Tainted Blood is the third book in M. L. Brennan’s Generation V series. The first book, Generation V, was one of the best (if not the best) first books in an urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I was quite surprised by just how fond of the characters I’d become by the time I finished reading it. Iron Night, the second book, was even better, and despite a slower start than the others, Tainted Blood was also quite entertaining. I’m very much looking forward to Dark Ascension, which releases in August.
With his brother Chivalry temporarily unavailable, Fort continues to manage their mother’s territory in his place. This mostly includes tasks like checking in with the secretary, reading files, and denying a rusalka’s request for permission to murder annoying jet skiers (but offering to try to move her to a quieter lake instead). However, Fort feels like he’s in over his head when a call comes in on the emergency line with the news that the leader of the nearby metsän kunigas has been murdered—and, of course, he is expected to deal with the situation.
Fortunately, Suzume is available to lend her expertise and accompany him on his trip to the crime scene (and even seems to understand she should not refer to the metsän kunigas as “werebears” by the time they arrive). Unfortunately, Fort does not feel any less like he’s in over his head as the day progresses. The dead leader’s family is obviously dismayed to find him in charge of the murder investigation instead of his sister, and one of them resents vampires in general and Fort’s lack of knowledge about the local metsän kunigas family tree in particular. After questioning them, Fort discusses the situation with his own family, who tell him it’s imperative he find the killer—or at least, someone to blame and punish for the murder to appease the bears.
The more books I read in this series, the more I’m certain that I’ve found a new favorite urban fantasy series to join the ranks of Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and October Daye by Seanan McGuire. Collectively, I actually prefer the first three books in this series to the first three in any of those longer-running favorites (although I don’t quite like any of these three individually as much as the third Kate Daniels book!). There’s a lot to love about the Generation V series—the humorous narrative voice, fun characters that become more complex with each book, unique vampire lore that unravels more with each book, and riveting character dynamics.
Tainted Blood did take a little longer to hook me than the previous books in the series since it took some time to show the current situations with Fort’s family, roommate, jobs, and friend-he’d-like-to-become-a-girlfriend before diving in to the main plot. Once Fort begins investigating the murder of the head bear, it gets much more interesting especially as it begins to set up (I’m assuming) the next book with Fort’s realization that Madeline’s health is declining—and his discovery that others realize this too and are preparing for upcoming changes in leadership.
It’s more than just a setup book, though, and I love that it continues to expand both the world and characters. Fort is still young and not yet a full-fledged vampire, and he continues to struggle with wanting to be human—especially after Prudence demonstrates the vampire feeding process to him in a deliciously creepy scene (sorry, couldn’t resist!). He learns more about what survival will mean for him and is terrified by this new knowledge, especially when he realizes how badly he wants to continue to exist. I love that his character wants to do the right thing, but that he has a darker side by virtue of what he is and who his family is.
There is a theme in this book of family, even when one’s family contains monsters, and my favorite part of it was the increasing complexity of Fort’s relationships with his siblings, especially his sister. While both Prudence and Chivalry are far more cold-blooded (sorry) than their younger brother, Fort has always gotten along better with his brother. Chivalry looks out for him and has a tendency to come to his aid in family arguments; however, in this book, Prudence is the one who does the most to help him out. Despite being vocal about feeling that both her brothers are foolish in completely different ways, she is there for both of them in this book. When Fort goes through one of the awful experiences that is part of transitioning to vampire, Prudence is very empathetic and helpful to the point where Fort asks her why she’s being so nice:
“You are my brother,” she said simply. “Whether I hate or love you, that fact will never change, and what ties us together can be broken only by death.” [pp. 199]
Prudence may not have much respect for human or most supernatural life and she may complain constantly about both her brothers, but she seems to care for them both in her own way. I think much of her ruthlessness may be driven by family duty and ensuring she does what she thinks is necessary for the family empire, and this book did a great job with adding more dimension to her.
I also loved the relationship between Fort and Suzume, and that there wasn’t much angst even though Suzume hasn’t made up her mind yet about whether or not she wants to date him. The two still get along well together both in friendship and their working relationship and behave like mature adults (well, as mature as can be expected considering Suzume’s idea of fun is adding googly eyes to Fort’s possessions when he’s not looking). Fort obviously really wants to be with her, but he also is not one of those characters who spends the book being emo about it.
Other than the slow start, my major issue with Tainted Blood had nothing to do with the writing: it seemed like it could have been more thoroughly copyedited. There was the occasional typo, but I’ve seen finished copies of books containing more typos. It mostly annoyed me that one scene specified that someone had personalized ringtones for everyone and could tell who was calling before she picked up the phone—only to have her then mention this person had not called from their own number after hanging up. It’s a fairly minor quibble, but I’m a detail-oriented person so I ended up rereading it a couple of times to make sure I really hadn’t misread something before moving on.
Despite a few minor nitpicks, Tainted Blood is another wonderful installment in the Generation V series. I highly recommend these books and enjoy their unique vampire mythology, inclusion of mythical beings uncommon in fantasy, three dimensional characters, and fun interactions between these characters. It’s also quite impressive that the humor in the narrative voice blends in quite naturally most of the time since I think that’s quite rare in books that do this. M. L. Brennan is a superb new author, and I can hardly wait to read her next book.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: It was a Christmas gift (selected from books on my wish list).
Read an Excerpt (Click “Read an Excerpt” underneath the cover image)
Reviews of Previous Books in the Generation V Series: