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
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
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
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
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
I’ve read mixed reviews of this series, but it’s on my list to try for myself.
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.
If you read urban fantasy, what am I missing? What do you suggest? What did you absolutely hate? Let me know.