Tag: mystery

Tainted Blood

Tainted BloodWhile I greatly enjoyed Tainted Blood, there were two issues on which I feel the need to be nitpicky. On reflection, the focus on the metsän kunigas feels like a missed opportunity. The most interesting thing about them is their social structure and interaction with other supernatural groups, and none of that is dependent upon the particular strengths/weaknesses that the metsän kunigas.
The other point of weakness for me personally is how the elves and half elves from the previous story make only brief appearances. That is fine, but it felt odd to have them introduced as a lead and then left largely untouched. (Then again, perhaps this is for the better. There are definitely series, cough Mark del Franco’s Connor Grey series, cough, where every book feels as if it includes something from every preceding book. That’s amazing and I love it, and it leads to an atmospherically dense and compelling world, but it gets very bulky by book 6). I didn’t especially expect them to show up in this book, but then they were introduced and I expected them to show up later, and they didn’t. So that was a mite awkward.

These two minor points aside, Tainted Blood is as well written as the previous entries in the Generation V series. The situation with the metsän kunigas is superbly plotted, and the prime Finnish were-bear suspects are well characterized and distinct. The mystery of who killed Karhu Mattias and why is engaging, and while the resolution feels a bit out of left field, I am also traditionally bad at predicting these things. The further development of both Fortitude Scott’s relationship with his vampire family and his partnership with Suzume and the Kitsune sparkle brightly here as well, although now that I think about it, his roommate Dan and his boyfriend was also amusing. The signature humor is present as well and amusing as ever, as well as the seriousness that sneaks in and settles meaningfully.

Cover Art Review: Cover art continues to showcase a Fortitude Scott who is looking increasingly manly. I like the color scheme a lot for this one as well. Note: I do not have this book with me, so no front / back cover image until it catches up with me. #woops.

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Iron Night

Iron Night cover art

I really liked this second installation of the series, as it maintains the quality of writing and atmosphere I enjoyed so much about Generation V while plausibly continuing the narrative threads from Generation V and adding new elements that fit comfortably with it.
After Fortitude Scott’s various encounters and challenges dealing with being in danger in Generation V, he has realized that he needs to be able to protect himself and be somewhat less of a naive, dewey-eyed dweeb. This totally removes the one main thing I did not enjoy about Generation V, which was how insanely naive he was. He’s still Fortitude Scott, but it seems he has learned a lesson and is a bit more understanding that naivety is a weakness in the supernatural world. There are still plenty of “Fortitude Scott moments”, but those moments are not as overpowering as previously.
I found the investigation into the murders captivating, and there were a lot of good “o shit!” realization moments along the way. The plot flowed at a good pace, and the ending in particular caught my attention for being the perfect length.

Suzume is still a total smart-ass, prank-loving joy to behold. The relationships between Madeleine, Prudence, and Chivalry deepen and become more interesting, with Chivalry’s relationship with his wife giving a plausible reason for Fortitude to take over more of the family business. And the introduction of elves and half-elves not only reuses characters from Generation V very well, but also gives us several new characters and an innovative take on elvish culture.

 

Cover Art Review: I apologize for the terrible photography of the back cover, I was in a hurry and sadly cannot rephotograph it for a while.

Generation V

Generation V cover art

Generation V was quite an enjoyable read, and I have already ordered the following books. While the book pushes the “reality bites” line pretty hard, it’s mostly humorous and spaced out well enough to not be overwhelming. The more imminent danger to the reader’s immersion is how much of a pure soul Fortitude has. Granted, most of the time it’s fun and entertaining to see more pragmatic minds react to him, but occasionally his shocked reactions are just too much and it becomes obnoxious. Fortunately, those moments tend to be short-lived, thanks to the witty banter between Suzume and Fortitude, Chivalry and Fortitude, or the perils of working a minimum wage job at a coffee shop. There’s plenty to help ease you back into the story, and Fortitude’s worry for the safety of those targeted by the vampire is understandable and infectious: there was a sense of dread that grew as the plot drives onwards and we see who the outsider vampire is preying on and why.

