The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Last week brought two books in the mail. I was hoping to make a trip to the bookstore over the weekend, but I’m now planning to go browse the bookstore next weekend. There are a LOT of recent releases that sound fantastic!

Dragon Coast by Greg van Eekhout

Dragon Coast (Daniel Blackland #3) by Greg van Eekhout

This conclusion to a trilogy will be released on September 15 (hardcover, ebook). The previous two books are California Bones (which has its own website at and Pacific Fire, in that order.

An excerpt from Dragon Coast can be read on the Tor-Forge blog, and if you missed the first book, has an excerpt from California Bones.

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but they do sound rather interesting.


Dragon Coast: the sequel to Greg Van Eekhout’s California Bones and Pacific Fire, in which Daniel Blackland must pull off the most improbable theft of all.

Daniel’s adopted son Sam, made from the magical essence of the tyrannical Hierarch of Southern California whom Daniel overthrew and killed, is lost-consumed by the great Pacific firedrake secretly assembled by Daniel’s half-brother, Paul.

But Sam is still alive and aware, in magical form, trapped inside the dragon as it rampages around Los Angeles, periodically torching a neighborhood or two.

Daniel has a plan to rescue Sam. It will involve the rarest of substances, axis mundi, pieces of the bones of the great dragon at the center of the Earth. Daniel will have to go to the kingdom of Northern California, boldly posing as his half-brother, come to claim his place in the competition to be appointed Lord High Osteomancer of the Northern Kingdom. Only when the Northern Hierarch, in her throne room at Golden Gate Park, raises her scepter to confirm Daniel in his position will he have an opportunity to steal the axis mundi-under the gaze of the Hierarch herself.

And that’s just the first obstacle.

Sound by Alexandra Duncan

Sound by Alexandra Duncan

This young adult science fiction novel will be released on September 22 (hardcover, ebook). It’s a companion to Alexandra Duncan’s debut novel, Salvage, which was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award and a Compton Crook Award winner.


SOUND is the stand-alone companion to Alexandra Duncan’s acclaimed novel Salvage, a debut that internationally bestselling author Stephanie Perkins called “kick-ass, brilliant, feminist science fiction.” For fans of Beth Revis, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica.

As a child, Ava’s adopted sister Miyole watched her mother take to the stars, piloting her own ship from Earth to space making deliveries. Now a teen herself, Miyole is finally living her dream as a research assistant on her very first space voyage. If she plays her cards right, she could even be given permission to conduct her own research and experiments in her own habitat lab on the flight home. But when her ship saves a rover that has been viciously attacked by looters and kidnappers, Miyole—along with a rescued rover girl named Cassia—embarks on a mission to rescue Cassia’s abducted brother, and that changes the course of Miyole’s life forever.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Before I get to this week’s featured book, here’s what happened last week in case you missed it.

Last week, I did some catching up with some mini reviews: one on fairy tales and one for other books I that I hadn’t reviewed yet. I also finished reading Defiant by Karina Sumner-Smith last week and am now working on a review of it.

Now, this week’s featured book!

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1) by Rae Carson

This first book in a new trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson will be released on September 22 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt from Walk on Earth a Stranger can be read on Epic Reads.

I’ve been wanting to read the first book in Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, for awhile now, and I’ve heard that this book is excellent as well. I’ve wanted to read them both even more since reading an interview she did as a Guest of Honor at this year’s Sirens Conference (which sounds incredible and will be held in Denver, Colorado, in October).


Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.

Other Books:

Book Description from Goodreads:

We’d had to be cut free of our mother’s womb. She’d never have been able to push the two-headed sport that was me and Abby out the usual way. Abby and I were fused, you see. Conjoined twins. Abby’s head, torso, and left arm protruded from my chest. But here’s the real kicker; Abby had the magic, I didn’t. Far as the Family was concerned, Abby was one of them, though cursed, as I was, with the tragic flaw of mortality.

