This would've been an easy title to overlook; a seemingly by the numbers vampire story from a debut author with a cute guy (or so I've been told) on the cover and not much else. It screamed "Pass!" to me, a book intended for someone else. Thankfully I didn't after seeing a couple of positive reactions to it from like-minded readers, and the level of excitement editor Anne Sowards showed for the release of this novel. I can honestly say Generation V by M. L. Brennan is the most fun I've had reading an urban fantasy novel in the past year or more. Don't make the same mistake and judge the book by its cover, you'll thank me later. It's the first of the American Vampire urban fantasy series.
Fortitude is living an unfulfilling life, and even though he surely is aware of his circumstances, he doesn't seem to care much about improving his situation; content in living a life without confrontations and conflicts while remaining as willfully ignorant as possible. He has a "girlfriend" who's sleeping around, yet has him convinced that it's normal, he has dead-end job with ungrateful co-workers, and a roommate who refuses to pay the rent. If that wasn't enough he's a vampire, in the making, but hasn't manifested yet, something he's praying doesn't happen ever. His plan is to avoid becoming a full vampire like the rest of his family, cruel murderous vampires in his view responsible for a childhood tragedy that has left him traumatized for the rest of his life. This explains why he's now living the life as he is now, being as good and ethical as he possibly can, but with little ambition. What's a goody-two-shoe to do though when a maniac vampire comes to town, and no one is willing to stand against him? With the help of the kitsune Suzume, Fortitude looks to change the fortune of his life or die trying doing what's right.
Generation V is a multifaceted novel which took care to depict precisely what Fort's life is all about. It's fun and funny, as it's dark and tragic. We spend a few days with Fort in a story that is character focused, and are invited to experience all as he does from the dullest to the most exciting of moments. What follows is a well balanced novel which contains a mixture of slice-of-life, family drama, comedy, mystery, suspense, action, and horror. A combination that works and provides perfect contrast between the lighthearted moments and those that are surprisingly dark and horror filled.
The characters were a big plus, probably Brennan's biggest storytelling strength in my opinion. Not only did she create memorable characters, she also provided some terrific character interaction which is one of the elements I'm most interest in. That's not to say everything was smooth sailing. I mean, I spent the whole book wishing I could punch Fortitude in the balls to see if he finally grew a pair. He was living in denial and extremely naïve, to the point that is was unbelievable and frustrating. By the same token, in the end it becomes part of his charm, but still...fist meet Fort's testicles.
Besides him, we have an assortment of incredibly good secondary characters starting with Fort's siblings with similarly eccentric names: his brother Chivalry and sister Prudence. Both who are aptly named, which I'll leave at that. We also have Madeline, his mother and head vampire of the region and a character who's clearly playing the long game. Lastly we have the kitsune Suzume who easily stole the show in this book. Generation V was a pretty good read, but when Suzume was introduced the novel just went to a whole different level. She was awesome. Before I began reading, anime was my passion, so when anything concerning Japanese culture gets introduced I get quite excited. Bias aside, Suzume was simply amazing. She was fun and funny, as well as incredibly mischievous and quite badass. To that point, I say screw Generation V, when are we going to get Generation K? I kid I kid, but hey that's an idea... She really complemented Fort, and they made an incredible duo as the story progressed to say nothing of the fascinating banter between them. When Suzume was around, life didn't suck all that much, "even if you're a vampire".
World-building is still a work in progress, it's clear that the world being created here is quite expansive, but not much of an opportunity to get into just yet. There was a point where Brennan tried to expand by introducing a couple of minor characters as an attempt to show different supernatural beings that exist in this world, but the attempt felt a bit off to me. Like it didn't quite fit either the world that's being created, or the story that was being told in this particular book. But at the same time we met the full kitsune contingent, and that worked perfectly, so I hope that as Brennan expands on the world, things will get more interesting.
That aside, the vampire mythology was incredible and quite unique. I can honestly say I haven't seen something quite like this, so kudos to Brennan's creativeness. From the way vampires are created, to the way the have relationships, to the effects bloodsucking has, everything was well thought-out. And we can't forget how she reinvents the meaning of what it is to be a Renfield which was very intriguing.
The novel is not action packed, but there's plenty of energy and movement. And yes, it has action and it's well executed when there is. The story was quite funny at times, I think it actually made me laugh a couple of times, which the written word finds hard to do with me. It has an abundance of great confrontations though, usually in the form of Fort with his family members. Just the same, the story goes quite dark at times, disturbingly so on occasions and fascinatingly violent. This to say, that there's a little bit of everything here for all kinds of readers.
