Summary: After a lifetime of avoiding his family, Fort has discovered that working for them isn’t half bad—even if his mother, Madeline, is a terrifying, murderous vampire. His newfound career has given him a purpose and a paycheck and has even helped him get his partner, foxy kitsune Suzume, to agree to be his girlfriend. All in all, things are looking up.
Only, just as Fort is getting comfortable managing a supernatural empire that stretches from New Jersey to Ontario, Madeline’s health starts failing, throwing Fort into the middle of an uncomfortable and dangerous battle for succession. His older sister, Prudence, is determined to take over the territory. But Fort isn’t the only one wary of her sociopathic tendencies, and allies, old and new, are turning to him to keep Prudence from gaining power.
Now, as Fort fights against his impending transition into vampire adulthood, he must also battle to keep Prudence from destroying their mother’s kingdom—before she takes him down with it…
Thoughts: It didn’t take too long for the Generation V series to cement itself as my favourite urban fantasy series. I can’t get enough of it, and there’s so much here that appeals to me. Interesting characters, great geeky humour, a wonderfully unique take on different mythologies and supernatural creatures. It stands out from other series, and it’s got a lot of very loyal fans, and I count myself among them. And even though I’ve been stupidly slow at actually reading and reviewing them (I seem to have gotten into the habit of reading one right before the following book is scheduled to be released…), I love them to death, and I couldn’t keep up my old habits of bad timing. I had a review copy, and I needed to dive back into this world.
Was I disappointed by Dark Ascension? Not in the slightest.
Unlike the other novels in the series, the central plot is more of a coming-of-age story than a supernatural mystery to be solved. Previously Fort ended up mixed up in a situation that needed dealing with, or actively investigating some odd happenstance, but here, most of what he’s dealing with are the ways his life has changed and continues to change. Fort ends up taking care of far more of his family’s affairs than he ever expected, and with his modern liberal way of thinking, he butts heads with both Chivalry and Prudence on certain issues. Which isn’t surprising, if you’ve read the other 3 books in the series. But a tragedy forces them all to cooperate on a whole new level, and Fort’s transition to full vampirism speeds up, and things will never be the same for him.
While I loved this opportunity to see more of Fort’s transition and to see him really come into his own, those who maybe got used to the series being a bit more action-oriented with a stronger mystery to deal with may be a bit disappointed in the way this novel doesn’t really present those things. There is action, and some of the usual high-stakes fight scenes (especially at the end), but the closest thing to a mystery is really the matter of how Fort will handle the supernatural politics that he’s forced to juggle. It’s a story of little stories, of growing up, of taking a stand and doing what you believe is right, no matter the consequences. It’s a story of figuring out yourself, and the people around you.
And it’s an odd tactic for the fourth book in a series, but it really works! Fort’s transformation comes alongside some truly heartbreaking scenes, scenes that actually had me shedding some tears halfway through the book, and there’s this sense that maturity often goes hand-in-hand with grief and loss. This is probably the most mature of all the Generation V novels for that reason; you see Fort experience things that can hit hard to anyone who’s ever endured the death of a loved on, to those who have had to make the hard choice between the status quo and a potential improvement. Things that are human to the core, a part of everyone’s life, and to incorporate them so well into the struggles of a man who’s wrestling with the unseen supernatural world, tangled alliances and twists on myth, is something that’s often attempted and rarely done well. Fort’s spent most of his life trying to keep the mundane and the supernatural aspects of his life utterly separate from each other, but those walls have crumbled. But some things are universal, and I love the way Brennan managed to blend the two elements so well.
Of course, there’s more to Dark Ascension than just a dark heavy maturity. If that’s all there was, I wouldn’t have liked it nearly so much. As always, the banter between Suzume and Fort is pure genius! I love the way those two carry on, the way their dialogue plays out, whether the situation is tense and emotional or lighthearted and fun. I love the geeky references and odd subculture references that Brennan throws in, very few of which I don’t get, and this makes it so very easy for me to connect to the characters because — at least in the case of Fort — I think how he thinks a lot of the time. His internal monologue contains lines that I would think and say, and I love being able to say that about a character in a modern-day setting, because that’s so rare for me!
(Side note – Since Babymetal was mentioned, I wondered if Megistune was Suzume’s favourite song. It’s a better song that What Does the Fox Say, after all. :p)
What it comes down to is this: the status quo of both the in-book world and the books themselves was established, and Dark Ascension breaks it and takes things in a couple of unexpected directions. It’s got so many beloved aspects that the series has become known for, as well as some new insights that take things to a different level. It’s a great book, a worthy addition to the series, and from the ending, the ride isn’t over yet!
And I want to be right here when it starts up again!
(Received for review from the publisher.)