Generation V - M.L. Brennan Update: Interview with the author on my blog: on Japanese mythology, writing underdog characters, creating a new breed of vampires and more http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/2013/08/an-interview-with-ml-brennan-author-of.html

Urban fantasy is quickly becoming one of my favorite genres, and I've certainly been reading a lot of it this year. The problem with that, however, is that I've become a lot more picky, so these days for a UF series to catch my eye, its ideas or stories need to be very interesting and it has to offer something a little different. That's why when the author of Generation V sent me a request for an honest review of her book, I very enthusiastically took her up on it. The book looked like it fit the bill for something more unique and original.

In that, I was definitely not disappointed. The book stars Fortitude Scott, who's not your typical urban fantasy vampire because he's, well, technically not even a full vampire yet. He's still mostly human, a trait which Fort is trying desperately to hold on to in the face of his impending transition. Meanwhile, his full-vampire mother and older siblings look upon him as a constant source of exasperation and embarrassment. But then Luca, a new vampire, shows up in his town and Fort realizes that there are worse monsters than his family.

Several killings and abductions drive Fort to take action. Along with the kickass shapeshifting kitsune woman Suzume Hollis, they try to find a way to stop this ruthless vampire. The problem is, Fort doesn't have much of a plan, not to mention the distraction that is his mess of a personal life. He's broke, his girlfriend is cheating on him, and he's on the verge of losing his job. The good news is, all that might not matter when he manages to track down Luca. In his mostly-human state, Fort realizes he is hopelessly outmatched and is probably going to get himself killed.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love an underdog? Fort is not like other urban fantasy heroes. He's not strong, he doesn't ooze sophistication or finesse like the rest of his vampire brethren in the genre, and he's not particularly fashion-minded either. In fact, he's kind of pathetic, albeit in a very adorable sort of way. The poor guy gets pushed around everywhere -- at work by his boss, at home by his hipster roommate, and in his love life by his girlfriend Beth who manages to convince him that their relationship can benefit from her sleeping around with other people. At a point, he almost becomes too painful to read about, but the nice thing about underdog stories is that they always bounce back. But more on that later.

In the meantime I just have to say I also loved the kitsune fox shapeshifters in this novel. They feature prominently in Japanese folklore, and I thought their inclusion here was a nice twist on the usual shapeshifter-in-a-vampire-book idea. Werewolves are fine and good, but it's also so much more interesting when an author works ideas based on mythology into their stories. Come to think of it, this may also be why I adore another one of my favorite UF series, the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs, which incorporates Native American myths on Coyote. It worked well there, and likewise, the kitsune also worked very well in Generation V.

Suzume Hollis, the bodyguard charged to keep an eye on Fort, is one of the kitsune. Her character is very intriguing. Although I think her attractiveness might have been overplayed a little, she also sets herself apart from a lot of female characters in urban fantasy by being mischievous, quirky, and sometimes just downright silly -- like all trickster foxes ought to be. Usually, I find it's often the male protagonist in an urban fantasy who does all the wisecracking, but Suzume can certainly hold her own on that front.

Speaking of which, I love M.L. Brennan's sense of humor. I know I've described many an urban fantasy as "funny", but very rarely do I actually forget myself and laugh out loud while reading -- something I found myself doing several times during the course of this novel. Fort may be a doormat, but he definitely has a way with words.

To balance out all that humor, though, are also some pretty heavy themes in this book. There are some bold new takes on vampires like their nesting habits, the fact they aren't immortal and that they actually age (even though the process is reeeaal sloooow), but it is the manner in which they procreate that takes the cake as one of the most fascinating and yet disturbing ways I've ever read. It's pretty neat, though. And I love it when books make me feel like that.

One thing I think I would have liked to see more of is Fort's growth over the course of the novel, because as it is he doesn't find his backbone until almost the very end. As well, there are some aspects of the story or character motives that confused me or that I thought could be better explained or taken further, but this also just means a lot of potential for this series. I was happy to hear that there will be a book two, but not so happy when I discovered that I'll have to wait until early next year for Iron Night. This is a great choice for urban fantasy fans looking for something fresh and fun.