t just have a setting, it has a world, which is no surprise, given Tad Williams’s pedigree. Bobby Dollar narrates, and he has a sarcastic wit with plenty of edge. He’s unfailingly loyal to his friends and very invested in the outcomes of the souls he represents, sometimes to his own detriment. He also has a tendency to wade right into a sea of trouble. In spite of his lofty job, he’s also not afraid to question his superiors (maybe not to their faces), but he knows that a certain amount of subterfuge isn’t beyond his bosses, and sometimes suspects that he may be expendable in the grand scheme of things. There’s a ton of action (with noir flavor), the creatures are scary and scary beautiful in equal measure, and the intricate mystery of the missing souls will keep you turning the pages. Perhaps most importantly, there’s a ton of heart, and that’s all thanks to the angelic, yet startlingly human Bobby Dollar. Surprisingly, there’s also a romance that’s pretty darn hot, and the author isn’t afraid to break his readers’ hearts. There is something for everyone in this superior series starter. Good thing we don’t have long to wait for the next installment, HAPPY HOUR IN HELL (Sept. 2013)(less)
*No spoilers for this book, but if you're not caught up, be warned...*
When Any Other Name ended, William had just committed a terrible act based on wildly inaccurate information. Now he’s Duke of Londinium, and that makes Cathy Duchess. Cathy is still recovering from her attack, but soon she’s back on her feet and more than ready to find out what happened to her old governess. She’s also keen to find like-minded women and men in Londinium that are ready to help her change things for the better, meaning equal rights for women and a possible end to the shadowy Agency. Luckily Cathy has the help of Arbiter Max and his gargoyle, and their job, which includes investigating the mass murder of most of the Bath Chapter, has just been made a bit more difficult since Max’s wizard is acting a bit off the rails. Either way, things are about to come to a head, and of course, Cathy will most likely be in the center of things.
Meanwhile, Sam is dealing with his own crisis in Mundanus, and has garnered the attention of Lord Iron of the Elemental Court. He’ll follow a trail of corruption, environmental destruction, and all manner of chaos that will lead right back to Lord Iron himself, and what he finds is a shocker. Speaking of shockers, Emma Newman throws plenty at her readers in the third installment of this wonderful fantasy/uf series. Cathy is discovering her own power, and it has nothing to do with magic. She’s begun to embrace the fact that in her position, she can do a tremendous amount of good, and she’s also warming up to William, who is showing himself to be much more than the sum of his (handsome) parts. It’s an unorthodox love story, to be sure, but strangely enough, it’s one of the most realistic that I’ve read in a while. There’s no swooning, and the road has been rough, but it’s been human. We also get to spend quite a bit of time with Max and his gargoyle, who I adore, and Max begins to long for what’s missing inside of him, since of course, his soul is housed in the gargoyle. There’s lots of action in this one, but there’s still all of the court intrigue and wonderful characterization that I’ve come to expect from the series, and a few very important threads are wrapped up. Don’t worry, though, the ending leaves plenty of hints of things to come, and I can’t wait.(less)
You’ve probably noticed that when I review a YA title, I usually feel the need to mention how hard I tend to be on YA. Not because there isn’t plenty of wonderful YA fiction, it’s just that sometimes it’s way too hard for me, at my age, to identify with young protagonists who are at wildly different points in their lives. So, that said, when I do review a YA title, I consider it exceptional indeed, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about as exceptional as they get. Since it was published in 2011, it’s gotten so many glowing reviews I started wondering if it really did live up to the hype, and after getting a paperback copy, finally decided to dive in. Peregrine is told in the voice of Jacob, relating the story of his muddle through his 16th year, as the child of a mother who is heir to a chain of drugstores and a father that can’t seem to complete anything of substance, moving from project to project, only to abandon it. Jacob has a rather aimless, poor-little-rich-kid vibe, and he’s aware of this, but when his beloved grandfather, Abe, whose health has been declining with alarming frequency, is attacked and killed outside his home, Jacob is aimless no more. In fact, it’s Jacob that finds his grandfather’s ravaged body, and imagines he sees a terrible face in the undergrowth, but it’s only his imagination, right?
