Ascendance (Dave vs. the Monsters) by John Birmingham (Del Rey, June 30th 2015)-The first 3 books (I sincerely hope there will be more) in the Dave vs. the Monsters series are wrapped up in explosive fashion in Ascendance. The Horde is popping up all over the world, and new, er, intelligence made available to the Horde has made them a formidable foe for the military, but Dave, and now Karen Warat (a Russian sleeper spy who has her own special powers, and a kick ass katana to go with them) are the last line of defense for a country that seems destined to fall at the hands of the Horde. We’ve seen Dave act all kinds of stupid thus far: letting his newfound stardom go to his head in Las Vegas; ignoring Heath’s orders and getting others killed in the process; being preoccupied with Igor because, well, because. Can you tell I’m REALLY trying to avoid spoilers? This time, however, Dave has the help of Karen, who quite often acts as a mental bitch slap, forcing Dave to focus on reality and think through situations instead of just immediately acting on them. She also gave Dave a sound ass-kicking at the end of Resistance which he really, really needed. Karen is one of the best things about this book. She’s pragmatic and brave, and she doesn’t put up with Dave’s bullshit. She can also see right through him and eventually forces him to confront some demons that have been haunting him for a long time.
Birmingham is great at battle scenes, and Ascendance is chock full of them. Also, it’s hard not to develop a sort of twisted affection for Threshy, a lower creature of the UnderRealms that’s been promoted in rank because of a special and creepy little trick he can do. Everything builds to a final showdown that’s very personal and close to home for Dave, and Ascendance is certainly the most emotional of the three. It’s unusual that you get such complex, nuanced characters in a series like this (action packed, lots of explody things, blood, monster goo), and that’s what sets these books apart. Also, there are SO MANY revelations in this book, and my mind was spinning with all the directions that the author could take this, assuming there will be more in Dave’s world. I really, really hope there will be more. This is a don’t-miss series, so make sure you pick up all three books so you can read them one after the other. This is what urban fantasy should be.