While 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.
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.
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.
Several moons ago I read this book by Greg van Eekhout, published in 2009 by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House. Fortunately, I took detailed notes.
I give this title full points for cleverness, and the concept is alluring. Unfortunately, for me the novel never realized the concept well. There are enjoyable elements: Greg van Eekhout is clearly well versed with Norse mythology, and I enjoyed many of the scenes that pulled details from the depths of Norse mythology. Some examples include the three wolves, the world tree, Odin’s two ravens, and scenes where the relationships between the Norse gods are on full display. However, where van Eekhout alters the classic Norse mythology to merge it into the modern world, the story often stutters. Several of the mythological characters bring very little of the feel of the gods they are adapted from, and the connection between the two realms is always tenuous.
The story also suffers from strange pacing and flow. The plot always felt confused and drifting to me, with characters motivations and actions having little to do with what actually transpires, which is one of my pet peeves. The transitions between characters and transitions between scenes were frequent and often jarring, and action scenes / description within scenes often left me wondering exactly what had gone on. I also did not find the main protagonists particularly interesting.
While Ragnarok seems a fairly common trope in fantasy worlds, NORSE CODE does a good job at painting its own version while providing some great authentic mythical Norse flavor. Unfortunately not all elements are integrated so well, and the plot and main characters are less interesting than the concept as a whole.
Cover Art Review: Very well illustrated and meshes well with the actual story. Bonus points for an excellent depiction of gorgeous, luscious hair.