Jacob feels there might be more to his grandfather’s story (especially after finding a very, very interesting letter), and on the advice of his therapist, he decides to visit a tiny island off the coast of Wales which supposedly houses the children’s home that Abe grew up in, and that Abe left to go fight in WWII. Jacob has seen photos of many of the children that supposedly lived at the home, and many of these photos contain oddities that Abe insists are the talents and abilities of some very different, and very special children. Jacob is understandably dubious as to the photos’ authenticity, but after arriving in Wales, accompanied by his father, he sets off to find the home, and among the wreckage, some very peculiar things begin to happen.
It’s immediately obvious from the moment you pick up this gorgeous book, that you’re going to have a unique experience. It’s a beautifully put together book, and interspersed among the narrative are the very pictures that are described within. There are sepia photos of each of the peculiar children that make up Miss Peregrine’s motley assortment, and I found myself flipping back to look at the pictures again and trying to keep myself from paging forward and spoiling the fun. What Jacob finds among the ruins of that long ago children’s home is a portal to another time and place, so magical and beautiful it defies description. However, where there is light, there is also darkness, and although Jacob is content to wile away the hours with his new friends, discovering their abilities and delighting in their company (especially that of the lovely, feisty Emma), something dark is indeed coming, and it could threaten this beautiful world that Jacob has found. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is by turns heartbreakingly delicate and unflinching, fraught with wonder and danger, and sparkles with delightful and terrifying magic. I highly recommend this book to kids and adults alike, and have never experienced anything quite like it! Keep an eye out for the sequel, Hollow City, in January 2014.(less)
Magic Rises is the 6th book in the Kate Daniels series, and in my opinion, the best. In this outing, Kate is settled in at the Keep as the Beast Lord’s Consort, which means her bond with Curran puts her in a very high position indeed. Helping to lead such a large group of shifters, of all breeds, is tough anyway, but Kate constantly feels like an outsider, because she’s human. Don’t let that fool you though, Kate is as tough as they come, and has some pretty powerful magic. It’s a good thing too, because soon she’s going to need it. When the teen daughters of a pack member succumb to loupism, always a possible side effect of the Lyc-V virus all shifters have, Kate, and Kate’s young ward, Julie, are devastated, as is the rest of the pack. Loupism causes shifters to be stuck mid-transformation and also causes homicidal derangement. It can strike any shifter during puberty, and usually, once it sets in the shifter must be put down. Luckily, there is a cure, but its availability is very limited. When Curran tells Kate that they’ve been asked to arbitrate a dispute in Europe, with payment of the cure, Kate is all in. Unfortunately, the chances of this job being a trap are very high. Good thing Kate and Curran will have help from a few of their friends.
When Kate, Curran, and crew arrive at their destination, they’re bombarded on all sides with hostility. After all, they’re there to bodyguard Desandra, who is the pregnant daughter of an alpha that is disputing territory with the two fathers of her babies. Yep, two. She’s pregnant with twins, and because of her father’s machinations, she’s got babies on the way that each have a different father. (Yes, this is biologically possible.) The two fathers aren’t truly interested in her well-being, but they are interested in getting at her father, who’s frankly a psychopath, and getting the jump on the Beast Lord could be a huge coup for just about everyone there. So, problems all the way around. Then there’s Lorelei Wilson, whose father leads the Alaskan pack. Why she’s there, Kate isn’t really sure, but the last time Curran saw her, she was 12. She’s 21 now, and has grown up into a beautiful young woman. She also seems determined to undermine Kate at every turn and monopolize Curran’s attention. I wanted to slap Lorelei. Repeatedly. If you’re looking for some serious tension, you‘ll find it here. The storyline involving Lorelei was one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Magic Rises, and with everything else Kate has to deal with, including the identity of the gathering’s host-this one’s a doozy, but in my opinion, to give it away, would spoil a major part of the story-it’s just adding insult to injury. Did I already mention that once they get there, they pretty much immediately have to start fielding attacks from creatures that Kate has never seen before? Really nasty ones. I also really enjoyed Kate and Co.’s interaction with Desandra, who first appears to be a spoiled brat, but is much more than she seems. The lady has hidden depths, and discovering these was another high point of the story.
