Dark Ascension by M. L. Brennan

dark-ascension“After a lifetime of avoiding his family, Fort has discovered that working for them isn’t half bad—even if his mother, Madeline, is a terrifying, murderous vampire. His newfound career has given him a purpose and a paycheck and has even helped him get his partner, foxy kitsune Suzume, to agree to be his girlfriend. All in all, things are looking up.

Only, just as Fort is getting comfortable managing a supernatural empire that stretches from New Jersey to Ontario, Madeline’s health starts failing, throwing Fort into the middle of an uncomfortable and dangerous battle for succession. His older sister, Prudence, is determined to take over the territory. But Fort isn’t the only one wary of her sociopathic tendencies, and allies, old and new, are turning to him to keep Prudence from gaining power.

Now, as Fort fights against his impending transition into vampire adulthood, he must also battle to keep Prudence from destroying their mother’s kingdom—before she takes him down with it….”

I’ve read some other reviewers’ thoughts on this novel, and I have to agree with them: this is the best book yet in this series.  Brennan hasn’t gone the tired route of having the same characters do the same things over and over with minor variations.  Nor does she draw out the overarching story to the point that you want to tear your hair out.  Each novel has advanced not only Fort’s character, but that of his family and Suzume as well.  There are changes, real and dramatic changes, that happen over the course of the books, and none so dramatic as the ones in this novel.

I’m also impressed at how the author makes me feel for the characters.  Most books about vampires can make you feel pity for them, but it’s not often that I feel respect for a vampire character.  And it’s not just Fort that I’m talking about, either.  Chivalry, Fort’s brother, tries his best to mediate among his family members; Prudence, Fort’s sister, may be bloodthirsty but often tries to honestly help Fort; and Madeline, the matriarch and terror of New England, is truly doing as she thinks best to keep the peace in her territory.

So much happens in this book that I was genuinely surprised–I hadn’t expected things to progress so quickly.  That might speak as much to the quality of other series as much as it does to the quality of this one.  I like that I’m going into these books not knowing what will happen and being taken aback at unexpected twists.  Too many books/series out there slow their pace down to a snail’s crawl, perhaps to ramp up the tension; however, I find that sudden changes are more satisfying, because you’re just not prepared for them.

There’s not a lot I can say without spoiling the book for readers of the series, so I’ll just say to those of you who haven’t read these books, you should go out and get them.  It’s urban fantasy at its best, not derivative, but finding its own path to telling a great story and weaving magic into what we think is familiar.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

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