With those pain points out of the way, on to the things that made Generation V such a great read. First, the characterization was really good. The characters all felt distinct, unique, and like actual people, with a strong first impression as well as further depth. Suzume is probably the best example, being sexy and not afraid to flaunt it, mischievous and loving a good prank (or seven), but sensitive enough to back off on issues that really hurt. Further, there are some excellent instances of character development that made me leave bookmarks and take notes later, especially in Fortitude’s case. These moments arise out of the relationships between different characters, and drive the plot forwards. Essentially, there’s that perfect relationship between the world, the characters, and the plot where they are all coupled tightly, and developments to any one feel organic and drive additional organic developments, rather than feeling like an author decided that something has to happen.
As someone who reads a decent amount of urban fantasy, the mythos also felt fresh and unique. Fortitude’s introduction to his vampireness aside, his strained relationship with his vampire family and his refusal to engage with the supernatural world means the reader is right alongside him with learning about the supernatural world for the first time.

Cover Art Review: Not gonna lie, the title line on the side of the book and then the composition of the cover were one of the things that made me pull this one off the shelf and take a closer look. The use of the white – black – red palette is really efficient and evocative. It also reminds me of a bad joke about newspapers…

Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper is the first of the Major Ariane Kedros books, written by Laura E. Reeve. I am phrasing it that way, instead of calling it the first book in a trilogy, because all of the Major Ariane Kedros books do a very good job at having a plot that is structured and paced for a single book, rather than having three separate books that each contain a third of the total story and structure. There are no stupid cliffhangers at the end, although the story does continue through each of the books. The novels also feel very well balanced, with great characterization, a twisty plot, pacing, a mix of subtle and forward world-building that establishes a plausible, believable universe, and a good quality of writing.

The universe is also surprising and creative, dominated as it is by Greek culture. It seemed like there is an alternate history event in 2061, although a later book mentioned Minoan first contact occurring in 1960, and then looking at the author’s website, it seems like the entire alternate universe bit stretches back to Alexander the Great. But the important part is that Reeve never sits you down and explains everything about the back story, but instead weaves it into the narrative in places where it makes sense, and conveys almost as much through people’s reactions, behavior, and viewpoints as she does through direct description.

The mystery is great, and in a structure I rather like, doesn’t end at the end of the book, but slightly sooner, leaving a good amount of time for further shit to go down. Which it does, taking a very dark turn with some very unpleasant scenes that are nonetheless totally in character for the universe we have seen throughout the book.

One aspect of the characterization that really shone was the how well the multiple viewpoints were done. Each character is distinctive in what they think about AND how they think about it, as well as what parts of the environment they notice and what thoughts and behaviors that triggers. This further reveals details about their culture and the three main cultures of the universe, which are well fleshed out.  Especially the Minoans, whom we don’t learn an awful lot about, but are super interesting and twice as eerie. I was pumped up to learn more about those enigmatic aliens in the next two books. (“SPOILERS”: you learn more about the Minoans in the next two books.)

Cover Art Review: I thought at some point it said she had brown hair, and I am not sure when she wielded that rifle, but I will pass on that and focus on the great composition. I also really adore the color of the sky, the silhouetted buildings, and the ridiculous background moons.

Alien Taste

AlienTaste_All.jpgALIEN TASTE

Wen Spencer

ALIEN TASTE is the first book in the UKIAH OREGON series. I liked it very much. Having already read the fourth book in the series, DOG WARRIOR, I already knew many of the characters and concepts, but I feel the novel did a great job at easing the reader into the craziness that is this series’ world. (Then again, there was also much less craziness in ALIEN TASTE than in DOG WARRIOR, so there is that…)

The characters were all well realized, but the highlight was Ukiah. I found the portrayal of Ukiah, his interactions with more normal humans, and his slow journey of understanding what was happening around him genuinely persuasive, interesting, and moving. Something I found particularly impressive was how Wen Spencer integrated his heightened senses and photographic memory into his character, using them to create behaviors that set him apart from other people, rather than (as is done in many novels) just giving him these abilities and having them be things he uses when the plot needs to move on. His tracking abilities were also an incredibly fascinating exploration of the senses beyond sight, and inspired me to pay a lot of extra attention to the sensory details in the world around me and how authors/books translate those into words. His photographic memory and the portrayal of how he uses it was also very well done, as it was rarely used merely to advance the plot, but was integrated into the character as something that he uses on a daily basis.

It’s worth saying again is just how many novel concepts there were in this series, and how well Wen Spencer introduces each of them and integrates them all with each other.

Cover Art: I like the rain. It could be worse… but I feel the picture is not a good representation of Ukiah.