Readers of this series are used to seeing Kate pushed to her physical limits, and she is in Magic Rises, but she’s also pushed to her emotional limits (and nearly beyond.) This emotional turmoil was one of the most important parts of the story, and you’ll want to see resolution so badly, you won’t want to put the book down until you get some satisfaction. Don’t worry, though, the fight scenes are superb, as usual, and you’ll want to keep an eye out for the scene in which Kate spars with their host. Magic Rises goes to some pretty dark places, but the stakes are very high, and expect some major game changers here. Seriously, there are some stunning twists, and some tragic ones. While the majority of the narrative delves into very dark territory, the authors are always good at inserting some levity here and there. (Veteran readers will be delighted to find out who owns the ship that takes the group to their destination.) The story is made much richer by having read the previous books in the series, but I can honestly say that new readers could start with this one as well (though I would recommend starting with book 1, Magic Bites, because it’s, well, awesome).
I have to admit, I’ve been stagnating a bit where urban fantasy is concerned, but Magic Rises has reawakened my love for the genre. Urban fantasy absolutely does not get much better than this.(less)
Skyler Luiken and his small crew are making a living in the scavenger business. They have a trusted fence and there seems to be no shortage of jobs. It’s also a plus that every member of his crew, including himself, are immune to the SUBS disease that has depleted humanity. Now all that’s left of humanity lives in Darwin, Australia, where a space elevator stands, placed there by the Builders years before, after unleashing the plague on humanity. The space elevator gives off an Aura that protects against the plague, but lately, the Elevator seems to be faltering, and if that means that the Aura is faltering too, Darwin could be in big trouble. Those in orbit depend on Darwin for air and water, and the citizens of Darwin depend on the Orbitals for food. Darwin is a grim place, but it might be about to get much worse. That’s where Dr. Tania Sharma comes in. Her benefactor, Neil Platz, has been making plans for a long time, plans that include having a safeguard in case the Builders decide to come back, and she’s been tasked with finding out why the elevator may be failing.
Are you a fan of Firefly? Love zombies? How about zombies in spaaaaace? If so, then you’ll love The Darwin Elevator. I keep seeing the comparisons to Firefly, and while that’s accurate (it is!), Jason M. Hough has created something wonderful that’s all his own. The Firefly comparisons certainly come from Skyler and crew. They’ve got that particular charm that makes Firefly so winning, especially the uneasy camaraderie between Skyler and Samantha. However, be prepared for this crew to be put through the ringer, and then some. Jason M. Hough has taken the best of space adventure and populated it with characters that are so much fun, and so easy to like, and hate. The villain in this one is the baddest of the bad, and even worse, he’s extremely smart. Under a huge helping of arrogance, the leader of Nightcliff is a cunning, ruthless bastard, and you’ll love to hate him. It becomes a race to the finish when the different groups, in Orbit and in Darwin, decide the time is right to gain the upper hand. Why is the Elevator failing and what exactly is the Builders’ plan? These are the questions that Skyler and Tania will need to find out the answers to in order to ensure humanity’s survival, but first they have to survive. Plenty of action and more than a few surprises round out this spectacular dystopian/space adventure! I’ll follow Skyler and Co. anywhere!(less)
The Exodus Towers finds Skyler in Belem, Brazil, at the site of the new space elevator, the new “gift” from the Builders. A robust colony is taking shape around the base of the elevator, within its Aura, thanks to the work of Skyler and scientist Tania Sharma. Mobile towers have also been found that they can use to extend an Aura beyond that of the space elevator. Skyler has plenty to keep him busy, especially since he’s one of only a few immunes that can venture outside of the Aura without the danger of being infected by the SUBS virus (another Builder “gift”). Or so he thought. He soon meets young immune twin brother and sister, Davi and Ana, that claim a man named Gabriel, an immune himself, has been rounding up other immunes, ostensibly to do some rebuilding of society himself, but it soon becomes clear that Gabriel’s intentions are not philanthropic, and it will spur Skyler into taking action, especially when the new colony is threatened.
