Iron Night is the second book about Fortitude Scott, following M. L. Brennan’s debut Generation V. A third book, Tainted Blood, is scheduled for release in November 2014—and I, for one, cannot wait since I’ve decided these books need to be added to my list of favorite urban fantasy series along with Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and October Daye by Seanan McGuire. I loved both Generation V and Iron Night.

Fort has always tried to embrace his humanity as much as possible, dreading the day his transition to a full-fledged vampire is complete and terrified that he’ll no longer be capable of compassion and empathy once the change comes. At the beginning of Generation V, Fort was mostly human, but his transition began before the end and he’s dealing with that at the beginning of Iron Night. While he still remains somewhat human, he is closer to becoming a vampire like his mother and siblings, and he has had to learn more about the family duties since that began. This makes it harder for him to ignore that side of himself, though he still lives apart from his mother by working in a restaurant and renting an apartment he shares with his new roommate.

Unlike Fort’s previous roommate, Gage is a decent person and he and Fort get along quite well—at least, until the night Fort is awakened by loud noises, checks Gage’s room, and finds his dead body, covered in blood with his hands neatly cut off. While Fort finds it suspicious that someone chose to murder a vampire’s roommate, his brother Chivalry brushes it off as a coincidence and believes that Gage just managed to upset the wrong people. Yet Fort refuses to just ignore the fact that Gage was brutally killed and enlists his friend Suzume’s help—and kitsune sense of smell—in tracking down the culprit, leading to the discovery of a plot that Fort’s vampire family will not want to ignore.

Generation V had the distinction of being one of the best openings to an urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I thought Iron Night was an even stronger book than the first. It has the same strengths as the previous volume—engaging characters and dialogue, a natural and humorous narrative voice, common myths with some unique differences, and an overall entertaining story—but since the first book handled the setup, the second succeeds at building on that foundation to give more depth to the world and characters.

M. L. Brennan skillfully parcels out information about her world, striking the right balance between too much detail and too little. When I read a series, I like to have a few tantalizing mentions to speculate on and a sense that there’s more to be learned about either the world or characters in future installments, but of course, not enough information can also be unsatisfying. At least so far, the amount of details is handled very well: there’s just enough that I feel like I understand the setting and characters, but there’s still enough held back that there are a few tidbits for me to wonder about. For instance, the first book covered the basics of vampire creation, but neither Fort nor readers know all there is to know about this subject. In this book, some of those questions are answered in a satisfying way, but not everything is neatly wrapped up, leaving more to explore in future installments. There’s also more to discover about the other main mythological peoples introduced, the kitsune and the elves, but there’s also new knowledge gained about them in this book.

While the world and mythological elements are well-developed, I think the biggest strength continues to be the characters and the way voice and dialogue bring them to life. As a vampire who would like nothing better than to be an average human, Fort is easy to sympathize with. He cannot escape that side of himself, and in this book, he’s moving closer to acceptance of the inevitable by learning more about how to be a vampire and a dutiful member of his family, yet he also cannot escape his humanity. He truly cares about others, and it’s difficult for him to deal with the fact that it can be dangerous to the humans he cares about to associate with him. Part of the power of his narrative is this realization and the difficulty he has in managing these two sides of himself. However, this book is far from serious and there are plenty of lighter, more humorous moments! My favorite character is Suzume, who is generally fun and light-hearted, though she also occasionally shows a more solemn side and is a great friend to Fort when he’s dealing with the murder of his roommate. I love how Suzume is confident and competent and the contrast between this and Fort’s gradual journey toward coming into his own. Also, I could just read an entire book containing nothing but conversations between Fort and Suzume, who are quite entertaining together.

While Fort and Suzume are my favorite characters, Fort’s vampire family remains interesting. He has a better relationship with his brother Chivalry than his sister Prudence, and Prudence plays a bigger role in this book than in the first. I was pleased that, like Chivalry, she was more complex than I initially thought. She’s still ruthless and calling her not very nice is a severe understatement, but I got the impression she had some fondness for her youngest brother and looked out for him in her own way even if she’s his polar opposite.

If there was one weakness with Iron Night, it was that the beginning spent too much time covering what had gone on in the previous book and what Fort had been doing since then with his new job, training and duties, and his new roommate. (It hadn’t been long at all since I read the first book so what had happened before was pretty fresh in my mind and I just wanted to continue with the story.) However, the narrative voice was strong enough to keep it from lagging too much, and by the end of chapter two, Gage’s body was found and the story picked up.

M. L. Brennan is an impressive new voice in the fantasy genre. Generation V was an excellent debut, and Iron Night manages to surpass it with its unique mix of myths, memorable characters, and amusing dialogue. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, and I hope there are many more books about Fortitude Scott after it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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

Read an Excerpt from Iron Night

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