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Friday, January 31, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Iron Night by M. L. Brennan & The Twelve Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

It’s that time again when I’m a bit behind on my TBR pile and since I am unable to fully review all the books, which I read. Hence I’m taking a page from Liviu's book reviews and will be doing two ‘mini-reviews’. The common factor uniting these titles is that they were both fantastic reads. The characterization was top-notch and both books will be strong contenders for my year end lists.

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Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Generation V 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: After reading the immensely entertaining Generation V, I was impressed by M. L. Brennan and the direction, which she was taking her series. Iron Night is a book from which I had high expectations as also I rated Generation V quite high in my year-end debut lists. In spite of all my high anticipation, Iron Night managed to overcome all of it and gave me a bunch of surprises along the way.

At the end of Generation V, Fortitude had accepted what he was and what he wasn’t. He strengthened his familial bonds and is further along the path on transitioning into a full-fledged vampire. His love life might not be working but he has moved on from his vicious ex-girlfriend Beth. His new roommate, Gage is a good human being who does his best to be on time with the rent as well. Basically Fort’s star is on the rise and relations with his family and Suzume are going on smoothly as well. Things soon take a rather stark horrible turn as Gage is found murdered, and it falls upon to Fortitude and Suzume to figure who or what killed Gage. Along the way they discover more about who resides in Madeline Scot’s territory and what can also kill a vampire.

I happened to enjoy this book a lot and here’s why. Firstly this is an excellent sequel that actually builds up on its predecessor and manages to outshine it in almost every department. Kudos to the author for developing the story in this way and also furthering the characters via their inter-personal relationships. The author also does her best to twist reader perceptions and then surprises them in myriad ways. The author not only develops Fortitude but all the other characters such as Suzume, Chivalry, Prudence, Madeline and Matt as well. With Fortitude we get to see a quite different person than we have met before. He’s more confident and learning more about his innate skills, which are tested as well. The author also shines a strong light on the supernatural aspect of the world, and we get to see and hear a lot about who and what else reside in the Northeastern part of the US besides the vampire and kitsune clans.

What I also enjoyed was the fact that there are major revelations about vampire genealogy, plus Fortitude’s birth and the reason for his difference. I was absolutely thrilled to see the author give out these secrets and set up plot points that most UF authors would take 2-3  more books to set up. This move was what made this book a standout one and basically made me love this series even more. Another plus point of the story was the author’s strange and savage twist on one of fantasy's most beloved non-human races. If you are like me then you will love how effortlessly M. L. Brennan manages to entwine horror and urban fantasy strands smoothly. The author also utilizes an excellent murder mystery plot and then further weaves plot threads about family and lineage around it.

The biggest mystery about Fortitude's parents is revealed and it makes several obscure things clear. I loved how the author is cleverly re-inventing vampire mythology and at the same time further deepening the supernatural mythos of her world. The creatures in this book aren’t the simple fantasy kind and they do add to the horror quotient of the story. Also not to be left out are the Kitsunes and we get another interesting tidbit about Suzume and her family, this I believe will have major ramifications in the future stories. Lastly the author revealed certain juicy tidbits in an interview and based on the events of this book and what was hinted, I certainly can’t wait to read Tainted Blood (which in itself is a fantastic clue about the plot).

CONCLUSION: All in all, this is an exciting volume to a series that mixes horror, mythology and UF tropes to charm the readers and beguile them to wait for the next installment. If you are one of those readers who look down upon urban Fantasy, give this series a shot and see for yourself why I believe M.L. Brennan to be the next best proponent of the UF-Horror genres behind the King household.


Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I’ll admit I haven’t read any John Hornor Jacobs’ previous releases. I’ve heard about them being a varied lot and have some fine prose but I never got around to them. When I got an opportunity to review this title, I didn’t want to pass it based on the blurb and the very cool title, plus the excerpt which I read added to my decision.

The basic storyline is about Shreveport Justice Cannon, our fifteen year-old protagonist who calls himself Shreve. He’s one of the many residents of the state in Casimir Pulaski County Juvenile Detention Center for Boys. He has endured a hard life before his entry into the state system having to take care of his mother and his younger brother Ferrous Vigor Cannon (Vig) at the same time. Certain events that are described in the plot have led to his incarceration and that’s where he meets the eponymous character. Jack Graves is the shy kid with the bilateral Polydactyly condition with his hands and feet. That while being curious, does not even compare to Jack’s curiouser and curiouser silence and powers.

The boys meet as they are bunked up together and Shreve gets to know more about Jack and why a very creepy character called Mr. Quincrux from the Department of Health and Human Services is interested in him and his condition. Things soon take a turn for the worse as Shreve and Jack are forced to hatch a plan to escape from the clutches of the state and the Department of Health and Human Services. What happens next is where things get murky and we get to know more about the world visualized by the author.

What I loved about this story was the characterization and even though it is entirely told from the viewpoint of Shreve, it manages to stand out. The world described within the juvenile facility as well all the other characters, it's all very three-dimensional. Of course with any story focussing on life within prison, more often than not comparisons arise with “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption”. With this being a YA story, it adds another layer of complexity to the story as the author has to describe the story at a different level and yet make it believable. This is where the author excels and given the pace at which the story expands. Most readers will be hard-pressed to not finish this story within a single setting.

Plus to add to the further awesomeness of the story, there are some significant paranormal threads to the story as the main character and his twelve-fingered friend discover that there are powers afoot both their own and those of Mr. Quincrux and his ilk. The how and what is what lies at the heart of this story along with superb characterization that will have you rooting for Shreve and Jack pretty much all the way. I enjoyed the main protagonist Shreve and kudos to the author for creating a believable teenager who is also incarcerated. The author creates this entire world within the  detention center and of course once the story progresses we are introduced to newer characters and situations.

Things that didn’t work so well within this book, would be that the bad guys with their all-out badness, seem to be a bit caricature-ish but I’m going to reserve judgment on that aspect simply because this is the first book in a trilogy. Of course I'm hoping that the author is able to bring the same depth to the antagonists as he has shown with the teenagers.  This was the only sour point for me about this story as everything else about the story was simply impressive. 

CONCLUSION: Why would you want to read The Twelve-Fingered Boy, well it could because most folks enjoy a tale well told or that you like read a story about two boys on the run from something sinister (à la Nathan's Run meets X-Men) or it could be that you love paranormal YA stories. Whatever be the reason, make sure that you don’t miss this fine effort from John Hornor Jacobs. The Twelve-Fingered Boy is a book that will make you believe in its awesomeness.

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