Now adults, Makeda and Abby still share their childhood home. The surgery to separate the two girls gave Abby a permanent limp, but left Makeda with what feels like an even worse deformity: no mojo. The daughters of a celestial demigod and a human woman, Makeda and Abby were raised by their magical father, the god of growing things–a highly unusual childhood that made them extremely close. Ever since Abby’s magical talent began to develop, though, in the form of an unearthly singing voice, the sisters have become increasingly distant.

Today, Makeda has decided it’s high time to move out and make her own life among the other nonmagical, claypicken humans–after all, she’s one of them. In Cheerful Rest, a run-down warehouse space, Makeda finds exactly what she’s been looking for: an opportunity to live apart from Abby and begin building her own independent life. There’s even a resident band, led by the charismatic (and attractive) building superintendent.

But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to discover her own talent–and reconcile with Abby–if she’s to have a hope of saving him . . .

Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson is the story of Makeda, a young woman with a demi-god father and a human mother who did not inherit any of the power of her paternal family—even though her twin sister Abby did. Makeda never felt like she belonged to the Family, and as she and Abby grew older, the two grew further apart to the point where Makeda decided to get her own apartment in the beginning of this book. I really enjoyed seeing Makeda come into her own throughout the novel as she learns the truth about her family and herself that has been hidden for so long, as well as reading about her complicated relationship with Abby. It’s an absorbing stand alone contemporary fantasy, and I started collecting Nalo Hopkinson’s older titles after reading it.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

Lord of the Changing Winds
by Rachel Neumeier
400pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 3.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.35/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.38/5

Book Description from Goodreads:

Griffins lounged all around them, inscrutable as cats, brazen as summer. They turned their heads to look at Kes out of fierce, inhuman eyes. Their feathers, ruffled by the wind that came down the mountain, looked like they had been poured out of light; their lion haunches like they had been fashioned out of gold. A white griffin, close at hand, looked like it had been made of alabaster and white marble and then lit from within by white fire. Its eyes were the pitiless blue-white of the desert sky.

Little ever happens in the quiet villages of peaceful Feierabiand. The course of Kes’ life seems set: she’ll grow up to be an herb-woman and healer for the village of Minas Ford, never quite fitting in but always more or less accepted. And she’s content with that path — or she thinks she is. Until the day the griffins come down from the mountains, bringing with them the fiery wind of their desert and a desperate need for a healer. But what the griffins need is a healer who is not quite human . . . or a healer who can be made into something not quite human.

Lord of the Changing Winds by Rachel Neumeier is a self-contained story despite being the first book in the Griffin Mage trilogy. Unlike my favorite book I’ve read by the same author, House of Shadows, it took awhile for it to pull me in, but I ended up enjoying it. There are too few fantasy books about griffins, and these were quite interesting since they were alien as a group yet still had their own individual personalities. Both main characters were sympathetic, but I also wasn’t as invested in either as much as I would have liked. However, this introduced an intriguing world I’d like to revisit and I do plan to read the next book, Land of the Burning Sands.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the author.

Book Description from Goodreads:

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay is set in the same world as Under Heaven, but it’s set about 400 years later and stands alone. While it took some time to completely draw me in, I ended up loving River of Stars. It’s a long story that takes awhile to get going, and it took some time for me to get used to the writing style but I found it lovely once I did become accustomed to it. It’s a reflective book involving themes of war and power, including the power of words, and legends, particularly how they can grow as they’re retold, morphing into more extraordinary tales. While I liked that it was introspective, I did feel that sometimes this was overdone and repetitive, but this was minor overall considering how very much I enjoyed reading it. There are also compelling characters and heart-wrenching tragedies, and River of Stars is very much the type of novel that is right up my alley. I didn’t love it quite as much as Tigana, my favorite of Kay’s novels so far, but it was still fantastic.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from a publicist.

Book Description from Goodreads:

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you’d get Deviana Morris — a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy.

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach is the first book in the Paradox trilogy. My experience with it seems to be unusual: I really struggled to get into it and almost didn’t finish it. It had a lot of action and was fairly quickly paced, and I’ve found those types of books often don’t work for me if I’m not already invested in the characters. At that point, I wasn’t, and I ended up setting it aside after reading around 100 pages. I did decide to try reading it again later, and I nearly quit reading when I was still bored after a couple more chapters—but then, around the halfway point, the mysteries started to interest me and I ended up really enjoying the second half of Fortune’s Pawn. This is definitely not a complete story on its own, and later parts of the book and the ending were good enough to make me curious about what happens in the next book even though the first half didn’t work for me.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.