Generation V is a refreshingly unique novel that all urban fantasy enthusiast should read, and a book capable of encouraging even the most ardent critics of the genre. Very much a page turner, a story that has a lot of heart and much to offer. With an extremely fun novel full of charm, Brennan has written a winner. Very much looking forward to future adventures featuring Fort and Suzume. They can't come soon enough, Iron Night comes out next January.(less)
Promise of Blood is the debut novel of Brian McClellan featuring a world brimming with creativity and sweet chaos. It is a damn cool novel full of action, energy, gods, special powers, magic, and old-school snipers with muskets. You can't go wrong with snipers with muskets, particularly of the gunpowder snorting kind. It's the first novel of what is currently known as The Powder Mage Trilogy.
"The age of kings is dead... and I have killed it.” After a coup the dethroned its monarch, we follow the attempted recovery of the Adro nation amid civil unrest, betrayals, an invading army, and the threat of gods returning to devastate the land. Tamas is the powder mage Field Marshal, and has become the de facto ruler attempting to restore order in Adro by any means necessary as he also prepares for war against the Kez nation. Taniel, his son and powder mage himself, has been tasked to hunt down a Privileged sorceress who gives the impression of being more powerful than the usual, while he tries to achieve an even more impossible task, earning his father's recognition. Adamat, who's concerned with his family's safety with the impending riots and his future role, is a retired investigator with a Knack for perfect memory and employed by Tamas for some special investigations that threaten his rule and the well-being of the Adro nation. Nila is a laundress for a duke and in the aftermath of the coup, as the nobility is being destroyed and executed, she rescues and flees with the duke's son, a possible heir to the throne.
The world McClellan has created has been well constructed. He took the time to build a proper support for it with religious, economic, social, military, and political considerations. Some better detailed than others, but it provided a good backbone for a well grounded universe that will pay dividends as the series continues. If you look hard enough you can draw parallels to modern concerns, whether intended or not. That said, the world-building is not expansive, quite controlled as demanded by the story and each plot thread. In a way, you might call it focused, but McClellan has provided enough seeds of information that will enable him to enrich the world in future installments in the stories he intends to tell.
The magic system was awesome and creative. Brian McClellan appears to give plenty of credit to Brandon Sanderson for his development as a writer, and it seems to me is that in the creation of this magic system is where the influence is most noticeable. Sanderson in my experience is partial to hard magic systems, and I found McClellan's quite softer, but I don't know if it'll remain so in future installments. But it's really of little consequence. In all, the magic was my favorite aspect of this series. We have people who have Knacks that provide them individualized abilities that could range from super hearing to the ability to eating without getting fat. Then we have the Privileged who are more like sorcerers who can access the Else and do a variety of magical phenomenons. Lastly we have the Marked, also known as the powder mages who can control gunpowder in a variety of ways, including ingesting and snorting the black powder in order to gain a myriad of physical enhancements. There are other considerations that aren't as developed yet, like the nature of gods and some magical powers that some of the savages seem to possess.
Along with the magic system, Promise of Blood featured some great characters further enhanced by an abundance of good dialogue. I thought them well characterized and McClellan did a good job of keeping each plot thread fresh, different, but interconnected. With Tamas we focused more on the political drama aspects, with Adamant a more of an investigative mystery thread is present, and Taniel is more action adventure oriented.
My favorite POV character was Taniel "Two Shot". For some reason I kept picturing Billy the Kid portrayed by Emilio Estevez in the Young Guns movies. Other than their awesomeness, they really didn't have much in common, but my mind works in mysterious ways and I let it run wild. The very nature of Taniel being a powder mage almost guaranteed that he'd be a favorite of mine, to go along with his gunpowder sniffing addiction and all the cool actions sequences he was part of. The author also did a good job with his side characters too, in particular with Tamas' Knacked bodyguard Olem and Taniel's savage mute girl Ka-poel. Not going to say much about Ka-poel other than she was awesome, and every fantasy novel should add a mysterious mute girl, it'll instantly make the story better. With Olem though is where the book really shone for me and his back-and-forth dialogue with Tamas. He was interesting, with a number of deadpanned wise-cracks that won me over since the very first time he appeared.
