wrapped up in books

reading, writing, librarying

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogging prompt hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I don’t participate every week, but I join in when I find the prompt interesting. This week’s prompt is to share your favorites from any genre. When I am looking for a fun, fast-paced read, my go-to genre is urban fantasy, so I decided to round up my favorites. I’m rather picky when it comes to urban fantasy. I like just the right mix of tough heroine and sexual tension, with smart world-building and snappy dialogue. But most of all I want that transportive experience. I want to forget about the real world for an hour or two. I want to have vicarious adventures. I want to be entertained.

But first off, it’s probably helpful to talk about what urban fantasy is.

This has been a big topic at work lately. We’re genrifying our collection before we move back to our new building, and as part of collection development, I’m on this committee. Currently, we have separate categories for westerns, mystery, and science fiction/fantasy as one category. We also keep mass market paperbacks out of the regular collection. Now, we’re changing that.  Part of the reason is that adding more niche genres should help patrons browse for books that interest them, rather wade through thousands of fiction titles. Secondly, we are increasingly unable to replace fiction with hardback or trade paperbacks, so maintaining the separate paperback collection was redundant or confusing.

One of our new genres will be urban fantasy, so I’ve been thinking about what the genre entails and why I am occasionally drawn to these types of stories.

I like strong, snarky heroines. I like a dash of romance, but not so much that it dominates the story. I like the mix of the magical and the mundane. And all these elements are trademarks of urban fantasy. For our working definition, we’re considering urban fantasy to be fiction that portrays supernatural elements somewhat sympathetically, as opposed to horror, which is another new genre we’re creating. The supernatural elements exist in the real world, although they may only be known to some people or accepted as normal. This is opposed to regular fantasy, where the world is completely invented and may or may not contain magical elements. We are not including paranormal romance, where there may be the supernatural elements, but the focus of the plot is not a happily ever after love story.

While I’ve read lots of stand-alone novels that are technically urban fantasy, today I’m only talking about series.

My favorites series include:

The Fever Series

I’m not gonna lie, the ending of this series fell kind of fell flat for me, and I have a lot of issues with Jericho Barrons as a love interest (he’s a controlling alpha male freak). But Mac is awfully funny and while I was reading this series, I literally couldn’t put it down. So while my objective self recognizes all kinds of problems with the writing and characterization in this series, I read a large print library copy of one of the 5 books and was pissed I had to wait on hold for the other…so there’s got to be some redeeming qualities, right? I talked about the first books in the series in this post.

The Elemental Mysteries Series by Elizabeth Hunter

elemental mysteries banner

Full disclosure: I’m friends with the author and beta read this series before they were published. Rest assured they have one of the most interesting takes on vampire mythology, a strong heroine, a swoon-worthy love interest, and a well-rounded and lovable cast of supporting characters. Also, the main character is a librarian. So there’s that.

The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger

parasol series

I didn’t like the young adult prequel to this series, Etiquette and Espionage. But I loved Alexa in the original adult series, which I would not hesitate to recommend to teens who love Jane Austen and vampires and werewolves. and steampunk (And it’s not just me; it won an Alex Award). While I absolutely adored the first book, and devoured the rest of the series, my interest waned in the end. It does get bonus points for having a delightful romance subplot involving two men. I discussed the first in the series in this post.

The Kate Daniels Series by Illona Andrews 

Kate Daniels series

Friends told me for years to check out this series, but I’ve only just recently burned through it. Magic Bites starts off slow (you can read my review here). The reader is dropped into this world of a future alternative universe Atlanta where magic and technology are in a constant balance, and Kate is a mercenary just trying to stay alive but stay under the radar. I am generally not a fan of alpha males, and the idea of a sexy were-lion was ridiculous to me, but I’ve totally fell for Kate and Curran and really enjoy the wacky world-building in this one. When you get to Magic Rises, there are weredolphin pirates, I kid you not. What more of a reason do you need? I’m anxiously awaiting the next in the series. I just love Kate’s dry sense of humor and her pragmatism, and I love that although Curran has remained the love interest throughout, I’m constantly on edge about their relationship (in a good way).

The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris

sookie_stackhouse_covers

I’ve written about complicated relationship with the Sookie Stackhouse series before, so I won’t belabor the point. Suffice to say, I have spent way too many hours analyzing the motivations of this telepathic waitress and am still quite puzzled by the fact that I love Eric Northman despite what a pain in the ass he can be.

Other Series I’ve Read

These are all series that I saw through until the end or plan on doing so. I’ve tried many other urban fantasy series, but for one reason or another, didn’t enjoy them as much. I read Moon Called by Patricia Biggs, and while I was surprised at how fun the world and the werewolves were, there wasn’t enough of a romantic spark to sustain my interest. In contrast, I enjoyed the first few in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, but after the first few books, they felt more like paranormal romance than true urban fantasy. I read several in the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill last fall, and while they were entertaining enough, the world-building fell rather flat and the plot kind of fizzled for me, though I rather enjoyed the romantic tension. I listened to the audiobooks while commuting very early in the morning, and let’s just say…certain scenes held my attention rather well. Still, my enthusiasm waned and I don’t feel particularly motivated to continue the series. I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, but found the sequel painfully dull. 