Book Description from Goodreads:

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

Through the Woods is a graphic story collection (as opposed to a graphic novel) containing creepy fairy tales. The stories are told through visuals almost as much as the words, and the two together are quite effective at telling these stories. The art is fairly simple, which I thought was a point in its favor since it was spooky and dark without being grisly or over the top.

I thought each of the stories was quite readable, although I enjoyed some more than others. My favorite was “His Face All Red,” which begins with a man observing another man who looked exactly like his brother and was believed to be his brother… but could not be his brother, because he had murdered his brother. I was completely hooked from the start, and it ended on an eerie note. Although that was the only story I found particularly memorable, my next favorite was the haunting tale “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold.” In this one, a woman travels far away to marry a man and keeps hearing sad singing in the middle of the night—but is told she must be dreaming it when she asks, even though those who tell her she’s imagining it seem afraid.

These stories are rather open ended, and I had conflicting feelings about wanting a more concrete conclusion with most of them, especially “His Face All Red.” I wanted to have a firmer idea of how each story ended, but at the same time, leaving it open to the imagination allows one to consider all sorts of horrific possibilities about what happened!

While there was only one story I found particularly compelling, Through the Woods is an enjoyable, quick read, especially if one is in the mood for a book that bridges the line between fantasy and horror.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf
by Tia Nevitt
131pp (Ebook)
My Rating: 6/10
Amazon Rating: 4.2/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.8/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.78/5

Book Description from Goodreads:

Book two in Accidental Enchantments.

Prince Richard is cursed. Enslaved to a magic mirror, he must truthfully answer the evil queen when she uses it to call on him. To keep from betraying innocents, Richard wanders the countryside and avoids people.

All her life, Gretchen has been teased for being small. When she hears of a hidden farm populated by little people like her, she sets out to find it—and is welcomed by the mostly male inhabitants. Lars in particular woos her with his gentle kindness and quiet strength.

Danger looms when Gretchen meets a runaway princess and offers her shelter at the Little Farm. Wandering nearby, Richard instantly falls in love with the beautiful princess, and is later compelled to tell the queen that she is not the fairest of them all. Enraged, the queen vows to find them and destroy them.

If either Gretchen or Richard are to have their happy endings, they must team up to break the mirror’s spell before the queen kills them all…

For another fairy tale retelling from Tia Nevitt, check out The Sevenfold Spell, available now!

43,000 words

While it’s technically the second book in a series, The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf by Tia Nevitt can be read before the first. Both this and the first book, The Sevenfold Spell, are based on fairy tales, but each tells a complete story featuring a different set of characters so it’s not necessary to read them in a particular order.

The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf is an entertaining, quick read loosely based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” It contains some familiar elements, such as the inclusion of an evil queen, a princess, and the two characters mentioned in the title, but these are combined into a completely new tale that only has basic similarities with the familiar story. One of the main characters, the titular seventh dwarf, finds both love and friendship while the other main character, a prince bound to a magic mirror, attempts to thwart the queen who would use his knowledge for evil.

My favorite aspect of the story was how it added depth to the idea of one being declared the “fairest of them all.” Inner beauty was a factor, and it also acknowledged that beauty is in the eye of the beholder rather than there being one person universally thought to be the fairest of them all.

It’s a cute story and an interesting and unique retelling of “Snow White.” I didn’t love The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf since I didn’t find the story and characters quite as engaging as I would have liked, but I did appreciate the thought that went into it.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: Electronic copy from the author.

Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
by Paula Guran (Editor)
266pp (Ebook)
My Rating: 6/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.8/5

Book Description from Goodreads:

Eighteen extraordinary authors devise all-new fairy tales: imaginative reinterpretations of the familiar, evocative new myths, speculations beyond the traditional realm of “once upon a time.” Often dark, occasionally humorous, always enthralling, these stories find a certain Puss in a near-future New York, an empress bargaining with a dragon, a princess turned into a raven, a king’s dancing daughters with powerful secrets, great heroism, terrible villainy, sparks of mischief, and a great deal more. Brilliant dreams and dazzling nightmares with meaning for today and tomorrow…

Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales is an anthology containing 18 stories, brief commentary on each by the author, and an introduction by the editor. Authors include Tanith Lee, Cinda Williams Chima, Jane Yolen, Ekaterina Sedia, and Yoon Ha Lee. A full list of the table of contents is on the publisher’s website.

The highlight was “The Coin of Heart’s Desire” by Yoon Ha Lee, inspired in part by Korean folktales about the Dragon King Under the Sea. It’s a gorgeously written story about a dragon and an empress, and it made me want to read more by the author. Even though I much prefer novels to short stories, I now very much want to read Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection Conservation of Shadows based solely on the strength of this one story.

Another one of my favorites was “Castle of Masks” by Cory Skerry, a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. In this version of the tale, the beast required that a woman be sent to his castle once a year as a sacrifice. A young man decided this needed to stop and pretended to be a woman in order to go to the castle and put an end to this odious practice. Although I was drawn in to this story (based on one of my favorite fairy tales!) from the beginning, I was also a little concerned about where it was going—it was going to be quite annoying if a man stepped in and fixed everything by going to the castle in guise when so many women had gone before him! Fortunately, it did not end predictably.

As is often the case with anthologies and short story collections, this is a mixed bag. There weren’t any stories I really disliked, but there were also a few I didn’t find compelling. However, there were a few I liked very much indeed. In addition to the two mentioned above, the other stories I found particularly enjoyable were “Below the Sun Beneath” by Tanith Lee, “Flight” by Angela Slatter, and “Egg” by Priya Sharma.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: PDF from the editor.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Last week, I bought one of my most anticipated reads of the year and discovered that a book I’ve been hearing good things about but knew very little about sounds fantastic!

In case you missed it last week, I reviewed Dark Ascension by M. L. Brennan—and enjoyed it every bit as much as the previous books in the series! Generation V has become one of my favorite series due to its unique vampires and great characters.

On to the new books!

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Court of Fives (Court of Fives #1) by Kate Elliott

Last week my husband was looking for something else to buy to get some free shipping and asked if there was a book I wanted to get. Of course there was! I ended up deciding to get Kate Elliott’s newly released YA book. I loved her Spirit Walker trilogy, and the Court of Fives series sounds quite interesting too.

An excerpt from Court of Fives can be read on


On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

This debut novel will be available on September 15 (hardcover, ebook). The first chapter from The Traitor Baru Cormorant can be read on

I’ve seen a lot of advance praise for this one, but I didn’t actually know what it was about until I looked at it after it showed up in the mail this week. After looking at the description, I came to the conclusion that it sounds every bit as good as I’ve heard it is!


THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT is an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman’s mission to tear down an empire by learning how to rule it.

Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.

The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery – and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.

But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.

Other Books:

Dark Ascension
by M. L. Brennan
320pp (Mass Market Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.83/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.03/5

Dark Ascension, the fourth book in M. L. Brennan’s Generation V series, was released earlier this month. Generation V was both an impressive debut novel and a compelling series opener, and I enjoyed the next book, Iron Night, even more than the first. Tainted Blood, the third novel, was also quite enjoyable, and I was very much looking forward to Dark Ascension since this has become one of my favorite ongoing series.  Like the previous books, it was delightfully entertaining—although it does contain some somber moments.

When a group of succubi request permission to enter his mother’s territory, Fort is required to meet with them to discuss their urgent appeal. While this would normally be a job for his more diplomatic brother Chivalry, he’s out of state and Fort at least has more diplomacy skills than their older sister Prudence, whose approach to problem solving usually involves violence. With his brother unavailable, Fort brings two others for backup: the family secretary, Loren Noka, for her expertise with this type of situation and his girlfriend and bodyguard, Suzume, for her expertise with ass-kicking.