Meanwhile, while we now know the timeline of the Builders, and the spacing of the events, Tania is still working to find out what they are planning, and most importantly, why. The next event is looming soon, and unfortunately, they still rely on Russell Blackfield for supplies and also for colonists. In Nightcliff, Blackfield has made a deal with the devil, in the form of a slumlord who calls himself Grillo. Grillo will clean up the mean streets of Nightcliff, with plenty of concessions from Blackfield. Grillo also has help from Skyler’s remaining crew member, the irascible Samantha Rinn, who will do anything to get out of prison, help free Kelly, and get back to Skyler.
I was blown away by The Darwin Elevator and the ending left me gasping, so I was eager to dive into The Exodus Towers. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. I was fascinated with the ends and outs of creating a new colony, which is important because Skyler has such a big part in this, and he’s tireless in his efforts. He also grows increasingly frustrated with Tania, and her unwillingness to make important decisions for the colony. As for Tania, she’s been thrown quite unwillingly into a position of authority, one she never wanted, and although she longs to be with Skyler, the rift that opens between them, with so much at stake, may prove to be too wide in the end. He feels as if his duties are endless while Tania enjoys a certain amount of comfort in Orbit. Of course this isn’t really so, since Tania has plenty to deal with in delegating the needs of the colony and fighting her own, nearly crippling, self-doubt. Some of my favorite scenes in the book were the ones with Samantha and indeed, she’s certainly a scene stealer: strong, determined, and every bit the survivor. The action you’ve come to expect from this series is abundant and always exciting, and the discovery of a new type of SUBS creature will send chills down your spine. There’s even a bit of romance, which adds a new emotional level to the story. This series has it all: SF, horror, more than enough thrills and chills, and a rich but accessible story, and to me, would be a great series to try if you’re interested in SF but nervous about reading the “harder” stuff. That, and it’s just great fun! Luckily, we don’t have long to wait for THE PLAGUE FORGE!(less)
We meet talented thief Junior Bender as he prepares to break into a house in order to steal a painting for a client. The problem is, the house is swarming with Rottweilers. Getting past that pack of barking death won’t be easy, but the presence of a safe underneath the painting more than makes up for it. Junior can never resist a safe. After the painting is acquired, he meets with his contacts and finds out that more than a simple business transaction is on the menu. Actually, blackmail is, and his shining mug on a surveillance camera will be exposed if he doesn’t agree to the plans. Caught by the shorthairs, Junior is forced into business with Trey Annunziato, the beautiful and brilliant daughter of a crime lord, who, after her father’s rather untimely death, is now the head of his crime empire. Trey is making a film of the adult type and has managed to snag former child star Thistle Downing for the starring role. Unfortunately, Thistle is a shadow of her former self, held together by drugs and desperation. You may ask yourself why Trey needs Junior. Turns out someone is trying to sabotage the film, and Trey wants Junior to find out who, and help to make sure the film gets made. Easy, right? Not so much, especially when the saboteurs are willing to resort to murder.
