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