As one reflects on the impossible task to write the perfect novel, this novel wasn't without its flaws too despite it being an excellent debut. First and foremost you might have noticed my omission of Nila as I discussed the POVs above, and honestly she was the weakest link for me of the whole novel. Her story was uninteresting, and when compared with the multitude of good characters the story had, she just didn't measure up, despite giving us a perspective from the other side of the conflict. She instantly joined the characters authors need to kill off to make their stories better. Also, I lament how underused the character of Vlora was by the author. She was powder mage prodigy and Taniel's ex-fiancée. I felt there were some missed opportunities to include her in some scenes, and make her a more active participant in the ones where she was included.
I also felt the second half of the story wasn't as good as the first half, and not as tight. In part because it made me question some of the characters' inaction and motivations. For example, it made me question why a character from a neutral party didn't expose certain character's allegiance and identity when it served his/her interest to do so while being satisfied with a vague flimsy warning. Also, I question why Tamas was seemingly unconcerned with a great army invasion at one of Adro's borders, and when the situation was addressed at all some poor rationalization was used which was really inconsequential to the matter at hand. Further more, weeks passed since the confrontation started so there was ample time for a better military response.
Lastly, from a technical standpoint I thought McClellan could use better timing and transitions when he utilizes time jumps. Seems like a few of them were overall not necessary and also seemed to deprive the readers from some scenes that could have been of interest and served the flow of the story better. Also, a bit more care with the use of pronouns in certain situations were it confused me as to who the author was referring to considering that the sentences in question could have applied to any of the characters involved in the situation, even if one allows for the idea of him being distracted by other happenings.
I also respected how McClellan forced his characters, in particular our heroes, to make difficult decisions and didn't shy away from making them do monstrous and despicable acts that would surely alienate some of the readers. But the author stayed true to what the story demanded of its characters, and I think that's very important. Not everything is as it seems on first impressions, there are many characters who'd make wonderful actors if that were their calling, but in all I thought McClellan did his damndest to give his characters the opportunity to be perceived one way, while giving allowance of redemption in the eyes of readers through other means as it was with the character of Tamas.
Promise of Blood kept reminding me of the early efforts by Brent Weeks with his Night Angel novels. There was a rawness to them, but there simply was an overwhelming entertaining element and an abundance of great action and energy that made them very enjoyable reads. Then I compare it to his most recent series, and he's become a much better and skillful writer. Brian McClellan debut is more polished than an early Weeks, yet has that same combination of action, energy, and entertainment to make this a worthwhile read based on this factors alone, despite it having more to offer. I'm quite excited in seeing this author grow as a writer and I'm very much of the opinion that he'll be responsible for some of my favorite stories in the future. As it is, I'm practicing my gunpowder sniffing skills... people keep telling me I'm special, so who knows what might happen.
Brian McClellan has written an extremely good debut in Promise of Blood and easily one of my favorite novels so far this year. I was tempted to use "awesome" and "cool" in just about every sentence describing this novel, but I decided to control myself as best as I could. Promise of Blood is indeed an awesome and cool novel, highly recommended, and with the explosive ending it had, I'm very excited to see where McClellan takes us next in this world.
After all of this, let's just ignore everything I've said and focus on the awesome cover. A book with that cover deserves to be bought and read, everything else is of little importance.(less)
The Legend of Eli Monpress is an omnibus that collects the first three novels of the epic fantasy series bearing the same title by Rachel Aaron. It includes the debut effort of The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater, all of which were published back in 2010 in consecutive months one right after the other.
I was quite eager with my anticipation of The Spirit Thief. For some reason, it seemed to me to be heavily promoted in urban fantasy blogs, and I got the impression that many around thought it was going to be an urban fantasy novel, myself included. I wasn't a blogger back then, so don't think about pointing any fingers my way. There was a slight adjustment to be made to my expectations once I started reading, but after stumbling a bit, it was smooth sailing from there. But can you blame me? I mean they used a Paul Blackthorne look-a-like as a model for Eli Monpress in the cover, and we all know that he played Harry Dresden in the short lived tv-adaptation of The Dresden Files (can someone please do a new adaptation?), so it was obvious that this was going to be an urban fantasy. It's no wonder that they ended up changing the cover styles after the third book, and re-released them in an omnibus so that there would be no confusion that this is an epic fantasy. But truth be told, I liked those original covers, and my OCD hoarder side of me wishes the full series was released with the original style, my collection now feels a bit incomplete without them.