Crashed is told in Junior Bender’s sly, sarcastic, and sometimes erudite voice and he is most definitely not your common criminal. He certainly doesn’t mind relieving well to do folks of their high value burdens, but watching as a talented former child star, now a drug addict, is forced into porn is another thing entirely. In fact, Thistle sort of “adopts” Junior after he helps her through a throng of media vultures, and he can’t bear to see her do this film, not when, at the height of her fame, she was such a shining star. Some of that shine is still there, too, buried underneath the drugs, and the scenes with Thistle, when she’s coherent and brilliant, are sometimes heartbreaking. Her sadness and loneliness are palpable and Junior can’t help but ask himself “what if this was my daughter?” Speaking of which, Junior actually does have a very precocious daughter in sixth grade, Rina, with a mother that he’s still in love with, and I’m hoping for many more scenes with her in the future, ‘cause she’s rather awesome. But I digress… Junior starts to have some serious second thoughts about Thistle doing this film, but how will he get her out with his hide intact? It’ll take some doing, but with a little help from his friends, he’s definitely up to the task. And what friends! Junior surrounds himself with a quirky cast of characters that never cease to amuse, amaze and sometime surprise with their kindness and loyalty. Junior’s group of criminal contacts don’t have hard hearts, and the ones that do are the ones he does his best to steer clear from. Crashed is an unusual, funny crime caper with a ton of heart, and falling for Junior, for me, was inevitable. The author has quite a handle on human nature and it shows in his characterizations. Readers are given a look behind the surface glam of L.A., and the city is almost a character unto itself. For me, Crashed is a shining gem to be cherished not only among crime fiction fans, but also among fans of just plain good writing. Don’t miss this little wonder of a book.(less)
Night Film has been described as this year’s Gone Girl. Well, I actually haven’t yet read Gone Girl (I know!!), but I know how highly regarded it is so was curious to see if Night Film would live up to that kind of hype. Not to worry, guys and gals. I read the nearly 600 page book in under 2 days, staying up until about 4am to finish, and it was totally worth the lost sleep. Night Film starts innocuously enough, with the death of a 24 year old woman, Ashley Cordova, as mysteries frequently do, but there’s nothing innocuous about Ashley. We’ll get to that in a bit. The book is narrated by Scott McGrath, a somewhat disgraced journalist whose past successes didn’t make up for the monumental blunder he made when trying to get the scoop on reclusive and wildly mysterious horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, who also happens to be Ashley Cordova’s father. Scott got a “tip” on Cordova about possible dark doings at the vast Cordova estate, and unfortunately for Scott, he made wild accusations without proving a thing, and was slapped with a slander lawsuit by Cordova. It was a near fatal blow for an investigative journalist who should have been riding the high of an distinguished career. When Scott hears of Ashley’s death of an apparent suicide, he’s eager to resume the investigation that he started, but he plans to keep this one strictly on the downlow, until he has everything he needs to prove that something untoward is going on in the Cordova family, something that would drive the beautiful and brilliant Ashley to suicide.
Scott soon teams up (quite against his will) with a 19 year old coat check girl, Nora Halliday, who claims to have info on Ashley, as well as a small time drug dealer who calls himself Hopper, who actually attempted to assault Scott as he was visiting the scene of Ashley’s plummet down an abandoned elevator shaft to a derelict Chinatown warehouse below. Scott initially sees Hopper as a punk and doesn’t want him anywhere near the investigation, but Hopper seems to have his own talent for investigation, and frankly, Scott could use all the help he can get, even if he may not want it.
Proving to find reliable information on Stanislaw Cordova is nearly impossible. He lives in a fortress of a mansion called The Peak on 300 acres in upstate New York, surrounded by an electrified 20 ft fence. He has filmed all of his movies there, some of which have gone underground and can only be bought on the black market. His fans (or more accurately followers) call themselves Cordovites, hold secret screenings of the movies, and are rabid in their devotion. Surely the creator of such dark films has to be some kind of madman, the kind of man that could drive his own child to suicide? Scott is convinced of it, but he needs proof, and getting it will take him to places he never could have imagined.
With Nora and Hopper on hand, Scott must navigate the dark underworld of Cordova’s followers and his films, learning along the way that whatever demons haunted Ashley, she was a very special girl, indeed, seemingly able to enchant anyone with one look from her depthless eyes. Her beauty is legendary, but as the author illustrates, sometimes beauty can hide such pain, and in Cordova’s labyrinthine, dark, and glittering world of movie stars and secrets, some things are best left buried. One thing is fact: Scott’s obsession is threatening to consume him, and isolate him from everything, and everyone he holds dear, proving that Cordova’s reach is far beyond the lens of the camera.
