Edition: Mass Market Paperback (US) | Publisher: ROC | Published: May 2013 | Where I got it: Gift from a friend
Fortitude Scott’s life is a mess. A degree in film theory has left him with zero marketable skills, his job revolves around pouring coffee, his room-mate hasn’t paid rent in four months, and he’s also a vampire. Well, sort of. He’s still mostly human.
But when a new vampire comes into his family’s territory and young girls start going missing, Fort can’t ignore his heritage anymore. His mother and his older, stronger siblings think he’s crazy for wanting to get involved. So it’s up to Fort to take action, with the assistance of Suzume Hollis, a dangerous and sexy shape-shifter. Fort is determined to find a way to out-smart the deadly vamp, even if he isn’t quite sure how.
But without having matured into full vampirehood and with Suzume ready to split if things get too risky, Fort’s rescue mission might just kill him…
At first glance (well, truth be told it was the first couple of glances…) I was ready to pass this book over. What I’d picked up about it from those glances told me I probably wouldn’t find it any more interesting than the heaps upon heaps of urban fantasy that’s already out there, even if I do have a soft spot for the genre.
Then a friend put a copy in my hands and practically commanded me to read it, and so with my back to the wall and a certain quiveringness in the footwear region*, I did.
Good grief, my first impression could not have been more wrong. Half was read on a plane, and the other half was devoured in all of its tasty goodness when I should have been sleeping the jet lag off at home. That is how good it was.
Also, MY COPY WAS AUTOGRAPHED. As if I couldn’t possibly love it enough. Top shelf stuff, when I finally have shelves again.
But! Enough geeking about that. Let’s talk about the story, shall we?
A big part of the reason I had initially leaned toward a “meh” response was the apparent premise. Vampire family, black sheep in said vampire family, moral high ground against Villainous Evil, blah blah – but wait…
Fortitude Scott (and yes, I had to allow myself a snort at this naming convention – though, and this is important, I could appreciate it later) is not your average vampire. In fact, none of the vampires are your average vampires. There is no sparkling, no moody angst-ridden romantic overtone, and certainly – perhaps in the biggest relief of them all – no emo-flag-waving Damsel In Distress. Anywhere. Not one. I’d have sighed in said relief if I wasn’t busy, by then, getting up to my nose in it all.
These vampires are not stereotype-standard vamps – yes, they drink blood and avoid daylight, etc., but the ‘building families through host parents’ idea was one that had me sitting up and paying attention. Now, given my jet-lagged state when I read this the first time I am going to need a second read-through (any excuse) to go back and get the intricacies of the vampire worldbuilding straight in my head, but don’t let that put you off. The worldbuilding was not overly complicated; I simply had a brain like mush at the time. But I shall nonetheless try to sum up:
It’s a given that vampires cannot have children themselves; Brennan doesn’t toss this rule out. Instead, she works with it. It’s the 21st century. Even vampires can adopt. That said, we’re talking about vampires. They’re not supposed to be nice and they do not live in homes with white picket fences and an adorable family dog. Another rule Brennan not only sticks to, but gleefully revels in, much to my approvingly disturbed relief. When we meet Fort’s host parents, they’re locked up behind every security measure you can think of short of force fields, in the basement of the family home – and for some pretty good reasons, I must say…
Being host parents for a child of a vampire is not easy on the mental stability. The shivers. I had them. Well done, Brennan, you creeped me the heck out…
Now let’s talk about the other big reason I loved this book so much. Fort, himself.
When we meet our protagonist he is, in terms of various types of (heh, yes) fortitude, limper than wet flannel. He’s gone four months without once demanding the rent his flatmate should have been paying, but hasn’t. He takes way too much crap without complaint from both his coworkers and his boss. His girlfriend sleeps with other people and he lets her get away with it. By the time he meets Suzume, who appears to be his perfect opposite in every way that matters, I was just about ready to smack him.
We are lucky, then, that Suzume (a kitsune, which is just one more reason I love this book!) turns up. And oh, how she does. The antics that follow her arrival, and her declaration that she’s there at his mother’s request to protect him, naturally turn Fort’s life upside down whether he wants them to or not. And it’s a good thing, too. His life really does need a good turning around…
What kept me so engrossed in this story, then, wasn’t so much the ‘bad vampire causes trouble, good-but-weaker vampire puts a stop to him’ storyline as it was the personal journey that it forces Fort to go on. Along the way and between some wonderfully creepy peril-facing scenes, we get to see him finally locating his backbone and dealing with his flatmate and his girlfriend both walking all over him – sometimes, apparently, as a team. He also starts to come to terms with his own true nature as well as that of his family, and while there’s probably still a long way for him to go, I am admittedly really, really eager to see him go there. Wherever ‘there’ might end up being …
So, I hope quite fervently that there will be future stories told here. I haven’t gotten nearly enough yet. Bring it on, Brennan. Bring it all on.
And thank you for the autographing!
* Description of events may be exaggerated.