I love vampires so I’ve seen a lot of them, good, bad, and boring. And there are oh, so many boring, overdone vampire movies and books. Seriously, do not watch Twilight, not even to get the jokes—it was hands down the most mind-killingly BORING anything I’ve ever seen *shudders*. Fortunately, the Generation V series by M. L. Brennan restored my faith that something new could be done with vampires without stripping them of (intentional) horror. Let us explore.
1—A New Breed of Bloodsucker
Ok, I know it says “Beware of Spoilers” at the top of every page in this site, but seriously, this section has some massive spoilers. Fortitude Scott—Fort, our hero and first person POV narrator—has been kept much in the dark about his true nature and almost all of what I’ll say here was discovered over several books. So if you want to discover all this along with him, take my word that there’s some neat stuff done with the vampire mythology and go ahead and skip to the next section.
You sure you really want to keep reading this part? Ok then. Let’s start with, vampires are not human and humans cannot be made into vampires, so there go a lot of the romance-vampire tropes (thank the dark gods). Humans can be made into homicidal breeding vessels though. And it’s from these breeding vessels, host parents—as in parasite host, changed on a genetic level to deliver vampire genes—that vampire babies are born. They then grow to maturity at a human rate until they go through vampire puberty and start feeding on humans. Before that, they’re fed by their vampire parent’s blood and boy-howdy does Fort have issues about that.
You see, Fort was raised human, by humans. At least until he slipped up and told mommy and daddy about what went on during his monthly dinners at his biological mother’s house. Then big sis showed up and slaughtered the couple in front of young Fort’s eyes.
This is not standard vampire rearing practice though. Madeline Scott has watched her species start to go extinct and decided to do some experimenting with her offspring. The aforementioned big sis, Prudence, was created traditionally, her host parents murdered and fed to her as soon as she was born. The next in line, Chivalry, had one host parent killed at birth and the other kept alive until he hit puberty. Both of Fort’s host parents are kept alive as long as possible, keeping him human(ish) as long as possible. As a result, the siblings have wildly different outlooks on humanity, as well as feeding habits.
Prudence just enthralls and, some months later when the toxic effects of her feeding start causing health problems, kills her food . Chivalry falls madly in love with, marries, and feeds exclusively from a woman. He is utterly devoted and grieves terribly when they die—again, due to toxic effects of feeding—and refuses to eat between wives. Yeah, that’s all kinds of messed up. Fort…well, it takes a while for Fort to need to eat human blood and the ramp up to that is accompanied with lots of moral dilemma that I won’t spoil for you. What? I don’t spoil everything.
All three of them are also psychically connected through their mother, able to feel each other’s presences as well as Mommy’s. And they do not get along. Isn’t family wonderful? But I’ll go into that more later.
Now tell me if you’ve run into any of these traits before? At least, in this particular combination. I haven’t. And it is goddam refreshing, not to mention fun, to see something new being done with the most popular of monsters. And make no mistake, they are monsters. A fact the books don’t try to gloss over or downplay, which isn’t new but has gotten a little lost lately with the focus on romantic and/or heroic vampires.
2—New Incarnations for Other Creatures Too
Vampires aren’t the only monsters—and not so monstrous, depending on your point of view—to get an interesting makeover. There’s the Kitsune, though I can’t say how far from their original mythology they stray given that I’m not as familiar with it. They do have a well-thought out magic though, with reasons for strengths and limitations. As well as nifty other things, like what happens when they shift form while pregnant.
There’s also Elves, whose genetics and breeding program Fort learns more about that he ever wanted. I can’t say I blame him. True elves, vicious, murdering bastards that they are, have almost wiped themselves out. Their breeding program with humans, trying to match half-breeds to get three-quarter breeds, then further—is a creepy fucking cult.
There are also Metsan Kunigas—don’t call them were-bears—ghouls, succubi/incubi, witches (also not human), skinwalkers—giant bug nightmares that literally wear human skins—and more. So, lots of fun.
This is horror the way I most often prefer it—disturbing on many levels but not without hope. So while I get that rush that only good horror can provide, I also don’t leave the book wanting to slit my wrists. This makes me happy.
The first level of horror is the more obvious—monsters lurk in the world. And they are brutal, utterly uncaring of the pain and sorrow and suffering they leave in their wake. They either don’t notice it at all, or, more likely, revel in it. Humans are nothing more than entertaining meat. And so are other, weaker monsters. The reason Fort isn’t a cocktail snack before the first book starts is because Madeline is the biggest, baddest monster in several states who will rain down the kind of revenge that would make an elf flinch if any of them harmed her offspring.
Which brings me to the second kind of horror that permeates the series. As horrifying as the murders and mutilation are—and the author does a good job of making me feel for the dead and dismembered, always the key—the thing that disturbs me more is the terrible love of Fort’s family.
Whether it’s killing his parents or making him kill his surrogate father for his own good. Or Prudence offering to let Fort feed on her latest thrall, as he can’t yet make his own—and that she fundamentally cannot understand why Fort might not want to do that. Or Chivalry trying to reason with Fort about how silly his conscience-driven actions are. Not to leave out Madeline’s various manipulations, all done with love in her heart for her dear baby boy. Perhaps most disturbing is the love of Fort’s host parents, his murderously insane host parents. They all do love Fort so. *shudders*
4—A Romance I actually Enjoy
On to something a little lighter. Those kitsune I mentioned? One of them’s a part time mercenary who takes an interest in Fort. Who takes an interest back. I like this romance for many reasons, the first of which I will mention being that Suzume has a fabulously wicked personality. She’s arrogant and has the talents to back it up. She teases the hell out of Fort, in her trickster way, and takes none of his shit, or anyone else’s. It could’ve been easy for Suz to slip into being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I thoroughly believe she’d kick the author’s ass if that started to happen. Suz has her own goals, her own family issues, her own reasons for doing things. Those reasons can largely be summed up as “shits and giggles” but loyalty to family make up many of them too.
The other reason I like this romance is that it isn’t easy. Fort and Suz have problems, and not the kind that make you want to strangle the author for interfering. Suz is a fox—not a woman. And, more fundamentally, a trickster. She doesn’t understand, is not able to understand, why some of the things she does hurt Fort. She doesn’t want to hurt him. She does love him. But Fort, even when his vampire-ness starts kicking in, thinks and feels like a human—a highly moral human. A trickster is amoral—though not immoral, important distinction—and it’s a struggle for Fort to understand Suzume.
So communication problems, instead of the manufactured author duct taping the characters mouths shut because otherwise there would be no problems, and “oh, no, what about the dramaaaaaaa?” (can you tell how much I hate that)…the communication problems are actually because two people have trouble understanding each other and will have to keep working at that. Much more realistic and much less frustrating.
5—A Broken Status Quo
The fourth and, as of now, final book in the series, Dark Ascension, broke the status Quo all to hell and left me cackling with glee. Not every series dares this and I wish more would. Especially long runners.
Which brings me to my final thought—go buy all the books! Ms. Brennan knows what she wants to do with books five and six, she just needs to get her publisher—or another, I’m not picky—to agree to publish them. And the more money the books earn, the more likely that is to occur. So go buy them! The Generation V series is a terrific read and I want more, dammit!