When I received Night Film, I cracked it open, only meaning to skim the first couple of pages. Don’t do that if you’re not planning to be hooked right away! The narrative are interspersed with realistic newspaper clippings and internet articles that Scott has collected in his research, which I thought was a brilliant touch, and had to keep myself from flicking through those pages before getting to them, but I waited for each tidbit, and was glad I did. It gives the reader some background that might have been awkward coming from Scott himself. Scott is an amiable, rather sarcastic, and jaded, narrator, and of course, during the investigation, he’s tested over and over, forced to question everything he ever thought to be true. I enjoyed Scott, but I fell hard for Nora Halliday. When she first bursts onto the pages, all arms and legs, wild colored clothing, and attitude, she comes off as more than a bit annoying, barging into the investigation, and Scott’s life, with all of the grace of a Tasmanian devil. He soon takes her on as his assistant, and she even stays with him during the course of his investigation, but if you’re looking for romance, you won’t find it in this book. In fact, Scott is still rather besotted with his ex-wife and he adores his 5 year old daughter, Sam. Hopper’s presence isn’t nearly as BIG as Nora’s, but he’s important, and he proves to have invaluable snooping skills. Ashley Cordova is nearly as large in death as she was in life; a wild, brilliant force of nature that makes an indelible impression on whoever she comes in contact with. Night Film is as much about Scott McGrath as it is about the events leading up to Ashley’s death, and at nearly every turn, I thought I might know where things were going, but I didn’t. Not at all. Not even close.
A shadowy filmmaker with an enchanted, and possibly cursed family, black magic, secret parties where the most debauched, and elite, gather, and a beautiful, crumbling mansion that may or may not house countless horrors…it’s all here. The Cordovites insist that after seeing a Cordova film, you’re a changed person. Everything is brighter, colors more vivid, life is richer. Whatever the case may be, Night Film is an intricate, brilliantly written, enchanting, genuinely creepy, sometimes heartbreaking, read, and I won’t be surprised at all to find it on a ton of Best of 2013 lists. It’s an essential for suspense/thriller fans and I won’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone that will listen. Marisha Pessle is a name to remember, and an enormous talent. I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next.(less)
Fortitude Scott is 26 years old and not yet quite a vampire. According to his mother, Madeline, and siblings, brother Chivalry and sister Prudence, he should be, but if Fort has his way, he’ll never be full vampire, never mind the cravings that he has to satisfy from time to time. He refuses to live at home and his job at a local coffee shop is nothing short of miserable, but he’ll do whatever he needs to not to have to rely on his mom. He’s even gone so far as to go vegetarian, which seems to help hold the cravings back a bit. When his mother summons him to dinner to let him know that a new vamp will be in town, and he must join the family for the night for a show of power, Fort’s not thrilled, but there’s not much he can say but yes. This new Italian vamp, Luca, wants to know how Madeline has been so successful in her breeding, and Madeline grants him hospitality, which usually wouldn’t be a problem, but after meeting Luca, young girls begin disappearing and Fort is sure Luca is responsible.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Oh no, not more vampires. Sooo done to,er, death.” Well, normally, I might agree with you, but if you let your vamp fatigue keep you away from Generation V, it would be a mistake, trust me! Told in Fort’s voice, Generation V is quite a unique, and sometimes very scary, take on the vampire mythos. Fort hasn’t quite come into his own as a vampire, so his “abilities” are dubious at best, but where his heart is at is never in question. He can’t stand by and watch young girls be victimized, and without any help from his family, he vows to stop Luca (who oozes an oily creepiness that will get right under your skin.) He does have some help with a vivacious kitsune named Suzume Hollis, who’s been tasked with keeping Fort safe by his mother. Speaking of “mothers” here. In Fort’s world, vampire babies are made in very interesting and creepy ways. Seriously creepy. This was one of the most interesting parts of her mythos and I’ll leave it to you to discover. It’s a doozy.
I really, really like Fort, with my only squabble being is the abuse he takes from a deadbeat roommate and a “girlfriend” that redefines sleazy, but these things only manage to highlight his humanity, which he is very much determined to hold onto. Fort is a wonderful, and wonderfully vulnerable, hero to root for and his willingness to fight the good fight, even when his death seems near certain, makes him especially endearing indeed. Suzume is a delight, as are the rest of the supernatural denizens in ML Brennan’s wonderful debut. I didn’t want to put this one down and I didn’t want it to end. I’m more than ready for more of Fort, his beyond weird family (although I grew rather fond of his brother, Chivalry, but Prudence takes the creepy cake), and the author has definitely given us some reasons to expect some big changes in his life in the next book. I say, bring it on!