They find three adults with seven children, quite possibly the only remnants of a community that used to contain more than fifty before a skinwalker hunted and killed most of them. Fort is horrified by their story but is not in a position to grant them entrance into the territory and his mother’s protection without discussing their situation with the rest of his family. In the meantime, he does what he can to help them by getting pizza for the kids and giving them what little he has in his bank account—and even convinces his companions to contribute some money to be repaid later.

The next morning, the Scott family convenes to make a decision and Fort has resolved that he will convince his family to accept the succubi’s request. He explains their situation and emphasizes (and exaggerates) the advantages of allowing them into the territory, but Prudence believes there are only disadvantages to aiding them—and is every bit as determined to keep them out as Fort is to let them in. Chivalry is no help to either since he understands both of his siblings’ viewpoints and will not pick one side over the other. Finally, they turn to Madeline for her decision—but are taken by surprise when she refuses to provide one. For months, they have known that their elderly mother is nearing the end of her life, and she says it’s time for them to accept this and begin handling her territory without her leadership.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Generation V series is one of the best urban fantasy series I’ve had the pleasure of reading. For a long time, I had three favorites in this subgenre—Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and October Daye by Seanan McGuire. That’s now a top four list because of this series, and Generation V is actually now in my top two after reading Dark Ascension. While there are some tragic moments, Fort’s nature and voice keep it from being overwhelmingly grim, and like the previous books in the series, its characters and mythology are quite wonderfully done.

One aspect of the series I’ve particularly enjoyed is the unique version of the vampire myth, and this continues to be a strong point in this book. As mentioned in my recent interview with her, M. L. Brennan has incorporated some of her research on sanguivores into these books, and like the previous installment, this novel delves more into the reality and inconveniences of a blood-based diet. Vampirism and drinking blood is not romanticized—far from it—and I’m glad that the author doesn’t shy away from the darker (or stranger) aspects of being a vampire and how Fort has to come to terms with what he is throughout the series, especially in Dark Ascension.

As much as I love these fantasy elements, the highlight of the series remains its variety of compelling characters. Fort and Suzume are excellent (and frequently hilarious) together. Fort has come a long way since book one, but he hasn’t changed completely: he’s still softhearted enough to give everything in his bank account to people in need that he just met. In comparison, Suzume (or almost anyone, really) can appear hardhearted and selfish, but it’s not because she’s cruel or uncaring—she’s learned to compartmentalize and put her energy toward helping those who matter most. While she may seem critical of Fort’s bleeding heart tendencies, she loves that he cares and doesn’t want him to change; she’s just concerned he’s going to “end up like a marshmallow Peep in the microwave of the world” (pp. 36).

The best interactions in Dark Ascension were those involving the three Scott siblings, though. It’s quite interesting to see how the amount of time each spent basically being human affected their personalities and how they balance each other. Prudence transitioned at the earliest age and doesn’t value human (or most other) life at all, and she and Fort strongly disagree on just about everything except the tastelessness of pornographic staircases. Chivalry usually falls in the middle and can understand both perspectives.

I especially appreciate the characterization of Prudence as I read more about her. She has a completely justified reputation for cruelty and ruthlessness, and it would be easy to depict her as a predictably inhuman one-note villain who hates everyone and is the embodiment of pure evil. However, she’s both friend and foe to Fort—while the two usually have opposing viewpoints and goals, she does genuinely care about her brother and his well-being. This makes her a complex and fascinating character, and I thought Fort summed it up nicely with the following observation: “My sister was never more terrifying to me than when she was showing her affection” (pp. 272).

Dark Ascension contains more of everything I’ve come to love about these books—the engaging narrative voice and equally entertaining dialogue, thoughtful and unique mythology, and well-developed characters—and it also moves the series in a new direction. It is a both a book of change and another fantastic installment in the Generation V series that is every bit as good as its predecessors.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read an Excerpt (Click the link below the cover image)

Other Reviews:

Reviews of Previous Books in the Generation V Series:

  1. Generation V
  2. Iron Night
  3. Tainted Blood