My first impression of this series was that it had a good mixture of both high fantasy and sword & sorcery plot threads, and it mixed attributes of some of my favorite reads in recent years, or it at least reminded me of some of them. If you'll excuse some of the name dropping I'm about to do, even when some would consider doing so bad form, but the character dynamic was excellent and fun resembling what is found in Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding and The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan, and also their sense of adventure. Some of the world building seemed to echo aspects found in The First Law by Joe Abercrombie, though even I can admit that I'm stretching it a bit. Also, considering the con-job aspect of some of the plot threads, Ocean's Eleven easily stood out, so by extension, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Lastly, we have one of my favorite anime/manga with One Piece with its combination of fun, funny, and serious portions to go with the adventure aspects as well as its main character's obsession with becoming the Pirate King and his bounty paralleling Eli Monpress's obsession with becoming the most wanted criminal with the highest bounty and be renown as the best thief in the world.
While I enjoyed The Spirit Thief, it wasn't as good as I was expecting it to be, ignoring the urban fantasy vs. epic fantasy shenanigans to the side. It was an extremely fun read and light-hearted, but it also bordered the line of silliness too close for my taste a few times, despite it being quite funny too. The plot in this book wasn't that strong either in my opinion. Also there were some moments of extreme deus ex machina, which I'm not fan of. Though keep in mind that much of these are impressions I got from my experience reading the first novel that first time around, and much of my perspective changed as I kept reading to the series, giving new insights to these events, in particular to some of the issues I found with the deus ex machina which had a hidden cost not apparent at the time, but I later came to appreciate it more as we learned more from Eli's circumstances.
Despite those issues, I was still anxious to continue reading the series, to the point that each book in the series was one of my more anticipated reads each time around because the novel was indeed fun and I loved the characters from Eli with his conning personality, to Josef's silent persona and deadly sword, to Nico's adolescent creepy demonic nature, to Miranda's overbearing self-righteous personality who wants to arrest all these three. The character dynamic was too good and the world full of possibilities for it not get better. I smelled the potential and Rachel Aaron made sure to reward me for hanging around.
The Spirit Rebellion began a pattern that continued on for the rest of the series of each book improving over its predecessor. It meant that each book added to the momentum of the series and that was a big plus. By the same token, each book became a bit darker, and I loved that aspect. It also introduced new plot threads, notably political intrigue and expanding the world and cast of characters. The book focused a bit more on Miranda, and through her we learned a bit more of what is a stake in their world and what they strive to protect concerning the spirits and other sorts of intrigues from a murderous and traitorous inclination. Of course, Eli and his band somehow find their way into the middle of it by pure chance and luck, or lack of it for that matter.
Finally we have The Spirit Eater with a higher focus on Nico and her demonic nature as we go about learning a bit more about how dangerous demons are and the threat they pose. There's also a higher focus on Nico's relationship with Eli, and more importantly on the nature of her relationship with Josef. We also start delving a bit into Eli's secrets, something Aaron has been careful not to reveal much of. Just like the previous novel, the world keeps expanding, new characters emerge, and adding new dimensions to the composition of the various powers of the world.
The Legend of Eli Monpress was a reminder of the very thing that makes me a fan of fantasy stories. Fun characters you don't mind spending the time with, a cool world full of possibilities, a sense of magic and wonder, and just like it's main character, the series has plenty of charm. But more importantly, it's a story that at its core doesn't pretend to be more than it is, and no matter what the mood I was in, reading The Legend of Eli Monpress was always a good idea. I could've been reading a novel that could be considered the best by a landslide for the year, and I probably would've put it down in favor of reading the newest installment of this series. Can't explain it much, it's not a perfect series, other than I really enjoyed spending time in Eli's universe.
Don't want to get ahead of myself, but the sequel to this omnibus was my favorite read of last year. The Legend of Eli Monpress is a series that is appealing to a wide variety of ages, which is why I highly recommend this omnibus to just about anyone despite it maturing and going darker after each book, and this omnibus should be a safe bet for those interested in buying a gift for someone who's an avid reader. Also be aware that this series has been finished and completely published, so it's the perfect time to sit down and marathon the full series. Not a hard thing to do as this is an easy book to read, and a page turner to go with it. This debut effort by Rachel Aaron is responsible for one of my favorite series of recent memory (truth be told, all series to me are of recent memory, but why spoil the fun?). Do yourself a favor, and just find some time to sit back, relax, forget about nitpicking for a few hours in your day, and just have fun with a fantasy series that is capable of reminding us about some of the good things of reading in this genre. Whatever Rachel Aaron's next project is, she can be comforted that this Bastard will surely be eager to give it a read.(less)
Patricia Briggs was one of the first authors I read in the urban fantasy sub-genre, her Mercy Thompson series still remains among my favorites within it. Alpha and Omega is the companion series set in the same universe as Mercy Thompson, even sharing some of the same characters. The Alpha and Omega series is different, so it's not for every urban fantasy fan, but it adds good value to the universe. It's been my understanding that Alpha and Omega has a bigger focus on romance than Mercy Thompson, so while I hesitated to give this series a try, I ended up reading it anyways and I'm glad I did.
Fair Game is the third novel in the series that feature Anna Latham, a rare Omega werewolf, and her husband Charles Cornick a native-american werewolf, shaman, enforcer, assassin, and executioner. Their marriage has hit a rough patch, Charles has become withdrawn because he's haunted by the ghosts of all the werewolves he's had to kill. He can't make peace with it, some of the kills are weighing heavily on him. Since the werewolves came out publicly, the tolerance for misbehavior is at an all-time low, which has meant non-stop work for Charles. The latest he had to kill a few werewolves because they lost a bit of control as they killed a pedophile, and Charles is having trouble justifying the need to kill those werewolves under these circumstances. The Marrock, who is also Charles' dad, is worried about his son's stability and assigns him and Anna a case in Boston were he'll be assisting several government agencies in hunting down a serial killer who's targeting supernatural beings, and the latest victim is a werewolf, in the hope that doing this good deed might help Charles cope and get his mental health righted.
Against all odds, I've quite enjoyed Alpha and Omega and I have to say that Fair Game is the best novel Patricia Briggs has written in a while. It had good character interaction, and it really pleased me that we had a very strong focus with the government agencies, which included the FBI and Homeland among others. I don't know how much of a role they'll have in future novels, but we got introduced to some good characters which I hope will become series regulars in the future.
There was one particular scene though that was ridiculous and terrible and took me out of the novel completely, until I managed to regroup later on and continue. And it will be to no surprise that it was a sex scene. One of the worst I've read. Keep in mind that I came into this novel with the full understanding that there'll be a romantic focus, and I had read the previous two novels too, so I wasn't going to come here and complain about the amount of romance this novel had. By the way, there romance in this novel was very well balanced, and quite welcomed, so I have no problem with that. In fact, I'd say it has less love drama than many of my latest urban fantasy reads.
Getting back to the sex scene, picture this. The serial killer has abducted a fey's daughter, and they have to find her and save her before she's killed. Oh, and considering the evidence from past victims, she's most probably currently being tortured in the worst of ways and raped repeatedly. After all the searching, they find the location and when they get to the vicinity of her location, for one reason or another the author concocted a scenario in which Anna and Charles just had to fuck right then and there. Not in a dark corner or in a car while alone, no they decided to fuck out in the open with the rest of the search party around. What the heck? It made no sense from a good storytelling perspective or from a romance perspective or from an erotic perspective, in all irrespective to any elements you like in your stories. This kind of scene is only welcomed in a porn movie, but was just a terrible decision and had no place in the story. Just didn't make any kind of sense, and I would think that even romance readers will agree with me. The sad thing of it was that everything else in the novel was going very well.
If I recall correctly, there was just this one sex scene, poorly executed as it was. Aside from it becoming a bit predictable in regards as to the identity of the mystery, the rest of the novel was pretty good and thoroughly enjoyed it. We had some good action, and Charles kicked major ass. Seriously, he was awesome. I lament though that Anna wasn't given much to do in this novel, particularly from an action perspective. I hope that she'll be more active in future novels. Not that she wasn't taking part of the action, but most of the action scenes we experienced via Charles' POV, so we didn't get to see much of Anna, so maybe it would be as simple as having Anna take some of that burden, even when they're sharing the same scene.
The supporting cast was a good one overall, particular the werewolves from the Boston pack, the FBI agents, a powerful witch, and an apparent fey noble. The thing I liked the most was the ending. There was a trial though that the outcome didn't feel right with me, but what ensued was worth it. One of the best endings I've encountered, and very excited to see where the story goes next as we see the repercussions of what occurred.
Fair Game is simply good read, I might even say great if it wasn't for the sex scene. As mentioned, one of the best urban fantasy stories Patricia Briggs has written, and a very welcomed addition to the Alpha and Omega series and to the Mercy Thompson universe. I'm sure fans of the series will love this one.(less)