Series I Plan to Check Out

The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

I’ve read mixed reviews of this series, but it’s on my list to try for myself.

Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander

The premise of this one is kind of out there, but Sarah from Clear Eyes, Full Shelves recommended it, so I’m going to give it a shot. Sarah also recommends the Shifters series by Rachel Vincent.

Cainsville series and Women of the Underworld series by Kelley Armstrong

Both my critique partner Maggie and the girls in my library book club recommend Kelley Armstrong, and I haven’t read any of her adult or YA.

I want to read some urban fantasy that follows some dude characters, so I want to check out The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and I have Charmed by James Eilliot waiting for me on the hold shelf.

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If you read urban fantasy, what am I missing? What do you suggest? What did you absolutely hate? Let me know.

Molly signature

16 thoughts on “Top Ten Urban Fantasy Series

  1. Kim says:

    The Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter is a really great series, also Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series is great as well.

  2. Urban fantasy is one of those genres I hear so much about, and I’ve been meaning to read some series, but I just haven’t found anything that’s *really* captured my attention just yet. I’ve read the first Kate Daniels book and didn’t love it, but I heard the series gets better so I may continue on with it eventually. I definitely need to try the Parasol Protectorate series though – that sounds like more my style!

  3. I have read all but the last of the Sookie Stackhouse Series. I’m waiting for the right moment to pick up that one to read. My suggestion for paranormal romance series would by anything and everything by Charity Parkerson. (Some have a very erotic tone to them, but not all, which are my favorites). The other author would be Edenmary Black – Shadow Havens Series. Excellent with character and emotions. Happy reading. :D

    1. Eh, the last Sookie Stackhouse book was very underwhelming. I’m not so much into paranormal romance — I like romantic tension, but not so much the extreme angst. But thanks for the suggestions!

  4. I can’t say I ever really loved Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, but I adore her Alpha and Omega novels. The first one is called Cry Wolf, but I would recommend reading the short story that starts the entire story line off. I find it a much richer and more developed story than the Mercy novels.

    Thanks for the list of new reads :)

    1. That’s good to know! I didn’t dislike Mercy Thompson, it just didn’t have that “wow” factor for me. I will try Alpha and Omega!

  5. Great information, Molly! I have to get reading.

    1. Ugh, Maggie, I wish I had more time to read!

  6. notesofabooklover says:

    I like Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series too! Have you read The Finishing School series, Gail Carriger’s YA series set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate series? The Finishing School series is really good and has all the snarky with of a Gail Carriger book!

    I love Kate Daniels too! I’m super looking forward to the new Paranormal Romance series by this couple writer!

    Do read Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files! It’s one of my favourite Urban Fantasy series! I’ve read Charmed but ain’t too charmed (pardon the pun hehe) by it. If you would like to read more UF featuring male characters, do check out Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles! Great book! Have you read James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell’s Blood series? It’s pretty good too!

    1. As I say above, I could not get into Etiquette & Espionage. While I often recommend it at the library, I thought it read very young.

      I haven’t heard of James Rollins or Rebecca Cantrell, but Elizabeth Hunter (who wrote the Elemental Mysteries) suggested Iron Druid, so I know I should check it out!

  7. Oh man I freaking LOVE!! urban fantasy and I am so glad you made this list. I am seriously bookmarking it to guide my future reading. UF is one of my favorite reading slump busters because it’s just so enjoyable and (yes) a little formulaic, but sometimes that’s exactly what I need. I really want to try the Magic BItes series next, though now I REALLY want to read that Elementals series you talk about above.

    I would STRONGLY urge you to go back to the Mercy Thompson series. The romance definitely gets much better and it is one of my absolute favorite UF series. I also really love Dresden Files, though you kind of have to push through the first 3 books in my opinion. They’re ok, but don’t really show how great the rest of the series will be.

    I am reading the Succubus Blues series by Richelle Mead and while it’s not in my top 5 series of all time or anything (and is very adult in tone), I am enjoying them.

    1. I’m glad you find the list useful! I have been told I should continue with the Mercy Thompson (or try Patricia Briggs Alpha & Omega series). So I might give the second one a try.

      I suffered through I think four of the Vampire Academy books and couldn’t stand Richelle Mead’s writing style, which I found to be very amateur…but still, they were kind of addictive in that bad way? Maybe I’ll look into Succubus Blues when I’m in that kind of mood.

  8. ChrissiReads says:

    I definitely want to read some Urban Fantasy. It’s a genre I haven’t really explored yet.

  9. Bethany K. Warner says:

    Urban fantasy is one of my favorites. My top suggestions:
    1. The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Love, love, love these. Go get them right now.
    2. The Cal & Niko series by Rob Thurman (male main characters though Rob is actually a woman)
    3. The Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine
    4. I’m 2/3 of the way through Rachel Vincent’s “Shifters” series and it’s a fun read.
    5. I only got the first one read in each of these, but both Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series and Thomas Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler series are on my TBR pile.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I haven’t heard of Cal & Niko or Grewalker or Remy Chandler, so I will investigate! Everyone says Dresden Files is a must-read.

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